Exploring The Wonder Within

Hello all!

Wow, it’s been a long time since my last post. I’m currently in the middle of a two week trip by home to kick off my summer vacation in Chile, so I’m going to take advantage of the time to write a quick update. Safe to say that I need to work towards more frequent updates. Expect to see some more consistent updates, hopefully on a bi-weekly basis.

Chilean Updates

I spent the holidays mostly with my host family in Chile. With the combination of warm weather, being sick, and also being away from home, the holidays just didn’t feel the same as they normally do. In many ways I barely noticed that they passed, and that was definitely difficult for me.

For Christmas, my host family had about 5 other expats as guests for Christmas. They were from Malasia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Ireland. It was really neat to hear their stories, as well as share the holidays away from home together. There was a certain sense of solidarity in that. Together we had a wonderful Christmas dinner, at which everyone opened presents at midnight. The next day, in the afternoon we went to my host father’s parents house about an hour north of Santiago in the countryside. New Years Eve I spent with my friend and her host family, and we had a wonderful dinner and toasted the new year at midnight.

On January 2nd, about 15 adults, 60 students, and I went to Chiloé, an island in the south of Chile on a mission trip. It was a truly unique experience; never in my life had I walked around a small village knocking on doors and asking the people if they wanted to talk about God or pray together. I learned a lot about the people of Yaldad, the community in which we stayed, and spoke a lot of Spanish. Their community was right on the inlet of the sea, so every morning I woke up to the smell of sea salt and would watch the tide go in and out. The community comprised of about half Catholic and half Evangelical Christians, and it was interesting to see how distinct and divided the community was along these lines. It was both eye opening and sad to see how the divisions between Christians exist not only in the USA and Europe, but also in other countires as well.

Reflection – 

“People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.”

– Saint Augustine of Hippo

During my visit to Chiloé, I had no mobile phone coverage, and our school was situated on the side of the only main road that ran through town. We spent much of our time roaming in search of homes, which led us through countryside, farms, and dusty roads. The sea-salt swept off our faces as the wind blew across the ocean, which to me resembled a small lake at the end of our periphery. Chiloé was, by all means, largely untouched, and it was easy to appreciate the beauty that God had given us in our trip there. In fact, a common theme of discussion with the local people was how beautiful this land was and how dirty/noisy/crowded Santiago was. As a recent resident of Santiago, I did not share the in the student’s derogation of the big city life, but I suppose that is a post for another time.

Despite their I think that we all have the “Santiago” of our hearts. We all have the thoughts, ideas, relationships, and emotions that we are most familiar with and which fill our days with thoughts. These thoughts are easy for they are more often than not a product of habit, and returning to them is so seamless that we often don’t realize we are doing so. For me, it is extremely easy for me to think about my current “to-do” list and whether I am optimizing my time and completing all the tasks “required” of me. While familiar territory, these thoughts are often chaotic and jarring at times, with thoughts and new ideas running through my mind like cars on the main freeway through town.

For me, I often let these thoughts to take up a large portion of my time and energy, even though my “to-do” list is just a small portion of who I am. Just like Santiago is only a speck in the world, there is so much more to contemplate, to discover, and to appreciate within myself that I often pass by within myelf. Why? Because it is much easier to worry about the stack of papers I have to grade than to sit and listen, truly listen, to what my body and mind is telling me, especially when those emotions are uncomfortable.

And these uncomfortable emotions pop up all the time in life. I cannot say for certain if it is happening more now that I live outside of my comfort zone, or because I am maturing and listening to my heart more. But I can say that I have found myself just plain sad sometimes, especially when on surface there is no logical reason that I am sad. Conversely, feelings of happiness, gratitude, or content have bubbled over in the simplest or most mundane of moments.

In the past, I use to ignore these feelings, and instead of listening to the emotion and learning from it, I often shut it out with the noise of everyday commitments, job priorities, or even surfing the web. Recently, I have tried to just allow myself to truly feel and not stamp out these emotions. The journey through life has also been an opportunity to learn more about myself, exploring the depths of my heart and being that I didn’t know existed before. Certainly, this process has made me more human and inculcated within me the ability to connect more with others and myself.

I don’t think that I will ever lose my love of travel, nor should I. However, St. Augustine challenges me to accept that I, too, am a wonder, and am worth exploring, traveling, and admiring.

When was the last time you took the time to wonder at the marvel that you are?


Structure, logic, and love for language

Hey everyone!

How’s it going? How’s the fall treating you? While the USA is bracing for some cold weather, I think we will have close to 90 F here in Santiago this week. Really looking forward to the summer here so that I can enjoy this nice weather!

So, I’ve finally decided, more or less, the structure of my blog here. In general, I will try to mix the two approaches I was considering previously. As such, my blogs will typically include an update on my life, coupled with a more in depth reflection of a topic. So, without further ado…..

Quick update on what’s been happening here in Santiago:

  • Last weekend the ChACERs had our Halloween party. While it was a week late, it was still a lot of fun! ChACE 13 dressed up as the Wizard of Oz, while ChACE 14 dressed up as “party animals” for our themes.
  • This last weekend was also interescolar, an inter-college track meet among many of the private schools here. It was a huge event, with at least 1,000 students in attendance both days!
  • I’ve decided to help coach Rugby here, which has been a ton of fun. Do I know anything Rugby? No, not when I started at least! But now I know a few more things, and more importantly, it’s been really fun and a good way to get to know students.

And for this weeks topic…..


“Our language is the reflection of ourselves. A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers.”

-Cesar Chavez

Those who know me well know that I am fascinated with foreign languages. I remember when I was young lamenting to my parents that they did not teach me a second language (not that they knew anything but English.) Yes, I was a bratty kid for sure, but while other kids asked for a Ferbie, I wanted my parents to gift me the ability to speak a foreign language (I know, I was really popular in elementary school.)

As I progressed to middle and high school, I began studying Spanish, and I enjoyed it immensely. Yet after a few years of classes, I quickly found that I what I enjoyed most was learning the grammar in either language. The twilight of this revelation passed my Junior year of high school when I took Grammar Writing in English. Adverbial clauses, gerunds, and prepositions fascinated me, because with the building blocks of language one could seemingly construct any idea or concept. This class was pivotal for my relationship with language, because until then I never truly loved anything about English. Yes, it was my native tongue, and I had just as much fun as every other teenager at twisting, warping, and contorting it until new phrases and words became everyday table vernacular (side note: this pliability of English is a characteristic that few other languages can boast.) Yet, until this class it was always other languages that drew my attention.

While I never disdained English, it was in high school that I began to love my native language. Even with all of its eccentricities, there was grammar, progression, and most importantly, order. I can safely say that my love for English sprang from the order with which I was able to manipulate it. By following grammar rules, I was able to bring a sense of purpose and connectivity into language that I couldn’t always see in my own life. My connection to grammar led to other connections between math, religion, government, and biology, and largely helped me to organize my world view into a fairly narrow-minded, yet well-organized view of life.

While I knew Spanish grammar fairly well, my love with Spanish didn´t happen until six and a half years after graduating from high school . I think that this is for a couple of reasons. First, I am living in a Spanish speaking country. Instead of translating the language for the pleasure of simply communicating correctly , in Chile my number one challenge is not grammar, or correctness, but rather connection. It’s an absolutely incredible feeling connecting to other humans using their language, which in turn involves discarding notions and concepts in one language.

This leads me to a key revelation: sometimes there is not direct translation, and often times words do not have the same context in Spanish as they do in English. It does not suffice to simply translate phrases and expect them to carry the same meaning.Thus, when organizing my thoughts and schema, it does not serve to simply be right, as I often sought to be in high school. As a non-native speaker, if I never spoke Spanish until I was “right,” I would never speak at all.

The desire to feel connection, even when I am not always speaking correctly, has prompted a shift with my love of language that has been reflected in other areas of life. I will always love grammar, and look forward to those lessons in Spanish classes. Unlike my high school self, I don´t see the world as neatly organized and logical as I once did. As such, as I change my view of the purpose of language, I am also changing and adapting my language to the culture and situations I find here. Just as Chavez notes, it makes sense that this change in the view and use of language leads to a change in reflection of myself. Having been abroad for almost three months, I completely agree with this. Am I a completely different person? No. Are there other external factors which are fully and influencing my personality here? Absolutely (more of that to come in later posts.)

But does the daily and continual use of a different language beget a change in yourself? Absolutely. Think about it – of all the words you know if English, if you only knew half, would you be different? I think so. And in many ways, I think that, with the combination of new habits, experiences, and language, I am, in many ways, a different person in Chile than I am in the USA.

While I know this post is long, I can´t leave without mentioning on thing that is somewhat unrelated to identity but completely related to langauge. I have come to see the beauty in the use and structure of Spanish within the Chilean accent and dialect. It’s very distinct, not only in pronunciation but in intonation and inflection of their voice while speaking. I’m fascinated, and while it means that sometimes I cannot understand them, I would prefer to listen to them speak than almost any other accent I´ve experienced (save, perhaps, the Minnesotan accent.)

I have many questions left of Spanish, more than just how it relates to grammar, vocabulary, or accents. While everyday conversations can come somewhat naturally, I spend a good amount of time translating from English to Spanish and then Spanish to English. At times, this frustrates me immensely, to the point where I sometimes dislike my knowledge of English because it serves as a crutch toward Spanish. Perhaps this will always be the case; one cannot easily run from his native tongue, nor should he necessarily want to. Nevertheless, I wonder if there will come a day when I can remember events in Spanish? Or only process a thought or emotion in Spanish? I suppose only time will tell.

If I can leave you with any thought it is this: never underestimate the power language has to communicate, but also to shape the way you view the world. While it isn’t the only tool of human connection, it is certainly one of the most powerful and wonderful that we have. That language which we choose to use, and especially which we choose to exclude, shape and reflect ourselves out onto the world we know.

How does language affect the way you think or act? Do you believe that our language is a reflection of ourselves, or our society as a whole?

Santiago de Chile

Hola chicos!

How is everyone? I hope that you are enjoying the beautiful fall weather in the states (or wherever you may be from!) Currently, the seasons are also changing here in Santiago, only its SPRING now instead of fall. Weird. I think that the change of seasons will take a little getting use to, perhaps more so in June/July when it’s freezing instead of the usual summer weather.

It’s been several weeks since I’ve written a post, and I must confess that I still dont know how I’m going to organize this blog. I’m stuck between the idea of just writing what’s at the top of my mind, and forming more coherent blog posts centered around more substantial topics. This post is more the former than the latter, but *hopefully* I will soon get a feel for this blogging thing here in South America.

Ok, so a quick recap on my life. Two weeks ago today I set foot in this beautiful country, which is the 19th I have traveled to in my life. For my first three months here, I am living with a host family who has graciously decided to take me in and treat me as one of their own. They are an amazing family, and I really look forward to getting to know them more while also practicing my Spanish.

Since I’ve mentioned Spanish, I think this warrants a quick note on the Chilean accent and dialect – both are extremely different here, and I have felt very inadequate in my Spanish abilities the last two weeks. I know that, with some time and practice, I will be able to at least understand it, but I never could fully imagine how different it would be until I arrived here.

Professionally, I’ve spent the last two weeks helping other teachers in the classroom in order to aclimate myself to the educational culture at my school. Perhaps it goes without saying that, in a different country, there are differences. For example, students do not call teachers “Mr. + last name,” but rather by your first name. Yet, despite differences in culture, I am also struck by how similar these students are to those that I thought in the USA. Already I am seeing that the old adage, “kids are kids no matter where you are in the world,” is absolutely true. That said, I’m really looking forward to getting to know my school, faculty, and students better as we finish up the bimester.

With that, I will return to watching the UNC vs. ND game. Any comments or suggestions on how to continue this blog would be appreciated! Until next time!


Las primeras semanas en Ecuadro


How are you? I hope your week has been great (and if it hasn’t, then I hope you have a better weekend!)

Well, it has already been two full weeks in Ecuador, and I can already tell that my time here will pass quickly. We’ve visited some historic places within the city, such as the Basilica, which was built in the Baroque style of architecture and as such is very austere. We’ve also checked out Quilotoa, a dormant volcano about three hours by car from Quito. This last weekend, we went to the coastal city Porto Lopez and visited La Isla de la Plata, which has a few species of animals you can also find in the Galapagos, such as the Blue-footed booby. In fact, this is a continental island, which means that it is older than the Galapagos, which were created by volcanoes.

Spanish classes have been great. We have all improved immensely in our comprehension and ability to speak Spanish as well. Overall, my time here has been extremely fruitful, and I can only hope to continue experiencing Ecuador and improving my Spanish as well. I’m hoping to update this blog at least once more this week with some more in depth insights into either my explorations here or what I’ve learned about their culture, so stay tuned!



The search for self, or why I chose the title for this blog

Hello everyone!

This is my first blog post since I revamped the style of my blog, and coincidentally my first blog post since arriving in South America! More on that later whirlwind later.

First, I wanted to introduce you to my site, and explain the title a bit. I am still not 100% committed to the design and layout of the blog, but I think it will do for now. I am approaching this blog site cautiously and slowly, realizing that it is in my nature to expect perfection too quickly, which often leads to my giving up or not attempting a task. As such, don’t be surprised if you see the site design change, or a change in pictures, ect. in the future.

That being said, I wanted to also introduce you to my blog title, “Memories of El Cerrito Place.” It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to name this blog. I desperately wanted it to be original, but I also realized that some original inspirations come from acknowledging and recognizing other great geniuses. Often, blog titles resort to common references, such as “Not all who wander.” I admit, I committed this travel blog taboo not four years ago on my other website. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love that quotation and the metaphors composed within it. I just think that it is overused. This time, I tried to turn the emphasis of the blog toward wander and travel, but with a different cultural reference.

“El Cerrito Place” is a song written by Keith Gattis and originally performed by Charlie Robinson. The version I am most familiar with is song by Kenny Chesney on his album Welcome to the Fishbowl. It is a tremendously beautiful song that, at first glance, is about a man searching for his lost love. On a more abstract and personal level, the song can also be about man and woman’s search for their soul. 

Many religions and philosophies of the world speak of a longing for something that isn’t quite “here.” As in, something they think they can find on Earth, but never quite grasp. We are offered glimpses of this peace, this holiness, this ultimate beauty which enfolds us in complete serenity and bliss. But we never quite get it. This blog is about my search for that holiness, that beauty in life through following my biggest loves – travel and building relationships with people. Thank you for joining me on this one wild and precious thing we call life.


P.S. Check out the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOM17kGtEYA

“What-e’er thou…

“What-e’er thou art, act well thy part” – William Shakespeare

Also the international thespian society motto, this quotation serves as a reminder to live each and every detail of our lives with dignity and passion, whatever we may be doing.