Saturday, 24 November 2012

Maria comes to visit!

Last weekend I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Santiago with Maria, a friend from University. She's currently working in Cusco, in PerĂº, with the Latin American Foundation for the Future. All in all it was a pretty awesome few days - but what did we do?

Maria arrived on Thursday, which happened to be the start of the Flyers oral exams the junior school kids were taking, and I unfortunately had to be on hand to act as usher, and make sure they didn't have a nervous breakdown waiting to start. However, these were only in the morning so we had the afternoon free. The first day Maria came to Redland for the afternoon, where she met the English department, had a look round, then rapidly persuaded me that it would be a good idea to go and see the new James Bond. We did, and it was awesome.

Friday night arrived, and we celebrated this in true middle-aged fashion by going for some drinks and getting something to eat in Barrio Brasil, which for me was the Chilean equivalent of sausage and chips. We then met a few of my friends, and by 2am headed out to Barrio Bellas Artes for a bit of cultural education.

The next day we continued our cultural education by heading into the south of Santiago to visit Bodega Concha y Toro, one of the largest wine producers in the world, producers of labels like Casillero del Diablo. We joined a tour, and for an hour were shown around the place along with a large group of Brazilians, who apparently swarm the place. 

Concha y Toro is very tourist oriented, but it's nice all the same, and it's not often you have the chance to discuss the "floral notes" of a fine Chilean cab sav whilst wandering around vineyards in the foothills of the Andes. However, we did get a little bored with the slightly pretentious wine tasting, and ended up amusing ourselves by taking increasingly ridiculous photos and making bizarre claims about the taste, something the Brazilians were somewhat alarmed/amused by.

For the final day, we headed out of Santiago and to the coast, where we spent the day in the "jewel of the Pacific": Valparaiso. I've already been there before with school, and so it was nice to show Maria around and also see some things I hadn't really had the chance to see. Valpo is a big port city on the Pacific coast, and is very different to Santiago: it's very cultural, historic, dirty, busy and increasingly touristy, and a really interesting place to be.

We visited the Naval Museum, which was actually quite interesting, and amusingly anti-Peru. We found loads of Simon Bolivar statues and streets, which was quite fun given that we both studied him last year. We kept up the cultural stuff by going to the Valparaiso Museum of Fine Art, which is very well done but contains mostly terrible paintings. We walked around the port, up a few hills, used the old funiculars, bought some empanadas and avocado (doesn't get much more Chilean), and then slept most of the bus back.

Nice weekend. Oh, and I'm going to PerĂº next week.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Last weekend Greg was in Buenos Aires for a conference at the university there, and given that it's only a 2 hour flight away from Santiago, I decided to hop on a plane and go and see him. It was a great opportunity to see the Argentine capital, optimistically dubbed "the Paris of South America", and also to see Greg! I stayed with him for three days in a flat in Palermo, and over the course of my stay we did some serious mileage walking around BA, visiting a lot of the major sights and neighbourhoods.

Los Andes
Buenos Aires is a very different city to Santiago, and is a lot dirtier and noisier compared to the almost European feel of over here. BA also has a lot more museums and culture associated with it, as well as being generally older and more run down; the streets were regularly filled with rubbish, the pavement almost constantly in disrepair, and dog poo is a constant hazard.

Getting to BA is very easy from Santiago, and it's possible to go by bus (24 hours) or fly (2 hours). Given that I was taking time off work, I decided to fly, and LAN (the Chilean national airline) broke all stereotypes with an amazing flight that was cheaper and better than any European flag carrier. Also, the views as we flew over the Andes were pretty stunning.

El Ateneo
I arrived Sunday morning, and Greg joined me the next morning, bright and fresh from a terrible 13 hour flight with Iberia, and the bizarre Argentinian customs/immigration procedure. That day we made our first inroads into looking around the Federal Capital. We spend the morning in Recoleta, looking around the large and famous cemetery there (resting place of the likes of Eva Peron) and then headed to the Museum of Latin American Art, where I was lucky enough to find some works by Frida Kahlo, potentially my least favourite artist ever.

The next day we met with Lucas, Greg's contact at the University, who took us out for lunch at a very edgy vegetarian restaurant in Palermo SoHo, after which we headed into town again. We went to el Ateneo, one of the best bookshops in the world, and housed in an old theatre, then got the metro into the Microcentro. We saw Casa Rosada, the seat of the Argentine executive branch, several churches, Puerto Madero, the "hip" docklands area, and then headed down into San Telmo, a very bohemian barrio of Buenos Aires.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Teaching Assistant?

Most people actually have no idea what I do. To be honest, neither do I a lot of the time; it's a really undefined job role, but it basically involves doing everything teachers do except actually properly teaching.

I spend 4 days a week working with kids in middle and senior school, which is year 5 to year 12. The other day I spend with the junior school, working with slightly younger kids who are from year 1 to year 4. Predictably, the two schools involve slightly different work.

At the junior school my role is almost entirely to run conversation classes with groups of kids, where I'm responsible for what I do for the 20 minutes I'm with each group. Although I started off just talking about various things (usually One Direction, for some reason) this quickly got boring so now I tend to do a frankly bizarre mix of exercises.

Last week the group took it in turns being a "tour guide" and showing me around school, and for another group I set up a mock border, which we all had to cross (legally) and have our passports and luggage checked. This week we got topical, and one group all pretended to be characters from James Bond and we ran around playing secret agents (I had a great time...), and another filmed election ads. In fact, here they are:

Working in the senior school, unfortunately, isn't quite like this. I do cultural classes, help the kids with their English and writing, and generally just be British. The general level of English is very good, so it's less teaching and more giving them practice speaking. I also help out with a bit of marking, exam administration, and general work around the department. Not bad, all in all.