by Janna Elwell, Greenheart Travel Volunteer in Chile

Tuesday we only had our morning students because all of the older kids were invited to a local movie theater for the afternoon, leaving Maja, Silvia and myself with an open day. We decided to take the bus into Santiago and went to el Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos– a museum built in memory of the violations of human rights during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet here in Chile from 1973-1990. Although my understanding of everything we saw and read was somewhat limited, I felt the somber mood as we walked through the museum. I had read a little bit about the dictatorship in a travel book before I came, but I had no idea that conditions were as bad as they were.

Chileans suffered so much oppression, humiliation and torture, and I felt awful after seeing evidence and testimonials of such things. However their country takes pride in the progress it has made since those times, recognizing that they cannot re-write the past, but have the responsibility to improve the future. Truly, if anyone is intrigued by history I highly recommend reading more about this (Human Rights Violations). Despite the melancholic atmosphere in the museum, Maja, Silvia and I still had a very enjoyable time together. After a few hours in the museum we went to walk around Estacion Central, the main metro station downtown, and bought some of the most delicious empanadas I’ve ever eaten from a street vendor. It started to rain that afternoon (and didn’t let up until Thursday morning), but we had such a lovely time regardless!

Earlier this week Tía Sole asked the other volunteers and I to plan a variety of workshops to start for the kids. We planned a couple of activities for different age groups and started the first yesterday– la taller de cocina: a cooking workshop! The idea is to teach basic cooking skills to a group of 6 girls and then 6 boys the next week, alternating each week. Yesterday we made panqueques, a Chilean version of crepes. The entire process was much more chaotic than we anticipated, and we ended up with flour on every square inch of our kitchen floor and all over the majority of the girls, but we all had such an enjoyable time together. Now we are anxiously anticipating how things are going to go with the boys in the kitchen next week!

Overall I have had a fantastic week. Teaching English has been going great; I really feel like Sole and Sebastian are making progress. Teaching them has actually been helping me with my Spanish quite considerably too, which is fabulous! Obviously our lessons are taught in Spanish, and it has been especially helpful to look at the similarities and differences between the two languages as I teach them. I´m feeling like I´m understanding a lot more, and my vocabulary is slowly increasing. Slowly, but surely! The little kids don´t make much progress day to day, but as my relationship with each of them develops I have more and more fun with them every day. I don´t think there is anything more rewarding than seeing a child´s face light up when they see you and having them run at you just for a hug. I’ve only been here two weeks and these little kiddos have already stolen my heart. Things are continuing to pick up as I adapt to life here and my experience just keeps on getting better!