What does a misogynistic society create?

A lot of dead woman. Even more abused women. Raped and harassed women and children. Thousands more unreported cases for sure.

But to be specific, 37 murdered women in Chile this year. Not even slightly surprising.

Un hombre de 49 años mató de un disparo a su esposa de 27 y luego se suicidó con la misma arma en la norteña ciudad chilena de Calama, informaron hoy fuentes policiales.

El hecho ocurrió en la tarde del martes en una calle de la población 23 de marzo, de esa ciudad, a 1.564 kilómetros de Santiago, cuando Vannia Monsalves Monsalves se encontró con su marido,Carlos Campos González, de quien estaba separada y se inició una discusión entre ambos.

El hombre tenía prohibición de acercarse a ella o a sus cinco hijos por amenazas y una acusación de abuso sexual contra una de sus hijas, de diez años, señalaron las fuentes.

De pronto, el hombre sacó un arma de fuego con la que amenazó a su mujer, que trató de huir y pudo evitar un primer disparo ocultándose entre unos automóviles estacionados, donde un transeúnte trató de ayudarla pero fue intimidado por el marido, que disparó de nuevo contra ella y la alcanzó mortalmente.

Al ver que su esposa no reaccionaba, el hombre volvió el arma contra sí mismo y se disparó en la cabeza, desplomándose sin vida junto al cuerpo de la mujer, según señaló el sitio soycalama.cl.

Vannia Monsalves fue la víctima número 37 de femicidio en lo que va de este año en Chile, tras el ocurrido el pasado lunes en Maipú, donde Claudio Mella, de 23 años, dio muerte a cuchilladas a su esposa, Paulina Iturriaga, de 26, y a su pequeño hijo, de cuatro años, mientras otro niño, de seis años, fue herido por el hombre, pese a lo cual logró ocultarse y salvar con vida.

Earlier this year…..


A 22-year-old Kentucky woman teaching English in Chile was found dead in her apartment Saturday, with homicide suspected, her college said in a statement.

Erica Hagan had been in Chile since July, after graduating from Georgetown College in Kentucky. She was teaching English at Colegio Bautista, a private Baptist school.

“Miss Hagan, of Murray, Ky., was found, unresponsive, in her Chile apartment on the campus of Colegio Bautista, Temuco, Chile, on Saturday morning, according to Chilean authorities,” a statement from the school reads. “Officials there are investigating her death as a possible homicide.”

Her devastated family said she was following her calling.

“She loved to travel, she loved to help people,” her aunt Charlene Martin told ABC affiliate WSIL-TV. “She was teaching school children English. She was terribly happy.”

Hagan had been documenting her time in Chile – her second trip to the country – on her blog. In her final post Friday, she wrote about the friendliness of the Chilean people.

“God has blessed me with many people that care how I spend my time and don’t want me to be lonely while I’m here,” she wrote. “Everyday I meet more people that invite me to be social with them and I love it! The hardest part is for me to take them up on it by asking them to keep me company during my free time.”

Hagan was scheduled to return home in December.

Instead, friends and family are mourning her loss, and trying to piece together what may have happened.

“This was a phenomenal, well-loved young lady that deserved better,” Martin said. “And she had so much potential, and was going places in her life.”

The Georgetown College Office for Faith and Service will hold a memorial service this week in remembrance of Hagan.

The U.S. State Department is aware of reports of a U.S. citizen’s death in Chile, but cannot comment further, an agency official told ABC News.

The first article is from this week in Calama. The other from a few months ago, where the girl was found to be raped and killed by a “friend” who she obviously didn’t want to have sex with.

Why stay in Calama if you have the money to leave?

This was another topic for conversation with the new professors whom I live with. They found it odd that my last host family continues to live in Calama. They have lots of money, plenty money to be anywhere else, so why are the here?

People live in Calama for two reasons (excluding the rare exceptions like crazy people who come here as volunteers to teach English).

1) They were born here, lived their whole life here, this is all they know, and they like it

2) They’re here for the money

Calama is a place that generates a lot, A LOT of money. It fuels the entire country with the money it gains from mining copper in the city. Obviously, there are other industries that earn money for the country, but the Chuquicamata mine located in Calama, is the biggest. They work around the clock, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The people involved are not just miners, there’s thousands and thousands of people working somehow in conjunction with the mine. Workers, supervisors, international powerhouses, translators, cargo shippers..seriously, you name it. They produce, produce, produce. Spewing shit, shit, and shit into the air.

For that reason, among the obvious reason that Calama is gross with nothing pretty to look at, an extreme climate, a city literally full of shit- the big mining companies ship people in and out from other cities. People that are on the higher tiers of the whole mining complex, do not live here. Why would they want to? The mining companies would rather pay to fly people in and out of the city on a constant basis, then to improve the city in any way. Therefore, the people who live here are the dispensable low tier shift workers, who actually still make a very decent paycheck. But do they give enough shit to improve the city, plant some grass, build some parks for the kids, add some type of cultural or education institution? Absolutely not. They are just shift workers who get their paycheck and go home. It seems that the people living here, don’t care about living in shit. They don’t care that all the money made on the mine, gets shipped right out of town. Just the paycheck please.

If the people here would just take some time and energy to fight for the improvement of their city, I really think it could be done. At least step by step. There is just SO much to be improved. But the people don’t ask for it, they don’t mind raising their kids in a pile of dog shit. It’s just their life.

So, there is money to be had here in Calama. The city is extremely expensive due to the mining salaries, so people like professors also make double that they would in other places. But the sacrifice is high. You have to be okay with having absolutely no cultural and public resources for the common good. You have to be okay with a population of people (and a lot of men) that treat Calama like their own personal trash can (literally, you should see how people litter here, it’s unreal). You have to be okay with the possibility of contracting diseases from breathing the air in. You have to be okay with the fact that there’s arsenic in the water you feed to your children. You either choose this life for the money, or you just don’t know where else to go.

Which leads me to the conclusion that my last family just doesn’t know any better. They don’t leave because this is just their life. This is all they want from life, it really is. My old host mom even told me that she doesn’t like San Pedro (the open- aired tourist oasis city about 2 hours away), that she prefers Calama. There’s too many drugs and crime in San Pedro. This kind of irrational ignorance is astounding to me! San Pedro has a population of 12 hippies who smoke weed, it couldn’t hold a torch against Calama. But many people who choose to live in Calama, live under this kind of delusion and ignorance. It really is absolutely astounding to me, but I also lack the capacity to empathize with the lives of these people. It’s just too hard for me to understand.

A common house in Calama

A common house in Calama

I took this picture because it was the most green I had seen in Calama

I took this picture because it was the most green I had seen in Calama

San Pedro

San Pedro

Me at the Geysers de Tatio in San Pedro

Me at the Geysers de Tatio in San Pedro

The Bleak Reality in Calama

If this experience has taught me one thing, it’s definitely to be very very thankful for the life I was born into. On the days when my life seems hard, it still doesn’t touch some of the realities here in Calama.

I had mentioned to the professors who I’m now living with, that I have an absolute favorite student (although teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites, I’m not a real teacher!). He is just a great kid, always asking intelligent questions and extremely polite, really kind- hearted, happy, bubbly, and mo

tivated. I really like him, he always puts a smile on my face. Well I mentioned this to the teachers and they said…”You know what, let me tell you something about him.” I thought they were going to say something bad about him, and I was about to be really surprised. “He has a lot of problems at home. His mom is a drug addict who spends all the family’s money on drugs, selling even the food they have in the house until they have nothing to eat. He works after school and was saving up for a trip to the U.S, when his mom stole all the money to buy drugs.” They then went on to say that he has solid plans to leave Calama and will turn out to be a really great person, they are sure. He wants to be an English teacher. Such a good kid, I knew I saw something special in him.

And that’s the thing, a lot of the kids have similar home lives. Though the school is government subsidized, it is completely and totally free to the kids. For that reason, they come from backgrounds of sometimes, extreme poverty. Very, very harsh realities. And that’s why they’re so damn happy to be in school. Smiley, friendly, bubbly, happy…most of them are honesty just thrilled to be there. Which makes sense because in the school there is really great camaraderie and the teachers truly form relationships and care about their students. And I’m sure that the free lunch and snacks they get at school, don’t hurt.

As happy-go-lucky as the kids here are, how many of them which actually get out? It’s honestly hard to say, and that’s just the saddest thing of all. That this innocent, pure-hearted kids will turn into lifers here in this city where the air itself makes you sick. Another talk with the professor about the graduating kids now and they’re hopes for the future- he told me that many of them simply don’t have expectations. They don’t have support, and outside of the school, nobody has expected that they will leave Calama, or wanted more for them. He said it’s not that they don’t want to leave, it’s not that they want to live here, it’s just that they don’t have higher hopes for themselves. He’s trying to get them to open up their world, but the kids just don’t see themselves really going anywhere.

The professor said that some of the kids haven’t even been to the next closest city, Antofagasta. 18 years old and they’ve never even left this shit hole. For me, it’s beyond imagination. All I can say, is that I really hope that some of them can open their eyes and realize how wide open the world is to them. They just need the inner strength to pull themselves out, which, of course, is easier said than done. I hope that my presence at the school will help them see that there is so, so, SO much more to the world than Calama.


My last day with the graduating seniors

My last day with the graduating seniors

He insisted we take a selfie. Miss, I looove you Miss I love you, I love you, yo, te amo. He always tells me, haha

He insisted we take a selfie. Miss, I looove you Miss I love you, I love you, yo, te amo. He always tells me, haha

The Last Straw

I’ve put up with these really horrible people for a while now. Though I think that they thought they were nice (well I’m really not sure to be honest) they have never been nice to me.

Recently, they stopped inviting me to dinner for their shitty- ass meal of bread and tea that I thought I didn’t even want until they stopped feeding me. I have to eat. I had been eating the chocolate that my students gifted me on my birthday for around two weeks instead of real food. It happened at least 3 times that the family sat down to eat and nobody told me.

So, whatever. They are mean. But I could just go into the kitchen and find my own food, right? Nope. They basically stopped buying food and that wasn’t a problem for them because they were simply never home. Then they went on vacation for a week, left me with absolutely no food, and no toilet paper.

That’s the other thing. They also stopped buying toilet paper. There wasn’t any toilet paper in the house for around 3 days, so I brought some paper towel I had from school. Gross, I know. I figured that they would actually buy toilet paper eventually, which they didn’t. I finally asked the mom for some, and she told me to just take some off of her giant- industrial roll of sandpaper toilet paper that she probably stole from somewhere, because we were using too much lately.

Don’t forget, these people were getting weekly checks to provide me with food, water, toilet paper- the basics at the very least.

So anyways, when I got a call from the person in charge of my host- family, I told her what was going on and she insisted I move. Done with fighting with her (she had begged me to move multiple times) I agreed. I could barely endure them anyways, and I only have 3 weeks left, figured I should probably spend the last few weeks with good people.

So, I packed up my stuff and made a deal with my head teacher, Adriana, (the god send that I always talk about) to live with her and her husband. She said she would be thrilled to have me, and has an extra guest room.

So I had to face telling the family the news. I wanted to tell the 15 year old when she got home from school, as the rest of the family is still on vacation in Argentina. But she never came home, which makes sense because she would be left alone with no food (like me- something they didn’t think or care about). She had been spending the week with the older sister who lives across town, and didn’t come home at any point that day. So I ended up having to send a message to the older sister, who sent a message to the mom and sister away on vacation. It’s not like I could have called them, they were in another country.

So I got a seething message from the mom and sister telling me that leaving was my decision and I should grow up as I’m a woman and should stop acting like a little girl. She obviously didn’t want to believe that I was just about forced to leave the house, but more than that, that they were the ones who forced me out with their behavior. She sent me back a few more terribly mean infuriated messages and then told me, ok, well we’ll see eachother, have a nice life. That was the basic gist of it.

So that was the smooth and painless move out of the Evil Family’s house, and now I’ll spend my last few weeks with the teacher. She has already been so nice to me, and although she doesn’t have a ton of extra space in the house, at least I’m wanted here.

The final response of the family just showed me that I was always right about them being really horrible, mean people. I left them a lovely note when I left, I would never stoop to their level. Kill ’em with kindness.

The food they left me when they went on vacation (not that this was new, they did it to me about 5 times in total)

The food they left me when they went on vacation (not that this was new, they did it to me about 5 times in total)

New room with Miss Adriana

New room with Miss Adriana

My birthday in San Pedro/ Calama

Now for something a little more uplifting. My birthday! My birthday was coming up on October 18th, and although I was exhausted, I knew that I didn’t want to spend it in Calama with Cruella de Vil and her rabies- stricken puppies. So I planned a trip to meet and stay with a friend in San Pedro, a small Oasis town about 2 hours away. I had made a teacher- friend at a meeting about a month back who lives in San Pedro, and she was kind enough to invite me to stay with her there for the weekend.

The trip started off awesome, I made a cool and international Mexican friend on the bus, and then Francisca and her boyfriend came to meet me at the bus station. We went to dinner with some friends (other English Opens Doors volunteers) who were also there for the weekend, and then we walked back under the most amazing stars to Fran and Claudio’s house.

This place was so nice, it was hard to believe it was anywhere near Calama. Fran and Claudio’s house was a cute little thing with a beautiful view of San Pedro’s large, active volcano. Their house was mostly taken up by their two gigantic dogs, Blanca and Willy, which of course I loved. It was such a comfortable environment, with nature and green and everything! And great, kind people..something I really needed. Fran and her boyfriend turned out to be the sweetest two things on earth. When they found out that my birthday would be the following morning, they immediately started planning.

In the morning, Fran and I had breakfast and then headed to town to grab a beer. Grabbing a beer with someone who knows the WHOLE town, creates an instant party. And Chileans love birthdays. We sat down for a few minutes when Claudio showed up, then Claudio’s friend, then Fran’s friend, then the other volunteers, than some friends of friends and children of friends, and before you know it, I was drunk at 4 o’clock and exhausted from hours of laughter. It was a great time.

When we got back, Claudio presented me with a birthday chocolate bar which he had grabbed in town, which was so sweet. We took naps and then Claudio and his friends started the grill for a birthday asado. Friends came over, food was eaten, and it was just a generally good time with good people. It was great.

Finally, when I had to leave, another friend showed up and offered me a ride home since he was headed in that direction. He was a Chilean from Poughkeepsie, having moved here at age 8, and he was good fun. I was really grateful for everything when I got back to Calama, and satisfied that I had had a really nice birthday.

But don’t stop yet! There’s more!

On Monday morning I was due into work at 2:45 PM, and stoked for the sleep time I was about to get. Then my head teacher sends me a message at 11 PM that night, I have to be in at 10:30. UGHHH!!! I was so mad! I wanted desperately to sleep and didn’t understand what I had to go in for. But whatever, I thought. Typical.

The next morning I dragged myself out of bed, moaning and crying the whole time, as I was still exhausted from my trip to Calama and then from barely sleeping in San Pedro. Thinking mierda, mierda, mierda, mierda ( in Spanish- yes! I think in Spanish now!) I walked to school, got hollered at by a bunch of gross men, almost screamed out “FUCK YOU ASSHOLE!” but didn’t, and arrived to school. I rang the bell and the secretary let me in saying “the principal needs to see you right away, go there right now!”.

“Ookayyyyy”, I thought, flipping through my brain for things I could have done wrong, while I sat down at the principal’s desk. But the principal just asked me how I was, how was my family, how was I liking Chile etc. etc. “That’s nice I thought, Chileans are so damn preoccupied with others’ well-being”. The conversation went on for a long time, and started to get a little weird when the principal asked me if I’ve met any men here in Chile and when the last time I was in a relationship was. I thought it was weird, but these people tend to be overly personal so I wasn’t really surprised.

I was surprised, however, when he said, “Ok, let’s go” and led me into the courtyard where the ENTIRE school was standing behind two chairs facing the stage. The principal led me to the chair next to him, and I saw the giant letters that said “HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAUREN” on a banner behind the stage. “Oh my god….you have to be kidding me!!!!” I thought. Oh my god!!!! My head teacher had planned the whole thing! I found her in the crowd and she gave me little smirk. What a kind, generous woman. Truly. She just goes above and beyond.

It was so cute. All the little kids chirped “happy birthday Miss, happy birthday Miss, happy birthday Miss!!” in my ear while one of my best students presented a little speech in English, and then the younger students did a dance for me. Then they invited me to the stage where the entire school sang me happy birthday and brought me a cake. They then lined up with presents and hugs for me….I’m not kidding you, about 10 individually wrapped presents. I actually almost cried. It was probably the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done for me. The kids were absolutely precious.

Anyways, talk about a birthday surprise. To think I was mad because I had to get out of bed. It really was a moment I’ll never forget. What thoughtful, kind, human beings. Not to mention the awesome presents I got.

This is a reminder to self- never generalize. Where one Chilean is cruel, another could be an absolute godsend, like my head teacher Adriana.

My little party at the bar

My little party at the bar

Tranquil San Pedro, the view from Fran's house

Tranquil San Pedro, the view from Fran’s house

IMG_2806 IMG_2771

Americans are lazy

We buy prepared food instead of spending time cooking everything from scratch. We put our clothes in automatic washers and driers instead of separating the colors and materials into 5 different piles and spending all day washing and hanging everything. Women in the US have more time to be equal because they can just stick their meals in the microwave and hire a maid. The world according to my host mom.

For me, having modern conveniences is a blessing, not a curse. My host mom makes fun of me for being so lazy, and claims that she doesn’t like automatic washers, she prefers to wash by hand. She doesn’t like automatic cars, she prefers to do it the old fashion way. She doesn’t like prepared supermarket food, she’d rather sit in the house all day peeling potatoes. God forbid she had a dishwasher… No, she doesn’t like dishwashers because people who use them are flojo ( lazy).

Ok. Whatever. Spend all day peeling potatoes and washing dishes if you like it so much. What I don’t understand is why they invited me here when they so clearly hate Americans. They have absolutely no interest in the US except to make fun of it…. So why am I here!?!? I just don’t understand. They needed someone to pick on I guess.

God forbid I sleep past 9 on a weekend… LAZY!!!


The “not everything is bad” post as promised

The school is really good. I think that if I had gone to school there, I might have actually liked  it. The number one thing that I love is the constant shining sun. The desert climate sucks in my opinion, but the fact that it’s 72 and sunny every.single.day from about 11am- 4pm is absolutely amazing. Because of this climate the school is set up for the kids to spend tons of time outside. All of the classrooms are accessed through the outdoor courtyard. It makes sense that highschool was depressing for me, being stuck in a dreary building without leaving, for 7 hours a day. I even specifically remember the doors being locked and guarded, prohibiting you from finding any way to see the light of day. Throughout the day at Colegio Calama, I have a chance to bask in the sun and watch the adorable little kids run around for a few minutes every time the bell rings.

And Colegio Calama is all about fun and enjoyment. I’m not kidding when I say that the kids truly love being there. Why wouldn’t they, when they’re allowed to pull out the giant speakers and have dance parties on their ( 15 minute) breaks (cough cough 25 minutes..). I noticed last week that in front of the teacher’s lounge, there’s a barbecue. “That’s weird..” I thought. No. Not weird. Totally normal and used for grilling on 15 minute ( cough cough 30 minute) breaks. I have the pictures to prove it. This place is fun, nobody can argue with that!!!

12th graders grilling chorizo. They sell this for their own personal profit and the school allows it!

12th graders grilling chorizo. They sell this for their own personal profit and the school allows it!

The kids are good kids, they really are. I don’t know how they grow up to be such horrible, disgusting, assholes of adults, because right now they are such good kids. I only teach kids from 6th grade up, but I have a fan club of little kids that follow me around, give me whatever food their parents packed for them, and say “hello, hello, hello, hello!” They are so freaking cute. The school starts at kindergarten, and the 4-5-6 years old really are just so precious. The older kids also give me hugs, kisses, lollypops ( there’s always food to be had!). I have one 11th grader who speaks great English, all due to listening to American music. The last two times she had my class it was interrupted by an earthquake drill. Today she was complaining about our class being cut short again, and I said we could have class on Saturday if she wanted. “Yes, please!!! Please!!” was her answer. A kid begging for class on Saturday, that’s new. 

My fan club of 5 year olds

My fan club of 5 year olds

The girls take my hand and put food in it. If one gives me food, the rest go looking for whatever they have to offer and do the same.

The girls take my hand and put food in it. If one gives me food, the rest go looking for whatever they have to offer and do the same.

Also, the English teacher with whom I’m working and who’s in charge of me, is an absolute sweetheart. She cares about what she is doing, loves the kids, and loves her work. She is involved in the English teacher networks we have here and is even on the board, planning the meetings. She’s always thinking of ways to do more. She is a great person, she really is. I feel so lucky to be paired with her, because the other volunteer in Calama got stuck with this teacher who’s already told her he’s quitting the school after the semester, his kids don’t respect him, and he doesn’t care about her, the school, or the kids. I am very lucky to have somebody here who truly cares about me and wants me and the kids to succeed. It would be a lot harder to face this place without her on my side.

I mentioned that I’m not drinking a lot of water because my family doesn’t have filtered water and I don’t want to get sick. The next day I show up and there’s a water cooler in my classroom. I mentioned that the classroom walls were dirty and that the place hadn’t been cleaned on a while. She had her twelfth graders use a class period cleaning and beautifying my room. One day she says she noticed I don’t have a clock, the next day I come in and there’s a clock on the wall. Today she took my curtains and put them in a bag to take home and wash. She is an angel. She also drives me home everyday from school even though I live right up the street, and she is constantly worrying about me and asking how I am. I told her today how great she’s been and all she said was that she likes to do it, if she were in a other country alone she’d want someone to look after her as well. Again, she is an angel. 

So that’s my experience with the school, which really is great. The school is supposed to be my main focus here, so thank god that’s working out. I don’t think I’m a very good teacher, but my classes have been going okay and most the students seem pleased with me. I think I’ll get better after I am able to organize and plan more efficiently. What I really hate doing is planning classes, but this weekend I am going to try to plan my whole week in advance, and see if that works out better.

So, despite the bad, I’m holding on. Three more months, I think it will go by fast! 

My newly beautified classroom

My newly beautified classroom


Gays need not enter

I can’t imagine being gay here. I can hardly imagine anything worse. I’ve noticed my family’s anti- gay comments but tonight the topic was expanded on. The thing that I have so much trouble understanding, is that these people consider themselves “gay friendly”.

The 25 year old has a “best friend” who’s gay, who they talk about all the time, making comments that I would consider extremely offensive. However, she says they are best friends, in college they did absolutely everything together. Today she says she went to a gay bar with him once but was immediately disgusted after seeing all the same- sex pairs kissing and had to leave. “Wasn’t your friend offended by this?” I asked. “No”, she said. “He knows when he can turn it on and turn it off, and he understood that I wasn’t comfortable and apologized. We are best friends but he knows that he could never kiss a man in front of me because I think those things should be kept private. With his gay friends he can do it, with me he knows not too.” BEST FRIENDS? Incredible. I think that’s just how gay people have to live around here… Even with their supposed best friends. The daughter also commented on his ability to ” man it up” when need be. I can’t imagine how shitty this would all feel if you were gay.

Then they get into the conversation about how it’s perfectly fine for people to be gay, as long as they do it in private and they don’t marry or have kids. I tried so hard to butt myself into this conversation but I’m also not going to make them hate me by telling them what prejudiced pricks they all are. I said that gays getting married, having kids, kissing in public, and all these things are normal in my country. ” That’s the problem!!!!! Then it becomes normal and it’s okay to do!!!! Noooooo, not here, nooooo” exclaims the mom. Um? That’s the problem? I was under the impression that allowing people to be who they are was a positive thing. Nope. The worst thing that can happen would be that homosexuality becomes normal. “And what about the kids????” She says “they’re going to grow up thinking this behavior is normal!!!” And they laugh.

It’s hard being here because on one hand I want to rip all of their heads off and say “fuck this fucked up country!!!!!” and get the hell out of here. On the other hand I know I can’t get into battles with these people because I have to live with them, get along with them, and not offend them. I have no intentions of quitting the program, so I have no choice but to shut my mouth.

I honestly can’t even begin to imagine how bad this experience would be if I were gay. And that’s sad. Attention all gays… don’t ever go to Calama, they hate you here!!!! How sad that a whole population of people are completely isolated and made to feel like freaks here. It’s really upsetting to me. I just can’t imagine what that would feel like.