Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Week 4--Community work and our trip to La Serena/Vicuña aka el Norte Chico

Monday, June 30

Today during the morning we had classes as normal; everyone heard the news that Becky was giving a test in linguistics and were, of course, diligently studying all week. For culture and grammar classes, it was business as usual—subjunctive mood, giving directions and recommendations, Gabriela Mistral, Chile’s copper industry, etc.

During sports, we held ping-pong tournament as the cold weather kept most us indoors. The competition was fierce but no one was hurt and Kevin Fuhs emerged victorious after an epic battle with Isaac Mervis. Isaac, however, took defeat with class and congratulated Kevin on his mad ping-pong skills.

An early round match between Levi and Kevin

Maggie and Jordan prepare for a physical match

Isaac and Evan in action

Maggie and Madalyn - representing the girls in a later round!

Mateo v. Kevin

The championship match: Kevin v. Isaac

The champion and runner-up: no hard feelings here! :-)

 Tuesday, July 1

After classes, students and instructors had choir and dance classes. In choir, Juan Carlos taught us a new song from Rapa Nui or Easter Island. Lyne Krick had a crash course in playing the charango, a traditional instrument from mainland Chile, and we practiced some of the songs we had learned earlier. In dance class with Mario, we learned about several dances from the south of Chile, the ranchera and the paso doble along with continued practice on the cueca, Chile’s national dance, and the cacharpaya from the North. While Mario had to continually correct Jordan’s poor dance moves, as you can see the students, as well as Mark and Becky, excelled.

Wednesday, July 2

For our Wednesday optional activity, we watched The Incredibles dubbed in Spanish. The instructors bought some snacks and the students brought their own food and drinks to the show. Before watching the movie, Mark led the students in a game of Never have I ever combined with Musical chairs. Jeremy was the last person in the center and had to do his best cat impression; as usual he was a good sport and participated to the fullest giving everyone his best mews and hisses.

Thursday, July 3

Lynn and Evan planting a tree at a local school
Lyne and Evan planting a tree at a local school
Today was our day of community work in Reñaca Alto. After classes, we ate a bag-lunch and boarded the bus. During our community work our group split up in two, one group went with Becky and Claudio, one of the instructors at COTRA, to a jardín infantil where they planted some trees and worked with the young students in creating art for the school. Mateo, Meena, Kevin, Jeremy, Chris, Maggie, Christina, and Lindsey did a great job both planting and helping the adorable boys and girls. The other group left with Mark and Jordan to plant trees and pick up trash in another school. As the photos show the students, Theresa Odmark, Levi Teague, Evan Tiffany, Aaron Johnson, Lyne Krick, Madalyn O’Malley, Isaac Mervis and Maddie Blaney quickly became expert tree planters adept at using the chuzo and pala (shovel) to plant many indigenous tree varieties. Eventually both groups met up at a plaza to plant more trees. After all of that work, we had to head back home to pack for our long excursion to Valle del Elqui.

Group 1 at the Jardin Infantil

The kids waiting anxiously to help us plant and paint

Meena helping students make their handprint

Kevin assisting with the painting

Lindsey's turn to paint

Maggie's finished product: tree planted!

Jeremy, the planting professional, with some special helpers

Mateo, making his mark on the artwork

Chris putting some finishing touches on the artwork

Friday, July 4

¡Feliz Día de independencia! Happy Fourth of July everyone! First we met early at the church for a quick picture and our drivers, Marcelo and Carlos, took us on our extended excursion to La Serena/Vicuña this weekend. We took a brief stop in Los Vilos on our way to visit the Copper Museum and have a picnic lunch in some coastal wetlands in a park constructed by the same mining company. The views were great and we had some awesome time to take pictures. When we got to La Serena and checked into our hotels we went out for pizza with the group. Not only did we celebrate our nation's birthday, but we also celebrated Maggie Warpup's 16th birthday a couple of days early (FYI it was Sunday).

Students checking out the wetlands created in Los Vilos beside the Museo de cobre (Copper Museum)

A 4th of July greeting for our families back home!
EEUU is the Spanish equivalent of USA.

Maggie's bday cake!

Happy Birthday, Maggie!

Saturday, July 5
After getting up early to get ready for a BUSY day of sightseeing. We were surprised to find that it had snowed by one of the observatories, preventing our bus from making it up to the top of the hill. However, we had a plan B. Saturday morning we visited the Faro (lighthouse) of La Serena and the Recova market where students took photos and bought souvenirs--scarves and hats were a popular choice as we would be visiting another observatory that evening up in the hills at night. La Serena is also known for producing papayas and students were able to try papayas in many forms.

After visiting the market, we were lucky to witness an event for the National Cueca Day. After learning the cueca in dance class, it was fun to see the students apply what they had learned and be entertained by the dance competition. From La Serena we stopped at the Embalse (resevoir) Puclaro which was on the way to Vicuña.

El Faro, an iconic building in La Serena.
It no longer functions as a lighthouse, but
still a great photo op!

Group picture at the Puclaro Reservoir
The group made our way from the resevoir to Villaseca where we ate food cooked entirely by the sun using special ovens. We received a brief tour of the facility and learned about the technology used to cook the food; however, the highlight was obviously the food: empanadas, baked chicken or pork chops with rice or mashed potatoes and leche asada (a Chilean dessert similar to flan).

"Always together despite the distance"
Students learning how a solar oven works right before dinner in Villaseca.

With our stomachs full and our batteries recharged, the group went to Vicuña, birthplace of Nobel Prize winner, Gabriela Mistral. Vicuña boasts the Gabriela Mistral Museum which we visited and is the home base for visiting several observatories.

Jordan and Gabriela Mistral were instant friends--Nobel Prize selfie!

From Vicuña, we took a bus up the surround hills to the Mamalluca Observatory where we checked out several sites in outer space: Saturn, Mars, the Moon and several star clusters. Students also learned about constellations in the Southern hemisphere. After a full day of site seeing we were pretty beat; so we headed for home and went to bed!

Mamalluca Observatory

Sunday, July 6 (Happy birthady, Maggie!)

This was our return trip from Valle del Elqui and we were tired. So to relax and put our minds at ease, we went to the Japanese gardens in La Serena before leaving. On the ride home we made a quick stop and when we made it back to Viña del Mar all of our host families were waiting for us. This was definitely an eventful week.

Japanese Garden in La Serena,
known as "Garden of the Heart"

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