A Day in the Life of a Chilean Child
By Caroline Hulin
The time is 8:00 a.m. and breakfast has already been prepared by our Nana. On this June day, the temperature reads 0 degrees Celsius. It is the end of fall and winter is coming in Santiago, Chile, in the Southern Hemisphere. Our mother wakes me and my brother up with lots of kisses and we get ready for school. If I want to shower, I must turn on the water and continue to get ready as the pipes heat up; there is no central heat in the house.
Once I am dressed in my school uniform of polo shirt, pants, and a jacket, I head downstairs to eat a breakfast of toast, boiled eggs, avocado, and a smoothie. My brother has a special diet because he wants to become a professional soccer player; junk food is limited in the household.
Our parents rush us out the door or the honk of the bus driver lets us know it is time to go. The bus is a van that can transport 10-12 children. The Chilean roads are windy and cramped, with cars racing past each other. I stare out the window at the snowcapped Andes. The school campus is located on a main road; as we get closer, I see some children with their nanas walking to school.
The schools in the surrounding areas start and end at different times, to help ease traffic problems. Our mother skillfully makes her way into the car line and sends us love as we exit the car; we will not see her until 8:00 p.m. tonight. Today, the Chile national football team will play Germany; therefore, we will have a pep rally and will view the game in the school auditorium. Football, also known as soccer, is a way of life for us. The school is decorated in red, white, and blue for the game and you can hear students yelling the team chant, “Chi Chi Chi Le Le Le Viva Chile.”
Our school focuses on learning English. From pre-K to 6th grade, the subjects are taught in English; we also have a Spanish class. For the past few weeks, an American from Louisiana has been staying with us in our house. Our school has partnered with a study abroad program that brings American teachers to our school, and so we have a firsthand experience with a native English speaker to help us with our own English abilities. She only speaks a little Spanish; therefore, it is difficult for us to communicate sometimes. But we are helping each other learn one another’s native language.
The game is at 2:30 p.m. We gather in the auditorium, mostly around the heaters. Like our house, the school does not have any central heating or air conditioning; therefore, space heaters are in every single room. The auditorium is loud with the excitement of Chilean pride. The game ends in a tie.
The buses are waiting for us at the front of the school. Willie, our bus driver, opens the door and gives us each an “alfajores,” round cookies made with dulce de leche. I ride the bus home, while my brother goes to soccer practice. I am the last person to get off the bus, because our house is up in the mountains. When I get home, my Nana has a snack of coffee and a sandwich with avocado and cheese ready for me; I also eat some “tritons,” which are similar to Oreos. I go upstairs to do some homework and play video games until my brother gets home at 7:00 p.m. with my father.
When they arrive, the house is alive with laughter and affection from my dad. We play soccer inside the house as our Nana cooks dinner: white rice, chicken, and carrots. My mother arrives around 8:00 p.m. and she once again smothers us with kisses. My brother and I eat dinner as our parents eat a small snack; their fitness trainer is coming over tonight and so they will delay their meal until 9:30 p.m. We talk about the upcoming events for this weekend: a BBQ at our uncle’s house for our cousin’s birthday, my brother’s soccer game, and another BBQ with my father’s parents for Father’s Day. My brother and I continue kicking around the soccer ball as my parents go upstairs to train.
We settle down for the night around 10:30 p.m. Tomorrow, it might snow. My body is starting to feel unwell; I hope I do not get the flu like our American visitor. As I lay down, staring at my Ronaldo poster, I drift off to sleep wondering what tomorrow will bring.
This narrative was written by a graduate student who participated in a study abroad program sponsored by Louisiana State University. The purpose was to participate in a hands-on teaching experience in Santiago, Chile. The student spent three weeks teaching side-by-side with a Chilean educator at a private school and stayed with a family whose child was enrolled there. The student was able to learn about a new culture and enhance her Spanish-speaking skills while also supporting her home stay family’s English proficiency.
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