When I was first given my location assignment for where I was going to teach, I immediately hit up the Google to see where I would be. Upon seeing the images of a tiny, not particularly attractive town surrounded by nothing but dirt my first thoughts were “What the f*ck am I going to there.” I don’t think anyone dreams of being dropped off in the middle of the desert in a place where hardly anyone speaks your language. But it ended up being a pretty good thing.
Maria Elena may not photograph well, but she has a beautiful heart.
It is a pretty classic small town. In fact, it reminds me a little bit (a LITTLE bit) of Stars Hollow, the small Connecticut town from my favorite TV show of all time: Gilmore Girls. It’s fairly clean, about as clean as anything can be with all the dirt blowing around out here. There isn’t a lot of graffiti or much crime. People say hello to each other in the street or in the square, and do their shopping at small local markets. And quite a few interesting characters populate the town (maybe no one quite like Kirk, but who is). It has been called an ideal place to grow up, and most of my students tell me that they enjoy living here.
And just like Stars Hollow was known for having a town festival about every week, so too do the people of Maria Elena celebrate everything from national holidays to school anniversaries. My last week in town, the city was celebrating its anniversary. There were multiple concerts, shows, competitions, and even a special parade to mark the occasion. My leaving was also cause for a few class-time surprise parties that the kids threw for me. While teaching was definitely a struggle for me, the kids were super sweet and respectful and I am going to miss having fun with them.
I will also miss my host parents and the friends I made along the way. My last weekend in the Great Dry North, a bunch of us went to the beach to hang out and enjoy the change of scenery. We spent the time relaxing by the waves, going for chilly yet refreshing swims in the Pacific (I think my first time actually swimming in the Pacific), and hanging out listening to music. And barbequing, of course. I couldn’t have asked for a better last weekend here.
I spent the last few days enjoying the anniversary activities in town, saying goodbye to friends and students, and spending time with my host mom. I doubt it will be goodbye forever – especially since I will be back in Chile in January. I am looking forward to exploring new places with old friends.