Year in Chile illustrates cultural differences for RHS Spanish teacher |

Year in Chile illustrates cultural differences for RHS Spanish teacher

Kay Vasilakis

If you have a child interested in becoming a foreign exchange student, or if you are intrigued by South American culture and the lure of the Andes, come on down to the Fireside Restaurant in Rifle at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29, and learn firsthand knowledge from an experienced traveler.Rifle High School Spanish teacher Jennifer VanLandingham will be giving a presentation to the Rifle Rotary Club. She will be speaking about her Fulbright scholarship and solo trip to Chile and South America last year, and how this experience has helped her understand the Chilean people.VanLandingham was a little fearful during the beginning of this first trip to Chile and South America, especially during the 9/11 crisis. “I was terrified for my family, friends, and country, and also was concerned about myself, being American and possibly being a target,” she said. “The embassy kept sending us warnings to keep a low profile, not do interviews and keep them informed of our whereabouts.” She found out the weather would prove to be the most challenging part of the whole trip. When she left Colorado in July, it was the peak of winter in the southern hemisphere. The climate in southern Chile is Pacific Northwest-like, but the seasons are opposite of our way of life. There are frequent earthquakes and tremors, and lots of volcanos.The hole in the ozone layer is a danger to people living in southern Chile, which is close to Antarctica. VanLandingham experienced troubling sun allergies and 50-level sun block protection was an everyday necessity.She learned to cook and heat with a woodstove, the area’s only heat source. Her English students were expected to build a fire for heat in the public school classroom’s woodstove.”Even though there’s real poverty and more economic hardships than here, Chile is a stable, strong and secure country,” VanLandingham said. “I never felt afraid once I figured that out. I really don’t see it as a Third World country, even though it is considered to be so. I will be going back during my vacations and plan to work with my friends there to offer cultural tours.”For information, call her at 984-2329.She discovered the best part of her journey was the Chilean people. Since returning to Rifle, she misses the people of Chile, who she says treated her like a princess. The friends she made held nine going-away parties for her at the end of the year. Now she e-mails her former students and her colleagues, and has started a pen pal program with her students in Chile and Rifle.”They opened up their homes and hearts to me and made me realize that, no matter where you are, it’s the human relationships that you make along the way that really matter in this life,” she said.The Riverside School 8th grade Read-A-Thon is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 24. The Read-A-Thon has been successful for the past six years as a fundraiser for the Riverside 8th grade banquet. Students receive pledges based on how many pages they read, and look forward to bringing their music, snacks, and stuffed toys. They wear fluffy slippers and pretend they’re at a big sleep over, except they are all reading during the half day devoted to the Read-A-Thon. “It’s visually exciting and fun,” said 8th grade English teacher and organizer Jack Jabbour, who will be unable to attend this year because he will be attending the Lucy Calkins Reading Conference in Denver.A big welcome back to Wamsley Elementary School Principal Larry Matthews!

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