Michael Bihl is one of the teachers at Smooth Talkers. He is from South Africa, but lived in Thailand before coming here.
He has lived in Chile since February 2015. We interviewed him to get to know his experience in this country a bit better.
Where are you from?
I’m from South Africa. It’s a country famous for the Soccer World Cup, Nelson Mandela, and not much else. After university I decided to embark on a crusade to bring the beauty of South Africa to the far reaches of the planet, which is why I’ve spent the last few years living in Thailand. More recently, though, I’ve come to Chile to see what South America has to offer.
How long have you been in Chile?
I’ve been in Chile since February 2015. In that time I have learned a fair bit of Spanish, found out what an empanada is, visited a few interesting spots in and around Santiago, and watched my life spiral into an abyss as a result of my crippling empanada addiction.
Why did you choose to come here?
Becoming jaded by the sublime beaches of Thailand, I yearned for change. In my desire to get as far away from South East Asia as possible, I drew a diagonal line across a map of the world, and where that line ended was Chile. Hopefully here I am safe from the kindly map seller whose map I vandalized.
What other countries have you visited?
I spent a few months in England in 2006, and I lived in Thailand from 2011 to 2014. In between that, I’ve hopped around a few countries in South East Asia and Southern Africa, and I once spent the night in No Man’s Land between Lesotho and South Africa*. I also got trapped in Argentina once because of heavy snow, but that’s far, far less exciting that I’ve just made it out to be.
*walked into Lesotho illegally.
Tell us about your experience living in Chile.
Living in Chile is like living in the world’s biggest art museum. The people are extraordinarily expressive: They dress colourfully, they style their hair, they sport tattoos, they play instruments, and they put on performances. Being able to see snow-capped mountains from any point in the city not only makes me appreciate how beautiful Chile is, but it also helps me figure which direction is east. Because Chile is such a narrow country with pocket-sized cities surrounded by mountains and forests and beaches and glaciers and deserts, it’s almost impossible to avoid hiking or camping or just generally interacting with nature in some way while living here.
What's the best part of living in this country?
The long answer is first world luxuries mixed with Latino charm. The short answer is empanadas.
Tell us about your experience as an ESL teacher
People in Chile are quite keen to learn English, and they’re incredibly friendly to boot. This wonderful combination leads to unparalleled job satisfaction.