Chile: Life Abroad

Hi y’all!  Another long, overdue post here.  I figured for this one, I’d talk a bit about day to day life with my host family.  To start, I am teaching in a small high school in Cabildo, but am living in the small city of La Ligua (it is about a 20-minute commute).  Both cities are in the Valparaíso Region about 2-2.5 hours north of Santiago.  La Ligua has about 33,000 residents and is the largest city around (besides Valparaíso and Vina del Mar which are at the coast).  People from smaller towns like Cabildo come to La Ligua to shop at actual supermarkets and pharmacies instead of smaller mom and pops shops.

Home = La Ligua, Book = Cabildo

La Ligua

My host family is a family of 4 plus a family friend, so there are 6 of us total in the house.  My host dad, Marcelo is actually the director (principal) at my school and my host mom, Nancy, is a history teacher there.  They have 2 boys, Alejandro (15) and Eduardo (10) and the family friend, Edgardo (26) is almost like another host brother.  They are all really great and fun to live with.

Cinco de Mayo celebration (I cooked dinner!) with Nancy, Eduardo, family friend Cote, Alejandro, Marcelo, and family friend Elda
Marcelo and Nancy

Host dad, Marcelo, is a character.  In school, he is all business with his button ups and ties.  But once he gets home, he changes into his heavy metal t-shirts revealing his tattooed arms and love for hardcore heavy metal music.  He was an English teacher (speaks really well) before he became the director and accredits his interest in music as the primary reason why he wanted to learn English when he was younger.  He wanted to know what the lyrics meant.

Host dad and I take margarita making very seriously.

Host mom, Nancy, is the sweetest, chillest person ever.  I guess being surrounded by boys, you have to be.  She doesn’t speak very much English which is good for me as I want to practice my Spanish anyways.  She is an avid tea drinker (like most Chileans) and I think she is enjoying having another girl around for a change and has referred to me as her oldest, the daughter.

Me and Nancy at a nearby beach, Papudo

Alejandro and Eduardo are very, well behaved and polite boys.  Ale (ah-le) is a teenager though, so he does spend a lot of time in his room.  Eduardo is sweet and a little sensitive actually.  He is a mama’s boy for sure.  Edgardo is the younger brother of one of the teachers at our school.  He also works in Cabildo, but at a different school as a counselor.  He is a gamer and has a good understanding of English because of it, but usually only speaks in Spanish.  So, I get to practice my Spanish a lot with him as well.

Their home is a duplex in a small neighborhood of duplexes.  Once they bought their home, they expanded it to make it bigger.  It has 5 small bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, a small living room, a big kitchen and dining room, and a laundry/sunroom area to hang clothes to dry.  They also have a dog, Fufi, and a cat, Lucrecia.  I am very happy that I ended up in a full house.  It can be stressful and loud at times, but it is also more fun. 😊

The Family Home (duplex on the left)

Here is a little bit of what day to day life with the fam looks like:

During the week, we have a routine for who gets up first to shower and then we all get ready, eat a small breakfast, and head to school (except on Thursdays, I sleep in and go later).  Ale has to be at his school in La Ligua 30-minutes earlier than the rest of us so he leaves before we do.  The rest of us commute together to Cabildo.  We drop Eduardo off, then Edgardo, and then we arrive at school on the dot, not a minute earlier and then classes start.  Lunch is at 1:30pm and we always go eat at mama Vicky’s house (Nancy’s mom).  After lunch, we return to the school at 2:30pm (again not a minute earlier) and afternoon classes start.

My school in Cabildo

After classes, the teachers are required to stay and lesson plan or whatever until 6:30pm.  Depending on the day and my class schedule, I will either wait around and ride back to La Ligua with the fam or I will take a colectivo (like a taxi, but has a route) or bus back.  The family usually stops at the store on the way back to buy something for once (ohn-say, a light dinner).

And if you didn’t know, Chileans eat late, like once is usually at 8pm or later.  So, a mid-afternoon snack is definitely in order for me.  Once usually consists of bread and either an avocado spread, cheese, ham, eggs, or something sweet and tea.  My family still sets and sits at the table most evenings for once.  Phones aren’t allowed and they talk about the day and enjoy each other’s company.  It’s a really nice way to end the day.  Usually once is finished around 9:30pm (or later) and then everyone heads off to their rooms to goof off on their phones/computers or watch TV.  I usually work more, either on lesson plans or Spanish lessons, and then I go to sleep around 11 or midnight.

Once: tea/coffee with the popular sweets of La Ligua (which pretty much are all sugar)

The weeks can be a bit exhausting, but as I mentioned in my last post, a lot of classes get cancelled so some days and weeks are more chill than others (seriously when it rained the other week, the school closed down for 2 days).  I think the one thing that still gets to me at times, is the fact that we grocery shop almost every day (which is normal for most Chileans, not just my family).  I know they like their bread fresh, but after a long day at work, I just want to go home.  It’s always a family event going to the grocery store.  Everyone gets out of the car, we’ll walk to one store to buy fresh bread, then walk to another for meat and cheese, sometimes even get gas or stop at an ATM, and then we go home.  No wonder they eat so late!  It.takes.patience.  My host mom mentioned how she enjoys the routine because for her, it is a way to wind down from work before heading home.  I sorta get that, but would prefer exercise or something else instead.

One nice thing is that during the week, the family pays a family friend to come clean their home.  She comes and washes the dishes, sweeps the floors, cleans the bathrooms, and makes the beds.  So at least we don’t have to stay up late cleaning and we come home to a clean house. 😊

Pink skies in the neighborhood

Most weekends I try to take advantage and travel around, but other weekends I want to stay, relax, and spend time with the family.  Weekends with them are pretty chill.  They sleep in late and everything gets shifted back even more.  Like breakfast is at noon, lunch is at 5pm and once/dinner is at 11pm or later.  Some weekends there will be asados (cookouts) or family and friends visiting so their home is always full.

Me, Nancy, family friend, Eduardo, family friend, and Marcelo in Los Molles by the coast one weekend.
Los Molles

One more thing worth mentioning, it is officially cold here (winter has come)!  The temperature changes drastically throughout the day.  It will be really cold in the morning and evenings, but really nice and sunny in the middle of the day.  Dressing in layers is a must.  Especially since most homes and schools do not have heating in this area.  They just suck it up and deal.  Which is another thing I’ve had to adjust to.  Luckily for me, Nancy just bought this heater to use in the living room!


Well that’s a little bit of what my day to day life is like in Chile.  I’ll try and not wait another month to post again.

Until then,


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