No hablo espanol: Week two in Santiago, Chile

Posted by Victoria Bourhill on 15 February 2012

As I sit down to put my most recent thoughts on paper, I experience my first earthquake. Since I live on the 11th floor of my new apartment building I felt somewhat uncomfortable at the thought of plummeting to the ground. A weird ‘out-at-sea’ sensation overcame me and for less than a minute my new flatmate and I grinned at each other and around the place as if earthquakes are something to smile about. We muttered words like ‘woah’ and ‘cool’. So, all in all, not exactly life shattering. I do however hold thumbs that in my months spent here I won’t have to experience the devastation that is so often brought on by these things. I’m reassured that ‘killer’ ones only happen once every 20 years and since the last bad earthquake was a few years back, I can rest easy.

It’s my second week here and I’ve learnt a few life lessons already. The main one: just because you come from Africa doesn’t mean you’re street smart enough to avoid being a victim of crime. At the end of week one, in the comfort of my hostel, I was enjoying a free wine and pasta evening. My was bag slung invitingly over my chair one moment, and the next it was gone. Looking back at the CCTV footage you see me leave for a moment, a man walks across, places his jacket over my chair and ten seconds later picks it up again- handbag never to be seen again. It’s tough to see the lighter side of being outwitted by a ninja when he has your passport, iPod and any access to money. Needless to say I was ready to board the next flight home and be done with this place.

On a lighter note, I still have my laptop and with it an ever growing fondness for the world wide web. Because of it I have found myself living with a fantastic group of people. In case that wasn’t enough, the neighbours are cool too. I spent many hours before my departure googling things that I felt would prepare me for all of this. A good find was a contact I made through the Couch Surfing network. She was a young woman called Pepa: fun loving, living in Santiago and teaching English. I felt like I’d hit the jackpot. We rendezvoused soon after I arrived and thanks to her I have this great place to stay and a loan to keep me going until my new bank card arrives.

It was also thanks to Pepa that I was lucky enough to have secured a job within a few days. I sensed a strange air of crazyness about this boss-to-be, but accepted the job offer anyway. A few days later my offer with Churchill English Institute (thats right, I said it) was revoked. I had taken too long to email the guy my Chilean number and since he was ‘expecting to hear from me ages ago’ he ‘had to give the job to someone else’. A few short emails were sent back and forth. Although I wasn’t devastated by the news of my job-loss there were a few things I wanted this guy to know:

1. I had heard enough bad stuff about him and his business to see this as a blessing in a disguise.

2. I wouldn’t be recommending the institute to anyone, in fact quite the opposite.

3. Thanks, but no thanks about the offer to keep my details on file. You could say I was feeling victimised by this stage.

Here in Chile, the month of February is much like South Africa’s December. It may be two months into the New Year already but this is when everyone leaves the big polluted metropolis that is Santiago and heads to various beach destinations. Chile does, after all, have the longest coastline in the world. It’s because of this that my timing coming here couldn’t have been worse, in terms of finding a job anyway. Institutes only really begin hiring teachers in March when the financial year begins again. And so I find myself on a long, expensive holiday. But I’m prepared for this and thus don’t mind. If you can’t beat them, join them. I’m also going to go on holiday (from my holiday). Patagonia it is, early Feb, for two weeks, with my new friends.

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