‘This is it,’ I thought as I started to roll down the canyon, rapidly picking up speed

I ended up in South America quite by chance. Having left school in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, in 1993, thinking I might like to go into teaching, I took a gap year under the stewardship of an educational charity called Project Trust, which organises international volunteering. As far as I’m aware, Chile was selected for me at random – I had no real knowledge of the area and didn’t speak Spanish. I arrived in the capital, Santiago, with two other students, where we taught English at local schools.

It was a potent time in Chile – Pinochet’s military dictatorship had ended only three years before and it felt exciting to be witnessing the transition to a democracy. It could be dangerous, too. One afternoon, the three of us were on the way back from the market in the centre of Santiago, where we’d been buying supplies for a camping trip. It was 11 September – the 20th anniversary of the military coup – and we walked straight into the middle of a protest about the legacy of the dictatorship. The police were using water cannon and we found ourselves caught up in the chaos, fleeing with the crowd along the city’s main avenue, La Alameda. Little did I realise I’d soon find myself in an even more perilous situation.

Continue reading…‘This is it,’ I thought as I started to roll down the canyon, rapidly picking up speedI ended up in South America quite by chance. Having left school in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, in 1993, thinking I might like to go into teaching, I took a gap year under the stewardship of an educational charity called Project Trust, which organises international volunteering. As far as I’m aware, Chile was selected for me at random – I had no real knowledge of the area and didn’t speak Spanish. I arrived in the capital, Santiago, with two other students, where we taught English at local schools.It was a potent time in Chile – Pinochet’s military dictatorship had ended only three years before and it felt exciting to be witnessing the transition to a democracy. It could be dangerous, too. One afternoon, the three of us were on the way back from the market in the centre of Santiago, where we’d been buying supplies for a camping trip. It was 11 September – the 20th anniversary of the military coup – and we walked straight into the middle of a protest about the legacy of the dictatorship. The police were using water cannon and we found ourselves caught up in the chaos, fleeing with the crowd along the city’s main avenue, La Alameda. Little did I realise I’d soon find myself in an even more perilous situation. Continue reading…