16 March 2011

What A Difference 24 Hours Makes


Thanks for reading the Rant of Ages yesterday. It was a mess and it was hard, but the situation is very complex and the reasons for why everyone acts the way they do are multiple.

At home with my hosts I discovered that the previous volunteers at the school were not very good at teaching and that the town didn't necessarily connect with them, either. My hostmom said that Puerto Natales attracts volunteers who just want to trek in Torres del Paine, and that occasionally they would not talk at all to the family and just treated it as a boarding house (which, well...it is. But not for us hijas).

Given the crazy amount of change living in another country forces upon people and the (sometimes maddening, let's be honest) idiosyncracies of Chilean life, the volunteers probably have their own side of the story. Maybe they feel like they had no support and that none of the things the MINEDUC said were executed, or they couldn't adapt to this life. Maybe they were scared.

I was certainly scared and angry and frustrated and saddened yesterday by everything that went on. I definitely could have thrown up my hands and said, "Right, that's it. I can't do this." But the frustration served as a catalyst to push me to better things.

I bought paper and markers and spent about six hours in the last 24 making signs and decorations for the classroom. There's a world map that I brought from home, with countries in which English is spoken in lists next to it. There is a list of rules for the English Classroom. There is a collage of things that people often use English for. More will come until the whole things is decorated.

I was prepared today. Since Favian was sick yesterday afternoon (yes, he really was sick and I feel badly for quesitoning it...although perception of sickness is relative) I prepared a lesson for the class today just in case he was still ill. He came into the classroom 10 minutes before class began with the second group of 8th graders, and his face lit up at the sight of all the preparation. His whole demeanor changed. He realized I mean business :)

From then on things clicked and we actually connected as a team. We started planning and he filled me in about many of the different things about the school, and he served as translator (thank all that is good) for a meeting. He said he will bring me a book called, "How to Survive the Chilean Jungle" to help with slang and cultural misunderstandings.

Lesson learned. Motivation breeds luck and communication. Turning a bad situation on its head and letting it serve as a light under your butt is way more effective than the alternative, and makes people want to work with you. Oh yeah, and the kids are still adorable.

Excited, exhausted, and happy.


  1. Great to read! This is your best post yet, and they're all excellent!

  2. "I'm a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." ~Thomas Jefferson. You're the best Coleen, keep it up!