Tuesday, September 6, 2011

UACh Travelogue: My Adventure in Valdivia 1, by Georgia Wyche

Georgia Wyche, an English instructor at the VTLCI, was selected to work nine months at Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh) in Valdivia, Chile. In Chile, she will provide English classes to faculty, staff and students in cooperation with the Center for the Sciences and Global Sustainability and the School of English Language Pedagogy. Over the coming months, Georgia will write about her experiences in Valdivia.

This installment:  August 23 – August 28, 2011 
 My adventure in Valdivia, Chile has just begun. Yesterday, Loreto Quintana and Dr. German Reinhardt of the Center for the Sciences and Global Sustainability at Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh) picked me up at the airport. I was very lucky because they both welcomed me with open arms and were extremely helpful and hospitable. Of course I was exhausted after the long journey to Valdivia from Blacksburg, so they took me directly to my cabin located near the university.  I like the fact that most everything is within walking distance from my cabin.  Last night, I had a fairly good night’s sleep despite the cold weather. It’s quite an adjustment coming from summer in the northern hemisphere to winter in the southern hemisphere.

Today was my first full day to get out and enjoy Valdivia.  Loreto picked me up and we went to the supermarket and to a little shopping area.  It was very foggy this morning. Fortunately, the fog lifted and the sun came out around 11. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous today which seems to be out of the ordinary for the city. I guess I brought the sunshine with me. After shopping with Loreto, she drove me around downtown and the campus of UACh. I really enjoyed the tour, but of course it is a little overwhelming at first when you are trying to take in everything with every little detail.  Loreto brought me back to my place around lunchtime, so I made a simple lunch of pasta with marinara sauce and a banana.  I took a little siesta and then decided to take a nice long walk around downtown Valdivia myself.

Valdivia Fresh Market

The river Calle Calle divides Isla Teja and downtown Valdivia into two parts, so there is a bridge that connects both sides. While walking over the bridge, I admired the scenery around me, in particular the Calle Calle River and the sea lions. I was amazed to see these three large sea lions sprawled out on a dock in the river.  Once you are over the bridge, there is the large outdoor seafood, fruit and vegetable market on the boardwalk along the waterfront. I walked around and explored the market area and then kind of walked aimlessly through the downtown. I went into a few shops and observed the Chilean people in action. I felt very safe and didn’t feel too much like an outsider. The Chilean people seem to be very warm and open.  I look forward to meeting some new friends and becoming more proficient in Spanish.

My evening in Valdivia ended perfectly. Loreto and her family invited me to have dinner at their home. She prepared a traditional Chilean completo.  A completo is similar to an American hotdog, but it is bigger with more toppings.  Of course, we drank good Chilean beer with our completos. I really enjoyed this evening meal with Loreto and her family.

The atmosphere in Valdivia and throughout Chile is a little out of the ordinary these days due to the students and labor unions striking and holding demonstrations demanding equality and changes nationwide.  Everyday life is in turmoil these days.

I felt very welcome at my first formal meeting at UACh (Center for the Sciences and Global Sustainability). My colleagues are Loreto Quintana, Dr. German Reinhardt Vater, Claudio Gutierrez, and Sandor Mulsow. Next week, I begin conversation classes with students and faculty members. I’ll also observe and teach English classes at Hampton College, which is a bilingual (English-Spanish) K-12 private school located in Valdivia. Sandor Mulsow is the director of Hampton College. I’m looking forward to these teaching experiences and strengthening the relationship between Virginia Tech and Universidad Austral de Chile.

Next week is my first official workweek at UACh. I have several meetings scheduled. I am happy to be working despite the strike in Chile. Monday, I’m spending the day at a private bilingual (Spanish-English) school called Hampton College. My UACh colleague, Sandor Mulsow, works and is one of the founders of this bilingual private school. On Tuesday, I’m meeting with UACh faculty members who want help with their English. On Wednesday, I’m meeting with some UACh students who want informal English training until the strike is over and the university re-opens. On Thursday, I’m meeting with Andrea Lizasoain, the Applied Linguistics professor, to formulate a syllabus for next semester. I may be teaching applied linguistics the entire semester depending on when the national strike is over.  Planning and teaching applied linguistics is a challenge that I look forward to doing. I’m looking forward to working, meeting new people and having new experiences this upcoming week in Valdivia at UACh.

Wyche is featured on the UACh Veterinary School website, which describes the relationship between the VTLCI and UACh.

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