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Hey all, 

Its gonna be a short post today, I’m swamped in work for my ISP right now! The final paper (25 pages of spanish eeek) is due monday, and I am really not where I need to be. I’ve got a long week ahead of me for sure. 

Whats been going on in my life: last week I took a trip to Valle de Elqui which is in the north of Chile. I got to tour a pisco plant, look at some gorgeous views of the ocean and relax a little before this week of writing writing writing. I am finally finished with my interviews! Only two weeks and 10 interviews later my project is finally starting to come together. Image

Here is a picture of me at the Tercer Milenio in Coquimbo, which is essentially a giant cross that you can take an elevator up to the top and see a killer view of the ocean and the city. 

Sorry for the really short post, promise next time will be a little more interesting 

xoxo

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How to Lose an Interview in 10 days

Hola todos!
As you may have gathered from the (very clever) title of this post, this past week I have been starting to do my own interviews and school visits because its finally ISP period! For those of you who don’t know, my abroad program is fairly unique and during the last month of our program we are tasked with the job of researching and writing our own, 25-30 page independent research project (all in spanish of course). Now for my project I have decided to investigate the working conditions of teachers here in Santiago and there relationship with the teachers union (or “sindicato”). This is particularly interesting here because the unions don’t legally have the right to collective bargaining, so the methods in which teachers are allowed to negotiate benefits, salaries and other working conditions are very roundabout. But such is the Chilean culture. Which brings me to my next point: my difficulties during this period with procuring interviews, school visits and my host family.
As I mentioned before, the Chilean culture is very roundabout, people will not tell you when something is bothering them, because they don’t want a confrontation. It also makes for difficulty with scheduling, because nobody likes to say no, but a lot of the time a certain meeting or visit just isn’t possible. We were warned about this cultural fact during our orientation and it has caused me difficulties in the past, obviously, but this past week this cultural difference has really surfaced as a confounding factor to getting my ISP started and living with my host family. First, about ISP, I haven’t has as much difficulty with scheduling as others in the program, but it has become a reality that many schools or contacts just will not email/call you back if you reach out to them. Obviously this has really put a damper on us wide-eyed and bushy tailed students ready to dive right into our research. We were all assigned “consejeras” or advisors for our ISP period, and most of us have spent the majority of the time so far trying to get our consejeras to email/call us back and give us some input on what we are doing. Luckily, after countless emails and phone calls I was able to set up 2 school visits (out of the three I need for my project), and my consejero assures me that he has set up interviews with the union leaders (we’ll see), so I am on a good track. This is not the case for many of my peers however, who are struggling to find a single school visit with absent consejeras.
Now about my host family. Yesterday I was called in by my Academic Director to talk about how my host mom was upset about how I’m not good at communicating where I’m going what I’m doing etc. When my AD called me, however, I was pretty shocked because my host mom had never really mentioned being upset about this before. I has honestly thought that I was doing a pretty good job of complying with her (strict) rules about communication. Basically she wants to know where I am at all times, and I should send her multiple texts about where I am every day and night. Now, this has been a little tough for me to remember to do, as its a slightly different requirement than my parents at home have, and also I live by myself for 75% of the year. When she first told me this I was a little peeved but realized that I was living in her home and I needed to respect her wishes, so I did my best to text her where I was all the time. I forgot a few times but on the whole I was doing pretty well, or so I thought. Anyway, when my AD told me she wasn’t happy I was a little embarrassed and put-off, because I thought that she should have come and talked to me if something was bothering her! I talked to her later that night about it and she said, yes she was uncomfortable with it but not so uncomfortable that she would say anything to me about it (just to my academic director, because thats how you deal with this things, obviously). All in all the situation made me more than a little bit uncomfortable, and made me feel as if she thought I was a child. I don’t want to ruin my relationship with her or my time here, however, so I’m trying to let it go. I guess I will just have to accept that people have a different, more indirect way of dealing with problems here, and learn to adapt as best I can.
Sorry for the long post y’all but to end, I will leave you with ridiculous thing #792 that my chilean host mom has said: cultural/racial sensitivity edition. (while watching save the last dance in spanish) “Me gustaría tener un pelolo negrito. Se paracen simpatico y guapo” translation: I would like to have an african-american boyfriend, they seem really nice and good-looking.
… Alright Sonia… just come right out and say it why don’t you

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Buenos Aires or Bust

Hey Everyone! 

So So SO sorry for the late post. Allow me to explain why I’m so late: I have been in Buenos Aires for the past two weeks! It has been absolutely crazy and I have been doing activity after activity after activity and haven’t had time to think let alone write a blog post. It’s no excuse I know (sorry Butler’s and CMC study abroad office!) but anyway, this post will be extra detailed and witty to make up for it. Ok, topics of this blog: coming to BA, host family situation, the city, and school visits. 

The first week is almost a blur to me now, but the important things to note are the funny situation with my host family. So all of the girls on my program (16 in total) lived in pairs on this trip because the program couldn’t find 16 separate host families for such a short amount of time. My roommate and I were all set to meet our host parents when a thirty year old man named Julian comes to pick us up. Apparently there had been a problem with our real host parents, parents health and they needed to travel to see them and were supposed to be back in a couple of days (which turned into a week and a half). The program didn’t know about this and were a little bit concerned about two twenty year old girls living with only a thirty year old man… but no matter, we went home with Julian and even though we were nervous at first he was really really helpful and attentive (maybe even a little clingy, he texted us like 7 times a day to make sure we were ok) and there was a woman and her husband that help out around the house that lived there as well. I actually could not have asked for a better situation, because I had 5 host parents instead of two (as “cursi” or cheesy as that sounds). 

Next order of business: the city itself. BA is beautiful, in fact, as soon as we came here almost everyone on our program was regretting choosing Santiago as their study abroad destination (that enthusiasm for BA has faded as the romantic image of BA has faded with time). Personally, I love BA but this trip has only reaffirmed me in my choice of Santiago. BA is very European, there a coffee shops everywhere, almost everyone speaks fluent english, the architecture is beautiful etc. And I love it for that, but I know that there is a reason I choose to study abroad in South America, and I am glad that I am getting a truly South American experience in Santiago. There is one thing about BA, however, that I do not like in the slightest. Allow me to rant for a moment about the BA public transit system. IT MAKES NO SENSE. The subte (which is their version of the subway) has only 6 lines (for a city of BLANK people) with ONLY 2 INTERSECTING LINES. And all of the lines meet up at Plaza de Mayo which is in the far east corner of the city, so if you live in the far west corner of the city like I do, it is a HUGE hassle to get anywhere in the middle. The buses also make no sense and I don’t think I will ever truly understand them. Anyway, public transit rant over, let me tell you about what we’ve been doing with the program.

The main thing is school visits. We have been to 6 different schools here with different focuses and they have all been incredible.  We visited a public school where I sat in a civics class and the lesson was about discrimination and was SO relevant to the students lives. That same school had a high number of teen moms, so they installed a nursery with information and resources for the mothers. They also allowed the mothers a flexible schedule so that they could visit their children in the nursery during the day anytime they needed to. The results of these programs were incredible. The students all raved about their school and it was clear that the school was not just a place where the kids came during the day and sat through some classes that they hated, but rather a staple institution of the community where kids felt safe and comfortable. And because of this comfortable environment, the incidence of dropouts was much lower than at other schools. This school was definitely my favorite to visit but every school we visited had so many resources available for the students and fostered such an atmosphere of community. It was actually a little hard for me to understand how this system could exist. I asked if their taxes were much much higher, because I figured that was the only way it was possible, but everyone told me this was not the case, Argentines just really care about education so their government spends more of its GDP on education. 

All in all, BA has been great, but I am definitely excited to return to Santiago, which is a great feeling, because I know that I am comfortable and feel at home there. 

 

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Temuco!

Hey everyone!
I just had the most incredible week in Temuco! Little bit of background: Temuco is a city in the south of Chile. We recently traveled there with our program to learn about intercultural education. We actually stayed in a small rural area right outside of temuco called Chapod, because Chapod has a large indigenous population. The native people of Chile are called the Mapuche people.
Back to my experience! The week was incredible. Everyone on our program stayed with a different host family. All of the host families were Mapuche, so we really got to learn about their culture as well as their daily life. The host family that I stayed with were sustenance farmers and had three children. We didn’t have running water in the house and our bathroom was an outhouse. Now, if you know me, you know that normally I might have a hard time under those circumstances, because I am not exactly what you would call outdoorsy. However, the week went over really well and I was really happy the whole time despite the fact that I didn’t have internet or running water. I was actually pretty surprised at how incredible the experience was actually! Definitely not what I was expecting. The family that I stayed with were honestly some of the most genuine people I have ever met. Despite the fact that they were living well below the poverty line, they were happy all the time and didn’t seem to worry about money or become very stressed about anything at all. They were super close and spent all of their free time together playing cards, watching telenovelas, cooking, doing work around the house and farm etc. I don’t think I saw the dad frown once.
Besides the home stay experience we also got to visit some local schools and learn about how they are pioneering intercultural education and using Mapuche history to empower the kids. We also got to learn a lot about Mapuche culture: we saw traditional Mapuche dances preformed, took a class on Mapudungun (the Mapuche language, and also one of the most confusing things I have ever had to learn in my life), and hear a lecture on the Mapuche religion. I was especially interested to learn about the Mapuche religion, which is similar to my own beliefs in a lot of ways and definitely reminded me of home, which seems odd, but if you know anything about my family religious background its really not. My dad identifies a lot with eastern religious philosophies, especially those regarding reincarnation, so learning about the Mapuche religion (which has the idea of reincarnation) definitely reminded me of him and even made me a little homesick because I felt like I immediately wanted to talk to him about it. Anyway, I won’t bore you with the details of everything I learned this past week because I could go on for pages and pages. but if you want to do your own research I’m going to provide a link to the Mapuche wikipedia page as a starting of point. I would really encourage everyone to learn a little bit about these incredible people and their heritage!
All in all, the most valuable thing this week taught me was perspective. I can not express in words how enlightening it was to see these people living their lives without the stresses and “needs” that I experience everyday. These people were living a quality of life which a lot of people would consider unacceptable, but they were happy despite everything they had been through. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to move to the Campo anytime soon and take up farming (I don’t think I was built for manual labor), but even so, it was really valuable to see life approached from a completely different view. I definitely learned some valuable lessons about what we truly “need” this week and I am so happy that I got to experience this.
p.s. My spanish is getting even better! I would say that I am definitely understanding about 90% of what is being said now, which is up from maybe 30% when I first got here.

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When in Valpo…

Hi all,
I know it has been a while since my last blog post, and this one will have to be a tad bit shorter than usual because I have been SWAMPED with work. We are finishing up with our classes this week and will be traveling to Temuco and Buenos Aires soon, which means that this week I have 2 projects and 3 essays to complete. But first, lets talk about what has happened since my last post. Couple things I should mention: 1. Fiestas Patrias (basically the 4th of July of Chile) 2.Valparaíso 3.Huge improvements in spanish!
Now lets talk about Fiestas Patrias. Basically it is a weeklong party where everyone goes to Fondas (fairs) and asados (BBQ’s). I personally got to experience both of these which was great. I went to a Fonda and ate cheese and some sort of juice with seeds in it (Mote con Huesillo) which is apparently the street food most likely to make you sick from eating it. I was personally able to avoid it, but I shared it with a friend who had a bloated stomach for a couple of days after. I also learned how to dance the Quaka which is a traditional Chilean dance where the girls wear huge poofy dresses and the boys wear costumes which look a little bit like matador costumes. The dance is super complicated and I can’t say that I am the best dancer in the world, so I definitely have a little ways to go before I can call myself a master, but it was fun just to learn a little bit! I also went to a BBQ with my host family, where I ate probably my body weight in meat and bread. I had a great time, but seeing my entire extended host family definitely made me a little bit homesick. All in all Fiestas Patrias= Super fun.
Second point: Valparaíso (or Valpo, as it is affectionately called)! This past weekend our entire program took a trip to Valparaíso, which is a coastal town north of Santiago known for beautiful views of the ocean and an abundance of alcoholics. While there we visited a couple of schools in really low-income areas and talked with a representative from the teachers union there (Colegio de Professores). The school visits were both extremely heartwarming and discouraging. Let me explain, first, we went to an elementary school right outside of the town which served more rural students. This visit was amazing, because I was assigned to a kindergarten class where I got to interact and play with the kids, who were so extremely genuine and sweet. All the kids call their teachers and other adults “tia/tio” which translates to aunt or uncle, and they were all extremely happy to be in school and seemed to love the atmosphere. When we talked to some of the teachers and administrators they seemed so passionate and willing to do whatever was necessary to help this kids. So of course, after leaving this school I was psyched and super ready to see what the next school (a high school) had to offer. Unfortunately the high school did not go nearly as well. The high school we visited was a technical school for girls. I sat in on a class which was supposedly teaching them about how to work in a pre-school or daycare environment. Unfortunately the class was disorganized, the teacher sat at the front desk the whole time while the girls basically did crafts for three hours. It was also disheartening to talk to some of the students there, because most of them didn’t really seem to have a passion for what they were doing, rather, school was a place where they came, sat around for a couple of hours and could hang out with their friends. Not a place where they were required to learn anything of value. Also, many of the girls in the school were pregnant and the first question they asked me when I met them and told them my name and age was “Do you have kids?”.
On a more positive note, my spanish has gotten infinitely better and I’m at the point where I can understand a good 80% of what is being said, which is a huge improvement for me! I think I have finally adjusted to the country and can finally make some real strides with the language
chau!

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