Salar de Uyuni – World’s Largest Salt Flat

FUN! at Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

If you ever go to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile … then you must plan for at least 5 additional days to take the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia trip that departs from San Pedro.  Back in May 2010, I took a trip with a few friends from Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama (See post: Sandboarding in San Pedro, July 2010).  There’s LOTS to do in San Pedro alone, but if you’ve got the time, definitely try to fit Uyuni in.  The highlight of the trip is seeing the world’s largest salt flat (yes, we did a lick test and it’s definitely salt), and if you’re into photography it’s a great place to take neat perspective photos.  (See below).  In addition to the salt flat, the 4-5 days Uyuni trip includes overnight stays in accommodations built entirely out of salt (bed too!), see herds of alpacas running through the fields, visits to various colourful lagoons (colours are different based on its mineral components), including the Red Lagoon where we saw hundreds of pink (and white!) flamingoes.  Just beware of one thing: the altitude is pretty high up there, so take some time to adjust in San Pedro before embarking on this amazingly fun, and beautiful, Uyuni trip.

It's all about perspective.

Crossing the border: From Chile to Bolivia on a 4x4

Flamingoes at the Red Lagoon, Bolivia

The White Lagoon, Bolivia

Alpacas racing across the road.

With our awesome Bolivian tour guide/4x4 driver. Vamos!

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Smokie & Stefano’s “I Need You Now”

Moved my life back to Canada about two months ago = a lot of changes going on and things to re-adapt to.  (Reverse culture shock is a real deal.)  But, change is good.  It keeps us on our toes, makes us versatile, and allows us to reflect on our experiences and re-evaluate our decisions, makes us stronger and confident.  :)

One of the (many) things that’s been different being home than my last two years in Chile is … watching great talent on English-speaking television.  (The only English-speaking reality “talent” shows that I got in Chile was America’s Next Top Model … is that considered talent?)  Last night, I heard some amazing performances on television – and this one stood out and really touched my heart.  Yes, I am saying that American Idol brought tears to my eyes.  Change is good.

Here’s Smokie Norful‘s “I Need You Now,” sung last night by Stefano.

Not a second
Or another minute
Not an hour
Or another day

But at this moment with my arms outstretched
I need you to make a way
As you’ve done so many times before
Through a window or an open door

I stretch my hands to you
Come rescue me
I need you…
Right away

I need you now
I need you now
I need you now
I need you now

Not another second
Or another minute
Not aother hour of another day
But Lord I need you right away

If I never needed you before
To show up and restore
All of the faith that I let slip
While I was yet searching the world for more

The true best friend I have indeed
You’re my best friend I know indeed
I stretch my hands to thee
Come rescue me
I need you right away

The agony of being alone
The fear of doing things on my own
The test and trials that come to make me strong
The feelings of guilt, hurt, shame, and defeat
The way the trials that beat upon me
But to know Lord that in you I’ve got victory

I need you now, Lord, I need you now (Oh, wo, wo)
I need you right now, right now, right now
I need you now

Oh not another second
Not another minute, Lord
Can’t wait another day (oh…)
Oh Lord, please make a way
Oh Lord, Oh Lord, Mmmmm, Yeah

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Compliments by Barbican flutters my stomach

Barbican Centre

Image by Toni Kaarttinen via Flickr

Had my final concert with the kinder students at our school’s Open Day last Friday.  It was a huge success and, though there’s always room for improvement, I am very proud of what these 5-6 year olds were able to accomplish musically this year.

What caught me by surprise was to receive an email this morning from my Head of music saying that one parent had spoke to her, complimenting how she loved the energy that the children sang with and the song selection of the concert.  Said parent was the former Arts Administrator of the world famous Barbican Centre in London, England. :o  (I’m thrilled!)

I’ve done what I can with these kindergarteners – now it’s up to them to follow the path of music.  Which leaves me with lookin’ forward to directing my next children’s choir.  And now that I’m leaving this school, I wonder who and where my next students will be?   Hmm …

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Perfect Timing For Your Best Running via Runner’s World

With Santiago’s Nike 10K coming up in two weeks, I’ve been trying to take better care of what I put on my plate and train more consistently.  The key word is trying.  The other day I had a bowl of Cheerios with milk and a plate of chips before training (with Santiago’s Nike Running Team).  Food choice = bad idea.  After doing crunches, lunges, jumps … etc … and running, my body was left with a huge stomachache!  So, to any of you runners out there, would you kindly like to shed some light on what you snack on before running?  I usually go after work, around 7:30 pm, which means I gotta eat something before ’cause it’ll be close to 10 pm before I’m back home.

And if you’re a newbie like me, or even considering running, you might find Runner’s World a good resource.  Here’s an interesting article I’d read the other day that might inspire you  :)

Running Tips

Perfect Timing

When to train, eat, stretch, and do everything to run your best.

Shop for Shoes
Ideally, you want to purchase a new pair of running shoes before they lose their effectiveness, which is around 400 to 500 miles, says Martyn Shorten, Ph.D., a biomechanist and head of Runner’s World’s shoe-testing program. It’s a big range but that’s because you, not just the shoes, are part of the equation. If you land hard on your heels or are a big runner, you’ll wear down a shoe faster than lighter runners or midstrikers do. So go by feel; if the cushioning feels worn, it likely is. Or look at the sole. If the rubber on the side or bottom is worn, it’s time for a new pair. The onset of more-than-usual aches can also signal that a new pair is in order (overdue, actually).  Read more >>

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Welcome to Music!

My music classroom for this year! :D

I’ve realized that in my two years here in Santiago, Chile I haven’t blogged much, if at all, about my job.  And now that I’m about to leave the country in December (yes, I’ve submitted my resignation letter) I thought that there’s no better time to talk about it than now.  For two years, I’ve been working as the Infant House music teacher in The Grange School, a British-Chilean private preparatory school which is literally a 7 minute walk from my apartment.  The school is located next to a country club, has a big campus with the Andes mountains in its background, and with students from pre-kinder to 4th medio (the equivalent of grade 12 in Ontario).  I teach in the Infant House building, which has six kinder classes and six pre-kinder classes of 24 students each.  I see these children three times a week, twice in during their music lessons and once during the choir period.  Though each class has a teacher and teaching assistant, I am a subject teacher which means I teach these classes alone.  Admittedly, my first year was rather difficult (what with, at the time, being a recent grad therefore first year teacher in a new country learning a new language with children in their first years of school therefore not knowing any school rules and speaking only Spanish).  I’ve since learned the ropes, including the many behaviour management and motivation tactics, the games and songs, and the language.  And you know what?  I’m loving it!   Teaching is a never-ending learning experience, and I know that it can only get better in the years ahead.

This year, I’ve been given a large classroom in the Infant House building which is a big improvement from my first year (when I taught in a separate building).  Being in the same building as the students and teachers has allowed them to know me better and vice versa.  It’s also made me closer to resources, the office (and principal), the staff room (where the tea’s stashed!), and most importantly, the washrooms (NOT to be mistaken as the laundry room as so many people here seem to confuse that word with.  I was baffled when, during my first day at work, they told me that there were no washrooms here.  People here use the words “bathroom” or “toilet” instead).

Haven’t seen my colourful music class?  Well, check it out!

The front of my music class.

In my first year, I was given a music classroom in a separate building from the Infant House, underneath the chapel.  It had a big space, comfortable carpet flooring and risers for children to sit on when singing (for proper posture).  Unfortunately,  it also had a few disadvantages: a) it was far from the Infant House building and which meant leaving me literally alone with 24 students and no one near me to ask for help when needed, and b) there were no bathroom facilities nearby (a necessity for 4-6 year olds).  Check out the difference from this year’s classroom to last year’s (below).

My first music classroom.

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69-700-33: The untold stories of the rescued Chilean miners

Once again Chile‘s made international news, this time with the amazing rescue story of the 33 trapped miners who survived living in the refuge 700 metres underground for 69 days.  This amazing rescue story has been covered worldwide.  In fact, all the classrooms in our building had the live news broadcasting on their interactive whiteboards during the day.  But, what you might not know are some of the other stories related to the rescue of the miners which, I suspect, are stories only known by those who watched the local Santiago news.  Or in my case, heard over lunch at work.

Rescue plans story: The rescue capsule that transported the miners one by one to the surface was based on a NASA design with specific body size and weight in mind.  It was a concern that one of the miners were too large to fit into the capsule (although, after being underground for 69 days with a temperature of over 30 degrees Celsius, he had a good chance of losing the excess weight).  If not, the proposed solution?  Dislocate both arms to fit into the capsule.  The disadvantage?  It takes the capsule about 30 minutes to make it to the surface.  (Luckily, I did not hear of this happening, so I am assuming that this gentleman made it safely with his shoulders in tack.)

Unfortunate young’un story:  The youngest person who was trapped underground wasn’t actually a miner.  He, in his early 20s and the youngest of the 33, was a truck driver who was sent to deliver some supplies to the miners.

Love story:  After the initial successful contact with the miners, both videos and letters were sent back and forth between those who were above ground and the miners.  Many of these letters were for their loved ones.  For one miner, he decided to propose to his long-term girlfriend when he came out of the capsule (whom he’d been living with for about ten years).  But, I must go back and emphasize the “s” in the words “loved ones” because another miner had not only an ex-wife who came to the mine to watch his rescue but also his lover.  It was said that he told his ex-wife that he’ll continue to pay alimony but he’s going to move in with his lover.

To briefly summarize the story of the 33 miners:  It started back in late July when the mining company in Mina San José, Copiapo (in the northern desert region of Chile) was directed to shut down due to the lack of safety measures being taken.  Then, in August 5, 2010, the mine collapses and the 33 miners were trapped 700m underground: 32 Chileans and 1 Bolivian.  17 days later (August 22), the first contact with the miners was finally made with a mere note saying: “We are good in the refuge the 33.”  Then, at 00:12 of October 13, 69 days later, the first of the thirty-three miners was rescued via the capsule.  A few of the strongest and healthiest were rescued first, followed by the weakest and most ill, and ending with the healthiest including the captain of the miners.

Video #1:  First video contact with the trapped miners after being underground without fresh supplies for 17 days.

Video #2:  Rescue of the second miner as he emerges from the space-shuttle-like capsule.

Chile's President Piñera holding miner's note: "We are good in the refuge the 33."

Photo credit: La Razon

Video still of trapped Chilean miners.

Photo credit:  Los Angeles Times

Rescue capsule lowered to rescue trapped miners.

More on this:

“First miners emerge from underground”,  Santiago Times (October 13, 2010)  The English newspaper of Santiago.

“Reencuentro de Florencio Ávalos con su familia dio inicio al rescate de los 33″, El Mercurio (October 13, 2010)  A detailed article from the perspective of the father of the first miner rescued.

Cartoon sent to me from a friend :)

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Unhooked and Unsettled: Scared of Marriage (via Reactionary Century)

So, I logged on today to actually post about my trip to Bolivia’s salt flats when this blogger’s post (and purple “My Little Pony” looking unicorn) caught my eye. Read it. Identified with some if it. Liked it. Personally, I’m beginning to wonder if marriage is in the cards for me … whether I actually in fact want it or it is the pressure of culture/family/friends/religion that make me think that I might. I’m pretty sure many people out (t)here think the same, (at least) once in their lives. I’m just not sure if “being scared” is my reason for thinking these thoughts though … I think on my end, it’s more of a lack of trust.  Then again, living in the capital of a country (Santiago, Chile) where people don’t usually get married until their late thirties or forties (because apparently you’re not an adult until you’ve reached the big 3-0), where men think that the women are divas and call marriage “matri-suicidio” and the women think the men are clueless and immature, where foreigners live here temporarily (from mere months to a few years), many of whom are lone wolves seeking change and adventure … for these reasons it’s hard for me to think that marriage is at all necessary.  That is, until one wants to have children and raise a family.  And at this point in life, teaching music to three hundred 4-6 year olds is enough kids for now.

Unhooked and Unsettled: Scared of Marriage By Nicolle This week, in a conversation about engagements, a regular blog reader commented to me, “You hate that stuff.” By “stuff,” he meant marriages, engagements, bachelorette parties, wedding showers, wedding ceremonies, receptions and diamond rings. I responded defensively and got slightly upset that he’d think such a (in my mind) false thing. “You write a blog about it,” he continued. “About hating that stuff.” Let me take this opportunity … Read More

via Reactionary Century


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