Finishing my volunteer placement with the English Opens Doors Program was all a bit of a whirlwind, trying to make sure my lessons were still useful, but knowing I wouldn’t be there much longer. I was also busy planning travels for when I finished, both with my mum for her holiday here and my solo travels afterwards. Publishing posts was put at the bottom of the to-do list and the result is well over a month without letting you all know what I’ve been up to.
Leaving my school and the town I’ve called home was emotionally draining, and by the end I just couldn’t handle any more goodbyes, even though most of them were in the form of parties!
It started off with meeting some friends from the English Winter Camp one evening for beer, pichanga, pizza and good times. Small and sweet, I knew I’d be seeing them on my return for the summer camp in January.
Earlier that day we had the official closing ceremony that the English Opens Doors Program organised. This was a more formal lunch at a hotel with all the volunteers, the same hotel where we began our experience earlier in the year. This time the meal brought together the volunteers’ host families, their head teachers and directors from the school. We received certificates and some of us got prizes for coming 3rd in the program’s photo contest!
Thanksgiving aligned wonderfully with the end of my program, so we invited our Chilean family and friends round for dinner.
We all ate lots of food, gave thanks to everyone who’d helped us and generally got very emotional.
All these meals were just the beginning of the goodbyes.
The next day I went back in to school to clear out my room and donate all the decorations to various classes. Upon arriving there, the whole school had gathered for a surprise assembly, complete with “Farewell Ellie” on the curtains.
I’d been pretty okay with finishing my placement as it felt like coming to a natural end. I didn’t even get particularly sad during my last lessons with the groups, but something this official hit me hard. I started shaking as the teacher and director gave speeches, and handed me an incredible plaque to thank me for my commitment to the school.
And then as I was handed the microphone my teenage nerves of public speaking came flooding back when I was asked to say something. Me? Unannounced speech in front of an entire school? In Spanish? Aaaaaaargh! I don’t even remember what I said, but I was sad. By the end of the assembly I was crying, and when the students were told it was over, instead of going back to their classrooms they bombarded me with hugs. This didn’t help the emotion and the crying!
The next day I was invited to go out for some drinks, but to be honest I just couldn’t handle any more goodbyes. I knew I’d be returning to Punta Arenas for new year celebrations and so I’d probably see some friends again, but all the goodbyes were seriously taking their toll on me.
At the end of the week to mark the end of my teaching, and the beginning of a new adventure I did something I’ve been thinking about for a while…
I cut my hair! And I absolutely love it!!
Finally the next day, the moment I’d been waiting for, and what made the end of my placement so bittersweet. The arrival of my mum!
Mum was thrown in the deep end, only a few hours after landing I whisked her off to an asado. It was a last hurrah with the teachers from school; a hello to my mum, and a goodbye to me. Little did I know that this also involved another surprise!
We couldn’t stay too late as we had an action-packed holiday planned, which started very early the next day. More on our adventures together in Chile in the next post!