~~~Please click on the title so you can watch the video of us salsa dancing and dancing with our abuela chilena! (It won’t show up in the email)~~~
The last two weeks have flown by, but also have passed extremely slowly in different ways. The last post I sent out was on a Tuesday, when Jordin and I were unemployed and sitting on the couch (well, Jordin was sitting, I was standing at my standing desk aka the buffet table in our living room). Jordin and I became officially employed that Thursday, and at the same company! #Twinz. While it is a private company, it is different than the many language institutes in Santiago, to which students go for group lessons. This company sends an email every week about the new classes that are available to teach, with the student’s name, English level, location, payment per hour, and their availability. Then it is up to me to decide if I want to teach any of those students based on those criteria. These are essentially private classes, except that the students find teachers through the business, and we’re paid through the business. All of the classes they’ve sent us so far are one-on-one lessons, which often take place at the student’s home. This is the perfect scenario for us because we can choose which lessons we want to teach based on the student’s availability, the lessons last for a whole month (sometimes more), and the pay is significantly higher than many other institutes, even with taxes deducted. So far, I have three students – not a lot, but I’m hoping for more through the ads I posted around Santiago and in various teaching Facebook groups. Two of my students are at the beginner level, which is harder to teach than upper levels, but the first lessons went great. One is a 30-year-old woman through the business described above, and she is super nice and fed me delicious fruit after my first lesson with her (this was after I decided she wasn’t dangerous – don’t worry, moms out there). The other is a 6-year-old girl through a different business (but she’s my only student through them), and I will be teaching her every week for 6 months (aka until I leave Chile in the middle of May). I really enjoyed my first lesson with her for many reasons: 1) She’s really cute, 2) She lives in an awesome apartment, and, 3) I don’t have to prepare very much. Teaching young children is totally different than teaching adults, because they can’t sit still and can’t take in too much at once. She and I basically just played games and did fun activities the whole time – we wrote a story together (each of us writing every other sentence), played a matching card game with pictures of various objects (which I made her say in English every time), and threw a ball back and forth while counting to 100. It just felt like babysitting while making sure to use different skills in English (reading, writing, speaking). I just had my first lesson with my third student tonight – he’s a private student, which means I have to prepare everything on my own (unlike one of the businesses above, which provides me with a textbook – but I still have to prepare other stuff). This student is at the pre-intermediate or intermediate level, and wants to focus on conversation and reading, which I really like teaching. So far so good! Additionally, I’m chatting with a few more potential private students, so hopefully I’ll have more students by the next post.
Since our October TEFL course has been over, Jordin and I have had much more free time than we’re used to having, which is nice sometimes, but it’s not easy for an antsy person like me. I’m someone who needs to have things on my schedule every day in order to feel productive and active, so that’s another reason why I want more students (besides the fact that I need money) As I mentioned in the last post, we both want enough students that we have things on our schedules every day, but not so many that we’re spending most of our time speaking in English. So there are two different events we’re hoping to attend weekly: salsa dancing (or some type of dance class), and Spanglish Party (language exchange). Jordin and I went salsa dancing again last week, to the same club that we went to during our first week in Santiago. A negative is that the class attracts a lot of foreigners (although apparently many dance classes do), but I actually danced with a Chilean who could dance really well. This was much better than the last time, where I danced with someone who couldn’t dance well and didn’t put in much effort. As promised, I took a few videos – they are compiled with a few other videos below (this is your incentive to keep reading). Next time, I’ll have Jordin take videos of me as well so it doesn’t seem like he’s the only Metz who can dance!
The other weekly gathering is called Spanglish Party, which is a language exchange between locals and foreigners at various bars in Santiago. Jordin and I have been twice already, and in typical Estadounidense fashion, we arrived right on time at 8pm. Both times, we have been the first ones there – the bartenders/bouncers seemed confused that we were there so “early”, since Chileans often arrive about an hour later than the start time. It’s basically a place where people can hang out, drink, and talk, and the language is supposed to switch from Spanish to English, and vice versa, every 20 minutes. But the language doesn’t actually switch to English until 9:30, when there are a lot more people there, so I get the chance to speak Spanish for the first hour and a half. I assumed that there would be way more native English speakers at this event than Spanish speakers, but it’s actually the opposite, and I’m not complaining. I am often the only English speaker in a group of all Spanish speakers, which obviously is excellent practice, but it is also a fabulous way to meet new people and practice Spanish in a relaxed environment. Jordin and I don’t stay together during this so we can meet different people, which is great because at the end we end up introducing each other to our new friends anyway. Spanglish Party has been a big confidence boost for me in terms of my Spanish, because I’ve been told that I can speak very well, and I always respond by saying that it’s because they’re speaking slowly so that I can understand them. Every single time, people ask me why I chose to live in Chile instead of Peru, Colombia, or Ecuador, because the Spanish in Chile is notoriously faster and more difficult than in many other Latin American countries.
- Chileans love mayonnaise – our family puts it on everything, including fresh vegetables.
- When Jordin and I compliment food, we used to try to elaborate about the flavor and the spices, etc. But Chileans don’t do that – the only thing the cook wants to hear is “Que rico!” This phrase encompasses all food compliments.
- Our apricot tree is finally starting to produce fruit (hellooooo summer!), so naturally I’ve been eating 3-5 fresh apricots a day. I’d only eaten dried apricots before coming to Chile, but the fresh ones here are absolutely AMAZING.
- Chileans don’t know how to send a clear email – just like in their spoken Spanish, they abbreviate their words so much that I can’t even use an online translator. I’ve been sending messages to my new Chilean friend (from Spanglish Party) to translate for me, and in return, she sends me things in English that she doesn’t understand. She is fluent in Spanish, English, and Japanese, AND is studying other languages, so she constantly impresses me. Most of her translation questions have been about English phrases that seem literal but aren’t: for example, “ideology translated into action on the ground”, and “bringing the young readers into play”. One person whom I met, an 40-something adult who doesn’t speak English, told me he received an email from his friend in English that said “Let me holla at it”, and he had no clue how to decipher it. I tried to explain it to him in the best way that I could, by saying that it’s like “Yo puedo hacerlo” (I can do it) or “Yo puedo tratarlo” (I can try it). However, I just looked it up and apparently it means to let someone flirt/hit on someone…I am a millennial and thought I knew what this meant, but clearly I’m out of the loop already.
- English words that are the same in Spanish (I’m not talking about cognates – these are the exact words on their own):
- Baby shower
- I tried a popular drink with some Americans and with my host sister, Javiera, called a Michelada. It consists of lemon juice, Merkén (smoked chili pepper), beer, and tobasco sauce, all in a glass with a salted rim. There are many variations of this drink across Latin America, and though I’m not a beer person, I think this is pretty cool (Dad, I hope you’re reading this because you would love it).
- Santiago isn’t a city that promotes lots of art and music – it definitely exists, but it’s not a huge part of the culture here. One person whom I met at Spanglish Party said he’s in a band, but it’s hard to play shows with a lot of attendees. Apparently people will pay for foreign groups that come in, but local music isn’t very well attended.
This has been an incredibly tough week for me emotionally, and I know that many of you feel the same way. I spent Tuesday night at Spanglish Party, the language exchange, speaking with people for over two and a half hours mostly about the election. Before we arrived, Jordin and I agreed that we would leave no later than 10:30pm so we could get home to watch the polls come in. Throughout Spanglish Party, people asked me all about Trump and Clinton, who was going to win, and my opinions about all of it. I was the main one talking in my group, which gave me a lot of practice, and I tried to give them the whole picture of the situation, though of course I included my opinions (FYI explaining the electoral college in Spanish is difficult). My opinions are very similar to many others in Chile – not only that Trump is a terrible person, is racist/sexist/xenophobic/a white supremacist/etc, but that his fickle actions will affect not just the U.S. but the entire world. As the night went on, one person kept showing me the results map on his phone, but at that point it was only 10pm in Chile, meaning 8pm on the East Coast, and the polls had only just started coming in. At this point, I was definitely nervous, but like the media had predicted, I was sure that Hillary would win. Fast forward an hour – I get home around 11:30pm to a stunning realization that the polls are going the opposite direction – the prediction line graph on the NYTimes literally flipped. I spent the next three hours in front of my computer, tears streaming down my face while talking with friends online about the results, and feeling extremely connected and disconnected to America at the same time. As I stared at the results map and the annoying meter on the NYTimes website that keep inching forward with Trump’s chances of winning, I could not comprehend what was going on. I went to bed in tears, hoping for a miracle and wishing I could be hugging my mom and Melanie, and barely slept at all. I woke up at 8 on Wednesday because I had to leave for my first English class ever at 9, and attempted to pull myself together: I walked into the kitchen, Aly (host mom) asked me if I was sad, and I promptly burst into tears. Throughout the day, I kept thinking back to that moment: how is this POSSIBLE? It felt like a nightmare, and all I wanted to do was wake up. I actually had two great first English classes during the day, and I left each in a great mood, and then remembered the election and went back to that devastated state. I know this has been hard for all of my similar-minded friends and peers, but I think I had and am still having an especially hard time with it because I’m not surrounded by many people who can commiserate with me. This election just feels so incredibly personal, and the result was the repudiation of everything and everyone that I care about. After talking to a number of Chileans about it, I’ve found that most people here are nervous for Trump’s presidency, but they cannot understand it from a United States perspective; they don’t feel the same sadness and terror that I do, even being a white, educated woman of privilege (and with Pence as VP, being a woman is going to become much more difficult). Some Chileans discuss it like it’s a joke, but I keep reminding them that Trump’s presidency is going to affect the whole world. After crying a significant number of times throughout the day on Wednesday, I was able to come to terms with the results more, though it will take a long time to actually accept them. On Wednesday night, my best friend Shaina reminded me that even though this is going to be extremely difficult, we cannot just sit back and wait for the inevitable: it’s sad and it’s scary, but we are strong and need to work to bring about the change that we want to see in our country. I also want to thank everyone I know who worked so hard for Hillary – whether that was an actual job on her campaign, phonebanking, knocking on doors, leafleting, or working the polls, THANK YOU to everyone who spent their time spreading the word about our amazing candidate. In the past few weeks, these purple trees have been in bloom all over Santiago – the color of unity, the mix of red and blue, and the color of Hillary’s pantsuit during her concession speech. Now, I will pick myself up, donate to Planned Parenthood in honor of Hillary Clinton, and do my best to fight for the causes I believe in and for those who will be affected by our new president much more than I will. And I want to buy a pantsuit.
Thursday was Aly’s (host mom) birthday, and that night we had a birthday once (evening meal) with other family members: Sergio (host dad), Javiera (host sister), Leo (Javi’s son, the crying toddler); Cristóbal (Aly and Sergio’s son, age 24), Mariana (his girlfriend), Amalia (their 16-month-old toddler); Abuela Doris (Sergio’s mom), Marcela (Sergio’s sister), and Ignacia (Marcela’s daughter, age 11); Gabriel (Aly’s brother, late 30s). The best part is that Doris, Marcela, and Ignacia live in the house right behind ours, so we see them all the time. While this dinner was to celebrate Aly, the main topic was Trump winning the election.
On Saturday, we had a surprise birthday party for Aly. She and Sergio left early in the morning (early here is 8:30am) and went to the beach for the day , so we had all day to prepare with Javiera. We completely rearranged the patio furniture, put up lots of balloons and streamers, and prepared a bunch of food, with the help of Pamela, the aunt of Felipe (Javi’s boyfriend/Leo’s dad). This food included guacamole, which Pamela kept assuring me was vegan even though I never questioned it (though you never know…Chileans may slip some mayonnaise in there sometime), and vegan cake that Abuela made just for Jordin and me because she’s the bomb.com. The guests were supposed to come at 8:30pm, so in typical Chilean fashion, most of them showed up by 9:15, and Aly and Sergio were supposed to arrive at 9:30, so they showed up at 10:15. Aly was completely surprised, and after she hugged everyone, the real party began – our patio was transformed into an amazing dancefloor, with enough flashing, colored lights to give someone epilepsy, as well as a disco ball strategically placed in a large birdcage in the corner. Everyone wanted to talk to Jordin and me, and they all repeatedly asked why we chose Chile instead a different country where the Spanish is easier to learn. And of course we talked about Trump – the first question always is, “Estás contenta?” and my answer always is “Absolutamente nooooooo!” One man, Fernando, compared Trump to Augusto Pinochet, who was the President of Chile from 1973 to 1990, and this was a military dictatorship. To put it simply, a lot of shit went down during Pinochet’s rule, including the torturing, murder, and disappearances of thousands of people. I’ve met people who hate him and those who love him, for various reasons. But Fernando compared Pinochet to Trump by saying that the people want a president who is “muy duro”, or very tough. But back to the party – there was lots of dancing to great music, and Jordin was especially fantastic. One man came up to me and said, “Tu hermano es un espectáculo!” People loved us dancing even more when we played Uptown Funk, which all the younger kids knew. All in all, we had a blast. Many people said that they want to meet our parents when they come visit, so Mom and Dad, you better be studying your Spanish!
Last tidbit about the party: a man in his 70s told me, in English, that he loved me. So that happened. Below is a video with clips from both salsa classes and from the birthday party.
Chilenismos / vocabulary of the week:
- Fome = boring, dull
- ¡La raja! = awesome/something really fun; this is informal and used among young people
- Palos/palillo/palito chino = chopsticks
- Brocheta = kebab (e.g. brochetas de fruta, brochetas de verduras, brochetas de carne, etc)
- Cangrejo (crab) vs. conejo (rabbit) vs. consejo (advice)
I saw this sign on the side of the road today near Universidad Católica, which is where I’ve seen many signs and posters about more liberal topics that are definitely not in other areas of Santiago. For example, street vendors selling vegan sandwiches and desserts, as well as lots of wall art and graffiti – yes, including the word “vegan” many times. But this sign is so relevant right now – here’s how it translates:
And why is abortion not something people talk about?
Religion punishes us. School blinds us. Health hides it. The law forbids it.