Snippets of Luann’s Life as a Teacher in Chile

Luann W., CE Teacher in Chile

Live vicariously through the stories and photos of Luann Williams as she describes her first couple of months as an ESL Teacher in the Atacama Region of Chile. Cultural Embrace wishes her the best of luck in her continued travels!

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After my 2- week break, I’m back home in Caldera and began classes this morning. I had a great time in both San Pedro de Atacama and Taltal. My trip began with an overnight bus trip (which I always dread ) to San Pedro. I arrived early in the morning, went to my hostal then immediately went for food. The town is one of the oldest in Chile and very touristy, so I met people from all over the world there: Canada, Spain, Belgium, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, etc. My only complaint was the weather, as it was very windy and dirt/dust was flying everywhere. By the time I left, my shoes had turned a light shade of brown. Most of the buildings there were made of adobe and the restaurants all had really cool atmospheres, as well as good food. Wednesday I took a tour to El Valle de la Muerte, which reminded me of the book “Dune,” if you’ve ever read it or seen the movie. Then we went to El Valle de la Luna to watch the sunset. I’ve never seen a desert as beautiful as the Atacama desert. But after a few days I was ready to walk on concrete again and get away from all the dirt, lol. So that following Saturday I boarded a bus to Antofagasta, a city in the Antofagasta region. There I met the other volunteers who I’d be with for the next week in Taltal: a lady from Kentucky named Susan, a guy from Australia- Paul, a girl from Wisconsin- Whitney (who unfortunately got really sick and had to go home), and our camp leader- Eduard. Saturday evening we all went to the mall to eat at the food court because it had a variety of restaurants. I had been craving a hamburger for some time, so I ate at Mcdonald’s. That was my first hamburger in a long time, and also the only time I’ve ever really craved Mcdonald’s.

Drinking wine en el Valle de la Muerte

Sunday morning we all boarded a bus to Taltal, which was about 4 hours away, where we’d be having our English winter camp for one week. This turned out to be the absolute best time I’ve had so far in Chile. To start, the town of Taltal is right on the ocean and is surrounded by cerros, which are hills that sort of look like mountains. Our hotel was on the beach and everynight/morning I could hear the waves crashing on the shore. There were also lots of trees all over town, which made for nice scenery while walking to and from school. Every night we had dinner in a restaurant called El Corwatt, which was owned by another English teacher in town. We were treated very well in Taltal. The camp itself didn’t go exactly as planned, but then
again nothing really does here in Chile. I’m
learning this slowly but surely. We had 40 students who had signed up for the camp…. but the first day only 6 showed up. That night we were invited to a local radio station to make an announcement about our camp. Unfortunately that didn’t seem to be too effective, and we only ended up with about 6-7 students by the end of the week. But the ones that came everyday were great and really enjoyed all the activities we did. It was a great experience for everyone.

So, now I’m back home and am getting back into my routine. I am missing waking up every morning to the sound of the ocean. I loved Taltal and really want to go back if I get the chance 🙂
The last week has been pretty relaxed here. We start our winter break next week (Monday July 12th), which lasts 2 weeks, just like in the States. This week is my school’s anniversary (28 yrs I think?), so there have been no classes all week. Instead, the kids have been participating in different activities everyday. Apparently it’s tradition that once a year, a group of students goes to all the teachers’ houses in the middle of the night and sings until the teacher comes out. That was Monday night I believe. Yesterday I went to a ‘meeting’ with the rest of the staff, and there was a priest there to talk to us for almost 3 hours, lol. He talked to us about how to be a teacher of morals, values, ethics, etc to our students, and not merely a teacher of our given subject. He had us read lines from the bible, then he would play his accordion and sing in between verses. Very interesting to say the least! Tomorrow morning there will be the official school anniversary celebration, and like everything else here, it probably won’t start on time

Padre playing the accordion

Last Sunday I went with the family to a place called Puerto Viejo. It’s about 45 minutes away from Caldera, and is a tiny fishing town on the Pacific. They were having their yearly celebration of San Pedro, or Peter the apostle, who is considered the saint of all fishermen here in Chile. We had lunch at a small restaurant, and I had some kind of shark. Tonio told me what kind it was, but I couldn’t really understand.

Me on the beach

So I’m looking forward to my break coming up 🙂 Next Tuesday night I’ll be going (by bus of course) to San Pedro de Atacama for 3 days. If you haven’t heard of it, you should look it up: It’s a big tourist attraction here in the north, and offers some beautiful excursions. After that, I’m taking a bus up to a place called Tal Tal to help teach at a winter English camp for Chilean students. Tal Tal is another coastal town, and even smaller than Caldera. I’m excited to get a chance to meet and work with students who are eager to learn English. Unfortunately many of my students here are not that eager, so it can be challenging.

‘Til next time… chao!


I can’t believe it’s almost been one month since I arrived here in Chile. It feels like much longer, but that’s probably because I’ve experienced and taken in so much in a short period of time. I can definitely say I’m feeling more and more at home as the days go by. My host parents, Maritza and Tonio are really really cool, and surprise me sometimes with their taste in music. The other night they put in a Creedence Clearwater cd while we were driving somewhere. They also like Micheal Jackson and a variety of 80’s music. I love lots of 80’s music, so it’s neat to find things we have in common (well, besides speaking Spanish…mine is more like ‘trying’ to speak Spanish, lol).

Me with my host parents

This past week and weekend have been pretty eventful. I started my classes last week, but with Chile playing in the World Cup, things have been crazy here. A few classes were canceled so the kids could watch the games. They played Switzerland on Monday, then España on Friday. After winning against Switzerland, the kids were celebrating at school, which I’ve attached a few photos of. We play again tomorrow against Brazil which should be a good game. If we lose, then we’re out altogether.

School celebration after Chile’s victory

Last Thursday Martiza and I went to Copiapó so I could apply for my Chilean i.d. card. It was a pretty easy process and I should be getting it in a few weeks. I also found a local gym (like a 10 minute walk) close to the house, and had my first work-out in about 3 months. They have spinning classes that only actually happen if people show up. Hopefully I’ll be able to get in some of the classes and get back into shape. It cost 2,000 pesos per class, which comes out to just under $4. Last night I went with the family to Tonio’s mother’s house, where they had a birthday party for one of Tonio’s cousin. They have a big family! I had a blast and got to meet several people, who were all very nice and were happy to meet me. They had tons of food, wine (of course), rum and beer. Tonio’s mom lives with her mother, who’s 85, and her mother’s sister.

Today was the annual gathering/celebration of fishermen and their families/friends. We all boarded Tonio’s boat, called ‘El Cid’, and went out on the ocean for a few hours. I got to see the cabin where Tonio operates the boat, and all the radars/machinery he uses when fishing. I even got a pic of me at the wheel 🙂 It was a beautiful day and I took some nice photos that I’ve attached. Tomorrow is a holiday so I don’t go back to school until Tuesday. Then in a few weeks we have our two-week winter break. I’m thinking of taking a bus to San Pedro de Atacama, a very popular place here in the North that’s been recommended to me by other Chilenos. I also really want to go to Peru and possibly see Macchu Picchu. I’m about 13 hours from the border, so we’ll just have to see….


It’s been a long week and I’m finally getting some time to relax today and take it easy. I’m starting my classes Monday morning (in fact, RIGHT after Chile plays Switzerland in the World Cup….should be fun trying to get the students’ attention!). I’ve spent the last week lesson planning and getting my room to look more like a ‘classroom.’ I’ve been putting up posters and pictures to hopefully make it more conducive to learning English. Last Thursday night I went to an English Teacher Network meeting with my co-teacher Janette. There is a group of English teachers from different schools here in Caldera that meet up once a month. We’re having Caldera’s first ever spelling bee this coming Wednesday evening, and I’m going to be one of the three judges. It should be a fun event for the kids 🙂

Although I’m enjoying my stay here, there are a few luxuries from back home that I really miss, like: central heating in houses and school, long hot showers, and not sharing a bathroom with 4 people! Lol But, I guess it’s a small price to pay for the experience I’m getting 🙂

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