Saturday, March 14, 2009

---> Caldera, and my first week at school

Last weekend I went with my host family to a beach resort town called Caldera. It's about 100km from Copiapó, and the drive there is completely through the desert. Because it's through the desert, it basically means the road is dead straight. And literally dead, because all through the highway were memorials for those who had lost their lives on the road. As it's so straight, people speed, and accidents happen. 
The memorials are a Chilean tradition. They're simply not white crosses like there might be in NZ, instead they are beautiful edifices, like little white tiled rooms, I guess you could say. There are fresh flowers and candles around them, and little fences. The sad thing is, on the one hour journey on a straight, reasonably flat desert road, there were about 81 of them.

Caldera itself is a very beautiful seaside town. When we arrived we had lunch at an amazing restaurant, where the interior decor complemented by wrought iron monuments, like the drama faces, and other things. There was also a singer/guitarrist on a level above. The food was good too, but I tried to stay away from the cochroach that came out from under the table! 

The little port at Caldera was gorgeous, and there was a white sandy beach with the town and desert in the background.

At Bahia Inglesa, I kayaked with my host dad, and there, was the biggest oyster farm in the world. It seemed to stretch on for kilometres. The sea was very calm, and there are what I would call massive rocks (but not boulders, more like the rock pools, but smoother) and there was a kiosk on top of one. 

After the kayak, my host sister and I got churros, Chilean donuts. Mine was filled with manjar (dulce de leche/caramel). Yum yum!

Then on Monday was my first day of school. First my host mum and I went to the office, and then a teacher (I think) came and showed me to my classroom. I was looking kind of lost, but a girl invited me to sit next to here, and then some students gathered around and asked so many questions: (in Spanish)
'When did you arrive?'
'Where do you come from?'
'Where do you live here?'
'Who do you live with?'
'What's NZ like?
'What music do you like?'
'Do you have a boyfriend?'
'Do you like Chile?'

Questions like that came at me for the first few days. A teacher arrived at 10am (school start at 8am). The teacher before was sick, and there are no relief teachers. The class decided on the class rep, secretary and other positions. 

For lunchtime, students can either return home or eat at school, and because it takes about 20 mins to return home, I eat at school. I ate my lunch with the same girl who had let me sit with her, but lunchtime was fairly boring, and being bored makes my mind wander to home, and homesickness sets in.

I had been told school finished at 5.30pm, but for my class it finishes at 4pm, so I had to wait until I could call my host mum. Luckily some other friendly girls noticed me looking lost, and kindly kept me company until I could be picked up. They took me to see the flute teacher to organise lessons, let me copy out the timetable and showed me a bit of the school. It was great.

On Tuesday some more people invited me to sit with them, so I got to know more people, and had lunch with them, which I couldn't really follow their conversation, but it was a much more lively lunchtime than on Monday. 

I can't understand any of my classes, except Physics and Maths, as I've already done them at home. My classes are: Physics, Biology, Maths, English, Spanish, PE, Music Theory, Philosophy, Audiovisual Communication, Civics, and Language and Society. And one more, that I can't remember.

All of my classes except one are in the same room, and the seats here ar horribly uncomfortable. Between each class, there's either a 10 minute recreo (2 in the morning) or a break while we wait for the teacher to arrive, then race to the classroom before she/he shuts the door. 

Each lunchtime I liked better and better, and I think that my understanding of Spanish has improved. After everyone finishes their lunch (that has either been brought with them in the morning, or delivered by a parent at lunch), we all go to the bathroom and do what the sign tells us, which is brush our teeth. And the girls all re-apply their makeup as well. 

The uniform is a white polo, or a white blouse with a navy and red tye. And a vest or a jersey. A navy skirt with lots of pleats, above the knee, for girls, and grey trousers for the boys. Navy socks, and black shoes. For PE, it's navy tracksuit pants, and the school sweater. Earrings, necklaces and bracelets appear to be allowed as well. 

Most of my classmates are really friendly, but there are a few that just keep to themselves and aren't bothered with a new student (I don't mind), and they invite me to sit with them, stand with them during breaks, and show me around the school. To greet friends, you give them a kiss on the cheek, or the boys just shake hands (I think). It's considered rude not to do that. 

And now here are some photos:

A train track statue at Caldera (sorry it's not rotated)

In the Atacama desert, on the way to Caldera

My first empanada! With Ananda, from Brazil

In the Atacam desert with my host sisters

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