Hola desde Santiago,
Our group has just finished our first full week here in beautiful Santiago! Since our last post, we have had the blessing of traveling to many places in Ecuador.
Two weeks prior to leaving Quito, our group experienced the trip of a lifetime, studying and learning for one week in the Amazon rain forest, the beloved selva (the jungle)! Our trip started out with a bang; en route to the jungle we experienced our first—and we hope last—mudslide of our ChACE journey. While stopped on the road for hours until it was cleared, we met many Ecuadorians sharing in the same experience.
Once arriving at la selva, we studied Spanish every morning in our very own tree house amongst nature. After studying the language, we put on our snake proof boots and explored the infamous jungle on foot and in canoe. El mejor guia (the best guide), Jaime, imparted his knowledge of native animals, plants, and the indigenous Kichwa people. We discovered a long history of natural medicinal practices, created home-made chocolate from cacao seeds, and visited an animal rescue center with toucans and anacondas—just to name a few. The week culminated with visiting two different indigenous family homes and learning about the ancient tradition of ceramics as a way of life and the process of making chicha, a typical native beverage.
After a rich visit in the jungle, ChACE 16 made our way to Baños to be showered by beautiful waterfalls! The stark contrast of the quiet pueblo in the jungle to the bustling city of Baños was a welcoming surprise. Our adventures in Baños included zip lining for miles above a valley, caroming down waterfalls, swimming in natural hot springs, and biking through luscious terrain viewing countless "cascadas" (waterfalls).
Saying goodbye to our lovely families and teachers was very difficult as we returned to Quito for our final week. The people we met had opened their doors and their hearts, allowing us to learn about their lives and the rich culture of Ecuador. We will be forever grateful to the teachers and community members of the Vida Verde Spanish school.
One week in Chile allowed us to experience a small taste of the diverse culture of the country. When stepping onto Saint George´s campus, we were immediately greeted with sincere smiles and pleasant conversations. After a kind welcome, we started observing English courses in our respective units of work: first, second, and third "unidades." The potential capacity and proficiency of English at Saint George is incredible! In the first unit, kindergarten students are starting to sound out and read basic consonant-vowel-consonant words, such as cat. In the second unit, or the middle school, seventh-graders have been working on the use of passive voice in constructing arguments to support or dissuade student created arguments. In the third unit, eleventh-graders are exploring dystopian societies by reading, analyzing, and synthesizing their knowledge in oral presentations surrounding the novel Divergent.
By observing these courses, combined with my experience taking Spanish courses in Quito, I know I will be just as much of a learner as a teacher at Saint George. My experience in Quito as a Spanish learner has helped form my impression of difficulties and strengths of second language learners, although each experience is truly unique. As a basic Spanish speaker in Quito, it was very difficult to communicate my needs and higher order ideals. Always struggling for the correct verb or descriptive adjective, many times I gave up on trying to convey an idea or was silent for the fear of being incorrect. Additionally, being misunderstood or unable to participate fully in a conversation has been an incredibly humbling experience. As a future teacher of kindergarten students at Saint George, my first and foremost priority will be to create an environment where students can overcome their hesitations speaking English. Most importantly, I want the students to be excited and engaged in speaking, reading, writing, and listening in English.
Even though our journey at Saint George has just started, we know that the impact of the Saint George community, inside and outside the classroom, will be everlasting and continuously fruitful within all of our future teaching endeavors. Our host families have welcomed us as sons and daughters, sharing in their family celebrations and traditions. We have accompanied our families to their vacation homes and fundraisers, attended and assisted with sport practices, and celebrated birthdays and even new births of family members! As we continue to immerse ourselves in our community, we hope to learn more about the beautiful country of Chile and ourselves.
Interested in learning more about the ACE in Chile (ChACE) Program? Visit ace.nd.edu/chace