Conces a Miley Cyrus

By Caroline M., CE Adviser in Chile

Well, since my last update a lot has happened. Firstly (and most importantly) I found out my placement. I’m in Iquique (woot!) and really like it so far. I’ve been here a week and am definitely relieved to be out of the hostel. When I got here my host family still had another volunteer living with them, so I lived in a hotel for the first 3 days. After a week of sharing space with so many people, it was nice to have a little respite in the hotel. Plus, there was a television with cable in my room, which is always a plus.

Mateo and his plaid sweater.

I moved in with my host family last Thursday and couldn’t be happier. I literally struck the host family jackpot: these people are so sweet and are well trained in the art of housing volunteers. I’m their fourth volunteer; they love having volunteers and even have an altar-like corner of their kitchen covered with photos of the past volunteers. I’ve already been informed that I will soon be a part of the volunteer altar as well. The members of my new family are the following: Guacolda (Guaco for short) is the mother. She is a teacher who works at two different schools and, because of this, is super busy during the week. She told me to call her “Mamá” so I definitely feel right at home. Miguel is the father – he works with a concrete company and is also super busy during the day. I have a host sister named Daniela (Danny for short) and she’s 25. She works at Brinks Security and attends a university at night. And, as an added bonus she speaks some English! I also have a host brother named Cristobal who is 23 and is studying mining at the university. Also, we have an abuelita (little grandmother) who lives in a room by the kitchen. I really haven’t seen much of her; she stays in her room all day and watches old movies. Finally, we have Mateo the dog. He’s more of a Dennis the Menace character than anything else: he’s a master thief of socks, shoes, and jewelry. Apparently he’s never been naked a day in his life; he’s been wearing the same plaid sweater ever since he was a puppy. During the daytime there is a maid named Sandra who comes to cook lunch, do laundry, and clean. She’s super nice and was delighted to find out that I’d rather have soup than eat meat everyday.

Where my captive audience sits…

School has been great so far. For the first 4 days I was just observing the classes to see what they were like. Needless to say, classroom dynamics here are a tad different than in the United States; the concept of “sit down and listen” doesn’t really apply. My first day I was a little taken aback because the students were literally walking all over the classroom during the majority of the class; they were talking to their friends and listening to their iPods while Isabel (my co-teacher) was busy yelling at them to shut up and listen. I actually started teaching classes yesterday; I have my own classroom (which is pretty sweet by the way) and only get the 10 best students from every class. So far this system is working out pretty well. So far I’ve surprised myself with how teachery I can be. I’ve even been wearing cardigans that could possibly be described as teacher sweaters (gasp!). Also, all my students think that I have met famous people. I’ve been asked if I know Miley Cyrus, Justin Beiber, Michael Jackson, and the Jonas Brothers at least 40 times.

My list of rules. Yes, that’s right: I am now an authority figure.
Today at school we had a tsunami drill. At first I didn’t understand that it was a drill and almost had a panic attack; my school is right by the beach and apparently we will only have about 10 minutes after a tsunami advisory to get to higher ground before the tsunami hits. Once the bell sounded, the students knew exactly what to do and took me to the middle of the school where everyone is supposed to meet. It’s comforting to know that the entire school can be ready to get to higher ground in about 2 minutes.
A view of my classroom

Chile culture is pretty entertaining. Probably my favorite part about their version of Spanish is the fact that they make everything small: bread is not just bread, it’s tiny bread (pancito). They do the same thing to cheese (quesito), tea (tecito), and pretty much everything else (I have been called Carolinita on more than one occasion). Also, they use the word “po” in almost every sentence. What does it mean? Well, nothing really; it kind of gives emphasis to other words though. For example, they like to say “Sí, po”, which I’m pretty sure means “heck yeah”. It’s definitely entertaining to listen to.

This weekend I’m going to a small town by Iquique called Pica with my co-teacher Isabel and her family. They have a house there and I think the plan is just to relax. Apparently it’s a really pretty little town, so I’m sure I’ll have a good time.

I’ve added some pictures from Santiago to my online photo album. You can look at them at Once you’re at the website, select the Santiago album and then you can view it in a slide show via the buttons that have little blue squares on them in the lower right side. I haven’t taken too many photos in Iquique yet, but rest assured that some will be posted soon.

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