Sunday, June 22, 2014

Week 2 - Mapuche Community

It's hard to believe, but we're wrapping up week 2. The students are doing well in their classes and their Spanish has already begun to show improvement! We instructors are just as excited watching them learn as they are exploring Chile!

This week's highlights included: our first choir and dance classes, Chile's World Cup victory over Spain, our first visit to Reñaca Alto where we'll be doing our community service projects, and two afternoons spent with the local Mapuche community.

On Mondays, we have a few hours in the evening set aside for sports and other activities. It's a nice break from classes and the students found plenty of ways to entertain themselves!




On Wednesday, we all celebrated with Chile as they beat Spain 2-0! As you can see, our group has more than a few super fans.

Thursday was our first trip to Reñaca Alto. We planted some trees at a local elementary school and learned about the ways these younger kids are creating a "green," sustainable space at their school.


Some percussion to accompany us while we work
Then some of the students joined in!


Inside a greenhouse made of plastic bottles

At the Mapuche community, we worked hard Saturday on four different projects- cleaning up debris and brush; hauling dirt and leveling out the space for Sunday's We Tripantu (Mapuche New Year) ceremony; mixing cement and installing a stairway down to the common meeting area; and helping to prepare lunch for both days. But of course we made time for fun and for fresh bread and mate!


The "strong man" crew chosen to haul sand and cement up the hill

Our dirt haulers and levelers

Brush clean-up squad

Expert cement mixers!


End of Day 1 at the Mapuche Community. Exhausted, but proud of how our hard work paid off!


Mateo was invited to dance with the folkloric dance group.
We were all impressed with his skills.

Palín/chueca players

The instructors with Isabel, our tie to the Mapuche community.


Isaac turned out to be quite the dancer, too!

Closing the final ceremony

Monday, June 16, 2014

Week 1 - Valparaíso

We've come to the end of Week 1 here in Viña del Mar. We've survived our on-site orientations, meetings with the host families, first round of proficiency exams, and first few days of classes. The students have all adapted excellently to their new living situations and are enjoying life in Viña.


Heads Up Seven Up during on-site student orientation

Taking proficiency exams

Our first few days were rainy and cool, but the weather has cleared up nicely for us. For our excursion to nearby Valparaíso, we enjoyed clear sunny skies - the perfect weather for a day spent walking up and down the cerros "hills" of the city and for a boat ride in the bay.

The day's activities included:
- a ride on the metro, a first for many of the students
- a guided walking tour of the city's artistic and historical districts
- lunch at a cultural center which was once a historic prison
- rides on the city's most famous mode of transportation, los ascensores "elevators"
- a boat ride on the bay, complete with sea lions!


Taking the metro for the first time was an adventure. While in Valparaíso, we also took a city bus- another first for many of the students!


Valparaíso is full of murals and street art. Our guide led us through beautiful neighborhoods where nearly every house was painted.

A group picture among all the graffiti. What a good-lookin' group of students we've got!

The Ascensor Polanco is not a typical elevator in the sense that it travels vertically, rather than on a slope, and the car is more like an elevator you'd see in the US. However, it is the oldest ascensor in Valparaíso and has an added charm- the entrance to the elevator is underground and to reach the car, you must walk through a tunnel that goes through the base of the cerro. The view from the top was phenomenal!

For lunch, we stopped at the Parque Ex-Carcel, which was once home to Valparaíso's prison where many "rebellious" thinkers were imprisoned during the dictatorship. The spot was a nice mix of Chilean history and great views of the port.

 This time a more typical ascensor. Valparaíso has more than 40 cerros and at one time had nearly as many elevators. However, today only about 7 or 8 remain in active use.

Next we headed out into the bay to see the ships at port and... a surprise for the students- sea lions!

We had a wonderful time in Valparaíso!

We also took a trip to the mall on Saturday and many students took advantage of the opportunity to buy warmer clothing (it's been unseasonably cold for Viña lately, although the forecast shows things warming up from now on), toiletries they'd forgotten to pack, etc.

We're looking forward to this coming week's activities, which will include our first choir and dance classes. This weekend we will visit a local Mapuche community to learn about how they're working to maintain their culture and identity in the area. ¡Hasta la próxima! Until next time!