Scottish Charity Number: SCO36069

15th July 2011

You’ll Catch Your Death by Anna Seymour

Home | Footprinter Reports | You’ll Catch Your Death by Anna Seymour

Nine months into my gap year in Chile and I feel like I never want to leave this wonderful country! I love my job, my Chilean family and my friends in the local community. After backpacking through Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and the South of Chile my language skills are better than ever and I learn new things every day.

Ive seen amazing sights, met inspiring people and finally managed to understand crazy Chilean Spanish.

One of the most incredible parts of this journey has been seeing how even young children cope with poverty and adversity mostly still having a smile on their face! However that does not stop me feeling angry about their situation

In Paraguay I was humbled and also felt ashamed to see the coach driver giving our left over drinks and sandwiches to hungry children waiting at the bus terminal they were very pleased with his offering and this was obviously a regular occurrence. If only we had known what was going to happen we could have easily foregone a meal.

Argentina was an exciting and vibrant country to visit Buenos Aires really impressive. Trekking was an experience to say the least particularly the views of Iguazú Falls, on the North tip of Argentina. We did the W – trek of the famous Torres del Paine probably one of the hardest both physically and mentally challenging journeys Ive ever done.

At the end of February my Mum came to visit and we had a more relaxing time exploring Chile. She was also able to stay with my Chilean family and come into school with me. It was great to see her and so sad when she left even worse than when I left her in England I think!

Settled back into school now and we are incredibly busy. Chloe (my Scottish Project Trust partner) and I have I set up a special group for the children its a voluntary English workshop, which runs after school on Fridays. Its for enthusiastic local children, many of who are keen to learn in addition to what they are offered in school time. Our activities have so far have included acting out fairytales, Beatles karaoke, animal treasure hunts and bin-bag fashion shows. The children particularly enjoyed the re-enactment of La Boda Real Prince William and Kates Royal Wedding where we made our own bin bag outfits.

One challenge I have encountered since we started our second term is maintaining the role of teacher in the classroom with older students. Teenagers in their last years of school are seventeen, eighteen and sometimes nineteen (my age). During the last 6 months I have become friends with quite a few of them and regularly see them outside of school however trying to make them concentrate in the classroom after visiting their house for tea the previous night has proved difficult. Perhaps I have not quite got my boundaries right – I dont think Ill ever get used to texts saying Hola Miss Anna, where are you? x on a Saturday afternoon.

Hindsight is a great thing – in some ways I wish I could go back in time with all my new skills and confidence in teaching. In September the idea of taking a class of forty noisy five year olds, last minute, with no materials prepared would have given me nightmares but now I can invent songs, games or activities off the top of my head in seconds and control the class without losing my head (or my voice!). I am even impressed with myself that I have learnt all these new skills.

When I arrived in Chile I thought I was able to teach after just one weeks training with Project Trust and by virtue of being a native speaker of English. How naive of me! I am enthusiastic and build on the childrens strong motivation to learn – guiding the strong children so they work independently, meaning I have more time with the children who need extra support. Unfortunately with giant class sizes (often more than 40) and the poor area we live in, it means children who can just sit and concentrate on work alone are rare. Even if the school does terribly in national exams it is still rewarded for doing better than results predicted according to the risky poor working class socio-economic status of children in Pudahuel.

Undertaking this volunteer teaching has made me think that maybe I would like to go into this profession but I will do it on a post graduate level. Whatever job I choose I will always be grateful to my colleagues at San Louis Beltran English Department for the help, support and opportunities they have provided for me. Also to the wonderful San-Martin family for really treating me just like one of their own children, helping me to learn Spanish (because they definitely wont speak any English!); to Scottish Chloe my Project Trust partner-in-crime for her brilliant listening ears, positive mind set and friendship (which will go on forever I hope) and of course to my friends and family at home for the keeping in touch. It goes without saying that this journey would not have been possible without support from charities like Hazels Footprints, which have made all the difference to this year even being possible.


Living in South America has really been brilliant. I even seem to have subconsciously absorbed many Chilean old wives tales. If anybody is ever ill I now assume it must be down to the change in weather from cold to hot or hot to cold after being told this about fifty times even when projectile vomiting after food poisoning (which Im pretty sure the weather cant effect…). If I ever see anyone not wearing shoes or socks I shout at them and worry about them because thats how you get ill, despite the fact in England every morning I wandered round the house sock and shoeless… If the Chilean mother I live with had her way all of the worlds problems would be solved by a cup of black tea, a hot piece of bread, sucking lemons and a good pair of thick woolly socks!


After a very hot summer with temperatures of around 38 most days we are now entering a bitter cold winter where I am getting dressed to go to bed every night! No central heating at home (or in school).

Earthquakes are a regular occurrence and now we are seeing volcanoes erupting in the south of Chile certainly this country has been in the news during my year. Also we are still celebrating the fantastic achievements of the miners and I believe there are plans to make the mine (and the Phoenix shuttle) a tourist attraction, as there is so much world interest!

Whats happening in the next few weeks?

Ill be returning to the UK at the end of August so really want to make the most of the next 10 weeks. Much of my time will be in school but we have three weeks holiday in July when we are planning to visit Peru and Bolivia hopefully to do part of the Inca trail.

The exciting news this week is that my Chilean sister, Yessica has had a baby Emilia Isadora and she is very beautiful.

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