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Tuesday, 11 December 2012


Arica, the northern most city of Chile, the city of eternal spring, has been my home for the year.   Hard to believe that it´s time to go already.  But school is out and there is another few thousand kilometers of this diverse country to explore before I return to New Zealand.  My first post on here included a picture of the sun rising over the Pacific taken from Mangawhai Heads and while this will not be my last post from Chile, it will be my  last from Arica, where I have had the priviledge of watching the sunset over the other side of the pacific many evenings.
Felicitaciones San Marcos,
 making it through to the Primera Division!

I have made some precious friends and outlandish mistakes!  There have been times of elation and confusion. I have had both routine and adventure, mistakes and mischief.  But best of all I have learned!! I have learned a language, a new way of expression, and a new way of understanding,  I have learned a new way of life and of viewing the world.  And I have learned this from people, people who have been open and generous, taking time to teach me and to share with me, people who have laughed at me and with me, who have both questioned me and understood me.
Thank you, Paulina, Daniel, Maja, Nelson, Laura, Julio, Connie, Pamela, Emily, Rodrigo, Trevor and Patty... nos vemos!!!
And the delicious fresh fruit and veges available at every corner

Looking forward to bringing home these new understandings, to share them with my students... because as great as this adventure has been for me personally, that was always the point, to enrich my teaching and the learning of my students.  Keeping my eyes on the prize, I feel a real sense of satisfaction and appreciation.

I have down sized my apartment into to small bags that I will carry on my back for a month as I travel through Chilean Patagonia and Lake Ristrict, where I will no doubt encounter my first spot of rain in over 9 months!

Here are a few photos in tribute to favorite places and things I´ll miss!  Chau Arica ha sido genial, gracias para todas por todo x
Shameless gorging of barbequed meat!
Street Musicians

Trying new things in this case tumbo
a perfect cross between the tastes of a lemon and passionfruit!!
New favorite gelato flavour!!
The port, favorite place to see the sea lions basking the sun,
 buy fresh fish and eat at the local seafood restuarants!

Reflective view from my balcony -
as the sunsets on New Zealands yesterday

Tuesday, 4 December 2012


After living in the desert for many months the idea of going on holiday in the desert, didn't seem all that appealing. 

  To be honest I would have chosen the mountains or the lakes or even a small green paddock would have been fine!  But everyone I talked to insisted that it was worth the 10 hour bus ride through the desert, to get to this particular part of the desert, San Pedro de Atacama. 
 Mistico, precioso, unico where the words most commonly used to describe it.  And amazingly it was actually all of those.
The town itself a little more than a handful of unpaved streets surrounding the tiny central plaza but it is quaint and relaxed and has all the trimmings to cater for the tourist without the glaring commercial spoils. It is an oasis and has an elaborate and efficient irrigation system that directs waters from underground resevoirs to sustain the community and their lush gardens.


But best of all is the surrounding area, within an hour or two in any direction are a diverse set of natural attractions. Best described in photo form - Check out the diversity of this place... who would have ever thought there would be lakes, mountains, flamingos, salt flats and geysers in the desert?!
Ya, well it was 4.30 in the morning
and minus 13 degrees but at least my Mum was there!!


"El diece ocho" has been dropped into conversation all year, spoken about with fond memories of past celebrations and great anticipation for the following.
It refers to the 18th of September which is the day that celebrates Chile's Independence.  And the festivities, which of course given the Latin American culture, could not possibly be contained in just the one day, are called Fiestas Patrias (patriotic parties).

The 18th and 19th are the official public holidays but this year most schools and businesses made a sandwich, meaning that because Monday was inconveniently squeezed in between the weekend and the 18th they decided to make that a holiday too.  Schools, shops and downtown were decorated in red white and blue from the the 1st of September and throughout the entire month.  Flags were flying from almost every house (it is mandatory to fly a flag at your house on the 18th, failing to do so can attracted a hefty fine, and although the law hasn't been enforced since democracy returned to the country at the end of the Pinnochet rule, the majority of households willing comply. During the week of Fiestas Patrias, fondas, or fairs are set up downtown, displays of live music, and traditional dancing particularly folklore, and stalls are set up in tents, where you can find all the typical chilean treats such as empanandas (meet or cheese filed turnovers), anitchuchos (shish kebabs), carne asada (filled beef and pork), yogi (a version of the hotdog on a stick), completos (a cross between a hamburger and a hotdog). The 19th is a holiday also in honour of the military, so pretty much the whole week is a holiday giving time and reason for families to get together for barbeque after barbeque. A Chiliean barbeque means lots and lots of meat, lots and lots of people, lots and lots of dancing cueca, and not a lot of work, anywhere for anyone.  It has the shut down feel like between Christmas and New Years  Both of my schools had a diece ocho celebration.  At Montesorri we had a school fair, with stalls selling all sorts of local treats, cecha dancing competitions, I got to dress in traditonal local costume and welcome guests at the door! (ironic to have a gringa on the welcoming committee of such a national event!) At North American College we had a massive barbeque for all 300 staff members (that's a lot of meat and a lot of dancing ;)  the senior kids all presented a dance in the Plaza downtown, showing national pride through and through,  
Best of all everyone is in a festive mood and bursting with bunea onda (good vibes) and proudly celebrate their "chilean-ness'.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Excited!! Have just done a big shop for resources to bring home!
Note I have had to take out some fabulous shoes in order to fit this into my luggage!!
Oh, the sacrificial life of a teacher!!

Friday, 30 November 2012


That's what I love about Spanish, it sounds exactly as it is written.
There are no complicated blends, or 'magic letters' that change the rule, there aren't two sounds for one letter and there is even a mark over the sylable to show where to put the emphasis on the word.  On the surface it looks like a no brainer
However, on the other hand, this kind of acccuracy is rather unforgiving.  Change one misely letter, misplace the accent or mix the pronunciation of the r's and d's can mean that everything is lost in translation:
your father turns into a potato, (papa y papa)
yes becomes if, (si y si)
The verb for 'loading a programe' can be easily confused for  'unloading your bowels'
At a school barbeque I asked someone what was happening in the classroom next door and they passed me the salt...!?!
There are dozens of words that link very closely to English and even French that often help me out, wacking an o or an on the end of a word can mulitply you Spanish vocabulary in an instant. For example fantasic becomes fantástico, music beomes música, but then ...careful just when you think you  are getting the hang of it can back fire, for example estoy embarazada does not mean you are embarrassed, it means you are pregnant ' and then you really are embarrased after that mistake!!

Until I have learned to properly curl my tongue around r's and d's there are certain words I should avoid, The word for but (pero)- easily confused for 'flatchlence' (pedo) which is English lends itself to a joke that would be completely lost on the Spanish speakers.
So yes as far as writing goes, you simply say it how it is, but how is that again!!

Monday, 19 November 2012


Blimey its November already!! 
I'm sure I'm not the first to say that this month,  with the fourth term already underway back home and students preparing for their end of year exams, we are all in the same boat.
I think there is something about living in a desert that allows time to run away on you and then sneak back up.
There haven't been the usual signs of changes in season that help to mark time,  the desert hills have remained a constant blend of 'creams and cafe' colours; no autumn leaves, no bare winter trees, no periods of storm or rainfall, no cherry blossoms or daffodils either.  I only came across the word for umbrella (paragua) for the first time the other day - in a book!  Admittedly the winter did see colder temperatures which required socks and sweaters.  So there was some change.  Now, the wind that whips in of the coast is a welcome relief as it tames the intensifying sun that signals that summer is well on her way.
This means that I have nearly done full cycle here in Arica and am in the tail end of my time here ' que el tiempo vuela!! I'm starting to take stock of just what has happened over there, and I feel like a disappeared into a period of integration in the past few months and there are many tales to tell, will have to update you on this blog again soon.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012


Gymnasio Survival Vocabulary
I CHOOSE POWER - This is the clever motivational phrase that is plastered on the gym mirror. But to be honest, sometimes I feel like this poster is mocking me, I don't really feel that powerful!
Exercising in public is never really that pleasant. I prefer to have some anonymity while putting my body through its paces; tripping over my two left feet, dripping pools of sweat and gasping for air, its generally not a pretty sight. But anonymity is not really on the cards, my mere appearance screams "gringa" (which in Chile is not a word with derogative connotations like in other South American countries). Even without opening my mouth or falling over the step, I stick out for being particularly rubio, fair, and while many Chilean are also rubio nobody else in the class seems to turn that same shade of deep red/purple that I do! How I envy that moreno look with gorgeous olive, tanned skin!
And, I have the distinct disadvantage of not actually understanding the instructions. In my defence. this is not just a simple vocabulary problem, the blaring music and the sound of my heart pounding in my ears doesn't exactly help my comprehension. Frequently, my language learning skills revert to 'monkey see, monkey do'.
But I am persisting, determined to bust through those layers of pain and confusion and I am finally beginning to decipher some sense from amongst the chaos. Seriously, I have come to the conclusion that sometimes the instructor doesn't mean what he says. There is a definitely a difference between literal translation and contextual translation. I have collected here some key vocabulary and phrases that had I known earlier might have avoided some embarrassment and frustration.

uno, dos tres, cuatro cinco... ocho -one, two three four, five...eight- yep pretty straight forward - however a gym instructors idea of ocho is a little like the Chilean version of 'on time', ie. an extra 20!
Arriba, abajo, atras, adalente, = up, down, front, back - yea but try doing that quickly and repeatedly while standing on one foot, with a change in sequence and direction with seemingly no warning!
Tres y uno = don't be fooled! While this sound identical to desayuno, (breakfast) it is referring to three stomach crunches up and one down.
Ay, ay = ouch ouch - (very handy and self explanatory)
Nada mas = nothing more (one might think this would be music to my ears but no, it also means repeat only this exercise until further notice!)
Vamos = let's go (yes Im thinking lets go... but in this context it means, come on, move it!)
Otra vez = again (seriously?)
Ultima vez = last time (what ever that's what he said last time!)
Doble = can mean twice as fast or twice as many, something more specific might help the gringa girl to keep in sync!
Concentrarte = Concentrate yourself ( this is a favorite for the Spinning instructor, given that pedalling a stationary bike is not that complicated, I assume she means concentrate on not throwing up, since that what I usually feel like doing in her classes!)
Apliquete = Apply yourself (now that's a goodie that can be applied in all areas of life!)
Hombres, Mujeres Men, Women two simple words which had they been written on the newly renovated bathrooms would have avoided devastating embarrassment. Needless to say I won't be showering at the gym again, the water is cold anyway!

Now I just need to find thee Spanish equivalent for Drama Queen and I think I could describe myself quite accurately!!