Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Final Countdown!

Goodbye Colegio Santa Maria

The week involved a whole host of goodbye celebrations. Essentially went through a whole box of Kleenex during the week and realised how tough it was going to be to say bye to all the wonderful people that had made my experience so special. The week kicked off with Monday assembly where two of my favourite students sang Maroon 5, She Will be Loved (which so happens to be one of my favourite songs). I was an absolute mess the whole way through crying my eyes out, and afterwards was invited to the stage to make a speech in Spanish in front of the ENTIRE school. I immediately informed the students I would be speaking in Spanglish to hopefully make them more forgiving to the mistakes that followed, but I think it made a smidgen of sense. I received a very snazzy school blazer as a leaving present which was a pretty awesome memento. 


English World Cup 

For my last week of classes I decided we would have a little competition to summarise everything learnt this semester. This culminated in The English World Cup. The classes assembled into four English speaking countries, England, NZ, Australia and the USA to compete for the coveted title and were put through a series of challenges. Of course the competition got underway after singing God Save the Queen, which the kids sang very patriotically. The first round was underway and the students had to quickly label body parts on a team member, round two involved a game of stand up bingo, round 3 the quick fire fact round, and round 4 "Who am I"? This had to be one of the funnier rounds where the students had to guess their famous identity stuck to their head through a series of Yes/No Questions. Things got a bit tricky when Michael Jackson was involved, with the students flummoxed as how to answer when asked "Am I Black"? The hardest round really tested the top teams in the late stages of the competition when the students were asked to give a goal commentary on Ronaldinho's classic World Cup goal where he chipped David Seaman. The competition was close so the winners were decided with a kick-up competition. I was delighted to announce England as World Cup winners, I'm sure this will be a rarity in real life for the foreseeable future. 


It was not just saying goodbye to the students. I was treated to a lil tea party by all the staff which involved another terrible speech on my behalf in Spanish. In my defence this one was a surprise event so I definitely had not prepared anything. On Thursday night a few of the teachers threw me a little leaving party complete with fajitas, cafe helados and snacks which was really sweet of them. 

4th Grade Leaving

It was not just my final weeks at the school the fourth graders were preparing to graduate from the school. In true Chilean style this involved a graduation breakfast with a whole host of lovely foods and an 80's themed musical, where thankfully 90% of the songs were in English. The kids were phenomenal but I felt slightly less out of it with the language as I was one of the only people in the audience who could properly sing along with the English lyrics.

Hasta Pronto mi familia Chilena

As if the week could not get any more emotional I had to say bye to the family that had put up with me for four months. We celebrated with an asado one night and I was showered in gifts including a beautiful elephant necklace, photos and a Chilean cookery book. It is sooo strange how close you can get to people that you do not even share a common language with. Further still I am sure on several occasions they must have questioned my sanity when any attempt to communicate was accompanied with a strange mime act to try and add clarity to my message alongside my broken Spanish. There was a lot of crying and my little brother Emiliano took several attempts to avoid me leaving including managing to squeeze himself into my suitcase.

Closing Ceremony

As well as saying goodbye to our schools and families we attended a posh goodbye ceremony at a nice hotel in La Serena hosted by the Ministry of Education. We enjoyed a meal and watched presentations by our teachers. Alejandro and Jany had made me a lovely collage of pictures. I had to laugh that the other girls had lovely presentations set to classical music, and my photo presentation was accompanied with a Beyonce track, could not have been any more appropriate haha! :D I made a speech to describe my experience in typical Laura style I was completely winging it. It was a nice occasion and we received diplomas and a really cool personalised sports bottle as a gift (easily pleased)! 

Ovalle Scavenger Hunt 

We decided to enjoy our last weekend in Chile by doing a lil scavenger hunt in our city to take pictures of all the most notable aspects of Chilean culture. These included pictures with street performers, cowboy men, all of our schools, with a collectivo (taxi driver) and with various traditional chilean foods. My favourite definitely had to be dancing cueca (the traditional chilean dance) with an old lady in a random bakery. Was uncertain how successful we would be but she was more willing to oblige in our lil photo shoot- LEGEND! After a scavenger hunt we enjoyed our last pollo y papas frittas from the Completo King Restaurant in Town with the family. Emiliano was on top form entertaining as usual teaching me how to dance tango in the middle of the street.

Back to the UK

After the most long and boring journey home including a very stressful flight change at JFK and my one hour late transfer to the airport I made it home. The cold definitely hit me the minute I landed and it felt very strange to be re-united with Chris and my family. Two of my girls made me the most amazing welcome home cake complete with the Chilean and English flag, and Chris listened to my repeat warnings to meet me armed with a box of Weetabix. Yum! I was very happy to relive old times and play in a Model UN football game, and although we lost, it felt good to be back.

It feels great to be back particularly for the following reasons:
  • not having to consider my sleeping outfit in the event of an earthquake during the evening and the need to evacuate 
  • not having to light the gas boiler and nearly blowing myself to smithereens every time I want a shower 
  • I do not miss the absolute carb fest of bread about 17 times a day 
  • Earthquakes- although I can now tick experiencing an earthquake of my life experiences list, I do not wish to repeat it. 

Things I miss from Chile
  • My amazing family and friends in Chile- could not have asked to meet such beautiful, caring, warm hearted people.
  • My students at Colegio Santa Maria who were so welcoming and amused me every day with their funny questions and enthusiasm for my activities. 
  • Palta- Avocado is just not the same in England, Never ripe, too expensive and tiny! Chilean friends please send some to England! 
  • The Scenery- perhaps some of the most beautiful places I have every seen in the world all in one country. 
Until my next adventure

Laura Xxx

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Beyonce, Beaches and Bad football!

Talent Show

So after a lot of preparation the day had finally came for the Ovalle English Talent Show. I was supplied with a suit jacket to look the part and the show was underway, kicked off by a surprise musical performance on rollerskates by Alejandro (a teacher at my school). The kids were great and some were very talented, I do not envy the judges task of deliberating over the winner. After the secondary school acts had performed, it was time for the moment we had all been dreading and we took to the stage for our Macarena, Beyonce Who run the world, Gangnam Style mashup. The crowd went wild and after we got over the initial shock that we were actually up on stage dancing infront of A LOT of people we actually really enjoyed it.

The following day at school I was treated like a superstar, by the teachers and students alike who said that British people normally don´t have rhythm, but I was the exception. Now I was not aware of this national stereotype but felt proud that I had taken a small step for England to combat it.

At this weeks zumba class we decided we were established enough to go to the front of the class so we would have more room to dance. So much zumba politics!  The instructor seemed impressed with my hip shaking abilities (life made). Definitely going to miss our authentic Latino zumba sessions when we leave :(

English Week

So this week most of the schools in the city got together for English week, which was actually more like English day (but let´s not be pedantic). Each school took one student from grades 7-4th to form teams which participated in different stations where they had to prepare a recipe in English, sing Karaoke, or write a speech for Presidency. The kids seemed to have a great time and whilst they were waiting for each station the volunteers were given the role of keeping the kids occupied.

We ran a whole load of games including the British playground classic BULLDOG, even though it may have been banned in pretty much every primary school in England due to it´s tendancy to get violent. Another classic DUCK, DUCK, GOOSE, was given a Chilean twist with LLAMA LLAMA GOAT!

Amidst all the fun minor details seemed to escape my attention and I was unaware of the fact that I was frying in the sun. It was not until that afternoon that I realised the full extent of my sunburn, much to the amusement of my little brother Emiliano who continued to call me TOMATO for the rest of the evening. My host mum had the idea for me to rub cucumber on my face to help reduce the redness. Not sure how effective it was but given the fact I had a full morning of classes the following day, with a lot of unforgiving students I was willing to try anything!

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So England have not played Chile since 1998, but when I was in the country seemed like the appropriate time for a game. Allegiances were definitely split but I stayed true to England (something I would later regret). Me and Emily watched the game at her families house and surrounded by Chileans there was a significant amount of taunting and CHI CHI CHI LE LE LE VIVA CHILE!!! We stayed strong against the threats, and sang the national anthem loud and proud (until I realised Emily did not know the words and felt like the lone Brit in a room of Chileans). My doubts about the game were confirmed less than ten minutes in when Alexis Sanchez scored for Chile, and the taunting became even worse! The piscos were flowing which was about the only thing to lessen the blow when in extra time Sanchez scored another, making it look easy with a non existent England defence. We were forced to eat humble pie and for the next few days were bullied by our Chilean families. Got to agree with them though, we played terribly!

Let´s go to the Beach Beach! 

So in the past two weeks we have made two unsuccessful attempts to go to the beach. The first attempt we were greeted by our first sight of rain since being in Chile, so spent the day baking instead. The second attempt we actually arrived at the beach to the most miserable overcast day, and with the next bus not for four hours we hopped back on and headed to the port city of Coquimbo. Was pretty cool to wander around and we went to a fort where we saw sealions, and the Millenium Cross which had great views over the city.


The time is drawing in for the end of year tests so the kids are definitely bombarded with revision and studying at the minute. Was quite amusing last week that their seemed to be uncharacteristicly low attendance the day Justin Beiber so happenned to be performing in Santiago! This week we had a little cocktail party to award the students who had participated in debates and public speaking from our school and Pucarà. Essentially it was just an excuse to eat lots of cake (Happy days). I got a cool lil pendant from the school as a thanks for me which was really nice! Was invited by one of my students this week to watch their football team play against a fierce opponent in Ovalle. It was a typical girls football game with all the girls crowding round the ball but Santa Maria managed to secure a win! WOOP!

Less than two weeks til I am back in England! Can`t wait to see everyone

Laura xxx

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Earthquakes, Halloween and Penguins!


So for one of the most seismic countries in the world (sorry I did not make this very clear before I came out mum haha), Chile was seemingly peaceful for the first three months, until I was hit with two earthquakes, (no sorry tremours as the experienced Chileans call them), in one week! The first one was a meagre 4.6 in the middle of the night, woke up to my bed, which is on wheels, jiggling about! Thought I was just having a strange dream but found out it was indeed true the next morning!

Felt quite excited for my first earthquake experience surviving unscathed. Except I spoke too soon. Thursday evening myself and Emily were minding our own business preparing food for our halloween party when the ground started to shake A LOT! Typically Emily was slow to realise but when she did we sprinted to the door frame, her holding on to me tears in her eyes, and me screaming Lily to come down the stairs. Lily was similarly upset as Emiliano was out trick or treating at the time. The whole room felt like it was on an angle and everything was shaking like crazy even this GIANT metal street sign outside the house! Turns out it was a 6.6, I am no longer grateful for having an earthquake experience this was scary stuff!

Definitely added an extra scare to Halloween, especially as in its aftermath I was stood outside looking for Emiliano completely forgetting I was wearing an illuminous orange wig and princess Crown. I have became accustomed to the funny looks being unusually tall and extremely white compared to the Chilean population.


So after the earthquake drama our Halloween party began, slightly different to those in the UK. It is generally more frowned upon in a predominantly Catholic country to use Halloween as an excuse to wear as little clothing as possible. At the local market I found all the bits to make my own Princess Fiona outfit, the ears were a bit of a disaster however, stuck together with earphones and first aid tape! We played lots of games and ate lots of food, really good night!

Isla Damas

So we decided to use the long weekend to head to Isla Damas, an uninhabited island with beautiful white beaches and onto Pinguino Humboldt Reserve an island inhabited by Penguins, sealions and birds. All that was missing was David Attenborough commentary, and was really great to see the penguins in their natural habitat. I slightly underestimated just how small the Humboldt Penguin (the smallest in the world) would be and with my eyesight it was a challenge to distinguish the penguins from the rocks. Think I was expecting something like the scenes from Happy Feet (pic below)! The Sealions were my favourite, they had so much attitude just sunbathing on a rock, one roling over in full view of our boat, as it it was posing for our photos.

The sea was incredibly strong and there were some pretty intense waves! Emily spent some of the journey with her head over the side! With my life jacket, cap and waterproof camera bag I could not have looked more like a tourist if I tried but it was a great weekend!

More parties

Attended even more celebrations at a teachers birthday party, and as per usual it was a lot of food and drink. Could not help feeling I was the butt of many of the jokes but I just smiled and nodded along! I was encouraged to down one of my drinks, YES by a group of teachers and YES on a school night, how irresponsible lol! Another night we found a fun fayre in town and decided to ride on the Dancing Fly, famous last words! Chilean health and safety standards are definitely not the same as in England, and the ride would not have been half as scary if it wasn´t for the worrying screeching of the rides mechanics. We celebrated our survival of the ride with some very tasty churros!

Who run the World? Girls, GIRLS!

The past two Sundays have been spent choreographing a dance for us volunteers at the upcoming English Talent Show. We will be performing a mashup of the macarena, Run the World (Beyonce of course), and Gangnam Style! Not sure if it will earn me more respect from my students or completely demolish any that existed but we shall see thisThursday! This week I have been practicing with my schools acts and it sounds great, with some Beatles and Emeli Sande tracks! Fingers Crossed we are in for a win! 

Singing Assesments

Tests continued at school and this week some of the kids were challenged with performing a song in English for the class. It was a lot of fun and of course, Justin Beiber and 1D dominated the show, but some kids were a bit more creative. One boy asked if he could sing Happy Birthday, I could not help but laugh but had to kindly ask him to sing something a bit more challenging. Some of the boys decided to go solo, and I was serenaded with James Blunts "You are Beautiful¨and the Adele classic "Someone like you". It was a great atmosphere and at one point we had the whole class banging their desks to the beat of "We Will Rock You". One boy from my younger classes nearly made me cry, he similarly decided to go solo which I thought was a bold move but he had the most amazing voice and sang a really moving Church song! I managed to hold it together, but he definitely got top marks.

In the past few weeks I have started extra classes with one of my older students who is nearly fluent in English, and wants to improve before going to study in Australia. The class generally just involves us chatting for an hour and a half but I genuinely feel useful so its a lot of fun. This week the primary school had its annual English show which was potentially the cutest thing ever! I got to see them perform the skeleton dance, incey wincey spider and other nursery rhymes.  

Only 27 days to go! 

Laura Xxx

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Teachers Day, School trips and Football

Stepping in Simon Cowells Shoes

So school continued as normal except for the fact most of my classes had tests so my job was to act as a judge for the kids oral presentations. The kids were free to pick their own topics, as predicted One Direction featured heavily and surprisingly Miley Cyrus despite her recent fall from grace. I was pleased to hear something a bit different when one girl came up to present about Iron Maiden. I would have enjoyed it more had every third word not been death or dying, I'm not sure whether the girl was unaware what she was saying or she intended to have a beaming grim when talking about such depressing topics. After talking to my co teacher and discovering that last semester she did a presentation about the positive aspects of Adolf Hitler's character I think she was in full knowledge. Needless to say I gave her a good mark, didn't wanna mess with someone who idolized Hitler. Some presentations were not so fluent and it was quite clear google translate had been used heavily with some sentences making absolutely nosense or being unintentionally comical.

My role as a judge extended to auditions for the schools English talent show. Some kids were evidently more talented than others but it was enjoyable all the same. There was one incredibly eccentric boy who sang a rock song and proceeded to kick his chair over and scream YEAHhhh at the crowd. It took us a good few minutes to quieten the room.before we could proceed. Wasn't quite sure who I most resembled as a judge but unfortunately I think I ended up being more of a Louis Walsh rooting for the eccentric underdogs more so than the truly talented kids. Overall we picked some great acts and if I was a betting woman I would fancy our chances in the talent show in November. GO Santa Maria!

Celebrated both my host mum and co teachers birthdays this week which of course in true Chilean style meant more food and drink. We had an asado prepared in the wood stove in the kitchen with mounds of meat and sprinkles of salad. Lily was a tad tipsy making a toast to Queen Isabel, you know, Prince Charles mum (:S) and even more randomly to Monica Lewinsky, I didn't even attempt to question that one but joined in raising a glass.The next night we headed for girls night out with a Chinese and then onto a quite flyte (ghetto) pub for karaoke. We sang (questionable use of the word) to Bohemian Rhapsody, everybody wants to rule the world and the most peculiar version of American pie. The words were not English but not spanish, it was as if they had stuck it in Google translate and hoped for the best.



Got to experience Chile's qualification for the World Cup. After the match we were driving through the city centre which was in gridlock with beeping horns and flags flying. Was a great atmosphere. Lucito was so happy he actually broke his car horn from excessive beeping. Found out Chile and England are to play each other in November for pre world cup friendlies, allegiances will definitely be split then.

Sugar ahhhh honey honey

So I have always wondered why there was a box full of bees in the garden but I never had sufficient spanish to ask the question. Turns out Pepe makes honey and decided to give us some honey for the house. Me and Lily were given the job of filtering the honey and after exhausting all the kitchen utensils none being appropriate for the job we used a pair of lilys tights and a cut open pop bottle. It worked a treat but looked like a Blue Peter experiment. Funniest thing was Lily gave the tights a wash and informed me how she still intends to wear them haha. The honey was delicious and will definitely be a welcome change from manjar for the next few weeks.


Officially the longest day ever 

So for some unknown reason I volunteered to attend the school trip to Santiago (6hours away), thinking it will be fine I will sleep on the bus. Think again Laura, I was on the bus with the most notoriously disruptive of my classes. The director boarding the bus to check some of the boys weren't drunk before we left pretty much set the scene for the rest of the excursion. The kids danced reggaeton the entire way there. A 5 minute toilet stop turned into well over an hour at 6am when almost 400 Chilean kids spotted a food vendor and queued for chips and burgers. After a few more buses breaking down we eventually reached University Catolica in Santiago, beautiful campus. Lunch was chaos, you wouldnt think they were aware they had to feed 400 kids and the queue snaked round the cafeteria, nearly two hours later we were finally fed and watered before another University exhibition. The bus home was equally as lively, and although I normally have a soft spot for SEAN PAULLL I can not say I appreciated it blasting all the way home after almost 2 days with no sleep. Back to school 1am- followed by a morning of classes the next day. EXHAUSTED!

Teachers day/week

Listen up all teachers, if you want to feel truly loved come to Chile. Not only do they celebrate teachers day it turns into more of a week of teacher appreciation, free food and drink, gifts and kind words. Tuesday night we had a cocktail at the primary school with food and drinks and one teacher receiving a lap dance from some lady singing, Wednesday classes were suspended for a showcase of dancing and singing by the kids.The teachers including me all received a flask with the school emblem (perfect I looooove tea) and enjoyed another buffet. Friday night we had a sit down formal dinner all paid for by the school with drinks and canapes followed by karaoke and a disco. Shame I was too exhausted from the Santiago trip to bring out my beyonce but it was probably for the best, I have to work with these people afterall. Despite leaving early (or more specifically as soon as dessert had been demolished) it was a good night.


  • Being told by my students my eyes were AWESOME because they are so blue and I have such blonde hair (I am genuinely considered blonde here). 
  • Singing all the way to town in the Collectivo to Duffy Warwick Avenue on the radio. Definitely scared the driver that evening. 
  • Eventually finding out what ASS is that I has always intrigued me on Chilean restaurant menus. It is not nearly as exotic as expected and is just essentially beef hot dog! 
  • Amazing new Zumba routines including Love Shack (Chile is definitely stuck in the 80s). 

Only 6 weeks to go 

Chao Chao 

Laura xxxx