Highlights: It is difficult to put into words exactly how influential this experience was. Working in the school taught me patience, it taught me how to be flexible, and how to positively communicate with others. Teaching was the most challenging part of my entire experience, but what I gained from it made every day worth it. Never in my life have I experienced as much love as I did in Chile. Whether it was my students saving me plates of food during celebratory asados, being invited to dance a traditional Bolivian dance with my 8th graders, getting thrown multiple parties (welcome, goodbye, birthday) or being constantly showered with gifts and daily affection from my students, I experienced joy and love all the time that made up for the failed lesson plans, the continuous classroom noise, and ever-present sense of mild confusion.
My life outside of the classroom was yet another source of happiness. Never before in my life had I lived so contently. Maybe it was the constant exposure to warm bread, delicious sweets, endless sunny days, or my love affair with the Spanish language that got to me, but my daily life in Chile was fulfilling and satisfying. The cultural mishaps and misunderstandings were best shared with my volunteer friends whose roles became invaluable in my Chilean life, and their friendships continue into my current life outside of Chile. My experience in Chile resonates deeply. I know I will take the lessons I have learned with me wherever I may go, and I now carry my new Chilean self proudly.
Morning: A typical morning meant getting ready and grabbing an apple on the way out the door with my host mom who is a fellow teacher at my school. We would arrive at school, sit in the dirt parking lot with the radio on, and watch the students get kissed and squeezed by their families dropping them off. Eventually we would head inside the doors, and I would smile and nod 'hello' sleepily at the students passing by on the blacktop. After sitting in the teacher's lounge with a book for a few minutes, I would pack up and head towards class with my co-teacher, not knowing what to expect that day. If I had a lesson planned, I would be unsure how it was going to go over with the students, or if I didn't have a lesson planned, my only plan would be to follow along and support my co-teacher with her prepared activities. Each day had its own set of problems, chaos, and high moments, so I decidedly entered my day with an “expect the unexpected” attitude.
Afternoon: When my school days ended varied greatly. Mondays and Fridays I hosted an English club with 6th and 7th graders that left us at school until 4:30. Wednesdays and Thursdays I was done at 11:00, and Mondays and Tuesdays I finished at 2:30. The last classes of the day meant the students' attention span is gone, and they were squirming in their seats ready to run out the door as soon as the last bell rang. During May and June, a couple afternoons per week I broke away from middle school and ventured over to high school to help the debate team hone their English speeches for the upcoming competition, or work with 6th graders on their spelling bee preparation. After classes let out, my days were wide open; my favorite activities consisted of walking down to the beach from school and dig my toes into the sand or heading downtown with another volunteer friend to check off another place on our ever growing list of places to eat.
Evening: A typical evening consisted of strolling down 21 de mayo (the main strip downtown) ice cream in hand, or walking to the beach. If it was a more “academic” evening, I could be found helping with a fellow volunteer's cooking club, putting in extra hours working hard and laughing a lot with the debate team, or relaxing at my host mom's house. Nights on the weekend consisted of pulling all nighters dancing at the local discoteca on the beach, making or buying dinner with friends, or having an asado (typical Chilean bbq)!