Miscellaneous pictures from Chile

Before the trip to Chile becomes a dim memory, here are a few more pictures on no particular theme.

Almost every weekday morning of the tour, we left the apartment in the dark. As it was autumn in South America, the sun rose later than at home. Here's a view of sunrise over the Andes, taken from the cab on the way to a school.

And here are the Andes taken from the top of Cerro San Cristobal near the end of the tour, after it had snowed in the mountains. Because of this very snow, I wasn't able to take the bus trip over the mountains to Mendoza, Argentina. I'd been looking forward to soaking in the hot springs there. Next trip...

It wasn't until the end of the tour that it occurred to me that I should have taken pictures of the street dogs. They're everywhere in Santiago, gentle creatures mostly, often lying in the middle of the sidewalk or waiting patiently with the pedestrians to cross the street. This little one adopted us one morning. I thought his name should be Carlitos. Doesn't he look like he belongs to Sofi?

One day, Sofi and I climbed Cerro Santa Lucia. We could see all around the city from there, as we were able to from Cerro San Cristobal. We stopped for a rest and heard a man singing loudly (and tunelessly) along to his iphone. That's when we realized he was with the woman who had hiked to the top of this hill in a smart skirt and pumps. I wanted a picture of them, but didn't want to be rude. I settled for a picture of their legs.

I didn't take many pictures of people on the streets of Santiago. I only caught this woman at her street stall when I was capturing the verses by Pablo Neruda.

I confess that we didn't go to Pablo Neruda's house, other than seeing the outside of La Chascona, the house where his mistress lived in Santiago. I know you'll forgive me when you remember that I did 68 shows in the almost five weeks, so I didn't have a lot of energy for sightseeing. We considered going to his house in Valparaiso, but our time was limited there as well.

I never tired of the street art. Here are a few more of my favorites from Valparaiso, starting with a joke for Spanish speakers.

Does a wicker bicycle count as street art? I think so.

These steps in Valparaiso mimic the colorful houses stacked on the hill. The cat at the top had no opinion on the matter.

And as long as I'm showing that, here's another self-referential bit of art on the street in Valpo:

This mural reminded me of my early childhood, when our large family had a microbus, though not a purple one.

The tour of Chile was full of wonderful images, amazing listeners, delicious food, satisfying laughter and great fun. I am deeply thankful for having done it. Here is the last view I had of Santiago, taken outside the airport with my cellphone:


Adios, Chile!

More on the Chile performances

I have a few more blog posts about the tour to put up. Here are a few random thoughts about the performances in Chile, some of which apply elsewhere. 

Teachers and students at Colegios Padre Hurtado y Juanita de los Andes enjoying the stories

Teachers and students at Colegios Padre Hurtado y Juanita de los Andes enjoying the stories

When the teachers are enjoying the performance, the students are likely to as well.

They listen better when given good models. I love it when the teachers join in, showing the students that storytelling is worth everybody's attention. There were other schools where the teachers talked among themselves, graded papers in front of the students and/or abdicated responsibility for the kids' behavior. While I'm usually fairly good at audience management, I found these performances challenging.

I've written in the past about the energy of space. How the room is set up, what direction the listeners are facing, the temperature and the light all matter. 

I was at one school where the little boys sat on auditorium seats, the cushy kind. Not only were the house lights set on dim with no possibility of turning them up, the stage lights put my face in shadow. I was on the stage, which felt miles from the audience. The boys thought they were invisible, as they bounced up and down on the seats or got up and moved to different rows or poked the kids around them during the stories. In fact, I could see them quite well. If these kids had been in a different space, I suspect they would have been able to listen much better. At the school where the teachers were having fun in the picture above, I was able to stand in front of the stage, closer to the kids:

Bird's eye view of the performance at Padre Hurtado y Juanita de los Andes

Bird's eye view of the performance at Padre Hurtado y Juanita de los Andes


At another school, the kindergarten and first grade sat on tall chairs. We tried to convince the administrators to seat them on the floor, to no avail. The kids couldn't see over the chair backs. Here's a picture of kindergartners and first graders in a better seating arrangement:

Kindergarteners and first graders sitting on the floor, joining in with Priscilla

Kindergarteners and first graders sitting on the floor, joining in with Priscilla


Some of the best performances were those where the kids were prepared in advance, by listening or watching some of my stories online, either on my website or on my youtube channel. At one school, the fifth grade girls came in with signs that they held up saying, "I want my apple juice!" They had listened to The ghost with the one black eye and had the signs to prove it. These were the girls who leapt to their feet at the end of that story.

It's also true that it's impossible to know the effect of the stories. Students who don't look like they're listening may draw detailed pictures of the characters later.

Boys drawing pictures of the stories they'd heard

Boys drawing pictures of the stories they'd heard

Picture of the puppets and stories, drawn by the students

Picture of the puppets and stories, drawn by the students

Picture of the puppets at Trewhela's School

Picture of the puppets at Trewhela's School


Even with some of the more difficult shows, on balance, it was an enormously fun tour, one I will dream on for years. Thanks, DreamOn Productions, for bringing me to Chile!

Crooked fingers, one more time

I know, I've written about crooked fingers a few times now. I can't seem to help myself. In the US, maybe once a year, kids in the audience will notice my crooked little fingers, and once in a while, there will be an audience member with clinodactyly. In Argentina last year, I was startled to see about five pairs. This year, in Chile, I think I saw twelve pairs! First, here's mine in the foreground as the audience and I did Shaking Hands.

Here are a few of the others I saw:

That's my finger on the left and a young boy's on the right.

Here are two more pairs. The girl in the last picture was quite excited to have her fingers photographed, so it's a bit blurry.

In Chile, I told the audience about my fingers at the beginning of the sessions. I explained that if I didn't, somebody would notice, and then that kid would tell the next kid who would tell another until nobody was listening to the stories. I also explained that my father had them and six out of seven kids in my family have them.

I have never minded having unusual fingers. I guess I've never minded being a nonconformist in many ways. I tell the students about this genetic mutation partly to tell them that it's okay to be different. These differences make the world a more interesting place. 

Viña del Mar and Valparaiso

Before more time passes, I want to write about the trip we took last week to Viña del Mar and Valparaiso, about an hour and a half away from Santiago by bus. We left on Thursday after one performance at a school in Santiago.

I dozed for much of the trip to Viña. The third week of a four and a half week tour may be the toughest. Sofi (my tour manager and friend) and I arrived in late afternoon at the high-rise building where we were staying. At first, we were doubtful about the place. It wasn't just that it felt far from everything, but that there was a constant sound of dogs barking down in the vacant lots near the building. Yes, constant, and somewhat eerie in the middle of the night. In the morning, everything looked different, and better. 

We left early for St. Margaret's School, a lovely girls' school north of the city, where I had three performances for enthusiastic listeners. Very fun! Afterwards, the school van driver took us back in to Viña, showing us the seaside on the way.

We decided to spend the afternoon at the beach, where it wasn't warm enough to swim but was fine for reading and beachcombing.

We also watched the sunset from the beach.

The next day, we made our way a few miles away to the lovely city of Valparaiso, where the brightly painted houses stack one over the other on the hills. We had the great good fortune to meet up with Diletta Panero, a storyteller from Italy who lives in Ireland but who is doing her PhD dissertation research in Chile. We were connected up with her by storyteller Liz Weir, from Ireland, who is a dear friend of my friend Liz Warren. This is the way the storytelling community in the world works! Here's a picture of the two of us.

Sofi, my excellent tour manager and friend, was also with us.

Here are some pictures of Valparaiso. I'll get back to posts about storytelling soon.

Yes, that's how electric wires are in Chile, like a spiderweb.

We wandered the streets, stopping in to shops and galleries, and having a stunning meal at a little restaurant, for most of the day. Then we went back to Viña to collect our stuff before taking the bus back to Santiago. Here's a last look at Viña.

The Chile tour continues

It has been a while since I've written about how the performances are going. So far, fairly well. I've done forty-eight sessions, with only twenty left. The third week of a four-week tour can be one of the hardest in terms of energy. I continue to take naps every afternoon after the work is done, as we get up early every morning to go to school. I keep hydrated. I hum and sing and make funny noises to warm up my voice. I try to remember to have a good time and to be grateful that I am here in Chile, as well as in this life and on this planet. 

Here are a few more pictures to give you a flavor of the performances. The first few were from a set taken by a photographer at Colegios Padre Hurtado y Juanita de los Andes (two schools, one for boys and one for girls). My tour manager Sofi took the other excellent photos. I'll show scenic pictures in the next post.  

Notice that the children and teachers wear uniforms. The little girls wear smocks and the boys wear tan lab coats. The teachers wear dark blue coats or blue checked smocks, quite often. 

I always think it's a sign of a good school when both the teachers and the children enjoy the performances.

This was at the only workshop of the tour. The teachers are playing a game called "Magic Box."

I've enjoyed most of the groups of kids. Here are some of the teenagers, who usually don't expect to enjoy the stories as much as they do. They were so fun to work with!

Week 1, Chile tour

Before I launch into next week, I want to write about what a great tour this has been! 

I began the week at Andrée English School, in their nice new library. I like to be surrounded by books, and this was appropriate, as it was Book Week in Chile (or worldwide?). I told stories to students who were ten to twelve years old, easily getting them to join in on the silly parts. I'm always anxious on the first day of a tour. I usually have slept badly and I don't yet know the school culture or English level of the students. I needn't have worried this week. 

At all the schools, I show the US map to explain where I'm from and also to give the kids a chance to get used to my accent and pacing. I've begun showing them mycrooked fingers at the outset, explaining that if I don't, they might get distracted during the stories. 

On Tuesday we (my excellent tour manager, Sofi and I) went to the high school of Colegio Alemana, the German school here. [Note to US readers: "colegio" means high school and younger, not university level.] This was the first time the older kids at this school had heard a storyteller and they were an amazing audience. They asked questions like, "What motivates you to be a storyteller?" I wrote about that in a newsletter last week and will probably reprint the article on this blog later. 

Wednesday I visited the primary section of the German School. These students study in Spanish and German, so English is their third language. Some of them had only been studying English for a few months, but they understood a lot. Oh, how I wish schools in the US would teach second languages earlier than high school!

On Thursday we took a cab up to a combined school, Colegios Padre Hurtado y Juanita de los Andes, where the little boys were on one side of the audience and the little girls were on the other. I'm really hoping to get pictures from the school to show what great listeners these eight and nine year olds were. 

We took a cab from this school to another, Colegio Apoquindo. Though the librarian frequently tells stories at this school, they hadn't had a storyteller from outside. Since these were boys aged 12-14, I began with a scary, gory story, "Mary Culhane and the Dead Man." They relaxed, assured I wouldn't treat them like babies. 

 Some of these schools, like the one I went to on Friday, Colegio Everest Masculino, are up in the hills above Santiago, not down in the bowl of smog in which the city unfortunately sits. 

Everest Masculino was, of course, the school for boys. I had the younger ones, six to eight years old, who were thrilled to be in the auditorium, with those seats that flip up...and down...and up...and down. They loved the puppets, especially baby bird Peeps. They threw him pretend worms and helped him to get rid of the ensuing hiccups (and in the meantime, learned the word "hiccup").

The schedule this week worked out so that we arrived back at the apartment around 1 p.m., ready for a nap. That meant we had energy to go out and explore a bit of Santiago in the afternoons. 

It was a fabulous first week of the tour. The teachers, administrators and students were incredibly welcoming at every school. If the other weeks are like this, I'll be a happy storyteller. Oh, right, I'm usually a happy storyteller. I'll be even happier in that case!

Street art in Santiago

Before I write about storytelling here in Chile, I want to show some of the murals and other street art we saw yesterday in the Bellavista neighborhood of Santiago. Sofi (my tour manager) and I walked there from our apartment in Providencia yesterday. We saw these scenes before and after lunch (I had the most delicious piece of salmon I have ever tasted--I'm drooling a little thinking of it). At any rate, here are some of the pictures. 

The buildings are painted in vibrant colors, whether or not they have street art on them, and there's a mix of old and new construction. On this Sunday afternoon, we were happy to stroll around Bellavista, enjoying the beautiful weather. It was a great way to relax before diving headfirst into the tour. 

The Chile tour begins

I arrived! On Friday, I had a full day working with third graders (8-9 yr olds) at the Lied Center of Kansas on puppet skills, then rushed to the airport. My flight from Dallas to Santiago was delayed by ten hours, so the airline put me (and a planeful of frustrated travelers) up in hotels in the area. On Saturday we took the ten-hour flight. I was met by my tour manager, Sofi, with whom I am also sharing an apartment. Here are a few pictures of the apartment:

This is my bedroom with attached bathroom. That second bed? I think it will serve nicely as an office. Sofi also has a bedroom and her own bath

The kitchen is small but nice, as is the living room.

And a view from our windows:

More on what we saw in Santiago in my next post.