Saturday, May 30, 2009

Teacher´s Strike & San Pedro de Atacama

Hi Everyone! (This is Jason)

How is everyone?! Well, it has been a very eventful past week! All of the teacher´s in our region and even beyond have been on strike for about 2 weeks (and still counting!). The local government was given money to give to the teachers, but they used it for other programs and never gave it to the teachers. Kind of lame of them. Anyways, Anna and I have tried to keep ourselves busy and productive by volunteering at the University here, I have given a couple classes in English, and hung out with friends but we were getting pretty bored. Well, last Monday we decided to drown our boredom in some internet (at a place in the center of town). We were on our way downtown when we ran into another teacher´s demonstration. My co-teacher said there would be another march, but we had thought that she meant another small one like we saw earlier. NOT SO!!! The demonstration was HUGE with tons of teachers and supporters blocking a major intersection, stopping all traffic! They were holding lots of signs, chanting protest songs, and drumming and blaring horns. It was all very exciting and there were lots of spectators including us taking pictures and watching the chaos :). Here are some pics of the insanely fun demonstration...the teachers were in good humor and nobody was hurt, SO DON´t WORRY! :)

Here is a pic of one of the semi-trucks blocked by all of the protestors.

There were lots of people, so many that they blocked a large intersection. I guess that is one way of getting noticed!

You can see in the picture here all of the banners, flags, etc.

Ok, here comes the fun part! The Carabineros (police) have these armoured trucks with water canons, screens over the windows, and a ram in the front. Well once they showed up everyone got excited. Some teacher´s ran off, but most stayed and surrounded the truck chanting all the louder. Anna noticed a Carabinero walk up to the driver´s window and say something and she told me she thought they might have just given the go ahead to blast the teachers. Well, she was right! A lot of spectators started cheering when the water started blasting and we all got excited ;). The water pressure didn´t look extremely powerful, but it got them cold and was really dirty.

Anna was very proud because her teacher´s held strong! My school...shameful. They ran like little girls! I guess that Anna´s more humble school has grit while my better off school has become soft and wimpy :). Very exciting and funny to see middle aged women (some men teachers) get blasted and soaked by the police.

I got a little too close trying to get some good pictures and almost got wet myself. But, we ran outside of their range and were ok. I know this looks intense, and in a way it was, but you could tell that the Carabineros were not being too rough with the teachers who most likely teach their own children. Besides hosing them down their was never any batons being pulled out and wacking the demonstrators like you see on of the riot police at soccer games.

After the cannon wetting of a lot of teachers these Carabineros came out in full riot gear. They just stood their until their Captain (I think that´s who he was) came out and talked with some of the leaders of the demonstration. He even pumped his fist along to their chanting and seemed to treat them nice. Anyways, the teacher´s never were rounded up and they marched down to the center of town, walked around the perimeter, and then walked to the center of the plaza where they concluded their demonstration with singing and with some people speaking about them eventually prevailing.

So, after seeing the big demonstration and talking with my co-teacher we realized that we were not going to be teaching any time soon. So, we decided to get the heck out of dodge and do some traveling!! The place we chose to go is about 11 or 12 hours north; a place called San Pedro de Atacama.
San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama is a very small little oasis pueblo in the middle of the desert. It draws tons of tourists every year because of the beautiful landscapes surrouding it, yet has maintained its quaint feel. The houses are made of mostly adobe and the streets are all dirt.

Here Anna and I are at the "Valle de la Luna" or Valley of the Moon. This picture doesn´t really do it justice because you can´t really see all of the valleys and hills and colors that make this place so unique and beautiful. It is called the Valley of the Moon because it is so barren with all of these craters.

After our first look at the Valley of the moon we went and saw the Valle de la Muerte and other interesting sites, but at the end of the excursion we went back to Valle de la Luna for sunset. The sunset is very beautiful there, bringing out tons of colors in the hills.

This is one of the pics I took at sunset. Notice in the background the pointy mountain? That is one of the many volcanoes in the area, but it isn´t active. I believe that it has a lake at the top and is the highest crater lake in the world.

This pic is out of order and belongs to the next picture. On our second day in S-P we went on another excursion the Salt Flats where three types of Flamencos flock to every year. This picture is a close up of one of the salt rocks that covered the ground.

Here is a pic of good lookin´Anna and I! There are no flamingos in the background of this picture of us, but we did see several. Many of the flamingos had already migrated, but we did see a lot of the kind that live high in the mountains and in the winter come down to this Salt Flat. Unfortunately my little point and shoot camera doesn´t have a great zoom and so the pics I did take were blurry. I kept following a couple of flamingos to get a close up, but wouldn´t you know it they don´t like humans getting close!

On our way up to some lakes in the Altiplanico we stopped to take a picture of this little pueblo. I forget the name of this town, but I will post more pics of our trip later and try to remember what it´s called.

On our way to the Altiplanico lakes we saw a lot of wildlife. Here is a "wild" fox that we saw...I say "wild" because they are used to tourists tossing them food so they are accostumed to coming up to tour vans. Another animal we saw during our trip was the Vicuno (tilde over the n). The Vicuno is like a wild Llama, but a little smaller.

These lakes are high up in elevation so it was pretty cold. See the white around the lake? That is salt!

Another pic, this one of the second lake.

This is another pueblo that we went to, called Tocanao, this one was on our way back to San Pedro de Atacama.

Once we got back to S-P we were greeted with a beautiful sunset!

On our third and final day we went to the Tatio Geysers. We had to get up at 3 AM so that we would be ready to be picked up at 4 AM by the tour van!! Needless to say we were VERY tired and cold. After an hour and a half of driving on a very bumpy dirt road we finally got to the Geysers.

Eskimo Anna! We were both EXTREMELY cold!!! The temperature was about 6 degrees Celcius below Zero!

Me by one of the Geysers.

Last stop of the Geysers. Bathing site. The poor people who did decide to get into the hot pools found out that they are COLD! The only hot water is where the water streams into the pool! So everyone was crowded around this little trickle of a stream that had hot water. Then they froze their hynies off trying to get dry and dressed. Anna and I just walked around and looked at the Geysers.

The tour group guide treated us to a breakfast of hot chocolate milk, bread with cheese, and cookies! They heated the milk up in the Geysers! Now that is green energy!

On our way back from the Geysers we stopped at a REALLY small pueblo where we bought some food and tea. YUM!

This tea is really good! Well, I liked it but Anna thought it was gross. It is made with a plant that grows in the Altiplanico. The flavor is like nothing I have ever tasted and is supposed to be very good for you.

Here is a pic of Anna enjoying a hot Cheese Empanada! YUMMMY! She looks a little weird here but I think that the cold made her temporarily insane :). For all of you who know her she is not a fan of cold but of WARM weather, sandles, and coffee.

Up close and personal to one of my new loves! These were AMAZINGLY good and we would have bought more but the tour van had to get going so we would get back on time. The whole trip was very cool and quite an adventure. Well, that is all for now. Anna and I will post some more pics of our trip when we have time again. Miss you all and hope you enjoyed the blog post!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

We´re Outta Here...and some pics!

Ok, so the strike continues. *Sigh*. To soothe our bored souls we are going traveling...please take a moment cry with us, we are feeling very sad and distraught over this new turn of events.... SIKE! Wow, sike is very junior high. Nobody really says that anymore! haha. Anyways, yes, we are leaving our little town and exploring a new part of Chile. There are a few options and we are trying to pick the one with the biggest bang for your buck, or shall I say peso? It IS lame to not teach, I feel like I´ve lost my groove and am a little nervous to go back as silly as that sounds. At the same time, if you know Jas and know we love to travel to you all when we get back!!!!

Oh, and the next post will have pictures of our trip and also the AWESOME pics of some of our teachers who work along side us getting water cannonned by the military police becuase they were protesting and blocking the roads. My school was hard core! They took it well...Jason´s school though...they were a bit wimpy. Most of them ran. haha...I LOVE Chile! No worries, the water cannon wasn´t very just got them really really wet, really quickly!!! Here though are some pics of my school (Anna´s), and the inside of our house (which are probably boring to everyone but our parents)!!! :-)

This is the front of my little school. It´s a bit smaller and more humble then Jason´s school but I like it none the less.

This is the picture of the court yard of my school...and YES, that is a stray dog. They just roam wherever they want.

Another picture of the courtyard...just a downstairs view.

This is one of my students. It was an exercise about parts of the body in English. I handed out the English words and they had to place them on my "dummy". He was a good sport though...especially when they put the "hair" one on to his head with the tape!

On to our house...this is our bedroom with our AWESOME decore! I think I will miss that fan a lot when I come home. :-)

This is our spare bedroom that has become the supplies room. The program gave us a TON of stuff for teaching and so that is where we keep it all...Don´t worry Bryce. It can be easily moved for when you come! haha.

The bedrooms are upstairs and this is our lovely staircase that is in fact as steep as it looks. I think they may have different safety codes here. It´s fun to go downstairs when half awake to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. haha. We take it slow though.

Our messy living room/dining room area. Lots of red...they like bright colors here!Another angle...and me eating an apple I believe. I didn´t know the picture was being taken.Our itsy bitsy kitchen...but it serves it´s purpose well. That´s our little electric water kettle which heats water in like 2 min. It´s so cool!This is our calfon. This heats our sort of works. The calfon is attached to this...Our lovely gas tank. It has to be changed out every month or so. These guys drive around with them in the back of their truck and they ring a bell as they drive through your neighborhood. It´s so you can hear them and know that they are there if you need to buy another one. Very different...but cool! Ok, that´s all. Hope you enjoyed it all!Oh yeah! And this is what shopping looks like in Chile. Apparently thay have a big shoplifting problem. Hmmm. I think so! Sheesh. They were cheap sweatpants too...not even anything expensive. Kind of funny.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Earthquakes and Some Things I Miss...

So, in case you were wondering...we are in earthquake city! I can´t believe how many earthquakes we have been through. Maybe 10 or so. Only one has been enough to kind of rattle our bones. It was only a 4 point something was just really long. We always have them at night while we´re in bed. Sometimes we don´t even feel them. Last night we had another one. I like the one´s during the day but for whatever reason I don´t really like to be woken up by my house shaking. Weird huh? hehe. Anyways, the earthquakes are different here then the one´s I have been through in the CA. The one´s here don´t do as much damage. I feel like I remember reading an article about the different plates and how they quake differently. The last one in SLO felt more rolling and violent. The one´s here just feel like back and forth shaking. Anyways, that´s my speel on earthquakes. A little weird but don´t freak...we´re safe and sound.

And now the time has come to tell you what it is I miss from home. Did I mention this is Anna? Ok. Here it goes...

-coffee shops...or good easily accessible coffee in general
-the gym
-green...we live in the driest desert in the world. Everything is dirt...and more dirt. I wish I had more green shirts becuase I´m pretty sure green in my new favorite color now.
-kitchen gadgets. We have the bare minimum here.
-family and friends. We´ve made lots of new friends but there is something about having someone who understands your culture, background, and communicates in the same way.
-church. I miss being fed in my own language and seeing fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. We go to a church here but I catch about 50% of what the pastor says.
-pancakes...Dorn´s pancakes to be exact.
-things to do when bored. We´ve been on a teacher´s strike for a week now (Or not us but the teachers in Chile). There is nothing to do here when you aren´t working.
-browsing magazines at Barnes and Noble...that goes back to the bored thing.
-crafting, sewing, etc.
-a washing machine. Why YES, we DO do our laundry by hand. I´m completely domestic in case you were wondering.

So, this is the conversation Jason and I have been having lately...what do we miss from home? Too much free time has allowed us to miss home a lot more lately. We don´t want to come home yet...we´ve just had more time to be realistic about our time here. Hopefully the strike ends today and we start up tomorrow. If not...we´re traveling baby!

Ok, welp, that´s all for now. Pics to come! Love to all!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Last Weekend...

We went on a little trip to a seaside city called Caldera. (This is Anna by the way). We were inveited by this darling retired teacher, Myrna. She met Jason at his school. She used to teach there and retired a while ago. She comes back periodically to say hi to the teachers. She has stayed involved in the school even though she is retired. Anyways, her husband is a local artist and a professor at the University of Atacama here in Copiapo. He actually went to Columbia University in NYC and so they know exactly how it feels to live abroad far from home. They have some funny stories about living in NY. Anyways, they invited us to go to their home in Caldera for the weekend. It´s about an hour from Copiapo. So, we had a great and fun of charge! So, this is Nelson and Myrna. Jason and I were talking about how they were the type of people were you feel completely comfortable with right away...even though you don´t know them at all. They are the super sweet "granparent" type. The best part about the weekend was that it was all spanish, all the time! We don´t get as much as that as we would like. I understood almost everything too. Haha! Nelson and Myrna are very educated and speak with an "older tongue". In other words, they don´t have the slang, they don´t drop the end of words off, and they talk a little more slow. Very nice for us gringos!! hehe.

So the picture above are some boats. Caldera is a little fishing town and has a nice big natural port. The water is so calm it´s amazing. It was a little overcast at first but cleared up later on. Two volunteers are placed in Caldera and one of their host-dad´s owns a big fishing boat. Jason is hoping to go with him sometime!

The two pictures above are a little museum that we went to. There is a fossil museum located inside an old train station. It´s the first train station is Chile. It was actually built by an American...though I can´t remember his name. There were HUGE shark teeth at the museum. They are from that huge pre-historic shark...I can´t remeber the name of it though.

This little statue guy was brought over from Easter Island. He is pointing straight out to the island. Easter Island is directly across from Caldera. We thought it was cool so we took a picture in front of it!!!

So, the whole weekend consisted of our delight...and to our demise. The picture above is Anita and her daughter. They were our "food makers". It´s a strange story but basically Anita was long time friends with Myrna. Anita´s husband died of a sudden heart attack at 35. Anita didn´t have any skills to get a real job and so someone asked Myrna to hire her as her house keeper/cook. Myrna said "no" becuase they were friends and it would put them in a weird position. Apparently though Anita wouldn´t have the money for even food if she didn´t get hired so Myrna did it. They are still the best of buds though. Anita has been working for them for years. Her cooking was....AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!! They are preparing the BEST empanadas EVER above and the one below is them frying and then the one below THAT is Jason and Nelson enjoying the fruit of the labor!

So, the picture below is this little chapel built completely by hand by "Padre Negro". Yes, he was black and that´s what they call him. You can tell there were zero tools involved in the construction but it´s cool none the less. The picture below the chapel is me in front of it!

The picture below this is the plaza of Caldera and the cathedral. We went inside but don´t have any pictures of that.

More food!!!! Every lunch (lunch is the big meal here) consisited of appetizers, a main meal, salad, and then an INCREDIBLE desert. I just can´t tell you how good it all was. The is the spread of appetizers alone.

So, the food was great but boy did I pay for it. We ate so much that I am just now feeling like my body is back to normal. Ugh. It was so yummy but I will never eat that much food again. My stomach pooched like nothing I´ve ever seen. haha. There´s not much room for it to go anywhere so I guess it went out. haha.

And finally....WE GOT OUR VISAS!!!! YAY! We´re legal now. Well, we were legal but our travel visa was about to run out. It took 3 tries to get the Visa but we were finally successful. This is the group of us volunteers (minus Jason who is taking the picture) at lunch after we successfully obtained that most valuable litttle piece of paper. It´s crazy to realize but we have been here for almost 2 months. We only have 6 1/2 more months left. That probably sounds like a long time but man will it fly by! Ok, well I´m off. Gotta go check my email! Hope you enjoyed all the pics! -Anna