We arrived in Chile yesterday, but today was our first full day and it was awesome! We started the day with our first day of Spanish lessons at ECELA. They gave us a placement test which turned out to be very challenging for me! Suddenly, the little bit of Spanish I did know (which I thought would be enough to get me by) completely escaped me. I mean after all, it has been a while since I’ve actually used it. I started to get frustrated with the exam and I lost the patience to even try anymore. So much so, that I left the entire last part of the test blank. It was at that point that I realized that this might actually be a little bit more difficult than I had thought. However, things did get better after that! After the written exam was an oral exam which I feel I did much better with. The conversation with the instructor seemed to bring everything back to me, which made for a good rest of the day.
With my new found confidence from doing well with the oral exam, I decided to break out of my shell and approach people. The first group of people I approached were from the united states as well, but most of them were studying to be Spanish teachers. They had been studying Spanish for a while and so, on this trip, they were instructed to only speak in Spanish. This meant that I had no choice but to communicate using only Spanish. Though difficult, this was perfect because it forced me to draw on and use everything I knew. Until now, people would eventually speak English to us once they saw that we didn’t understand, but in this situation that was no longer the case!
Here is a picture of our group at ECELA, our language school:
After Spanish classes, we had a small lunch together (we didn’t want to eat much food because we knew we had a BBQ to attend later on in the day). This came with another challenge because Alexia, the only person in our group who is fluent in Spanish and is therefore our translator, wasn’t with us. However, with some help from who I think might be the owner of the restaurant, we managed to place our orders. Here I got to try un jugo de fruita fresca and pie de limon. It was delicioso!
Take a look:
After “lunch,” we went to Universidad Mayor for a welcome tea. This was very special because we got to see our Chilean pen pals that we met during their visit to the United States. They prepared tea, sandwiches, and cookies for us, and just wanted to welcome us to their city. It was like greeting old friends; it was greeting old friends!
And here we are:
Afterwards, we went back to ECELA for a BBQ, but first we learned the Cueuca, which is Chile’s national dance. I must say that this lesson was MUY INTERESANTE! As a group we were terrible and I did especially bad; I mean imagine not being good at dancing and being given directions in a language you aren’t fluent in; muy dificil! However, it was still one of my favorite parts of the day. We were learning to dance, but in reality it was a test of how well we could follow directions…en español!
Here is a video of us TRYING to do the Cueca. Sorry it's sideways; I'll fix it later if I learn how!
After the disastrous dancing lesson, once the BBQ started, I had the chance to interact with a lot of different people. Turns out our group was the only group there that wasn’t at least fairly fluent in Spanish, which was a little discouraging at first, but everyone turned out to be really encouraging! They pushed us to try speaking Spanish and before I knew it, I didn’t want to speak in English anymore. I found myself in a conversation with a man who was a Spanish professor and a woman from Brazil who had been studying Spanish for quite some time, leaving me to be the weakest link in the conversation. This was extremely difficult because the Spanish professor refused to speak English (he was leading the group I mentioned earlier) and the Brazilian women’s first language was Portuguese, so again another conversation with no inglese! This conversation included a list of topics that ranged from why I was here, what type of teacher I wanted to be and what I would teach, my hair (many people here are fascinated by it), to the most difficult topic of all; the difference in currency in Chile, The United States, Brazil, and another place that I didn’t catch. However, though difficult, I kept up and this inspired me to push myself to communicate in mostly in Spanish for the rest of the trip. Even now it’s tempting to try writing this blog in Spanish rather than English, but for the sake of my English speaking readers I won’t do so. Also, I even find myself having to delete and rewrite words because I wrote them in Spanish by accident, and this is only day one! Yes, this is exactly what I wanted to happen!
Overall, I am completely happy with my experience so far. I am adjusting well to Chilean culture [actually as the ambassador (we all have jobs), it is part of my job to make everyone in our group aware of and responsive to Chilean culture], I completely adore my host mom and my new Brazilian sister, the interactions I’ve had at ECELA are invaluable, and I have been and see the potential to learn so much in my time here! Today, Dr. Patti mentioned something about the amount of days we have left here and I automatically gave her the “how dare you?” response. I don’t even want to think about having to go home yet!
Hello all, or should I say “¡hola!”? My name is Crystal and I’ve recently graduated SUNY Buffalo State with a degree in Elementary Education (grades 1-6) and Social Studies Education (grades 7-9). I will soon begin my studies for Literacy Specialist Certification, but not before I embark on this wonderful journey to Santiago, Chile. For me, this trip beings the opportunity for me to immerse myself in another culture, experience language learning, and adopt new teaching styles; all of which will contribute to making me a teacher who is culturally responsive and able to cater to the diverse needs of students. I anticipate that this trip wil be filled with excitement, challenges, and new understandings! So please, join me for the ride!