Name: Dave Hanegraaff
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
Volunteer Service: July-November 2010
Dave in Panguipulli
Panguipulli is an enchanting southern town home to about 30,000 Chileans. 30,000 is the official listing, however the actual number of people living in the town itself is closer to half of that. The other half live in the surrounding countryside, their only real relationship to the town being bi-monthly trips to visit Bigger (the local grocery store) and possibly to pay taxes. Needless to say, Panguipulli is a very small town.
Dave enjoying the great outdoors
I would describe the town myself, but former volunteer Amy Dorsey does a far better job in her blog. Her description is as follows:
“I got the tour of the town (which took all of 15 minutes), but it is on a BEAUTIFUL lake, surrounded by three snow capped volcanos and rolling green hills. All of the houses and stores in town have a log cabin sort of look with covered rustic porchways (it rains for 3 months straight in the winter) and it reminded me of some small vacation lake town in upstate New York or maybe out in Montana. Adorable. As we walked through the town, we were stopped at least every 2 minutes by some small child screaming “MISTER DAVE!!” and running into traffic to try to hug Dave. Their parents wouldn’t be far behind with hugs and kisses for both of us and invitations for Dave to come over for dinner as soon as he could.”
Yep, that sounds about right. Panguipulli is a small town that packs a lot of punch. Well, sort of. If you are looking for a rocking nightlife, or really, ANY nightlife, Panguipulli is not the town for you. While it does boast two bars and two discos, these establishments are hardly frequented outside of the summertime. Even if there are people there, they are most likely going to be: A. your students, B. your students’ parents, or C. your students with their parents. Leave the nightlife aside and go for a stroll on the beach. Unless it’s raining. It’s usually raining, so scratch the beach as well. I guess it’s time to accept another invitation to once, aka more pan con palta (bread and avocado, yum!). I gladly accept.
I taught in two elementary schools (Called escuelas básicas in Chile) and had a really good relationship with all of my kids. At first it was difficult because I’m not exactly an authoritarian, but after I got the hang of things it got a lot easier. I still keep in contact with all of my students and visit them whenever I get the chance. I love them all like family.
Dave with his head teacher and principal
After school I usually took a walk around town and sat by the lake. Unless it was raining, which it usually was. So, after school I usually took a walk home and had a nice nap. This might sound pretty fome (boring), but taking a nap in your warm bed to the sound of rain became one of my favorite things. I would then proceed to wake up and read a bit, or surf the internet at a snails pace, until it was time for once. This usually consisted of me eating, talking to my host family, trying to explain to my family what I was trying to say while talking, and then having my second portion of food. Needless to say, I got fat in Panguipulli.
Weekends either involved me traveling to one of the breathtaking spectacles the south had to offer with other volunteers or relaxing with one of the numerous families of Panguipulli that had adopted me. Either way, weekends in the south are synonymous with asados. An asado is a barbeque, a classic Chilean social event. But, who could resist spinning a heap of meat over an open fire for hours while drinking, talking, laughing and being confused about why everyone is laughing.
Dave with his Chilean friends
The most difficult part of my experience was leaving. I cried like a baby when I had to leave my school. I got really close with all of the kids, whether I taught them or not. On my last day almost every student in the school waited in line in the lobby and said goodbye to me one by one, many of them handing me cards and gifts. This is when the tears began to flow, but this isn’t where they stopped. Later that day I hiked to the bus station doing my best pied piper imitation, being trailed by a ton of kids. Turning the corner into the bus station I saw even more families and students with signs and gifts. I was running late so I rushed onto the bus as it was pulling out and got emotional while some people waved goodbye and the others chased down the bus. Everything about Panguipulli was amazing to me, so leaving was definitely the hardest part.
My experience with Chileans has been extremely positive. They have gone out of their way to make me feel comfortable in their country and the sense of pride they have for their country, in addition to the sense of unity that is obvious amongst the people nationwide is respectable and enviable.
I would say the biggest difference between Chile and the United States involves personal space. Typically speaking, there is not the same sense of boundaries in Chile as I am used to back home in the United States, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be shocking the first time you find your host mom rummaging through your things, until you realize she is cleaning your room up for you. Then it’s just shockingly nice. The constant display of affection can be difficult for many foreigners, but I loved having my students (and everyone else) greet me with a hug and kiss.
Be open to everything. Initially I was upset with my placement and I did not want to go to Panguipulli, now I consider Pangui to be my second home.