Sunday, August 9, 2015


I've had to change peluqueros again. This must be the fifth or sixth one I've tried here. I've lost count.

After an incident with one in El Centro back in 2012, I'd been trekking out to Barrio Yungay to Marcos* who did a consistent job of maintaining my hair style.

The problem? It was two-fold. Over time, I'd noticed that all the magazines in the salon had disappeared and were replaced by religious pamphlets. Along with my haircut, I could expect an evangelical lecture.

Then, there arose the scenario of their son and his learning English. This year, he was accepted into a "prestigious" Chilean school. He had not learned much English before and, now, he is struggling at the new school.

On my last visit to the salon, I'd had the foresight to take my Kindle and was reading the latest trashy novel, in plain view of their religious propaganda, when I heard a little voice say, "Hello, Tía."

I looked up to find Juanito* peeking into the salon. Since they live upstairs, this didn't surprise me, but this time, his mother frog-marched him in, one hand on each shoulder, and plunked him down in a chair opposite me. In his 12-year old hands was his English textbook.

"Please, he needs help with his homework. He doesn't understand it," pleaded his mother.

This wasn't the first time that they had asked for my help. I'd given mini-English lessons on previous salon visits and, last year, his mother had emailed me a homework assignment, along with a note begging me to do it for him. The task had been to translate a report which he would then have to read in class.

Put between the rock and being forced to find a new hairdresser, I'd reluctantly done the translation and sent it back with a stern note, reminding her that Juanito would learn nothing this way. They calmed down for awhile, but this year at his new school, he seems completely lost.

I looked at Juanito, seated across from me, and started asking him questions in English. "Does your teacher speak to the class in English?" I already suspected the answer to this, and he confirmed it with the blank stare.

I asked him again, in Spanish, and he shook his head. "Can he speak English at all?"

"Oh, yes. He can."

"Then, why doesn't he?"

"The first day of school, he asked who could understand him in English. When no one raised his hand, he gave up and started speaking to us in Spanish."

Uh-huh. If the kids can't understand the English teacher, isn't it his job to actually make sure that they learn how? I suggested that Juanito's parents go to the school and speak with the teacher, ask him why the kids aren't being taught in English. If the teacher wasn't receptive, my advice would be to complain to the administration.

"But how could we do that?" What?! "Why don't you come and do some workshops?"

I explained that I would soon be leaving Chile for this year, that I was not available to begin workshops. I thought that they had understood me.

They ignored my recommendation that they speak with the teacher, but they went to the administration ask if I could come to the school to teach remedial workshops to Juanito's class.

Next thing I knew, I had received an email from an "inspector" at the school, inviting me to send in a proposal, along with lesson plans, so that they could approve it before I arrived to do the free workshops.

After stewing for a couple of weeks, I wrote the inspector a polite note, explaining that I'm not going to be here long enough to begin workshops this year. He wrote back to say that I should inform Juanito's parents.

Since I'd already tried to inform them and they'd chosen not to hear me, I didn't bother to attempt it again. This, of course, all means that I've had to find yet another peluquería.

I've managed to locate a salon downtown where I was able to relax and thumb through the latest issue of Vanidades while waiting, and best of all, the Linda Hunt doppelgänger stylist doesn't seem the least bit interested in learning English.

~~Sally Rose
Author of Penny Possible & A Million Sticky Kisses

*names changed


  1. I can really understand your frustration and yet I hope you'll forgive me for reading this with a smile. I could just so vividly see this happening!! I only spent a brief six weeks in Chile and yet this seems completely within the realm of possibility!:)

    1. We could have a long chat, Colleen. Thanks for your comment.