A Day in the Life of Miss Imogen – 24/07/19

Hello all! Here is an overdue blog about what I get up to at school nowadays. Workshops have been stopped this year and instead I am going into classes to help and (occasionally) teach. I primarily work with the pre-kinder to 5th grade students, which is the equivalent of UK primary school, and it’s quite a range! We teach everything from ‘hello’ and ‘what’s your name?’, to parts of the plant and places in town.

I work closely with 3 different teachers during the week, and sometimes Emily and I go into 3° and 4° medio (year 12 and 13 equivalent) electronics classes to help them prepare for an English presentation they have in the second semester. It’s been really refreshing working with the older kids since they have a good level of English and actually want to learn – for the most part. I’m not going to lie, I chose to work with the younger years because I didn’t really like working with the older years last year, but helping out in 3° medio has really boosted my confidence.

Anyway, here is a rundown of a typical day at school. My lesson vary depending on what day it is (I work with different teachers on different days), so here is just a general overview. I hope you find it interesting!

5:30am – wake up

Yep. Due to our long commute Emily and I now have the joy of waking up at 5:30am every morning in order to leave the house at 6:10am. This was easier last month, when it wasn’t so freezing in the mornings and I could actually feel my feet. Still! It’s nice to be able to prove I can actually wake up early. Who knows, maybe I’ll continue my early rising back in the UK (who are we kidding of course I won’t).

6:10am – leave house

Because we get picked up in a place about a 10 minute drive from where we live, each morning we take a colectivo from near the metro station to our pick up point. The best way I can explain a colectivo is that it’s kind of a cross between a bus and a taxi. It’s a car that has a fixed route (kind of?), but you pay a fixed rate (for us this is 550 pesos, around 70p) and the driver will drop you off where you want along the route. It’s a really useful system, not least for getting rid of small change!

Once we get picked up by one of the deputy-headteachers, it takes around an hour to get to school. She also picks up other people along her route, and it’s not uncommon for us to be driving with 4 people in the backseat by the time we get to school.

7:30am — 8:10am – Arrive, Eat Breakfast

We typically arrive at school at around 7:30am. One morning I was so tired I didn’t actually wake up when we arrived and one of the teachers had to wake me up… Anyway, breakfast is now provided for us by the school, so we each get a free sandwich in the morning. My personal favourite is scrambled egg – which is also the favourite of practically every other teacher so you have to be there early before it’s all gone.

After greeting everyone with the usual hug and kiss, we have about 10 minutes of calm before lessons start. If we have to make our own way to school, we usually arrive just after the first class begins so we don’t usually get the chance to sit down and breathe before our morning lessons.

8:10am — 1:20pm – Morning Lessons

My timetable is a bit different to the beginning of the year, due to new teachers arriving and Angie taking the role of coordinator for the half of the English team I work with. This isn’t a bad thing though, since I now work mostly with classes I’m actually useful in and enjoy working with, rather than ones where barely anything gets done.

Wednesdays and Fridays may look a little sparse but we’re now leaving earlier on those days which is why I don’t have classes in the afternoon.

In the lessons I typically do the routine at the beginning. Depending on which teacher I am working with, the routine can range from asking the students for the date in English to saying a prayer and asking the pupils different questions.

Doing the routine with 5°C

Then, during the lessons I typically help during the guided learning by saying words and phrases so the students can hear native pronunciation, and afterwards in the independent learning section of the class I go around and help students.

Below are some photos of my work with students in 4°C, teaching them to tell the time in English:

Depending on which class you’re with, lessons can range from horrible to surprisingly fantastic, but something interesting always happens. In one lesson with 5°C when they were taking a test, 5 boys burst in halfway through with a dog (there are always dogs in school). So, regardless of how the lesson is going, it’s never boring!

1:20pm — 2:05pm – Lunch!

My favourite part of the day! Just kidding… Sort of. Since Emily and I no longer share classes and rarely have a break together (primer ciclo and segundo ciclo have different timetables), we spend our lunch time catching up with one another and either celebrating or commiserating our morning lessons. As lunch is the biggest meal of the day in Chile, we are given soup, salad, the main meal, hallulla pudding and a drink. When I first arrived this seemed like a crazy amount of food, but I quickly adjusted to the change with little difficulty (hah hah). The kitchen staff are really lovely and quickly learn your preferences too! There’s almost always sweet corn waiting for me and Emily when we get to the front of the queue.

Below is a photo of a typical Friday meal at school: chicken and chips. It’s not the most traditional Chilean mean I could have chosen to take a photo of but it’s the only meal I actually remembered to photo before eating half of it.

Lunch

2:05pm — 3:35pm – Afternoon lessons

As I have lunch at the same time as segundo ciclo so that Emily and I can eat together, I only have two lessons in the afternoon. These are usually a lot hotter (it takes most of the day for the school to warm up as central heating isn’t a thing here), and the children are a lot more distracted. I do pretty much the same thing in these lessons as I do in the morning ones, except if I’m in a first or second grade class at the end of the day I help take the children to the gates to be handed to their parents.

‘Focused’ 1°A on one of the hotter afternoons at the beginning of the year

Above is a video (I hope it works) of 1°A feeling a little more awake and singing along to the feelings song (a favourite amongst the 1st graders). Every time I watch is video it makes me so happy; I’m going to miss my first graders so much when I leave.

4:00pm – Home

Aside from Wednesdays and Fridays when we leave after lunch, we typically leave around 4pm. Our commute is probably the most brutal part of the day (unless I have 2°C), as we have to take a bus out of Quilicura and then travel pretty much the length of 2 metro lines before reaching home. It’s not so bad once you get used to it, but it definitely takes it out of you. The second metro is a lot nicer though since it’s mostly above ground, which means on a clear day I have a lovely view of the mountains for most of the journey.

Our bus stop in Quilicura (and the mountains we live next to in Puente Alto)

The sunset one night during our commute home

6:00pm – And, rest (then repeat)

After arriving home, we usually just completely flop. I go for a run every other day which is a great way to unwind from school, and I spend my evening having once, chatting with Catty and having an early night ready for the next 5:30am start. The long days are tough, but I really love where we live and feeling at home there is definitely worth the early mornings and long metro rides.


That’s my day! I’ve really enjoyed going into classes this semester and getting to know a lot more children. Working in the classes and getting children who don’t want to work to do the tasks set really gives me a sense of satisfaction I never really got doing the workshops and I’m so grateful I get to work with these children every day. Working as a teacher in a school such as the one I’m in has really taught me a lot about myself and what kind of person I am and has given me a clearer idea of what I do (or don’t) want to do in the future. While I’m still not 100% certain, I don’t think being a teacher is as horrible as I once did.

Thank you for reading this post and I hope you found it interesting! As of today, I have 17 days until my flight back to the UK. We only have one week left in school once we return from the winter holidays (we go back next Monday) and I’m already feeling such a mix of emotions. It hasn’t always been easy at the school but it’s taught me a lot and I’d like to think I’ve made school and English classes a nicer place for the children at school, if only just going in and making them laugh at my funny accent and dodgy Spanish.

Until the next one,

Imogen

Summer Travels Part 1: Chile

Buenos días! It’s been a while since I updated this blog about my life in Chile, but I’m back with a set of blog posts about our summer holidays. Specifically, our 3 weeks of travelling in Chile, Peru and Bolivia – haven’t we been busy?

Rather than just bombarding you all with a 5000 word blog post, I’m going to be splitting up my recount of travelling into three sections, one for each country we visited. Since we’re starting at the beginning (a very good place to start), this post is going to be about our travels in the north of Chile. Here we go!

05/01/19 – 07/01/19 – San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Emily and I got to the airport slightly too early at 3am; our flight was at 6:15am and everyone else arrived at 4:30, so we found a corner to sit and eat biscuits since we also forgot our sandwiches we’d made the night before (rip to that hummus and tomato dream).

Once we actually got on the plane I fell asleep as soon as we were in the air, so while I did miss the mountains looking like islands in a sea of cloud, I was awake to see the Atacama desert for the first time (you could tell which areas had towns from the pockets of greenery surrounding them).

After getting a transfer to San Pedro itself (the airport was in Calama), we checked into our hostel. Hazel, Josh, Will and myself went out to explore the town and find lunch/water, since we couldn’t drink from the taps. Our hostel was about a 20 minute walk from the town centre, which was actually really nice as it was calmer and generally quieter.

First impressions of San Pedro? It was really hot (a bit self-explanatory since we are in the middle of a desert), but because the sun was so harsh the 25°C heat we experienced daily felt like the 35°C heat wave in Santiago.

First exploration of San Pedro de Atacama

The town itself was quite small, but I really liked it. None of the buildings in the centre had more than one floor and they all had wooden signs – even the bank and the phone shop. Once we’d found water and food, we made our way back to the hostel for a late lunch and to rest up a bit before going out again in the evening. We went to a restaurant on the outskirts of town, and the majority of the group decided to try various llama dishes (Emily and I stuck with a salad). I did get to try a bit of Will’s, and while it tasted like game, I don’t think it quite lived up to Will’s comment: “it tastes like how fur smells” (he wasn’t too far off though).

Llama gnocchi, and the first llama photo I sent to my Mum (sorry, Mum)

The next morning, we all went on a walking tour of San Pedro in which we learned more about the Likanatai (the indigenous people of the Atacama desert), the development of the town, and this Belgian priest called Le Paige, who carried out lots of archeological excavations around San Pedro and helped put the town on the international map. It was really fascinating to see how the culture of the Likanatai had influenced the architecture in the town: lots of walls, including those of the cemetery, are topped with triangles which represent Licancabur, the volcano nearby that the indigenous people worshipped as a deity.

In the evening, we went to an observatory in the middle of the desert to go star gazing and learn more about the constellations. To get to the pick up point on the other side of town, we ended up walking through a parade. It was so lively and there were people on stilts with costumes that made them look like they were riding ostriches and flamingos. I thought they were pretty cool… Until one of the guys made the ostrich scream in my face.

Moments before the screaming took place

Star gazing was definitely one of my favourite parts of our time in San Pedro as the night skies in the desert are unbelievable, especially compared to the pollution that hangs over Santiago. While you could see so much without a telescope (we saw a few nebulae), we also had a look at various constellations and stars through telescopes. I think Orion’s nebula and the Pleiades were probably my favourites. After looking through the telescopes, we went and sat in a big circle, drank hot chocolate and pointed out all the constellations – it took a while to get used to the fact that Orion is upside-down because we’re in the Southern Hemisphere, and that we couldn’t see the North Star for the same reason.

The entire evening was a big realisation of how tiny we really are, since most of the stars we observed are much larger than our Sun. This potentially existential crisis-inducing realisation was softened by the fact that Molly and I (but mainly me, if were being honest) couldn’t stop singing the electromagnetic spectrum song from GCSE physics (it has forever been burned into my brain, thank you Mrs Calcutt).

Our walk back to the hostel was also spent stargazing. We ended up getting back at around 1am, which was fine apart from the fact that Emily, Josh and I had to be up at 4am for our trip to the Geysers.

So, at 4am the same day we were up and outside waiting for the minibus to pick us up. The El Tatio geyser field is in the Andes Mountains, and is the third-largest geyser field in the world. I was actually hesitant to go at first, but I’m so glad I did as it was my favourite part of our time in San Pedro.

At this point in the day – around 7am – it was around -5°C, which explains the big coats and hands shoved in pockets. I don’t think before this moment I’d actually experienced temperatures that cold in Chile.

After walking around the field for a while, we stopped back at our bus for breakfast (Chilean scrambled eggs, fresh bread and tea… *chef’s kiss*) before driving over to the hot springs for a quick dip before beginning the drive back to San Pedro.

On the way back, we made various stops at some lagoons and a town called Machucha, where I finally got a photo of a real llama for my mum (above). Below is a photo of the little church in the town, the walk up to which winded me a bit too much (I’m just going to blame it on the altitude).

It had warmed up a lot since the morning, but because of the high altitude it stayed pretty cold. It was stunning though, and the vastness of the Chilean geography we saw that day just continued to amaze me. By the time we got back to San Pedro at around 12:30pm it was 24°C again and pretty much all excess layers were shed. Our transfer back to the airport was at 1pm so we spent the rest of the time in the hostel waiting.

Our rating system for places we came up with was ‘How Many Llamas out of 5?” (This rating system was forgotten by Cusco), but I would give San Pedro a 3.5/5 llamas. I really loved the town and stargazing/El Tatio were incredible experiences, but it was just so touristy: the majority of the shops were either corner stores, gift shops or places to buy tours.

Myself and Molly on bag duty whilst waiting for a transfer to the bus station.

We got to Calama at around 2pm, and since our next bus wasn’t until nearly 10pm, we were a bit tied to the bus station. We all took turns to go out and have a wander around whilst a few people looked after the bags, but it was pretty boring sitting around for nearly 8 hours. I actually managed to write a bit in my travel journal (the first and last time whilst travelling), and we had the company of a few dogs (they both really liked Josh).

Josh was her favourite

Emily accidentally woke her up so as an act of defiance she fell asleep on Emily’s bag when she went to the loo.

08/01/19 – 10/01/19 – Arica, Chile

This bus ride was actually one of the easiest ones, the only downside being we got into Arica, our next stop, at around 5:30am and since we couldn’t check into the flat we were staying in until 1:30pm, we were waiting around again for a while.

Josh, Emily and I went for a walk down to the beach to stop ourselves going crazy. I didn’t really like Arica too much, it just seemed like a stop-over town (for us at least). The beach was pretty, though, and where we were staying was pretty nice. Our flat overlooked a massive sand dune and really made me realise that we were in the desert.

This was our rest stop, pretty much. We spent most of our time here sleeping and eating (as well as hand washing socks and pants) before crossing the border into Peru. Purely based on our time in Arica, I’d have to give it 2/5 llamas, only because we didn’t see too much.

I feel like I should add this photo of me when we left the flat, if only to show that I did triple-bag for the majority of this trip (are you proud, Cic and Bet?):

After leaving the flat on the last day, we split up into two Uber’s to the international bus station. Emily, Josh and I arrived first, and whilst waiting for the others to arrive we met a Mexican English teacher and his Peruvian friend, who were also crossing the border (this becomes relevant later). We took a selfie with them after having a conversation in Spanglish before they left in a colectivo, a taxi that you can share with other people and split the fare. We decided to do the same once Molly, Hazel and Will arrived.

The journey to the boarder was only about 40 minutes, but the actual crossing took just over an hour as we had to be stamped out of Chile and stamped into Peru. We were also scanned to ensure there were no rogue vegetables crossing into Peru with us (there weren’t).

Once in Peru, we were dropped off in Tacna, which was another 40 minute drive. Tacna itself wasn’t too interesting, but then again we did spend our few hours there organising passage to Lima and eating chicken in the bus terminal (it was really good, but thinking about the orange salsa still makes my tongue prickle). Luckily we found a not-dodgy company leaving at 4pm which meant we’d only be waiting for about 2 hours as opposed to 8 (thank goodness).

The bus was pretty comfortable. I sat next to Molly and within 15 minutes of our journey her coke had spilled all over her and me which was… Entertaining. The best part of the journey was the cinnamon and clove tea we drank the next morning; Emily and I are still in the process of working out the sugar:tea ratio, but we’re almost out of tea bags. The worst part was the toilet on the bus, which was slightly horrific (thank goodness for tissues and hand sanitiser!), and walking to and from it whilst on a moving bus was entertaining for everyone apart from the person making the journey. Nevertheless, we made it safely to Lima in the early evening of the next day.


I definitely haven’t seen enough of Chile yet! While San Pedro and Arica were a lot of fun, I still want to see more of the south (telenovelas have shown how beautiful it is). This part of our journey was probably the most relaxing part; we did a lot more in Peru and Bolivia.

I hope you enjoyed this post! the next few updates should be coming soon, but we are starting to go back to school so I’ll have less time to write during the week. I’m really excited to get back into the school routine and seeing all the children again and I can’t wait to update you all about what we’re doing at school. I hope you’re all well, until next time!

Chao,

Imogen.

First Post!

Welcome to my blog! Here I’ll be posting information about my fundraising, events, project information and eventually, updates from Chile! First of all though, here is some introductory information about what I’m going to do over the next year and a bit.

My name is Imogen, I’m currently in my final year of A-levels studying Spanish, English Literature and Psychology and I have been lucky enough to be selected for a volunteer placement in Chile with Project Trust (more information about them can me found in my Project Trust section).

I will be using this blog firstly for fundraising notices and events, as well as more information about my journey with Project Trust. By August of 2018, I will be using this blog to update you all about my placement and my year in Chile!

That’s all for now, more information to follow soon about my plans for fundraising and the selection course I completed as part of my application process.

Winter Vacation – 27/07/19

*As of yesterday (11/08/19), I am now back in the UK! I still have some posts to upload that I didn’t get round to writing in my final weeks in Santiago, so they’ll be posted over the next few days. Once again, thank you to everyone who has supported me over my year abroad and during my fundraising. I wouldn’t have been able to have this experience without your help and I appreciate it immensely.

Hello all! I’m currently in my final week working at the school – a whole mixed bag of emotions has been felt this week as I gradually say farewell to my classes (lots of class photos have been taken) and clear up my things. It seems very surreal that I’ve reached this point already, I can still remember my first day here and how I almost felt pushed into the deep end. I’m pretty sure that none of whatever I expected is the reality here, but I’ve learnt a lot about myself and other people working here.

I want to make a post about my last week at school to round things up on my blog, but for now, a post about what we did during the winter vacation! Much like the winter break in the UK (although without Christmas and New Year’s Day), we had two weeks to rest and relax before the new semester began. Emily and I (along with Josh in the end) decided we wanted to explore more of Chile, so we spent a week down south exploring a few different places and eating a lot of cake. I should probably explain as well that before we jetted off to Puerto Varas (our first point of exploration), I decided to bleach my hair, which is why my hair is blonde in all the photos I’m about to post. Moving on!

14/07/19 — 16/07/19 – Puerto Varas

We chose to fly from Santiago rather than take a bus down on the Sunday, so (at a more respectable time than in the summer), we hopped on a plane that took us to Puerto Montt, a city about 30 minutes away from Puerto Varas.

Puerto Varas is a city in Chile’s Lake District that sits on the banks of Lake Llanquihue. By the time we arrived the sun was already setting, so after we dropped our bags off where we were staying, the three of us took a walk down to the city centre and along the riverbank. Since Josh was going off on a tour the following day, we went to bed relatively early with full intentions to explore it properly the following day.

The railroads we crossed to get to our Airbnb

On Monday, Emily and I decided to spend the day walking around the city. We first tried visiting the famous Catholic Church with the red roofs, but we were quite literally locked out of the church and it’s gardens. On the way down to the front, we found Lourdes’ grotto across the road from the church, and had a moment of quiet contemplation before walking back down through the city centre.

Considering we visited in the middle of winter, and the Los Lagos region is known to have heavy rain and grey skies throughout the season, we were incredibly lucky that the weather was gorgeous. We decided to first take a walk around the bank of the lake (and being approached by numerous guides selling tours heading to the volcanoes). The skies were so clear that we were able to see all three volcanoes, including Osorno, the conical shaped one that appears on all the postcards.

After walking pretty much the length of the Puerto Varas lakeside (I may be exaggerating), we visited the Pablo Fierro museum: a house tucked round a corner on the front built up over years by the artist himself. It’s a really kitschy little place, full of antiques, paintings by Fierro, people’s drawings/messages to the artist and the artist himself – at least when we were there (a bit of a shock for both of us since we just assumed he had passed away years ago). It was a lot of fun exploring all the different rooms and seeing all the messages people had left. I’d definitely recommend it; it would be fascinating to see how much it changes over the years. Maybe I’ll revisit it in a few years time.

‘Yesterday and today united by art’

Considering how we were looking forward to cooking lots for ourselves, we spent the first day eating cake for breakfast and lunch. Puerto Varas was founded by German immigrants in the 19th century, and in addition to its German-inspired architecture, the city is also known for its Kuchen. Although we assumed kuchen was a kind of walnut cake with a biscuity base (since this is the kuchen we ate in Santiago), it’s actually just the German word for cake, so when you ask for kuchen you have a massive range of choice. In the second cafe we visited in the afternoon, my kuchen ended up being a blueberry and raspberry cheesecake, whilst Emily’s resembled what we were used to.

In the evening we met up with Josh who was back from his tour and had dinner together before going back to our base to rest.

16/07/19 — 17/07/19 – Frutillar

The following morning we took a bus to Frutillar, our next stopping point. Frutillar is a pretty small town further north of Puerto Varas, still on the shore of Llanquihue. It’s well known for its beautiful theatre on the lakefront as well as Music Week, a weeklong music festival (kind of?) which is hosted during February time.

The weather was pretty foul the entire day, but the rain was refreshing after not having felt it for months on end! It was certainly more like the weather in the UK.

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Below are some more photos of the lakefront in Frutillar and the pier, which was possibly one of my favourite points in the town. It would have been nice to have seen the town when it wasn’t so grey, but there was something so calming about the stormy weather which made it all the more enjoyable.

Most of our (what ended up being an afternoon) in Frutillar was spent walking along the lakefront (creatures of habit that we are) and having a look in all the small markets. After breaking for a snack (i.e. kuchen), we found something seemingly interesting called the Patagonia Virgin about a 30 minute walk away from the town centre and decided to check it out. This also coincided with when the weather was its most awful, and we found ourselves walking along a relatively busy road. The Patagonia Virgin ended up being a hill (we think) on the outskirts of Frutillar. This was admittedly more hilarious when we were slightly hysterical and freezing that it is now typing it, but it was a laugh and a pretty walk along the lake.

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Josh was not very impressed with the hill.

We all decided to have a cosy night in our hostels because of the weather, which ended up with Emily and I taking personality tests and examining our entire ways of thinking (a pastime that continued well past that evening).

The following morning before we caught our bus to Valdivia, we went to have brunch (i.e. kuchen and strudel) at the same cafe as the day before and take a last wander down the front before catching an Uber to the bus terminal. Josh once again managed to catch the attention of a stray dog (history always repeats itself), and we just missed getting caught in a short shower.

17/07/19 — 19/07/19 – Valdivia

Our next stop on our tour was Valdivia, a costal city and capital of the Los Lagos Region. We got there in the late afternoon, so spent the rest of our first day walking along the riverfront during sunset and finding a place to eat dinner.

We were surprised and slightly scared to see the seals (sea lions? Who knows but they were big and scary) actually on the pavement as we walked down towards the city centre. While a lot of people say how beautiful Valdivia is and how much they love the city, I wasn’t too taken by it; I much preferred Puerto Varas and Frutillar. I think this comes from the country girl within me.

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The next day, Josh went kayaking (off on his next great outdoor adventure) so Emily and I were left to our own devices. After breakfast, we took a bus to Niebla, a small costal town further up from Valdivia. Here we took a walk on the two little beaches (the area around is known for their black sand beaches), and had lunch overlooking the fishing boats and a stunning view of two rivers joining to become a mouth into the sea.

We also went to a fort which was built by the Spanish conquistadors as part of a system to protect Valdivia. It was quite interesting but this was also when it started pouring with rain so we spent quite a bit of time there underneath the entrance to the loos!

After we returned to Valdivia, Emily and I decided to go on a boat tour. Whilst we couldn’t really hear any of what the tour guide said, it was really pretty and nice just to sit down and watch the world go by. It was less fun when it started pouring again.

In the evening we reunited with Josh again and spent the evening in our Airbnb playing card games (I lost all of them… this time).

20/07/19 — 23/07/19 – Concepcion and Constitucion

Although these are two different cities I’m lumping them together because we only spent a night in Concepcion and as such were unable to see anything. We did go to a Chinese restaurant however and the food was really good (fully immersing ourselves in Chilean cuisine).

In our time at the school during the new year, Emily and I befriended a new maths teacher, Claudia. Her family home is in Constitucion and she invited us to stay with her for a few days during the winter break. On our first evening, we walked down to the beach. I don’t have any photos since it was pitch black, and it wasn’t long before it started absolutely tipping it down, so much so that our clothes were soaked through. Once we got back to her house we spent the evening playing card games. I was a lot luckier this time, much to the behest of Emily who lost pretty much every single game.

The following morning (or afternoon as it turned out), we visited the feria by the river to buy ingredients for lunch as we were in charge of cooking. We also introduced Claudia to apple crumble, which she absolutely loved and asked for the recipe. Below is the only photo I have from Constitucion: the river which the feria ran along.

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After that we went back to Santiago and completely crashed for a week! Travelling around the south was so relaxing and I’m so glad we decided to go. I definitely want to return one summer so that I can enjoy the lakeside whilst it’s hot.

I hope you enjoyed this post! I want to write two more before my journey with Project Trust comes to a close, so I’m not quite done with this blog. My debriefing course is in early September, so I’ll definitely still be posting until then.

Chao,
Imogen

An Overdue Update – 12/06/19

Hello everyone, it’s been just over 4 months since I uploaded the last travel blog. The weeks are passing by so quickly and while sometimes I find myself checking a countdown to my flight back home (usually when I’m having a bad day at school), I’m really pleased to say I’ve been so much happier here the last few weeks that I’m just trying to make the most of what little time I have left here.

So, four months. A lot has happened! I suppose the biggest update is that we’ve actually moved house! We’re now living in Puente Alto, which is quite literally on the other side of Santiago to Quilicura. Although our commute has increased from 10 minutes to around an hour and 40 minutes, I think I can speak for both myself and Emily when I say we’re a lot more comfortable where we’re living now. I’m so grateful for everything Mónica and her family have done for us during our first 8 months in Chile and I’ll always have some fun memories with them, but this move was definitely the right thing for all of us.

Here are some photos of our old neighbourhood in Quilicura:

The last photo is actually of our old house, since I never showed people the area in which we lived. Below is a photo of the street we live on now; we’re so close to the mountains now and on a clear day it’s breathtaking!


Before we moved, we celebrated Easter with Mónica and her family. On Holy Saturday Emily and I went into the centre and (finally) visited Cerro San Cristobal and the Big Sister. We went up on the teleférico; the views of the whole city were incredible. Not pictured: me trying to walk on the bollards in the last photo and almost falling off multiple times.


I do want to make a post about what I do in a day at school, so I won’t say too much other than it’s hard work! I primarily work with pre-kinder to 5th grade, going into classes to help answer questions, mark work, do the routine (sometimes) and generally try to be useful in and outside of classes. For the past two weeks I have been marking exams and compiling results which has been necessary but I do miss being in my classes and seeing the students.

Helping students in 4°C learn to tell the time in English
Creating a fashion magazine in 3°A

Students in 1°A celebrating World Book Day!

In addition, the school celebrated its 14th anniversary with a week-long competition between the 3 alliances: Red (all the A classes), Blue (all the B classes) and Green (all the C classes). Since I work closely with some B classes, I supported the Blue alliance. We ended up losing (terribly), and my students from 5°A (Red won) took no time in patting me on the back and telling me I should have supported Red instead. Still, it was a fun way to spend a Friday morning.

Whole school photo! Pre-kinder up to 4° Medio


I’ve also celebrated my birthday in the last four months! It was a really lovely day, Emily made me pancakes with manjar and we went to a town called Pomaire with Cathy’s (our new host) entire family, since it also happened to be Mother’s Day. It actually ended up being pretty warm too, which was good because I was so worried it would rain or be really cold (something I’m not used to in May, nor now in June!).

As you can see I was really enthusiastic about the birthday cake!

Those are the most significant things I can think of that happened between my last update and now. I’m hoping to upload my ‘day in the life’ blog and another one I’ve been set by PT correspondents (remember that random poem in September? That was for PT correspondents) so! Maybe I’ll be more active this month. Maybe.

Anyway, hopefully you’ve enjoyed this little update and proof of life and I’ll see you all in the next post.

Chao!

Summer Travels Part 3: Bolivia

Hello everyone! It’s a bit later than I wanted ti to be (our first week back was a whirlwind), but the final stretch of our adventure is here. We travelled from Cusco to La Paz, stopping in a few places along the way, and ended our time in Bolivia on a three-day tour of the salt flats. Judging by how much I’ve written in my travel journal, this post is going to be a big one too. I hope you enjoy!

18/01/19 – 19/01/19 – Bolivia Hop, Peru/Bolivia

We ‘hopped’ on the bus at around 10pm after saying goodbye to everyone at the hostel. Our first stop was in Puno, Peru, on the following day so we slept on the bus overnight. We arrived in the early morning, and sleepily got off to eat breakfast at a cafe (scrambled eggs in Peru don’t compare to the Chilean scrambled eggs, I’m sad to say).

Due to an oversight on my part (I was in charge of booking the bus), we weren’t actually booked on the boat tour of the Peruvian half of Lake Titicaca, one of South America’s largest lakes and the world’s highest navigable body of water. Instead, we walked around part of the edge of the lake and chatting, trying to wake ourselves up. After successfully waking up and buying water (stay hydrated in high altitude – but also in general – kids), we walked back to the meet-up point and caught the bus to the boarder.

The Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca

The boarder crossing was actually pretty calm. While the queue was extremely long (we were waiting for almost an hour), being stamped out of Peru was painless. Soon, we were walking over the border to the point of entry in Bolivia (another uphill walk, this time with our massive rucksacks in the midday heat – fun).

After navigating the entry forms somewhat successfully (one of us had to redo his), we were given a very important scrap of paper that we ‘could not lose under any circumstances’ (it was required at the Bolivia-Chile border). Soon enough, we were back on the bus and on our way to Copacabana.

We actually booked the trip available during this stop so after a slightly stressful lunch (we had 50 minutes and the food arrived 15 minutes before we had to board the boat), we left the mainland to travel to La Isla del Sol.

The journey to the island was really peaceful. We stayed inside on the way there and just watched the water go by. Lake Titicaca is so vast it almost seems like the sea (its best not to call it that though, Bolivia not having access to the coast has been a point of contention for the country since the War of the Pacific ended in 1884).

Once we got there, we had the option of going on a walk around the island and meeting the boat later. Josh was still running on adrenaline, but Emily and I decided to stay on the boat and just watch the world go by. This wasn’t before we witnessed one of the German guys put his foot through the floor of the boat as he got up to leave (we were all in hysterics over the situation). Emily and I decided to sit on top of the boat as the captain (or driver?), moved the boat to the main point of the island where everyone would be picked up.

After sitting on the dock whilst waiting for everyone to arrive, Josh returned with a new German friend (not the one who broke the boat, mind you), who asked Emily to take photos of him as he dived into the lake. Josh, not wanting to feel left out, decided to go paddling in the lake.

On the boat back to the mainland, we all sat on the top of the boat and watched the sun begin to set as we pulled into Copacabana. We then boarded the bus to begin our journey to La Paz.

A few hours in, we had to get off the bus in order to cross part of the lake. The bus went on a sort of ferry, whilst we had to get back onto boats. It was close to pitch black at this point and I was actually kind of scared as we crossed.

After the crossing, we had a little time to buy food and go to the loo before boarding the bus. For the rest of the journey we had a sort of film night on the bus with the most incredible popcorn. The last 40 minutes of the journey were the worst as the roads in Bolivia are quite bad and we were all fed up of being on the bus. That being said, the view of La Paz lit up as we entered the city was astounding, and we arrived at our hostel pretty soon after that.

19/01/19 – 21/01/19 – La Paz, Bolivia

We arrived at Loki hostel at around 10:30pm, making our journey from Cusco to La Paz a full 24 hours. Since we were all exhausted and Josh had to be up early the next morning for Death Road, we went to bed as soon as we got to our room. This wasn’t before a drunk Brazilian man introduced himself to us. Luckily, he wasn’t in our room.

Unfortunately our room was on the floor below the bar, so we were privy to all the bad music and drunken shouting that comes with any Loki hostel bar and is significantly less enjoyable when you are not part of the group doing the shouting. Josh’s early start was self-inflicted, but I don’t think the comings and goings of our dorm-mates (part of the drunken, shouting group) was appreciated regardless.

By the time Emily and I were awake, showered, and ready to head out, Josh was long gone. We decided to try and walk to a cafe we had seen on the tourist’s map of La Paz, but we ended up getting hopelessly lost. In a moment of desperation (feeling increasingly exposed and unsafe as there were no other tourists around), we took a taxi to the purple teleférico station, thinking it was close to where we wanted to go. It wasn’t, and we then had to walk back up the hill (can you tell I am sick of mountainous terrain?) to get to the right place.

In the end, we both gave up and went to a Bolivian restaurant for, what was by that time, lunch. ‘The Local Dish’ was pretty cool. Murals covered the walls, along with textile hangings that showed off the indigenous cultures within Bolivia. We both went for the peanut soup, which was delicious (it reminded me of the Indonesian food Dad makes).

After spending an hour there trying to google things to do on a Sunday in Bolivia (most things are closed), we decided to buy a teleférico card and spent the rest of the afternoon riding on the different lines and seeing a bit more of La Paz from above. The day before something had bitten my ankle and caused it to swell a lot (I couldn’t walk on it properly), so it was good to be able to rest it and spend a day with ny feet up (literally). Luckily, I didn’t develop sepsis from the bites (like my dad thought I would) and recovered within a day or so, much to everyone’s relief (my flippancy about it was… Concerning for some).

We spent most of the evening in Loki having a good old natter, which included Josh once we found him. He told us all bout his Death Road adventures (the pictures were slightly terrifying, but he had a blast ), and at around 10pm, we walked back to the street we went to in the morning and ate at the Italian restaurant next to ‘The Local Dish’ since Emily and I were both craving pizza – and what fantastic pizza it was.

After finishing at the restaurant following a debate about how many continents there are (spoiler alert: it’s not 5), we walked down the slightly dodgy streets of La Paz at close to midnight and promptly crashed once we got back to the hostel.

The next day we all woke up pretty late (again) and grabbed breakfast in Loki. We also booked the next and final leg of our travelling: the Salar de Uyuni.

Emily had broken her phone in Cusco, so the main aim of the day was to find a shop that could fix her phone. Once we’d dropped it off at the first place we found, we went to go and sit on the steps outside of the San Francisco Church as Emily wasn’t feeling well (in hindsight this was foreshadowing for the next few days), and then decided the museum of the church on a whim.

We we given a tour guide since we weren’t allowed to wander around by ourselves, who took us around the monastery, which was painted bright blue (if I remember correctly this was to match the colour of the heavens).

Josh and I also went up to the roof of the church. Our guide told us that the tiles are different shapes and sizes because some were modelled on the thighs of Spaniards whereas others were modelled on the thighs of indigenous men. We also learnt that the opposite half of the city to the one we stayed in was far more ordered and the roads less maze-like because the Spanish settlers lived on that side of La Paz whereas the indigenous people lived in the half we were staying in. If anything, it explained why Emily and I got hopelessly lost the day before.

After having a look around the city and grabbing some lunch, Emily and I returned to the phone shop to pick up her phone. As she didn’t have enough money on her to pay for the repair (the more we think about it the more we think she was ripped off), we ended up walking around frantically to try and find a cash exchange place for Emily to exchange her dollars. We found one in the end, and Emily got her phone back almost good as new.

Once we dealt with that, we went back to the hostel to grab our bags and then got a taxi to the bus station (which was my favourite station because it was yellow and colonial and just very pretty).

Our overnight bus to Uyuni ended up being almost an hour late, which really stressed me out since we didn’t know which stop it was going to come into (“either this one or this one… Or that one over there” – actual words spoken by a member of staff when we asked where the bus would pull into), so we were on our feet the entire time, ready to run if need be. When it finally arrived, it took us another 40 minutes to actually leave because of luggage issues and the fact people were getting on the wrong bus and therefore putting their luggage on the wrong bus. Nevertheless, we set off soon enough. The actual journey was surprisingly smooth, considering how bad the roads are in Bolivia, and we all managed a respectable night’s sleep.

Overall, I think I’d give La Paz 3/5 llamas. I thought the city was interesting, but we couldn’t find much to do and the atmosphere of the hostel wasn’t as nice as others we had stayed in. I’m not even sure I’d want to visit it again, but I think there has to be more to the city than what we saw.

22/01/19 – 24/01/19 – Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Once again, we arrived in the early hours of the morning. We were met by a woman who took all of us waiting for the Perla de Bolivia tour to a small cafe where we could wait and have breakfast. Josh almost ate a slice of Emily’s toast but luckily that situation was avoided and peace was maintained. I got changed in the toilets (Bolivian loos are the worst I experienced whilst travelling), and spent the next few hours reading, charging my phone and trying to find a cash point.

The tour house opened at around 10, so we moved there and signed in. When the time came to set off we discovered that Martin and Luke (the guys we met in Cusco who had been on BoliviaHop with is as well), were in the same car a us for the entire tour.

Our first stop was the train cemetery, where all the old steam trains used to transport mined silver were abandoned once they couldn’t be repaired. While interesting, it wasn’t my favourite part of the tour. That being said, it was fun climbing over all the rusted engines (tourists have apparently died doing this), and Josh being the absolute daredevil that he is decided to climb part of an old crane – I couldn’t watch.

Our tour guide Janet herded us back into the jeep to the next stop, a town where the salt from the salt flats is processed. It was cool watching the salt getting bagged, and we were asked to buy something to support the local community as it relies heavily on the tourism. I bought a salt magnet, a present for someone (I can’t remember if I told them or not so it will remain a secret), and also went to the loo (which they charge your for, that wasn’t just information I thought you needed to know).

Josh finds the Scottish flag in all its glory; we find the English flag torn up and faded at the bottom of a pole

After that, we actually began to drive on the salt flats, which was probably one of my favourite experiences of the trip. We stopped at the salt hotel and walked across the salt flats for a while, before meeting up with the jeeps and having lunch (which was so nice – Bolivian quinoa is actually magnificent I’m still in awe).

Once we’d taken some weird perspective photos with a banana, a pot, some wine bottles and a dinosaur (Josh took some absolutely brilliant photos for other people), we headed further out into the salt flats to get to Isla Incahuasi.

We were told on the drive to the island that the drivers use the mountains and volcanoes around the salt flats to navigate since GPS and phone service don’t work out there. So, if it’s cloudy, they start to have problems and could potentially get very lost, which is quite serious considering at 11,000-sq.km, the Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world.

Still, we got to the island, studded with cacti and formed from petrified coral (millions of years ago the Salar was a lake), without too much trouble. I decided it would be a brilliant idea to do the walk around the island in flip-flops (I only tripped a few times). The species of cacti that decorate the island grows 1cm every year, so we’d see a few small ones and call them cute, before realising that they were actually around 50-60 years old.

We took some more photos on the salt flats and I got my ego severely bruised when I fell over after trying to do a jump kick for a photo. Janet didn’t help as she reminded everyone of it as soon as we got back into the jeep. Regardless, the atmosphere in our car was great because Emily and Martin took turns to Bluetooth music the entire time. Thanks to Martin, I now have a soft spot for German rap music.

After a long stint driving, we reached the edge of the salt flats where there was enough water to give the mirror effect we were all dying to see. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. The salt was actually really sharp – Emily got a deep gash on her finger from just running it along the ground. We got to watch the sunset and the skies were so gorgeous I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. It was so tranquil there too. We ended our time on the salt flats with a toast, before heading off to our hostel.

This is where things got a little more stressful. Emily woke me up at around midnight with the sound of her stomach contents splattering on the floor. I of course did the really helpful thing of standing outside a 5ft radius and awkwardly patting her in the back – not my finest moment as her partner. It’s safe to say both of us didn’t sleep much the rest of the night. Fortunately, Emily was able to get up the next morning and keep going with us, but she was confined to the jeep for pretty much the whole day.

Most of the day was spent driving, since we had a big distance to cover. We stopped once because one of the Jeep’s got a flat tyre, once to go to a cave we couldn’t actually go into because the museum was closed, and once to look at this active volcano.

Our view from the side of the road whilst the tyre was being changed

We did stop off for longer periods of time at some lagoons to see the flamingoes (I have seen so many flamingoes whilst travelling) and have lunch, but we stayed in the jeep mostly and sped through the Atacama desert. We also drove down such a steep sand dune we were almost vertical.

Lunchtime view

Before entering the national park, we stopped off at the red lagoon. Since we arrived well after midday, it was cloudier and you couldn’t really see the red too well. Regardless, I liked this stop because Emily was feeling better and came out of the jeep – the toilets here were definitely the worst though.

The Rock Tree I forgot we saw until I was looking for photos (oops)
Part 2 of tourists climbing things they should not be climbing

Our last stop before the hostel was a geyser. Admittedly, it wasn’t as nice as el Tatio (Josh kept repeating this adamantly) and it did smell of rotten eggs because of all the sulfur, but it was fun to walk around and see all the clay bubbling.

Josh was unimpressed with this geyser (it did smell awful to be fair)

The hostel we stayed in for the night was so lovely. It was really basic and had no electricity after 10pm, but dinner was nice, Emily was feeling better and the atmosphere was just really good and easygoing.

After diner Josh and I went down to the hot springs with Mark and Marie, a couple who were on our tour. The hot spring was incredible, it was definitely better than the one at el Tatio as we could actually stay in it for more than 15 minutes. I ended up staying with Martin, Luke, Chris, Rochelle and Alain as everyone else got out before the power in the hostel was shut off. We all watched the moonrise together which was a totally surreal experience (“that can’t be the moon, it must be a fire or something” – all of us at one point or another). Getting back to the hostel in the pitch black whilst dripping wet was entertaining. Fortunately we made it back in one piece before midnight (technically the hot springs closed at 10pm but we stayed whilst it drained out).

Our view from the hostel window in the morning

Breakfast the next morning was great because we had panqueques with manjar (manjar is the greatest invention. Ever). We set off again at around 7am, heading to the Dalí desert and the white and green lagoons before crossing the border back into Chile.

The White Lagoon and Licancabur

It was a really incredible experiences made better by the people. I’d give our time on the salt flats a 4.5/5 llamas. I definitely want to do this again. Below is a photo of our entire group, it was interesting meeting all these different people who had the tour in common!

Getting back into Chile was slightly arduous, however. Our minibus driver said that the border control guys could be nasty and not let people in for trivial reasons, and we had to wait for a good hour and a half (poor josh was sat under a pile of rucksacks for the journey to the border) just to get into the building. Luckily, we didn’t get any trouble from the men and it was a mostly-painless experience.

It felt so surreal to return to San Pedro de Atacama, where we began our travelling, and it was sad to think how quickly it had gone by. It just means I’ll have to return and do/see a bit more of everything.

After being dropped off in San Pedro, it’s safe to say Emily and I were in rotten moods. The temperature difference between Bolivia and Chile was slightly ridiculous considering we had only travelled 150km or so. Our moods weren’t helped by the bus ride back to Calama. It was 36°C outside and the air conditioning was broken. It didn’t help that 20 minutes into the 1.5 hour journey one of the bus drivers decided to close all the skylights which stopped what little breeze we had. We coped, though (barely).

‘Josh can make friends with anyone/anything’ – exhibit ?

After much deliberation, we ended up getting a bus to Santiago. Our second wait in Calama bus station wasn’t as long, and whilst Emily and I were washing ourselves with baby wipes in the toilets, Josh was making friends again (dogs in Calama can’t get enough of him). By the time we got on the bus, Emily and I were both fed up, and she was sure she was going to vomit again (luckily she didn’t). Josh was the only one of us in a good mood – he probably deserves a medal for putting up with us that day. That being said, we were all slightly unhinged by the time we got off the bus in Santiago. One final taxi ride, and we were home.

I loved our 3 weeks travelling, for the most part. I learnt a lot (buses longer than 10 hours suck), and pushed myself in ways I didn’t think I would (asking strangers for directions in Spanish, walking to Aguas Calientes). My favourite country was Peru, easily, and I really enjoyed our journey from Cusco to La Paz if only for all the inside jokes we now have. This taster has definitely awoken a love of travelling in me and I can’t wait to do more!

Once we got back from travelling, we spent a week at the beach with our host family which was exactly the kind of relaxation I needed after being non-stop for almost a month. The waves were massive and the beaches were busy, but I had a great time seeing more of the coastline and spending time with Monica and her family.

Horcón, the beach town nearest to where we were staying

Papudo; the waves here were huge!

Since this post was delayed, next week I’ll be talking about my first few weeks back at school and the work I’ve been doing with the children. Emily and I are now working in different cíclos (the equivalent of a key stage), so we now work separately within the school. I’m hoping to get back into doing weekly updates again. I hope you enjoyed this update and that you have a good day!

Chao,

Imogen.

Summer Travels Part 2: Peru

Hello All! Part two is here, beginning from when we arrived in Lima. This part is going to be a big one – we did so much here! Peru was definitely my favourite country to visit, I definitely want to return some day. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this part!

11/01/19 – 13/01/19 – Lima, Peru

We made it to Lima in the early evening of the following day and took a taxi to Miraflores, the area of Lima that our hostel was in. After a short while to recharge (ourselves and our phones), Molly, Josh, Emily and I had a bit of a jaunt around the local area and the shops. I’m pretty sure we all bought some souvenirs from the many shops and the small market in the park.

We also had a look in the local Catholic Church. It was very pretty, but we couldn’t take photos inside – the exact translation of the notice on the church door was ‘You don’t need a phone to talk to God. Please turn it off! Thank you!’. Other shenanigans included Emily buying a rice pudding (it was incredible), and then promptly abandoning it after being chased by a wasp (Josh was less affected even though he had a toffee apple).

I was also delighted to find out that the cat park I wanted to visit in Lima (but was afraid we wouldn’t have time to go), was actually the park in front of our hostel, so I got to meet lots of cats and say hi to them (including the one in the photo outside the shop).

The view from our hostel window

That evening, most of us were pretty knackered from travelling, so we decided to have an early night. The hostel we stayed in had a really good atmosphere, and the kitchen/dining area was great to relax in.

The next day, Hazel, Emily, Josh and I went on a walking tour of Lima. We got the metro from Miraflores to the centre, and were then shown all of the main buildings in Lima, including the Presidential Palace and the main square.

We were told that for years during a celebration, on one day the fountain in the centre of the square would flow Pisco (an alcoholic drink that is Peruvian if you’re in Peru and Chilean if you’re in Chile – quite the point of contention between the two nations). This ended up being stopped after it resulted in chaos due to all the people coming to get drunk on free Pisco.

Afterwards, we were taken to a Church that was the oldest university in South America. Like most Catholic Churches, the inside was extremely ornate and beautiful, even if it did display the skull of one of their saints.

The skull is in a box below the central statue

One of our last stops on the tour was the old train station. After rail travel became too expensive for the general public, it was decommissioned and turned into a library. This was one of my favourite stops on the tour as it was beautiful and the platform outside had been turned into a little seating area for people to do work.

After the tour finished in the local market, we spent the rest of the afternoon pretty much with our tour guide (lucky for him). We ate lunch with him and a small group of people who had been on the tour with us. We tried some Peruvian dishes that I unfortunately can’t remember the names of (they were very tasty though), and afterwards, we shared a taxi with the tour guide too. There was a slight clown car situation going on but we got to Miraflores quickly and all in one piece.

We’d all been taking turns to cook in the hostels to save money, and my turn came around in Lima. Emily, Josh and I went to the supermarket and spent the evening cooking together. Well, Emily and I cooked, Josh hung out with us and made snarky comments about my cooking (if you’ve seen the video you know what I mean). I made stir fried rice with eggs and veggies that went down okay; my main goal was not to make anyone ill which I achieved (I think?), so it was a success from my point of view.

It’s safe to say I don’t have a career as a chef

I was going to go out that evening, we’d planned to go to a dance class, but while waiting for the others to get ready I ended up falling asleep so didn’t go out in the end (I do still want to go to a dance class though and make use of the salsa tips Betta gave me).

The next day we’d planned to leave for Cusco. We ended up splitting in half as Will, Molly and Hazel wanted to do PeruHop whereas the rest of us wanted to go straight to Cusco. So, after Josh got back from bungee jumping (a true daredevil), we went to the bus terminal to catch our bus to Cusco from Lima. We chose to go by bus so we could acclimatise to the altitude gradually… It was also much cheaper than flying.

The faces of two people who have not experienced the Lima-Cusco bus journey yet

This bus journey was horrible, possibly the worst one of the three weeks. Setting off was okay, we (foolishly) thought it was luxurious because of the air conditioning and screens we had. We settled down alright and watched films for the first few hours, (Josh chose ‘Mamma Mia 2’ but didn’t think it was a good as the original), but sleeping was super uncomfortable so we were all tossing and turning.

Since the roads were all winding round/going over mountains, motion sickness was also prevalent for most of the journey. Again, bus toilets are pretty grim, but at least the window view from this one was really pretty (it was also the only place fresh air was coming into the bus). Due to various stops and traffic, the bus journey ended up being 23-24 hours long. I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to walk on solid ground in my life.

All in all, I would give Lima 4/5 llamas. I loved the city and by doing the tour we were able to see a lot more and learn a lot more about the history than if we had just wandered around for a day. The hostel was also one of the top 3 we stayed in, because of the atmosphere. I definitely want to come back because only staying there for one full day wasn’t enough and there’s so much more I want to see. Regardless, I really enjoyed our time there.

14/01/19 – 16/01/19 – Cusco, Peru (Part 1)

We arrived in Cusco at around 6pm the day after we set off and went straight to the hostel from the terminal. Our taxi driver tried to sell us a trip to Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain, and we accepted the leaflet with hesitant smiles (we chose not to go with him). Since we were all exhausted from the bus journey, we stayed in the local area and went to a small cafe for dinner.

On the way back to the hostel, Josh and I were swept up by a woman with a llama who let us take photos of him and then charged us 10 soles for it (we were slightly naive and not thinking straight when we took the photos). Even though it’s not the best photo, I’m sharing it because I paid for it so I’m going to use it as much as I can.

Emily watches on from behind, glad she didn’t get caught up in this llama-nonsense

Our hostel, Loki, was halfway up what seemed like the steepest hill in Cusco and it was only moderately embarrassing how winded I got walking back up it. Once there, we all just crashed.

The next day, we ate breakfast in the hostel (Loki didn’t have a kitchen), before walking further up the hill (rip Imogen’s legs) to the tour place to pay for our tours of Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain. Josh and I went back to the hostel to take out more money since we had to pay with cash, and Josh’s card was promptly swallowed by the machine when he tried to make a second transaction. After a brief panic and a conversation in jumbled Spanish with one of the hostel staff, we all walked to the centre of the old part of Cusco to go to the bank and get Josh’s card back.

Once we found out he could get his card back in the evening, I realised I couldn’t take out more money, so we walked back to the Plaza de Armas and sat down in the square to plan what we’d do for the day. This was probably a mistake, since we were flocked by street vendors selling anything and everything from paintings to selfie sticks and rain ponchos. Josh bought a pretty expensive shoe shining (though to be fair he didn’t know at the time it would cost 110 soles), which I ended up paying for since he didn’t have enough soles.

Josh and I were swept up for the second time that day by a very insistent painter who came to know us as George and Sofia (our names are hard to pronounce for people in South America it turns out). I was able to get away (thank you Emily for saving me), but unfortunately Josh was slightly bullied into buying a painting with more money he didn’t really have. Moral of the story, don’t leave Josh alone with street vendors. Since we were all pretty broke at that point, we found a little bakery and bought vegetarian empanadas for lunch – all of us being desperate not to spend more than 15 soles.

After buying some souvenirs (I now have the worlds softest jumper and we had a really nice chat with the lady who sold it to me), Emily and I walked back to the hostel whilst Josh stayed to pick up his card from the bank. I’m impressed we made it back without getting too lost, considering our phones were dead and we didn’t have a map.

After getting Josh’s card back and finally paying for the tours

That evening we stayed in the hostel (Loki is known as a party hostel so it was pretty lively), and actually ran into the Mexican guy we’d met when crossing the border. We also struck up a conversation with this English guy called Henry who had done the jungle trail to Machu Picchu. He’d actually gone to UEA for university, so it was nice talking to someone who actually knew where Norwich was. We didn’t have a crazy night, because the following day we were travelling to Machu Picchu and had to be up kind of early.

16/01/19 – 17/01/19 – Machu Picchu, Peru

We were picked up the following morning at the top of the hill Loki sat on (my thighs were crying by the time I got on the bus), and we started the 5 hour drive to the hydroelectric plant we were being dropped off at “near” Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of Machu Picchu.

The roads were incredible. We drove through a cloud when climbing a mountain, and also through a river. The last hour or so of the journey we we driving on a narrow cliff with a 2km drop; the driver was very flippant about it all (he does the drive so often of course), but this didn’t impress a mother on board. Once we arrived, we ate lunch at the restaurant we were dropped off at and began the walk to Aguas Calientes at 3pm.

A small town we drove through

After the first 10 minutes or so of steep incline, the walk itself was mostly okay – it just seemed to go on forever. It was a very picturesque 10-mile walk through forest, although we kept to the train tracks that lead to Aguas Calientes. It was so humid, by the end of the walk I was completely dripping in sweat (tmi?).

We arrived in Aguas Calientes at around 6pm. The last stretch, from the base of Machu Picchu to the meeting point in Aguas Calientes, was all uphill and was slightly brutal after the 3 hours of walking we’d just done. Once checked into the hostel, we showered and got ready for dinner at 8pm.

During dinner, I had to go buy the bus tickets up to Machu Picchu for Emily and I (Josh was going to walk up). We found out once we got there that you needed the passports of all the passengers to buy their tickets, and I didn’t have Emily’s passport as she had gone straight to bed. I ended up getting back in the line what Josh was a literal angel and ran back up to our hostel, which was very uphill, to grab Emily’s passport and bring it back to me.

The next morning, Emily and I were up and out of the hostel by 5:30am – Josh had left at 4:30 since he was walking up Machu Picchu. We got to watch the sun rise as we waited for the bus, and managed to get on the third bus that arrived. Considering the queue was already massive when we’d got there, it was lucky we arrived earlier than we had to.

By the time we were dropped off at the top of Machu Picchu, it was around 7am. We saw Josh go ahead with the group he had been walking with, whilst we stayed with the tour guide to wait for everyone else to arrive.

Whilst it Machu Picchu was stunning, I found the actual experience (the masses of people taking thousands of photos) pretty overwhelming and at times stressful. Considering it opened at 6am and we were among the first to arrive, it was packed and only continued to get busier as time went on. It was difficult to appreciate Machu Picchu itself whilst trying not to get in anyone else’s photos.

We met up with Josh about half way into our tour. As interesting as it was, I don’t remember too much of what we learned, other than the fact that Machu Picchu is the name of the mountain next to the city and the original name of the city has been lost in time.

Once we left Machu Picchu, we decided to walk down the mountain which was… Interesting. The steps were very steep and seemed never-ending. This, coupled with the humidity and the warmth of the day (it was around 11am at this point), meant that by the time we got to the bottom I was dripping in sweat – again.

Whilst Josh decided to wait for the people he walked up with, Emily and I got a head start on walking back to the pick-up point (Josh still managed to overtake us though). The walk back was so much faster – only around 2 hours – but I’d made the mistake of casually telling Emily “I could really do with 5 minutes of torrential rain” about 15 minutes into the walk. This of course meant that torrential rain came and continued for the majority of the walk back, save for the last 5 minutes.

By the time we reached the hydroelectric plant, we were both soaking wet. I then had to change out of my dripping wet t-shirt and into my t-shirt covered in dried sweat…lovely.

On the bus back I fell asleep pretty immediately, but not before discovering most of my ‘important’ belonging’s I’d had with me (my earphones mainly, but also my passport) had also got wet and therefore didn’t work.

We got back into Cusco at around 10pm and were dropped off in the main square. We ended up getting a taxi back to the hostel (we were dropped off at the top of the hill this time thank goodness), because Emily and I refused to walk back up that hill after the two days we’d just had, much to the confusion of Josh.

I think I’d rate Machu Picchu 3.5/5 llamas. It was beautiful and I’m glad I can say I’ve been there (I’ve got the stamp in my passport to prove it), but I’m not eager to go back again and the amount of people there kind of lessened the wonder of it all.

17/01/19 – 18/01/19 – Cusco, Peru (Part 2)

Back in Cusco, we met up with the other three back in Loki briefly, before going straight to bed pretty much.

Emily and I were supposed to be doing Rainbow Mountain with Josh, but we took a rain check as we were still recovering from Machu Picchu. Instead, we decided to explore more of Cusco since we hadn’t seen too much of it when we first arrived.

Cusco’s Plaza de Armas

Unfortunately, Emily’s card was also swallowed by the ATM machine in the hostel, so we had to start our day by going back to the bank. It also meant that I was the group banker for the day, which was fun.

Once we’d sorted out the card fiasco (we had to go back to the bank in the evening), we decided to go on a walking tour of Cusco. Our tour guide was called Marco – what a character! He was very interesting, knowing a lot about the indigenous populations of Peru and the Incas as well (did you know that the Inca wasn’t the name of the indigenous population but the leader of the Incan empire?). He also told us of his time growing up in the jungle of Peru, as well as the hallucinogenic properties the San Pedro cactus juice (don’t worry Mum, I didn’t try it). On our tour we met these two guys called Luke and Martin (this is relevant later), who told us when they did Rainbow Mountain, two girls were really ill due to the altitude – it’s safe to say Emily and I were glad we skipped out.

The last leg of our tour involved going up a hill to see the Cristo Blanco that looks down over the colonial centre of Cusco. We didn’t get to stay there too long as it started raining, but the view of Cusco from the base of the statue was incredible.

On the way back down, we stopped at an Alpaca wool shop to learn about the dyeing process and to try some coca mate (a sort of herbal tea that eases the symptoms of altitude sickness) when the altitude sickness hit. After telling Emily ‘I think I’m going to faint’, I was sat down on a sofa with a bottle of water, more coca mate, and at the end of the talk the owner of the shop came over with some crushed herbs in his hands that I was told to sniff. I felt better pretty soon after that, and after purchasing a few items, we left the hill behind and soon ended the tour.

Quinoa is a staple food in Peru, and so when we stopped off at this restaurant called ‘Organika’, we both ordered salads with quinoa and oh. My. Goodness. They were incredible. Just thinking about the mozzarella and quinoa makes me emotional (I think I’d be happy to go back to Cusco just to go to that restaurant again).

On a whim, we decided to visit the Cathedral Basilica in the Plaza de Armas and paid for a tour guide inside, which turned out to be a great decision on Emily’s part. It was honestly one of, if not the most gorgeous Catholic Church I’ve ever been to. As the Spanish Conquistadors tried to convert the Incan people to Christianity, the artwork and architecture within the cathedral has a lot of Incan influences. For example, the crucifixes designed by the Incan people show Jesus wearing a skirt, as the Incan emperors would wear skirts, and looking down, as the Incan people worshipped Pacha Mama (Mother Earth). We also saw a painting of the last supper where the last meal was guinea pig (a traditional dish in Peru), and instead of wine, Jesus and his Disciples drank chica morada (a fermented corn drink…I don’t really like it). In the same picture, Judas has the face of Francisco Pizarro, the conquistador who captured and killed the Incan emperor Atahualpa.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any photos of the inside of the cathedral as photography was prohibited. Regardless, this was one of my favourite parts of seeing Cusco.

Once out of the cathedral we went to sit down in the square, but not before being stopped by two separate children (aged around 8/9) who asked us to buy a llama key ring. Earlier in the day we had already bought 8 key rings as presents for people, but we now have two more so it’s a case of first come first served, if you want one of course.

After buying a few more bits and pieces, as well as getting Emily’s card back from the bank, we headed back to the hostel to meet Josh (he had an incredible time) and rest up for a bit before leaving to catch our bus to La Paz.

In hindsight, I do wish we could have stayed an extra night (or five), because the atmosphere of the hostel was really great (this Loki was one of my favourite hostels) and we were all knackered. Unfortunately, Josh has booked something in La Paz on the 20th so it wasn’t possible, otherwise we would have stayed.

After saying goodbye to Molly and Hazel (Will has gone to bed), we hopped in a taxi and made our way to the BoliviaHop bus terminal for the last stretch of our travelling.

I’m going to give Cusco a 4.5/5 llamas. I was pleasantly surprised by the city – I had been thinking of it as a stopover on the way to Machu Picchu – and would definitely love to return and see more of it. This Loki hostel had a really great atmosphere, and although there was no kitchen (originally an issue for us), the food was relatively cheap and wasn’t too bad.

It’s a good thing I’ve split this travel blog up – this part alone is around 4000 words! The next part will be about our time in Bolivia and getting back into Chile. It was definitely an interesting week, mostly positive but with a few…situations that made us feel ready to come home. Travelling is so exhausting!

As of yesterday, Emily and I are back at school. Everything seems so positive and I have a really good feeling about this semester. The children come back on Monday, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them all again. This does mean the third part might be a little delayed, but I am aiming to get it up within the next week. Anyway, I hope you’ve had a good day and have enjoyed this part. Thank you for reading it!

Chao,

Imogen.

Music Week – 9/10/18

Hello everyone! This post is a few days late, but here is what I did last week! Last week was Music Week at the school, which meant that everyday there was a different concert or performance going on, from teacher’s karaoke to a rock concert at the end of the week. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to find myself a violin just yet, and because I only found out about Music Week on the Friday when I went to the music workshop with Filipo, I wasn’t as involved as I would have liked to have been. Regardless, I had a really fun time watching all the different performances!

Here’s a rundown (in Spanish) of what Music Week consisted of, though, Filipo told Angie and I that the poster was riddled with mistakes so it’s not entirely accurate!

Monday:

It’s finally light in the mornings when we arrive at school! Well, semi-light: the sun is rising when we get there. It definitely feels a lot nicer getting there when it’s not pitch black, like when we first started in August, and it makes for some beautiful skies that we can see from the balcony.

In our workshops this week, Emily and I have been focusing on the exam questions the children are going to have to answer in their aural exam. This meant going through sets of photos to find the odd one out with the students, and understanding ‘why’ and ‘because’. Emily and I are constantly astounded by how much they’re expected to know, as they have to explain why one photo is the odd one out in English.

We were also looking at the actual questions they will be asked, incorporating it into a game called ‘Bam!’ which I found on Pinterest earlier (thank god for Pinterest honestly).

Music Week began with the teacher’s karaoke. Often when the music department want to perform something, they set up a wooden stage in what could be described as the courtyard, so that the older children can watch from the balconies and the younger children can watch in the courtyard. We didn’t get to see to many teachers perform, but it was a lot of fun!

The initial stages of The Voice competition also took place on Monday, but we didn’t go and see them.

Tuesday:

On Tuesday we carried on with our workshops. Today was the day of concerts for the band I watched practice. I actually ended up going to two, one in the morning with Pre-kinder and kindergarten (I got lots of hugs during that concert), and another one in the afternoon when Emily came with me and the parents were invited to watch their children perform.

The group performed the theme tune of ‘Gravity Falls’ (the 3rd grade students in the last concert were all singing along and it was possibly the sweetest thing I’ve seen), and an old 70s German disco song (I still can’t remember the name). They all did so well and I’m so proud of them all. Below is a video of the second concert I went to (only because I recorded the whole of the song), I hope it works!placeholder://

Wednesday:

On Wednesday afternoon we went to watch the orchestra perform with 4°B. It was generally calm, but I had been put in charge of two students who had fallen over and needed to go to the nurse’s office. Unfortunately, Mónica (who is the school nurse) was on her lunch break so after about 10 minutes of sitting with the children (who were feeling a lot better and laughing), we all walked back to the sports hall to watch the orchestra play.

The orchestra at school is mainly made up of strings (the 1st and 2nd violin sections probably outnumber the rest of the members), but there was a flautist and a pianist too. They played one song which I hadn’t heard before, and another one that they played when I went with them a few weeks earlier.

After watching them play, Angie invited Emily and I to the last bit of her class with 3°A, who we hadn’t met before. They were the first class that were able to say my name properly the first time! We had a lot of fun asking each other questions that they had been practising (‘how often do you dream of spiders?’) and it’s always a joy to watch their faces of approval when you tell them your favourite animal is a dog, or see them ecstatic that you have the same favourite colour as them.

I feel like I need to write a post about all the dogs I see during the day, because on the way home on Wednesday Emily and I watched a dog get on the bus and just curl up under a seat (I don’t think he swiped his Bip card though…)

This was the best photo I could get without disturbing him.

Thursday:

On Thursday, we didn’t have any workshops as Angie wanted to work with the whole class, so our main event on Thursday was watching The Voice final in the sports hall. There were a wide range of acts, from a Rock band to a 5th grader singing folk songs (he was incredible). This as also our first time around the older years (we generally only work with children from octavo and younger, so 4-14 year olds), which was a bit daunting at first – we ended up sitting with some 5th graders so that we were in familiar territory!

This was the rock band that performed first. It was really nice to see that the majority of the students were really supportive of their peers.

It was also back to the (literal) drawing board for me, as I was tasked with making instruction posters for the 4th grade classrooms, since their English exams were the following week. The photos were taken by Angie, who is very into photography, so they look a lot better than my normal ones!

Friday:

On Friday we were back to our normal workshops, and we had our best workshop of the week with a group of boys from 4°B. They really got into the game and it was a lot of fun to work with them.

In the evening I went to a trampoline park with Lindsay, Max, Lindsay’s younger cousin Connie (who is in 6th grade at Undurraga), and Max’s friend Nicolas. While exhausting (we were all flopped over trampolines at some point in the evening) it was a lot of fun! Lindsay also told Nicolas that I knew ‘un poco’, a little, Spanish. While this still is small, she used to say that I knew ‘un poquito’, a tiny bit (of Spanish), so I think I’m improving. I also managed to have a proper conversation with Nicolas too, which was really nice (he knows quite a bit of English but didn’t really use it). After we walked Nicolas to the bus stop, we all walked home. Walking home was the first time I’ve properly felt that this was my neighbourhood, so I guess that means I’m finally settled here in Quilicura. I think it helped that we actually walked around more so I got a better idea of how the area is laid out and where things are in relation to our house.

Saturday:

On Saturday morning, after the exhausting evening and late night for both of us, we were woken up by someone cutting the grass at around 8am. This pretty much set the scene for the rest of the day, as we didn’t really do anything aside from sleep. Monica’s parents came to the house for lunch, but aside from that it was a very uneventful day. What their visit has reminded me is that I am determined to be able to understand Monica’s father, as currently I can only understand a few words he says. This is one of my goals for the year!

Sunday:

While still relaxed, Sunday was a bit more eventful. The people in Chile love a party, and so most weekends you can hear music (both traditional Chilean and English) playing from at least two houses in the community. As such, we didn’t get much sleep during the night so Breakfast was a bit later than normal.

On Sunday, Emily and I decided that we would cook lunch for Mónica and Miguel (Lindsay had gone to Max’s grandad’s birthday party), and so we went out with them to buy ingredients. Since we usually have lunch at around 3pm at the weekend, once we got back home (at around 1:45), we went straight to the kitchen to start preparing the food.

We had decided to cook apple crumble for pudding (very traditionally English) and pasta bake for the main meal (less traditionally English), so I was put in charge of peeling the apples which was fine, other than I had to do it with a knife since Mónica doesn’t own a peeler. While I think I sacrificed more chunks of apple than I should have, I can say that I’ve learnt a new skill (are you proud of my basic cooking skills mum?)

We managed to finish on time, and it was a great success! Mónica and Miguel loved both courses, and we’ve decided that we want to cook more for them since it’s so nice to give something back to them as they do so much for us.

We’re thinking that we want to cook them an English breakfast soon (perhaps over the long weekend we have coming up), but we have some technical things to sort out first – they don’t have ‘sausages’ as we know them here and I haven’t seen bacon, so maybe we’ll make pancakes instead. Regardless, I think this is something we can start doing for them, which will be really nice.

So much has happened this week! It’s been slightly mad but it’s been great getting into all the school activities. I’ve been told by Filipo that there will be more musical things happening soon and in the academic year and that I need to join in, so hopefully I can find a violin soon! I really miss playing, and it would be great to get more involved in the music side of things at the school.

This coming weekend is a long weekend, as such I won’t be back at school until Wednesday. Since this week has been kind of uneventful (4th grade English exams have meant that the workshops have been cancelled), I think I’ll post my next update on Tuesday or Wednesday next week so that I can talk more about the long weekend. I hope you’re all having a good day,

Chao!