At the end of July there was the IATEFL conference in Concepción. I took the bus down on Friday morning and arrived that night. I stayed with the same friend that I stayed with for the wedding back in 2013, and it was great catching up. We went out to a traditional restaurant for dinner on Friday night, which means seafood, fish, and more seafood. I ordered chicken a lo pobre. (I'm already fishy enough).
The conference started bright and early on Saturday morning, and I went around to some workshops with friends. I also saw one of my former colleagues from Universidad de Talca as well as some amazing teachers from previous conferences. I really enjoyed the professional collaboration and seeing what is happening with English teaching around Chile. My workshop went well, and I had about 30 people attend. The conference was supposed to go til about 8 at night, but by 7 I was worn out and headed out.
That night I went out for dinner and karaoke with friends, and I had a great time. We spoke in Spanish, and I was able to understand and participate in 90% of the conversation. It was a really satisfying feeling, and it helped me realize how much my Spanish has improved compared to when I arrived in 2010.
On Sunday we slept in and then hit up Papa John's for lunch. This was my first time eating it outside of Santiago, and it was a nice lunch to have before getting back on the bus to return to el gran capital.
After having paid off my big student loan and managing to establish stability working independently, I decided that I had earned a weekend trip to the beach. I cancelled my Saturday morning class and moved my Sunday morning class to the evening, and I made my way to Viña del Mar on Friday afternoon.
I stayed at the same hostel that I stayed at in December of last year, and it was really nice. It's quiet and in a safe and central location, and there were some really interesting people there. I shared a room with a guy from Germany that had just arrived to spend a semester in Viña, and there were 2 women from Germany studying in Santiago. It was cool to talk about their experiences and impressions of Chile,and we had a little German breakfast corner which allowed me to practice my German. At one point the guy turned to me and asked if I had any idea of how loud I snore, and we all got a good laugh out of it. The hostel owner is also a great guy, and he remembered me from my last visit.
Besides the socializing, I enjoyed some nice meals, journaling and working at coffee shops, and just general exploring of the area. The air is cleaner there, and it´s much calmer than Santiago. While I love my work, working 7 days a week starts to wear on you after a while. Going to Viña was such a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the city, and I'm glad I got away for a bit.
Anyone that knows me well or that reads my blog regularly knows that I enjoy bringing people together, and so I hosted a potluck dinner a few weeks ago. I explained the concept to my Chilean friends, and some of them seemed puzzled that it wouldn't be ok to just bring potato chips. Others thought it was strange that they would make some food that they liked but then have to share it for other people, and some thought that they had to prepare food for 15 people. Explaining it seemed a bit strange to me since Chilean culture values the community over the individual, but in the end it was a success.
About 12 people made it, and there was a mix of chicken, mac and cheese, Iranian food, cole slaw, beef stronganof, nutella crepes, leche asada, apple crumble, and a few other things that I'm forgetting at the moment. It was an interesting mix of people, and I'm thinking of making it an annual event to bring people together.
One of the great things about the expat life is meeting really interesting people. One of the challenges is then knowing that those people may one day return to their country of origin or move on to another place. This is the case with a few of my friends. Rudolf is returning to the Netherlands with his Chilean girlfriend, and Martin is moving to Germany with his Chilean girlfriend. Because of other social engagements and travel plans I wasn't able to attend their official despedidas (farewell celebrations), but I still made a point to meet up with them one last time. Them moving away makes me realize how much I value their friendships, and I'm hoping to stay in contact and eventually visit them on my next trip to Europe.
Last but not least, winter is coming to an end. The weather has been much warmer than normal, and talking with friends we are all surprised that June was pretty cold but that July and August were quite mild. There has also been very little rain in comparison to previous years, which unfortunately doesn't help the pollution and air quality.
September is around the corner, and soon everyone will be in a festive mood for the upcoming 18 holiday. There will be empanadas, wine, pisco, fondas, and lots of cueca. It will be a nice way to celebrate the start of spring.