Name: Jameisha Washington
Hometown: Santa Barbara, CA
Volunteer Service: VS3, April- November 2013
From the first day I landed and felt the crisp air of Patagonia, I have been in awe of this beautiful place. Every season here has been a gift, spring especially. I live in Coyhaique, which is the capital of Region XI: Aysen. Although, there’s still a region further south than us, Aysen feels very isolated and distant from other parts of Chile. Coyhaique is a relatively small town, situated between rivers and snow-capped mountains. As for the culture there’s a saying here in Patagonia, “El que viene apura’o a la Patagonia viene a perder el tiempo. He who is in a hurry loses time.” For me this has been a very rewarding yet challenge idea. Coming from the hustle and bustle mentality of California, to the very relaxed setting of Patogonia was a big culture shock.
English Club, hot chocolate, and playing cards
Coyhaique has that typical small town feel, where everyone knows everyone. Almost without a doubt when I leave my house I will run into someone I know. One of the things I will miss the most is the cheerfulness and hearty spirit of the people here. I feel really connected with the people here: students, teachers, and people I have met in town. In my free time, I usually spend time outside hiking or running. Some days when it’s cold, as it will be, I go to one of the quaint cafes in the center of town.
Jameisha’s classroom, with students from 3A
I work at Liceo Josefina Aguirre Montenegro a full municipal school. The students I work with come from a variety of backgrounds, many have broken families and generally speaking they are not motivated to learn English. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun, and that students won’t learn. The best part of the school days are times between classes or activities, and having a brief moment to connect one on one with a student. Although, they’re sometimes shy or moody they’re usually beaming afterward. Their energy always energizes me.
Jameisha with her head teacher, Cecilia, during Students’ Day
I am very happy to be working with two English teachers Cecilia Gomez and Isabel Lira, who have been very supportive of my ideas. Most of my classes are split 45 minutes of team teaching, followed by 45 minutes of independent teaching.
Once a week I have an English club after school, as well as a workshop where students can practice conversational English skills. I have also spent much time working with our school soccer team, which has a winning record and many of my first year students!
My host family is definitely the biggest highlight for me. At first it was a little weird coming from living on my own for a few years to living at home again. But all in all it has been amazing. I live alone with Rudit, but have two host sisters, Johana and Karla. During Fiestas del Patrias, I met up with my host family in Valdivia, and we were able experience traditional Chilean foods and customs together. In the short amount of time I’ve spent with Johana and Karla, we’ve had great conversations and done numerous things together. Karla and I went skiing in Coyhaique, and the family also took me to karaoke for my birthday!
Jameisha and her host family in Valdivia
It wasn’t always picture perfect. I tend to be somewhat introverted, I like my space and I like privacy. At first I felt like my host mom was asking a lot of questions, but then I realized she was just trying to care of me. Also, it seems very normal to have my room re-cleaned while I’m out at school. We are definitely, different people but with time we figured things out. Now with only a few months left, I can’t really imagine not sitting and talking about the weather, politics, and life without Rudit.
I am so glad that I decided to come teach English in Chile. I have learned some much about the culture, the English language, and myself. It’s definitely, one of the hardest experiences I’ve had. Learning how to cope with lack of structure in the classroom, different concepts of time, to cold gray winter are just a few of the challenges. Some of the best times I have in Chile start when the plans fails. In essence, I’ve learned that life goes on plan or no plan, will you?