Winter Camp in Valdivia re-oriented my perspective after a week of adventure in the north. The last two weeks traveling through Iquique and San Pedro felt very much like study abroad where my time out of the country was about my own development and being young and uninhibited. But, I am not just here for myself. In Valdivia, a German- inspired city in the mid-south of Chile, I met sixty kids, twenty in particular, who were not only very talented English students, but who reminded me why I am in Chile.
After a week of constant traveling, staying up late, and meeting other like-minded, twenty-something globetrotters, it was hard to come back to teaching without being a little resentful of the job. At first we were bitter to have to set our alarms in the morning and to follow orders from a more than somewhat whiny and screechy coordinator, but after a day with these kids, we knew we had made the right choice in participating in the Winter Camps.
We spent funfilled days with the kids, spending one afternoon in the park on a scavenger hunt, one morning at the bowling alley, and we even figured out a way to make smores. The kids were not only smart, but enthusiastic students. They didn’t misbehave, fight, or yell like my chiquillos in Rancagua. They sat with ears on fire, scribbling notes after every word and jumping out of their seats to participate in the activities.
We were tired at the end of the school day, but we found time for ourselves. We spent a lot of time wandering around Valdivia, trying chocolates at the famous EntreLagos chocolateria and walking along the tranquil waters of the Rio Calle Calle.
Near the fish market and artisan craft stores there is some local entertainment: sea lions. I had no idea that sea lions were so large and hairy. They are ugly animals, but expert sun bathers.
One night we went to the Kunstmann Cervezeria and shared a “rocket” of unfiltered Torobayo beer. Delicious. Kunstmann is one of the most popular beers in Chile and is brewed in Valdivia thanks to heavy German immigration in the Los Rios Region. We also spent a lot of time at a hip, bohemian café called La Ultima Fronterra, which had incredible coffee and papas bravas.
It was hard to wake up on the last day of camp, but we were all very excited for the Talent Show. So many of the kids can dance, sing, or play an instrument that the show was actually more promising than I would have expected. I even got reeled into two separate acts. I danced and sang to Billy Jean with some of the girls in my class as well as gave a surprise act at the end. We sang and danced to “Quiero Ser Libre” by La Noche, a very popular song right now in Chile, and the kids thought it was hilarious. Embarrassing yes, but totally worth hearing them laugh and sing along.
Saying good bye to the Valdivia kids was impossible, but I am so grateful that I was able to spend time with them and experience their beautiful city.