Santiago is fantastic. And has included more life experiences than should be had in just a month. The journey across Argentina and the Andes was sweet, although mostly by night. Despite the concerns of my mother and grandmother, it was not an overcrowded bus covered in fruit vendors and chickens; it was a cozy coach bus with ample room, Hollywood movies, and dinner and breakfast served. We woke up in the morning at the border, about 12,000 feet up in the mountains, to go through customs. This gave us a chance for the Mexican interns in our group to make their first snowballs, always a treat in the middle of July. We arrived in Santiago with lower expectations than the excellent time we had in Buenos Aires. This was justified when no one showed up to lead us to the house for a half hour…but then they did…and the adventure began.
|At the top of the world. (Border between Argentina and Chile, in the background)|
To compare Buenos Aires to Santiago is literally like comparing Rome to Los Angeles. They might be a two hour flight apart but culturally are so distinct. The accent, the way people look, the transportation system, the food, the architecture, the geography, everything is different. Diego and I were fortunate enough to make a fantastic friend named Pati at an AIESEC conference in March in Puerto Rico, who happens to be in a leadership position in the local committee of AIESEC in Santiago. Instead of living in the international ‘frat house’ like in Buenos Aires, we have the opportunity to live in a more traditional Santiago neighborhood with Chileans. This gives us a chance to really see what Chilean life is like (which is absolutely amazing).
|Chileans watching the Copa America game against Peru.|
The job experience here is also very different. In Buenos Aires, I was able to work with a team of interns lead by an Argentinian to organize a soccer tournament; here we get to teach English in middle- and high schools. The first day we arrived we were given the news that student protests have moved the students’ winter break to the first two weeks of our Chile adventure. Being typical AIESECers, our group ran off and explored South America. Some went to the snowy south; some went to the coast, to the cities of Viña del Mar and Valparaiso; some up north to the desert; and some spent a week to visit Machu Picchu, in Peru. Diego and I are cheap, so we stuck around to explore the city and its surroundings.
Our friend Pati also had another AIESEC friend staying with her, a Parisian guy who has spent the last ten months travelling throughout Latin America to learn Portuguese and Spanish. For our first week or so, the four of us climbed mountains, went out on the town, and saw all the touristy stuff. Then we began to get antsy for work. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect, especially since our job descriptions for Buenos Aires were so vastly different than what we actually did. But we knew it was supposed to be teaching English or creating workshops for students.
|Me, Christopher, Pati, and Diego at the statue of la Virgen de Santiago at the summit of Cerro San Cristobal.|
Day one was one of the greatest days I have had in the college period of my life. The nine of us who work at Colegio Valle Hermoso discovered the transit route the night before, and met up in two groups the next morning to go up to the school. The bus took us farther and farther from the city center, and closer to the mountains. We finally got to the end of the route as we arrived to the snow line at the base of the mountain, and were welcomed by all the teachers and students immediately. Although most of the students were not around because they were staying downtown to protest the Ministry of Education, it was great to begin teaching English to kids who were more than eager to learn.
The past few weeks have been a blast, meeting some of the coolest kids I’ve ever met and learning that teaching could be a hat in my future. My experiences down here, although far too short, will be a life changer. I’m excited to see where this goes and even more so to see how I’ve changed once I arrive back home. Diego is making a documentary about the student strikes so tomorrow we’ll be going down to Plaza Italia to film. Tell you how it goes ;)