Friday, February 28, 2014

A great start

Yesterday was my second day in the office on campus. I don't have any pictures to share yet, as I thought it would have been a little silly of me to show up and start taking pictures like a tourist! Offices are shared here, and my office mate is the charming Millaray, who was so welcoming and helpful. We found out we are both avid readers, prefer tea to coffee (she has a lot of tea in the office to share!), and that we both like cacti. She has several in the office, which is nice for me-especially since I don't think we'll be able to have plants in our apartment due to the eastern exposure and tall buildings around us.

I will be teaching Advanced English I and will be working from a new syllabus. This was a bit of a shock, as I begin teaching Monday. But the other profs are in the same boat, apparently. It seems a new curriculum was created, and the syllabi are just becoming available. This new one is actually quite a bit better than the old, so I'm looking forward to the class, and have more direction as to what I need to do.

As you can imagine, things are done differently at PUCV then they are at Bradley. For instance, while there is an online course management system like at BU, I can't get on it yet and may not be able to do so for several weeks. This is where my class list is, and would also be where I could post assignments, electronic documents and things of this nature. Also, students may not be registered yet, and won't be for 2 or 3 weeks more, as they are still in the process of paying for their classes. So as of now, I don't know how many students will be attending either class!

Millaray also let me know that this year is supposed to be a VERY active year for student strikes, due to the new president, Bachelet who will be sworn in on March 11. She served a term before: in Chile presidents can serve more the once, but not consecutively. I've been told that while she talks a lot about education, she didn't come through in the past, and also that she did not get votes from young people this time around so students are not at all happy.

What all this boils down to is I may be doing very little teaching this semester. This would be a shame, as I'm really excited about the classes I've been assigned. If classes were cancelled due to student strikes, I would then have more time for developing workshops for inservice teachers, and perhaps be able to visit other campuses in the country as well.

Just to let you know, we are moving today and are not sure about when we'll have internet installed in the new place. I do have access at work, so I can check email, but I most likely won't be blogging from work!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

St. Paul School

Yesterday, the three of us had an interview with the head of the senior division at St. Paul school. First we filled out some paperwork, then joined the very warm, kindly Señor Eduardo Del Pino de la Fuente (the best name yet here!). In Spanish cultures, the first last name comes from the father, and is the name used to address the person. Thus, Sr. Del Pino, not Sr. de la Fuente. Anyway, we had a nice discussion about what Joel likes to do, if he spoke any Spanish, how he behaves in class. On the way home, we saw a dog poking its head out of the top of a big gate-it reminded me of the gate-keeper in the Wizard of Oz:

Then we went out to lunch to celebrate Joel's successful acceptance to school by eating our first completos, which are Chilean hot dogs. The have a lot of stuff on them. Ours were Italianos, so named for the colors of the Italian flag. They came with tomato (red), avocado (green), and mayo (white). We declined the white, because it is made with several teaspoonfuls of mayonnaise.
 Snoozing dogs.

Orientation for new students was today. It was supposed to be for the students only, but we noticed other parents trailing along, so we followed the tour. Steve took some unobtrusive pictures with his phone.
The gym:

One of the buildings:
A classroom:

The school is built on a hill, and also has several levels so you have some great views:

The large assembly room, or 'salon.'

There are a lot of open spaces between the different buildings, one of which was the art patio:

To sum things up, we had a busy day. In addition to the orientation in the afternoon, I went up to my campus in the morning for the first time (more about this later), then signed the lease, which involved going with the property manager to a notary with my passport. 
PUCV classes start on Monday, and I'm still not very clear what I'm supposed to do in my advanced English class! Plus, I found out that my Children's lit class meets one day a week, rather than two. This will change some of what I was planning to do...

Monday, February 24, 2014

We found a place to live!

This is how I found our apartment.
I'd sent out about 20 emails, and stopped by 4-5 rental agents, and we'd seen 3 places. Two of them were very new, with great views (one on the 17th floor, the other on the 18th). These were both about a mile to a mile and a half from school. Both were also quite small, with two bedrooms directly off a living/dining/kitchen area. The one we saw this morning was in a terrific location: right by a grocery, about 6 blocks from the farmers market, around the corner from the bus station. It was brand new, and perfect in every way. Plus, I really liked the rental agent, she was very patient with me and my rotten Spanish.

The second place we saw today is the one that I walked into yesterday to see if there was a furnished apartment for rent, and lo and behold, there was. This is the one we decided on for the following reasons: it is quite a bit bigger with a better layout then the other two we looked at. There is a dining room table, and an actual kitchen as opposed to one smallish living room with a counter seperating the kitchen from the living area. In addition, it is about 60 dollars a month cheaper than the other two places, and the walk to school will only be about 10 minutes. Joel is excited that there is an enclosed pool on the roof. (The view from the roof is terrific!) The only real minus is the apartment faces the parking area, thus, there is no view. On the other hand, because the building is right on Alvarez, a very busy street, facing in and  away from the street isn't so bad. And being on the 4th floor makes for easier egress in case of an earthquake or fire. It is also out of the Tsunami flood plain. I sound paranoid, but hey, I'd think of these things if I were living on the west coast of the US too.

I'll sign the contract at the notary on Wednesday, then pay our first month's rent and the deposit on Saturday when we pick up the keys. We'll then walk our bags and bundles across the street and settle in. I am very, very relieved. This was pretty hard for me, because while I can communicate in basic Spanish, there was so much vocabulary I didn't know, so it was stressful. I am going to drink a glass of wine now :-)

So to sum up, in case any readers are in the same situation as I, and need to find a place to live in Viña or Valpo, here is where I located the 3 apartments that we liked. (aimed at expats, can communicate with them in English) A real estate listing service
Walk in and ask. Every apartment building has a front desk of some sort, even the small ones, and the guys who work there (only men in all the buildings I've been in), know everything. In the case of the Mira Mar (our new building), the front desk had a book with a list of names and phone numbers of rental agents that represented landlords in the building. The concierge even called one of them, and she walked over to make an appointment in person with me.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

No pictures today

Today I met the intrepid Sarah, a fellow gringolandian who came to Chile to see if she could teach English for a semester. Patricio, the owner of the hostel I stayed in my first week recommended that she talk to me-as if I'm any big authority on finding an English teaching job or apartment. But, after Sarah and I talked this morning, she emailed me in the afternoon saying she'd found a place and had talked the landlord down quite a bit!

After getting that email, I roused myself to go check out some of the buildings around where we are staying-recall that we really want to stay in this area  as it is close to Joel's school and easy transportation. I succeeded in getting an appointment for tomorrow, in the building that I like the best. Steve and I decided that if it looks good, we will take it on the spot. We also have an appointment in the morning to see a place I looked at last week before the guys got here. I liked it, but it was very, very small, and 25 minutes away from Joel's school. Everyone keep your fingers crossed!!!

Our excursion today involved going up to that Artisan market on Libertad, which is a mixture of interesting crafts and a lot of crap from China. I believe this market runs though the summer months here, catering to tourists. It is different from the international craft market I went to the first week here, which had items from all over South and Central America (and Cuba too). I'd seen some straw fedoras there last week, which I though Joel would like. He did want one, but the one he found was from, yes, China, and made of a paper fiber. But, on the other hand, it cost about 7 bucks, as opposed to 22 for the straw. And he is happy with it.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Joel's Birthday

We've been having some internet issues in the place we are staying right now. As in there isn't any in the apartment, despite the fact it was advertised as having it!  We are thankful that someone with the network of arrias54g hasn't secured her/his network, and that if I point my computer toward a certain window, I sometimes can get online. This apartment is temporary-just until the end of this month. We'd hoped it would work out for the 5 months, but no. I will not post photos, but it is older, and not well maintained. Fine for a week, but not long term. Too bad, because it is very close to Joel's school.

Yesterday was Joel's 12th birthday, and it was fun, but also stressful for him. We started the day in Santiago, took a bus down to Viña, found the apartment, moved in, went back to where I stayed last week to pick up my bags, came back, then went out and had sushi for his birthday dinner. I did find a beautiful cake that afternoon-tres leches, yum! It cost more than dinner, but we got to have some for breakfast and lunch too :-)

Joel was really tired this morning, but once he was up, he was pretty perky:

We went to the Saturday market today, and bought lots of fruit. A kilo each of strawberries, peaches and bananas. Also a 1/2 kilo of blue berries. That is more than 7 pounds of fruit. And it cost about 6 dollars. I was planning on juicing some of it, but alas, the blender in our not so lovely abode is not functional. We will be eating a lot of fruit tonight, along with salmon and carrots, which we also got at the market.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

They are here!

Steve and Joel arrived safely this morning. Their plane got in early, and they were able to go through immigration and customs in less than an hour. So, they were waiting for me when I got there.

We got to the condo/hotel (same place I stayed my first two days), the guys cleaned up, relaxed, and then we went to Cerro Santa Lucia for a short walk. Joel was interested in the castle at the top.

And a fine Chilean palm specimen:

Joel thinks this street dog was cute (and so did we). It followed us across the street, then continued on its agenda around the corner:

After several more hours of hanging out and relaxing, we went out for an early dinner.
Joel was fading.

We'll go  to bed soon, and when we wake up, Joel will be 12!  Today was a little easier for me then what I was doing at this time 12 years ago....

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Closer and closer

I'm getting closer to finding a place to live, and Steve and Joel are getting closer to Chile!

I've got a couple of appointments to visit some places, one tomorrow, another on Saturday when my guys are here, and hopefully, another one Monday. I've found several places on  and (which are free classifieds for El Mercurio). One of the places I'm going to visit is through Now that I'm down here, and have seen prices, I feel that contactchile's prices are quite a bit higher, as they are targeting foreigners.

None of the apartments come with a dog like this place does:

I'll be headed to Santiago tomorrow afternoon, and am planning on leaving everything but a change of clothes here at my hostel in Viña. Patrico, my host said it would be no problem, which really helps out a lot. I could not imagine hauling 80 pounds of luggage back to Santiago, then return with it and everything Steve and Joel are bringing in. So since my computer is staying behind, I may not post tomorrow. I will let everyone know when the rest of the family gets here, though.

If will be so good to see them, I can't wait :-) 

From New Year's Eve 2014. 
No, that is NOT champagne that Joel is drinking!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Apartment Hunting

Today I renewed my search for a place to live. I'd tried to contact realtors, individual landlords and other organizations before I left. Everyone told me they were busy with summer tourists, and to get in touch when I got here. Now, if you were a landlord in a beach community, and someone wanted to discuss renting your place in the winter wouldn't you want to at least start a discussion with them? This is one of the cultural differences I've encountered here, which I find interesting (and more than a little frustrating).

I got one reply via email about one place I'd inquired about, asking if I wanted to see the apartment, and if I did, to please email back. I would have thought my first email, asking to see the apartment would have tipped the guy off that I, well, wanted to see the apartment. So I wrote back and said yes, I'd like to see the place...but haven't gotten reply number 2 yet. I also went to a realtor, who told me there is no way that anyone will rent me something for 5 months-this of course isn't true, but perhaps she is more used to dealing with students who want an entire school year, which runs March-Dec. here.

So that's the latest on the apartment hunt-and now, a few photos for your viewing pleasure:

Yes Virginia, organ grinders with parrots still exist. He doesn't look like he likes his job much though, does he?

Sea view

The Municipal Casino de Viña del Mar. A great place to go to the bathroom when you are out and about town.

 Pelicans, rocks and big boats.

And some more animal pictures, of course!

Dozing cat

One of many annoying gulls, which scream outside my window...even in the middle of the night. They poop a lot too-luckily not on my laundry. So far.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Nice Sunday

Instead of going to Valparaíso today as I had planned, I spent the morning with Anna, one of the other guests here. She is from West Virginia, and has just spent several months in London where she was working She wanted to go to church, and then an artisan's market so we decided to go together. I could not take pictures in church, sorry! I can tell you that the kneelers were good solid wood, no padding included. My fingers were really itching for the camera when I observed a lady going up to communion with a little dog under her arm. She also had a large piece of cardboard cut out from the side of a box which she was using to fan her dog. This was not normal behavior-a lot of people noticed and were giggling.

Anna posing in front of the market-we were lucky to have been able to go, as it was the last day. I bought a couple of gifts, and we also observed some happy dogs. The black one below started wagging her tail when I pointed the camera at her.

Later, her pal walked up to me and wanted a moment to shine. I can see why people want to take these dogs home!

After the market we were hungry, so we decided to get some lunch at a nice sidewalk café. We enjoyed watching a main in a wheel chair directing traffic behind us. He had on a safety vest, and used a baton and whistle.

Now it is off to bed for me-I'm hoping the bars right below my window are quiet tonight!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Walking around Viña

Today my goal was to start figuring things out-so I walked. A lot. I headed down to the Saturday food market, which is in the dry river bed of the Marga Marga (which can be described more as a creek, with very large banks).

I haven't figured out how to embed an actual google map image in my blog yet, but here is a link you can copy and paste so you can see the satellite view if you'd like. The market (or feria here) can be seen a little east of the Mercado. People come on Wednesdays and Saturdays to sell produce, cheese, meat, fish, spices and some household goods. But it is mostly food.,-71.5437377,251m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x9689de84ead41255:0x8e5fde76df3d413f

Below a picture of one of the market entrances. I liked the baskets, and want to go look at them more closely again. Today I was just finding my way around.

At another entrance, right outside of a fish stall, a satisfied looking cat. No, I did not pet it, but I saw an old man stop and give it a pat. The cat liked it.

Other than starting to get oriented, I needed socks (couldn't find my cotton socks, just my wool socks which I'll need later, but are too hot now). I found the socks at a street vendor after I had the delicious lunch pictured below. I went with Humitas, a Chilean dish made from ground corn cooked in corn husks. While it looks a bit like a tamale on the outside, the corn is softer when unwrapped. It was mixed with some onion and bits of green, some sort of herbs/spices. I ate everything on the plate, except the husks. Yum!

In my continued quest to find my way around, after lunch and sock shopping, I got on the Metro. Much easier to figure out than the subway in Santiago, as there is only one line. I rode out to the port in Valparaíso, took the picture below, then got back on the train and came home. Tomorrow I'm thinking of taking a bus into Valpo and then wander around some.

For now, my back is sore from all that walking. Here's a view of my hostel from the bottom of the hill. This is what I face at the end of the day, when I'm tired! I walk up the street pictured, veer to the left, continue up the hill, then up some short cut steps, onto the street again, take a right and eventually get there. (The Little Castle is the building with the red roof and green trim).

Friday, February 14, 2014

Santiago to Viña

I've made it to my B&B in Viña del Mar, a place on the top of a very steep hill. The Little Castle was build in 1890, and I believe the owner said it was built as the first guest house in Viña. It survived the huge earth quake of 1906, which leveled Valparaíso, and of course, all other earth quakes since, which is nice to know!

The place is very quirky-built into the hill I walked up and down today, it has several levels, and a wide patio that wraps around the back of the building. From the front, it looks like a small, 1 story house, but when you open the front door, you are greeted by a set of stairs that goes straight down, with no landing, which leads to a lovely living room. My room is very nice, but sadly, is right behind the kitchen. As in, my bedroom door opens into the kitchen. And since the guests have kitchen privileges, well, you get the picture. This is not a quiet room! I also have to walk through the kitchen to get to a shared bathroom, which could be awkward, especially in the morning, when I'm getting up and breakfast is being prepared for the guests.
I think several people are leaving tomorrow, so I will ask Patricio, the owner if there is another room I can have for the rest of my stay (I'm here 5 nights).

A view from my room:

A few pictures from the bus on the way to Viña. The first is right outside of Santiago, the second about an hour on, (you can see the green of cultivation), the third is coming into Viña.

Dogs can be seen everywhere. Some are strays, but others are not-they are fed, and wear collars. They just don't have nice grassy yards to play in. This one caught my eye-it was camped outside of a pet food store. Smart dog.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Around town in Santiago

Despite my extreme exhaustion today, I had things to do, places to go and people to see.
First on the agenda was to get our Autorizacion de Viaje (Travel Authorization) legalized, so that Steve can travel with Joel and not with me. Chile is very strict about one parent leaving the country with a child, so you have to have the non-traveling parent give permission. There were a number of steps to secure this document, which I did in the US, and that were fairly complicated. All that was left was a visit to the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores (Foreign Affairs Ministry) for the final step. This proved to be the easiest part of the whole process: a 5 minute line, and 15 seconds for someone to stamp and sign everything.

On the way, I passed Palacia de La Moneda, (originally the Mint, hence the name), the seat of the President. Michelle Bachelet (who also served 2006-10) will be sworn in on March 11th, replacing outgoing President Sebastian Pinera.

The center of Santiago, where I was walking this morning, has many pedestrian streets. Huerfanos (Orphan Street) is one I walked down, on my way back to where I'm staying.

Huerfanos ends at Cerro Santa Lucia, the park across from my condo. I went back and explored this evening, after things cooled down. It was 90 degrees today, I was so happy!

One entrance (above)-there are many, and most are locked. The one I went in had two guards, asking people to sign in, and write where they were from. I suspect I was the only one from Peoria, IL.

The elevator to the top was closed (left), and I couldn't figure out how to get up top, even though I saw lots of people strolling on the upper paths. I went around the entire hill, with no success, on some lower paths.

Along the way, I saw some young girls filming what looked like a part of a music video (above). Difficult to see in this shot-but it is a nice picture that gives some perspective of this park. It had a magical feel, sort of Alice in Wonderland-esque. When Steve and Joel get here, I think we'll have fun exploring here-hopefully we'll get to the fort at the top, and get to be there when the cannon goes off at noon. I heard it from my condo today, and didn't know what it was-but was a little concerned by the very, VERY loud explosion close by! 

More about the Cerro here:

The highlight of my day was getting to meet and have a nice long chat with the wonderful Yunuen Varela at Fulbright Chile. She has been my contact over this past year, patiently answering all my questions. We found we share a deep interest in children's literature. I'm looking forward to seeing her again!

And now I'm going to eat dinner, pack, and get ready to head to Viña tomorrow. Below, my neighbor, wishing s/he could get out and kill that pigeon on the roof: