Day 3 – Work hard Play hard

After just 6 hours of sleep we were woken up by one of the groups. With loud music they entered the classroom, turned on the blinding lights and did a dance in the center of the room encouraging us to wake up. Each group is assigned to three tasks throughout the week, waking everyone up and making breakfast, cleaning the bathrooms and cooking dinner. I woke up freezing and had actually woken up a few times on the cold hard ground because I couldn’t quite figure out how to sleep comfortably on my back because my side just wasn’t working with the ground so hard. We were supposed to be up by 6 rather than 7 so behind schedule already, we were told to eat our bread, brush our teeth, change and board the buses as quickly as possible. After breakfast we all gathered in a large circle and one of the staff members from TECHO had come for this day and had read us a story written about poverty and the disadvantaged in Latin America. This was to get us prepared and motivated for another day of tiring work. I had learned from the previous day and went to the site prepared with even more layers than I had already been wearing but it was still freezing outside. We finished installing the poles at lunchtime and awaited the big truck to drive by to deliver the panels of the floor. ImageSeñorita Juana and her daughters came out mid morning to give us cookies and juice and to watch the progress and converse with us. The daughters were both very intrigued and also confused by me when I explained that I wasn’t from Chile and spoke very poor Spanish. They spent some time trying to say my name “Chel-sea” correctly. Maria, the five year old, got it down rather quickly and was parading around saying it over and over.After lunch we spent all afternoon installing the floor and adjusting the panels. In order to measure the correct height we used a tube with water inside that you put up to the height of the pole and when the level is equal on both poles they are the same height.We were very meticulous about it however it got a little messed up and we had to adjust it for the floor to fit correctly by digging some up and readjusting the heights. This was very tedious and rather disappointing because we had spent so many hours already working to get them perfect. ImageAfter the sun went down it got even colder and Señorita Juana invited us in for tea time. We had to go in groups because she didn’t have enough cups for all of us. This is where we got to talk to her even more and learn about how she dropped out of school in the 3rd grade and had been living in this house with her new husband for 4 years now and works as a maid. The family seemed very pleased with our progress and liked to spend time up the hill with us as we worked. ImageWe had to stop working when it got too dark outside so we all gathered in their living room area. The 10 of us just barely fit but with the family we spilled out of the covered area and toward the middle of their property where they have a fire pit. Outside of their current house the father has two cars that he is working on, we learned that he works odd jobs here and there working as a mechanic as well as other things. Next to the cars they have two large pens with chickens, ducks, rabbits and they even have a pig. We learned early on that they have no bathroom so when we have to go we walk to the other side of the hill. They have limited water that is delivered to them by the state. They have a large generator that is very loud and runs two large lamps used for light at night. It gets dark early so without that light they wouldn’t be able to do much. I couldn’t help but wonder what they do in their house all day. Juanita goes to school and takes an hour-long bus, waking up at 7 every morning but Maria is too young for school. I learned that Juanita wants to grow up to be a doctor because she has a sick aunt, although I wonder what the likelihood of this dream coming true really is with her limited access to education and the family obligations she has here. I do wish her the best of luck though. The surrounding area of their house is very beautiful with lots of mountains and open space. Their home internally is very dirty, old and torn apart.

This was another day of getting to know each other so I learned a lot more about the family and also the other students I was working with. They all ask me questions about America. A few speak English so they were very excited to practice their language skills with me. The more tired I get from the early mornings and the long days, the harder it gets to keep up conversations in Spanish. The high school students are great at speaking very quickly and cracking short, fast jokes that for the most part seem to go right over my head. They do like to make jokes with their broken English to me as well so at least I’m not missing out completely.

After getting back to the school I changed into even warmer clothes and got into my sleeping bag intending to close my eyes for just a minute but ended up taking a solid nap before it was time to gather in the cafeteria once again. There are two university students who are in charge of our school and they are the facilitators who talk to us before it is time to leave for the day and debrief us afterwards. They run the games in the cafeteria before dinner. Today the game was a bit of a challenge for me so I found myself sitting out for most of it. Everyone sat in a large circle. The rules were explained rather quickly as if everyone had played this game at least once in their life previously. One person is “it” and they walk around the circle as music is playing and find someone’s lap to sit on and say “Te gusta” directly translating to “do you like me” but I learned early on that this really means something more along the lines of “are you interested in me romantically.” I learned that one when I told my cousin that “I liked” her boyfriend after meeting him for the first time..woops! Then the person responds with a yes in which case everyone must get up and runs for their lives to sit down in an open seat so they are not the last one standing. If the responder says no they must follow up with a because. For example, “No because I don’t like people who wear hats” then everyone wearing a hat must run to find another open seat. What made it incredibly challenging was when each responder said their terms everyone got up and ran before my brain could even process what they had said let alone check to see if that particular item pertained to me. The most entertaining for me was when they said blonde and if you’ve never been to Chile you wouldn’t know that I stick out like a sore thumb with my naturally dirty blonde hair. Thus, their standards for blonde are rather low so everyone who got up to change seats, to me would be considered to have light brown hair. Now, going into my third year of college I haven’t played these types of games in awhile however remembering back to my high school days our games weren’t nearly as rowdy. If someone makes a mistake or loses a game everyone sings a little chant while clapping, which is then followed by the person doing one of four embarrassing things that they are able to choose from. 1) Shake their butt 2) tell a joke 3) slow dance with their fellow mistake maker or 4) pole dance.

After dinner, which was the canned fish turned into patties with a side of rice, everyone gathered in the cafeteria for another activity. Everyone sat on the ground in a circle, the lights were dimmed and everyone closed their eyes. The facilitators stood in the middle and explained that the 87 of us represented all of Chile. They read aloud questions such as, what is the percentage of households who have running water in Chile or what percentage of children will graduate high school if their parents had dropped out. The facilitators then tap people on the shoulder to stand up. One person is asked to make a guess, usually very off from the shocking reality and then everyone opens their eyes to see visually the number of families representing that particular statistic. Some of the statistics were very alarmingly high and it was even more startling when you saw the number of people standing compared to the number still seated. After the activity we were split into our groups to discuss both the experience of the day, the conversations we had had with the family as well as how the activity made us feel. Many pointed out that they knew poverty was a big issue in Chile but didn’t realize that some of the statistics were so great and some of the circumstances pertained to so many people.

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