LETTER FROM THOMAS TAKEZOE…
First of all I would like to thank everyone once again for the help and support you gave me in raising the £4700 that I needed in order to come out to Valparaiso in Chile to teach English for the organisation Project Trust. It has now been four months since I left Britain and I´d like to tell everyone what I´ve been up to.
When I left England on the 19th of August it didn´t seem like I was going away for a long time. It felt like a normal holiday. Even when I arrived in Santiago after twenty hours of flights nothing seemed quite real. I just felt like a tourist, staying in a hostel and going out a for a meal. It was only when I arrived in Valparaiso and was introduced to my host family that I really felt I was going to be here for a year. Valparaiso is a very bohemian place. There are lots of artists, craftsmen and musicians here. There are many arts and music festivals throughout the year. There is always something going on – you just have find it. Valparaiso is a port town surrounded by 42 inhabited hills, each quite unique since they were initially inhabited by different communities of immigrants (Spanish, Germans, Italians and British). It is very interesting just to wander up and down them, although the majority are very steep.
The Chilean people are very welcoming and I felt at home right away. The family I live with is quite large: seven, not including me and my companion who is also with Project trust. There are always countless people coming in and out of the house, both family and friends. Chilean culture is very much centred around the family and we are treated like two extra sons.
When we first arrived here we were given two weeks to settle in before we even met the school children! Chileans are very relaxed about work and often put things off saying ―manana, manana‖. Our school is a partially state funded and partially private school (from reception to year 8, 14 year olds). There are three types of school in Chile: state, partial and prívate. The state education isn´t very good at all and everyone wants the partial schools to become free state schools, which is the reason for the protests in Chile at the moment. All the state schools are on walkouts so their students haven´t been to school for at least 5 months! Our school isn´t that politically active as the children are so young but the teachers all oppose the current education system. There are protests by university and secondary students at least once a week in Valpo, since the national congress is here, always ending in clashes with the police who use teargas and water cannons regularly.
Our first classes were with year 7s and 8s, which were interesting to say the least! My partner and I have a small room in the school where one of us takes half of the class whilst the other one stays in the classroom and teaches English there. All classes have 40 students and we take 20 each, so the going was tough straight away. Chilean children love to chat and when there´s 20, it´s hard to get anything done. Having only just left school myself, I found it quite difficult to discipline them and relate to the role of a teacher. I have since got used to them and their ways just as they have got used to me and now the classes go a lot more smoothly. We gradually took on more classes and now we teach every year and class including kindergarten.
With the younger children we take the whole class together, my partner and I and another teacher just to supervise. I find the younger children a lot easier to teach because less disciplining is required and they are a lot more enthusiastic. They are very sweet and all call us tio (uncle). We take English workshops after school with each year apart from the really young ones, which is usually a class of ten or less. These are much more informal and the children really want to learn.
Once a week we also teach English in a Jogar de Cristo (home of christ) for the elderly and abused girls with nowhere else to go. We teach only the girls that want to learn, which is usually 4 of them out of the 15 who live there. They girls range from age 12 to 20 and they live in a very peaceful and spacious compound. Now we have got used to it here, we are thinking about starting an art club and a ceilidh dance club after school for the children.
Thank you all again and I hope you enjoyed reading this brief background to my project.