Four Years in War-Ravaged Chile Formed Jimenez

Tessa Gonzalez, Staff Writer

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If you are a student at Clairemont High School, then you might know English teacher Gary Jimenez, but did you know that he taught in Chile?  Jimenez left San Diego to go teach in Chile in 1992, shortly after the cessation of that country’s brutal civil war.  

 

Santiago, Chile, population 5.15 million, is the capital and largest city in Chile. The beautiful city is in the country’s Central Valley. He arrived shortly after the departure of the notorious dictator, Augusto Pinochet as “president.”   Despite the fact that Pinochet was still Commander of the Armed Forces,  Jimenez taught in Chile for four years and had a great time.  ¨I loved it, loved the school, loved the country.¨

 

One of his first memories is of the day Pinochet, still head of the armed forces, ran about 100 tanks through downtown Santiago.   “It was a disturbing reminder that I was not in the United States anymore,” says Jimenez.

The reason he moved to Chile in the first place was for an adventure. Santiago, Chile, population 5.15 million, is the capital and largest city in Chile. The beautiful city is in the country’s Central Valley.  ¨I was 37, single and I wanted some adventure. I wanted to go where I could ski and surf the same day, and I wanted to go to a Spanish speaking country. I also got hired at the most expensive private school in the country teaching IB (International Baccalaureate)  English  and Journalism, so it was really ideal.”  

Jimenez also laughed saying that he had read a book that said that “the most beautiful women in Latin America were Chilean.”  He met his current wife the second weekend he was in the county while skiing in the Andes.

 

He says he was very privileged to work at Nido de Aguilas, which means Nest of Eagles. While at the school, was was tucked into the Andes mountains, he got to teach many ambassadors’ children and an ex-president’s child.

 

Jimenez admitted that it was challenging teaching students from the most prestigious families in the country.  They didn’t put up with mediocrity.  “It was very challenging for sure. Your students either pulled high test scores or you didn’t keep your job!  Fortunately, I had students who went to Harvard, MIT, Brown, and University of Pennsylvania, which are some of the most prestigious universities in the United States.”   

“We had a special place in the hearts of the families,” said Jimenez. He says it didn’t take him long to  adapt to getting a different type of respect. He would be invited to family’s house  for dinners  and was often greeted with presents. “We had a special place in the hearts of the families,” said Jimenez. 

 

His classes were as small as 12-15 students, which was one of his favorite parts. He also enjoyed his gorgeous classroom view of three 14,000 foot peaks right outside of his classroom. “We used to ride horses above the cloud line and see condors gracing the slopes of the Andes.  It was glorious.” 

 

Another difference:  Teachers were expected to give their female students and other female teachers a kiss on the cheek when he greet them.  “That took a while to get used to,” says Jimenez. It was customary and expected.

 

His rides on horses were not all pleasant. He got flipped off a horse while galloping around a ranch one holiday weekend — or rather the horse did a flip with him on it.  “I was lucky the horse didn’t land on me.  Literally, though, it shot me through the air about 30 yards. I shattered my arm and had two surgeries,” he says.

 

He was nearly killed a couple of times.  Once on his way home at night from a movie, he was nearly shot by the military police:  “The dude clicked the safetyy on his automatic weapon as I walked by his position. I think he thought I was a terrorist.”

 

On the more positive side, his two sons were born there.

 

He also had the opportunity to travel with students all over Latin America. He took students to “academic league” type competitions in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro; Brazil and Quito, Ecuador. 

 

Jimenez has no regrets looking back. “Always move forward, and don’t spend too much time looking back,” says Jimenez.  I got to see a whole lot of this beautiful world at minimal expense.  I fell in love and started a family.  I learned a language.  How could I regret any of that? 

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