Pichilemu Language School is run by an incredibly warm and welcoming guy named Andres. By happy coincidence, Romy knew Andres and she put us in touch with him after we expressed our hope to get the kids into some Spanish classes. After speaking to Andres on the phone we arranged to drop by the school situated on the corner of the two main streets of town. When we arrived we were very happy to be greeted by a small Canadian flag in the school’s entrance way. It turns out Andre’s partner, Maria, is an expat Quebec and the two of them and their wee daughter have made a very nice life for themselves in this wonderful seaside town. They had met in Canada where Andres had been living and working for many years. He has actually seen more of our country than we have, having spent a great deal of time on the West Coast, northern Alberta, Quebec and Nova Scotia. He was a great guy to chat with as he was very well educated on Canadian and Chilean history and has great interest in current events. The school he ran specializes in English instruction for locals and Spanish for visitors. We enrolled Nora and Gabe into a week long crash course, with three hours instruction each day. They worked with a great young Spanish teacher named Catarina, who they were immediately smitten with, as she found ways to incorporate Harry Potter references and sports activities. They covered important basics such as numbers, common phrases and a collection of key nouns. As a result, the kids actually enjoyed attending and happily spent their days in a familiar school setting. Secretly it seemed they both had missed the pattern and predictability of a regular school day.
Andres also has a passion for surfing and when he found out we wanted to give it a try he immediately volunteered to get us set up with gear and provide some introductory lessons the next time the tide was just right. A couple of a days later, we had a fantastic time out on the waves. The whole process began with the delicate business of wedging ourselves into ultra snug fitting wet suits and negotiating an intimidating number of velcro fittings, snaps and zippers. Finally after much straining and hopping we left the surf shop suited up, long boards in tow, excited about finally getting into the cold, dark water. On shore, Andres went over the basics but suggested the real learning only happens in the waves. Out we went, into the froth ready for our first struggles against gravity and the incoming might of the Pacific. After figuring out how to stay on the rocking roiling boards, we started to get the hang of picking just the right moment to paddle away from a breaking wave and when to attempt to hoist up and balance on top. These steps seemed straight forward on shore but were considerably trickier to pull off whilst being shot forward by massive oceanic energy. None of us actually mastered all of the required moves in the correct sequence but we enjoyed various stages of success on our first time out and we also discovered how much fun it is being rocked and spun in crashing water. We vowed to make surfing a must in future days in Australia and Bali. We also came away with huge respect for the skills acquired by all the amazing surfers we could see off in the distance, tackling the really big waves about 200m past where we were confronting much tamer offerings. We left the beach immensely happy and with well earned respect for what a wave can do to a frail human being caught in its grip.
Maria, Andre’s partner, is a language teacher at the local Montessori school and was very open to our request to visit with the kids to check out first hand what education looked like for her students in this eclectic little town. We were so happy that we did as the day turned out to be one of our most memorable in the trip to date. Our two were asked to give a small presentation on both Canada and our trip. Nora did a fantastic job in the role of teacher, working with the dozen students who ranged in age between 8 and 12 years old. She showed them a slideshow of snippets of our life in Toronto and some of the big sights from our trip. It was a really nice experience sitting back observing the student centered learning promoted by this lovely little school. Situated about 50 meters back and up from roaring surf, the physical environment was ever present and set a magical tone and texture to the learning. Nora and Gabe spent the morning learning and teaching songs, games and exchanging small snippets of conversation in English and Spanish. Everyone enjoyed themselves so much that we were invited back the next day where we spent several hours out on the beach with the host class teaching them some of the big group games Nora and had learned at various camps and programs. It was a fantastic morning, eliciting whoops and laughter from all of the kids. The adults were even invited in on the fun and it was a memorable day for all of us.