Walking to my homestay several times every day, I’d pass this sign etched into the corner of a building near my apartment. It translates into:
No day is more important than today…Smile.
What a lovely reminder that often me jolted out of feeling tired, ruminating about the busy day or the next scheduled event for that day, or a multitude of other thoughts that can clutter the mind with unnecessary junk. I don't know who owns this building or was so thoughtful to put such a profound reminder of why we are here (Smile, Laugh!) but thank you wise person.
On Thursday Universidàd Mayor (our higher ed partner in Santiago) hosted a lovely farewell reception for us. It’s hard to believe that three weeks have slipped by so quickly. When we first arrived, it seemed like the month of June stretched out before us, and now that out time is coming to a close we’re left scratching our heads wondering where the days and weeks went. We first sat in a large circle and spent time sharing some of the personal experiences and impressions of Santiago the city, and the many classes, events, and schools we visited.
Some things that stand out to me included the kindness and comradery of the students, warmth and natural affection between students and their teachers (and us as visitors), and how openly we were welcomed into all of the classes & schools we visited. BSC Students also noted how well “taken care of” they felt by their Universidàd Mayor classmates, with them organizing several home visits, numerous tours to city attractions as well as some late-night dancing and karaoke outings thrown in too.
I also have to give a shoutout to my 3 roommates in Santiago: Kelly, Karly, and Anna (from Great Britain). We turned 1443 Providencia into the apartment from Friends (sort of) despite a bit of weirdness--or perhaps because of it. The three of you were lovely to share a space with for 3 weeks and reminded me of why I actually do like living with people, even though I've lived alone for the past 12 years. Thank you for not being annoying roommates, you know I don't put up with any nonsense!
Friday was our last day at our language school, ECELA, and in the afternoon we had a graduation ceremony at which we were each presented with a certificate by our teachers. It was a touching and heartwarming event and a nice way to culminate the experience.
While the students went horseback riding in the afternoon, Pixita and I decided to try out this funky little vegan restaurant called Pepperland that many of the our ECELA classmates had been raving about. We reflected on what a fantastic trip it had been (despite the usual minor bumps and blips), and how proud we were of the Buffalo State IPDS students as a group and how well they represented the School of Education. I reminded Pixita that this is what she built, and I hope it’s as fulfilling to her to see it come to fruition almost a decade later as it has been to be a newer part of it for the past 4 years. I can only imagine what the next 10 years will bring and the opportunities for growth as the world gets smaller and smaller (more humans, cheaper flights, and the internet).
As much as I will miss Santiago, I know our partnership with continue to deepen and flourish in the coming years.
Thanks to all for following this blog, and commenting, and I look forward to the next adventure!
P.S. Angela Patti-You da real MVP, you commented on every blog, every post. It did not go unnoticed ;-)
P.S. one of my furry children is very happy to have a llama rug to curl up on this winter.
So, this is a question we were asked many times today. What is your favorite thing about Chile? This is like asking, "What is your favorite thing about Buffalo?", or "what is your favorite thing about traveling?" There is so much to love about this city and country. My favorite thing about Chile is just walking the streets, and seeing the city and culture. Although I've been to may spanish-speaking countries over the past 30 years, this is unlike one I've ever experienced. The people are warm and cool. The climate is warm and cool (it is officially winter here). But it all just feels very warm. It's hard to describe unless you've experienced it. This is why I travel, and am so committed to this program to give students the opportunity to travel in order to experience positive change
The title of my blog was as question asked by a young Chilena student in our class on Tuesday. After finishing a class of 30 8th graders, many of them came back after class to ask us some pop culture questions. Our super duper graduate students Kayla & Abby answered all questions with style & grace. So what music are young people listening to these days? K-pop is very popular here, as is Reggaeton and pop.
The school we visited was the Colegìo Generàl Alberto Bachelet. This school is named after a military hero who vehemently opposed the 1972 military coup which overthrew the then-Presidente Salvatore Allende (democratic socialist), The ensuing dictator Pinochet installed a military regime which went on to slaughter thousands of its opponents & bury their corpses in unmarked mass graves.
General Bachelet was also tortured to death while in jail for refusing to conform to the new form of government in his beloved homeland & pay lip service to their twisted ideas of governance and public service. His daughter Michelle (a physician-surgeon) later became the first female President of Chile in 2006, elected as a democratic socialist (and again in 2014).
We were able to observe and participate in an English lesson taught by a U Mayor and IPDS Buffalo alum, Bastiàn. He used many explicit instruction techniques to keep a large group of very energetic (and chatty!) 8th graders engaged throughout the lesson. Another great opportunity to see excellent instruction in action.
This past Friday was reunion day, as Universidad Mayor students from past cohorts dating back to 2014, 2015, and 2017 stopped by for a celebration. It was lovely to see the connection between the old and the new and see how our intercambio continues to grow. It was great seeing the new students and the old breaking bread and sharing tales. Most alumni are now working as full time teachers or pursuing graduate studies, so their success is evident in their achievements.
Today was our big wine tour day. While half of our Buf State group went scurrying up the Andes mountains with the indefatigable Dr. del Prado, the rest of the students decided to join me on a leisurely wine tour of the incredible Undurraga Vineyards. It is one of the oldest wineries in the region (established in 1885) and produces a huge amount of Chilean wines which are exported all over the world. It was interesting to see the vineyards and how they grow the different varietals. We also learned that 70% of all Carménère wine is produced in Chile. They have the perfect climate and soil for the vintage, while in other parts of the world they have to produce the grape via grafting due to a blight that wiped out most of the vines in France and other parts of the world. . Our tour leader today was named Brian, he is a native Chilean who was born & grew up in in Omaha, Nebraska (of all places!) but moved back to Chile as an adult to rediscover his heritage--and lead excellent wine tours. I’m always fascinated by stories of those who wander, and are brought back “home”.
Today I also learned that the majority of wine barrels are produced in California and France, and the ones from California sell for about $500-$800 per barrel, and the ones from France cost about $1500 per barrel. After 5 years they become “neutral” in terms of adding any flavor to the wine and are then sold to Pisco or other liquor makers. In the numerous huge stainless steel vats that were at this winery (160,000 liters), they add wood chips to give the wine some flavor as it ages. I’ve been to many wineries over the past couple of decades, and I learned a lot of new facts about wine today—lifelong learning exemplified. If you're a wine drinker for pleasure and interest, please know that the world drinks a LOT of delicious wine from Chile.
I write this post with a lot of emotion, as we are all very much missing Dr. Angela Patti this IPDS Chile trip and we are also so excited for the new human she and Justin created and nourished to formation in February 2019--Baby Elliott!!!! He is a very special little guy, with a lot of adventures (including Chile) to come.
He recently just celebrated his 4 month incarnation day (birthday) and I've been inundated with requests for photos. Angela has obliged, so here you go.
It’s hard to believe we’re closing out our second week here in Chile. On Tuesday, Pixita and I had a very productive and interesting meeting with the leadership of Universidad Mayor. One of the (many) wonderful things about this program is the opportunity to exchange ideas, to not only find our commonalities but also learn from each other about how we can “borrow” ideas and best practices and incorporate them into our structures. A great example is the concept of “Umbral”, or what is also known as “Threshold Theory”, which ties into our long standing knowledge of theories such as Lev Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development and Steve Krashen’s Critical Input theory. Check out this amazing video for Umbral in daily classroom practice:
When I was a senior in high school my parents sent me to visit my Aunt Marion (dad’s sister) & Uncle Dick in Anaheim, California, home of the original Disneyland theme park. Of course they took me there for the day during my visit and I somehow got trapped on the ride "It's a Small World After All" for about 30 minutes. The ride malfunctioned and I was stuck listening to an endless creepily cheerful loop of the song "It's a Small World". If my recollections are accurate, I was one more chorus of It’s a Small World away from being wheeled out of that ride in a straight jacket. I'm happy to inform you that the song now only has positive associations for me (the title of this blog entry) as I think of how much we have shared and experienced since 2011 when Pixita first came to live in Chile with her family and work at U Mayor as a Fulbright fellow. How many lives have been changed and positively impacted over the past 8 years...
On Wednesday, we had the opportunity to meet with 1st year students enrolled in the English teacher program at U Mayor. They were bubbling with youthful energy and enthusiasm, if a little shy about their level of fluent English-speaking proficiency (which was excellent). We moved around small groups and from one very giggly group of young ladies I learned about the legend of the “Trauco” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trauco
My Oh My. May the heavens save us all from the Trauco. Then again, I really want to meet this charming and seductive little sprite.
The legendary Chilean hospitality was definitely on display today in our warm welcome to the home of Universidad Mayor student Valentina and her beautiful family. The food her family made was both plentiful and delicious. I tried Pastel del Choco for the first time, which is a type of corn cake with meat and other flavors. It is very time intensive to make and it was so flavorful https://www.nomadicchica.com/es/receta-pastel-de-choclo-cocina-chilena/
The desserts were also off the chain!!! A Tres Leches type-cake and a lemon meringue torte with a full on swiss meringue crust—that is very hard core and lets someone who knows that someone who really knows was doing the cooking.
It was so nice for all of us to be welcomed into a Chilean home and eat so many traditional homemade dishes. Gracias Valentina and your beautiful mom and sisters. We are all very blessed in our small, small world.
So, the title of my blog post is a lyric from a Rihanna song, “Diamonds”. I know who the musical artist & designer Rihanna is, and I know some of her popular hit songs, but this one was a new one for me as I belted it out today it along with 45 first graders in today’s classroom karaoke. But I digress, more on that later.
My last blog post, on Friday, was unexpectedly truncated due to Weebly blog issues so I have a lot to share tonight. I had written a lot about the absolute blast we had in Conversation Club at Universidad Mayor on Friday afternoon, so please check out the blog of my colleague Dr. Pixita del Prado Hill for a wonderful elucidation of that experience.
Saturday our Buff State group traveled to Valparaìso, on the Pacific Coast of Chile. It is one of the most important port cities in the South Pacific and is also the headquarters for the Chilean Navy. In addition, it is a beautiful city with a Mediterranean feel. There are dozens of colorfully painted neighborhoods (barrios) that are tucked into the hills and bluffs that hug the picturesque coastline. After hoofing it up and down those hills, we then hopped next door to Viña del Mar (Vineyard of the Sea, also known as the Garden City) to watch a spectacular Pacific sunset and stroll along the ocean boardwalk. And eat delicious gelato! There is no such thing as too much gelato, especially when you’ve walked your ass off to earn it!.
This week started off with a new round of classes at ECELA. It never ceases to amaze me how good they are at what they do (provide an amazing environment in which to learn Spanish and experience Chilean culture in various forms). Last week, Pixita and I were in a large conversation class, along with another goddess warrior named Lara from Switzerland. We had great classmates, who hailed from Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Seattle, who (bless their restless tongues) could not shut their---highly fluent---traps to allow others to speak during class. This week’s blessing was to find there was a conversation class for me, Pixita, and Lara, and another class for the “lago de hombres con diarrhea de la boca” (sorry, very inside joke and please ask me to tell you the backstory when we next see each other in person) . In summary, classes this week were off to a fantastic start and ECELA continues to earn its reputation as the best Spanish language school in Chile.
Today (Monday 6/10) Carmen, Kelly, and I also visited a public school in the afternoon, Colègio de Republic de Siria. Benjamìn of Universidad Mayor was our leader, along with Lorena the English mentor teacher. In a single small classroom of 45 very energetic first graders we managed to find calm within the chaos and learning emerged from the disarray. Both Carmen and Karly jumped right into the classroom environment as were soon leading private tutoring lessons for groups that had flagged on their homework. Que pasa con eso?
It was a fantastic experience for our teacher candidates and we look forward to returning.
Never in a million years did I think singing the songs of Justin Bieber, Jon Bon Jovi, and Queen (they WILL Rock you!!) all in the same classroom first grade classroom in Chile would lead to such diversified outcomes. This is why we do IPDS!
It's hard to believe just one week ago at this time I was contemplating how to organize my suitcase for 3 weeks in a very sunny warm/cold winter Santiago. And here we are, a week later and thousands of miles from home. Although only a few days have passed since my last blog posting, we've been running on about 12 cylinders here so there is a lot to catch you up on.
Wednesday afternoon was our "big formal presentation" to Universidad Mayor students and faculty: Education in the United States, Inclusion, and Classroom Management.
It was incredibly well attended (about 50 people) and participants were actively engaged throughout the presentation. The Buffalo State IPDS Chile students did a fantastic job as professionals throughout the presentation and handled the lively Q&A session afterwards like well-seasoned pros.
One focus of our presentation was the many shared features of the educational systems in both Chile and the United States. This has been an ongoing theme throughout the week, as we have various conversations in different contexts with future teachers in Chile, and underscores how much we are bound by our similarities, not our differences.
On Thursday we met with 5th year students, who are completing a practicum experience similar to our student teaching. They described long hours, challenging lessons, and juggling many different issues throughout the day. Yep, sounds just like student teaching. I shared with my group how I used to come home from my first year of teaching and cry every day (those of you who know me know I am NOT a crier). I cried because I was happy to have a job that I (think) I loved. I cried because I felt overwhelmed. I cried because I didn't know if I was doing anything right. I cried because I had a stack of papers to grade and lessons to prepare for tomorrow. I cried because it made me feel better. But I got through it. And they will too. The teacher candidates we met with today displayed the same resilience that our candidates do: resilience, dedication, and passion for an oft challenging yet rewarding profession.
Wow, has it really only been 3 days? It's amazing how time can stretch out when you travel.
The adventure began with an all-nighter marathon packing session (of course). I scooped up Dr. del Prado Hill and we had a quick jaunt to the Toronto airport. Checkin was surprisingly easy with no crowds and we were off. I'm unfortunately NOT a good plane sleeper so it was a long 17 hour trip to Santiago. We arrived about 3 am and camped out in the airport until our 8 am shuttle. Seeing our students wrapped in blankets, hats, and gloves stretched out on the floor using their suitcase as a pillow made me long for my 20s again. The good thing was no luggage was lost and everything was on time.
Once we finally arrived and got settled, it was time for our first day bright and early Monday morning at our Spanish language school, ECELA. They have classes that average 4-6 students, with people visiting from all over the world. Students are placed according to their language ability, so most of us are in classes with a great mixture of new friend possibilities.
The highlight of our 2 days here has been the activities organized by our Chilean higher education partner, Universidad Mayor. It is the largest private university in Santiago and Pixita has spent the better part of a decade forging relationships and opportunities for students at Buffalo State as well as students from U Mayor. For us visiting Chile from Buf State, this experience represents the culmination of those efforts. A true international exchange of ideas and energy, with a newly formed collaborative research team ready to bring the element of scientific exploration to the cultural exchange and educational experience (more on that to come!)
We were graciously greeted by a U mayor delegation of faculty and students with a lovely Welcoming Reception (they had me at passionfruit cake), and over the past two days have visited participated in several different classes on campus and met with the Student Council, a small but mighty group of student leaders determined to foster positive change both in campus and in the local community. I feel like we've already packed weeks' worth of wonderful experiences into just two days.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and please tune in for more in the coming days & weeks as we continue our adventures (and please comment below, so I know someone is actually reading this!).
If you were a Girl Scout, you may recognize the title of one of my favorite songs from summer camp. As I prepare for another IPDS Chile trip, I'm surprised by how quickly two years has passed since the last trip in 2017.
I'm excited by the wonderful group of students we have this round (please check out their blogs too!) and the opportunity to collaborate with our Universidàd Mayor partners on some exciting new projects.
I'm currently teaching a graduate course in Medellìn, Colombìa. This is my first time visiting Medellìn, and I'm astounded at what a stunningly beautiful city it is, the city sits nestled in green mountains with blue skies and white clouds blanketing it. Flowers and plants are everywhere. South America offers so much richness of culture, geography, and people. I'm excited to explore it more in the coming years.
I have to give a big shout out to my colleagues Dr. Pixita del Prado Hill and Dr. Angela Patti. Angela and I traveled together in the 2017 trip and I learned a lot from her about being a good trip leader. As a new mom, she is unable to travel with us this time, but she still provided tremendous support throughout the year as we prepared for this trip, including Selecting, ordering and organizing the huge amount of children's books and other classroom materials we'll be bringing with us to use and donate to classrooms in Chile. She will be missed, but her presence will be very much felt. Also many thanks to Pixita, who started this program almost ten years ago and has nurtured it into one the flagship programs for student international travel at Buffalo State College. Her tireless work ethic and desire to collaborate to help others grow shine through every aspect of this experience.
Stay tuned for more adventures to come.
I am a citizen of planet earth and am excited to see as much of it as possible in this lifetime.