"Why are we doing this?"

Trip Start Jan 03, 2013
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Trip End Mar 12, 2013


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Flag of Chile  ,
Saturday, January 12, 2013

We have been in Chile for 8 days and have been bombarded with cultural and language adjustments. If I had to come up with a theme for this week it would be "Why are we doing this?" Life was so predictable 8 days ago and the numerous challenges we face cause us to frequently stop and search for an answer to that question. I am pleased to report that we always find an answer and that the frequency of the question seems to be diminishing.
 
Santiago is a very large, busy city full of high-rise apartments and millions of people. It is summer here and the temperature reaches into the 90s daily. There is a big hill (little mountain?) in the middle of the city called Cerro San Cristóbal. We took a bus ride to the top. As the bus climbed the hill, weaving in and out of hundreds of bikers and runners getting their weekend exercise, we commented that it would be great training for the Colorado Relay. At the top was a large statue of the Virgin Mary with an outdoor church that houses hundreds of worshipers on Sundays. We had made the trip to get a view of the city and the Andes surrounding the city; however the smog was very bad and filtered the view. I am sure it is beautiful on a clear day (which, we understand, is rather rare). Because it is summer here the flowers are in full bloom, a wonderful site having left Colorado in the cold.

Our primary motivation for coming to Chile was to learn Spanish through our participation in a language immersion program. We started school 6 days ago. As we entered the building we were instructed--in Spanish--to leave our English at the door. We have not heard another word of English in our classes since. By the end of the first day I was ready to throw in the towel because I was so overwhelmed. Everything was strange and I didn't even understand when they were telling us to take a break. I followed the other students hoping I was not being lead into the men’s bathroom. Walking to school on the second day demanded that I muster all my resilience in order to re-enter that classroom. Five days later I can say that, although it has been a real roller coaster ride, my emotions are leveling out and my anxiety being reduced.

The school has about 25 students from all over the world (China, Togo, Indonesia, Australia, Brazil, Sweden, Holland, England and three of us from the US). One afternoon after class we went for a beer with one instructor and five other students. We had to speak Spanish because none of us knew one another’s native language. We had a really good time and, amazingly, I think we understood each other. We are the oldest people in the school with the average student being in their late 20s. Our particular class is comprised of 3 men in their early 20s from Brazil, and the two of us. The “boys” arrive at class a little worse for the wear after bar hopping the previous night, giving daily reports of their adventure of the night before. We are kind of the grandparents of the school but the students are quick to invite us to join them for their evening activities, including salsa lessons and, of course, bar hopping). We are not so quick to accept the invitations because we have so much homework to do and we are exhausted by 6:00 when we leave school. Accordingly, Paul has been short on time for photography since school began. Lo siento……….

A significant aspect of a language immersion program is living with a native host, necessitating us to interact in Spanish in the evening. We are living with a young woman in a 15th floor apartment in the center of the city. She knows a little English but does not use it since she firmly believes in the immersion concept for learning a language. One evening we had an hour-long geo-political discussion with her and were able to understand (we think) one another. Living in a city is one of our challenges. We are not used to the constant traffic noise and the crowds on the streets. Sleeping with ear plugs is a necessity. We’ve learned that we do not want to live in a big city.

So as we take inventory at the close of our first week of this adventure, we realize that our Spanish has advanced already to the place that we are not hesitant to go into places because we might not understand or be understood. We are actually looking forward to 5 more weeks of school, recognizing that this is a great opportunity for us. In addition to some Spanish, we have learned this past week that we are more resilient than we imagined or realized.
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Comments

Julie on

"We" were beginning to wonder about you! Glad to hear all is going well and you CAN answer that ever-dwindling question. It's 12* here, light snow flurries, and the Broncos are tied (ooops, now they are ahead) near the end of the 1st half! Diviertete...que disfrutes....que la pases bien.....if ANY of those make sense?!?!?!?

Helena on

Margy y Pablo!!!
Que gusto saber de ustedes!!!! Veo que se divierten mucho :) Abluelitos de la escuela, jajaja. Have fun, study, have fun, have fun and study... And cuidado con las noches de fiesta!!! Pensamos mucho en ustedes aqui en Fort Collins. Mucho frio, nieve... Adios!

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