Beginning the year at the end of the world
Here at SOLES, it is a requirement of all academic degree programs that you complete a global study course. From December 31-January 10, 2013 I was completing mine in a course designed to study School Change and Education Reform. I could not have been more excited to travel abroad to Santiago, Chile. Our itinerary was jam-packed and read something like this:
- 4 days of the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI) conference
- 1 day in Isla Negra, home of Chilean poet and politician Pablo Neruda
- 1 day visiting Colegio San Joaquin, a public subsidized school, and Santiago College, a private school.
- 1 day visiting NGO’s dedicated to making change in Chilean education
Not to mention meeting diplomats at the US Embassy, exploring the city of Santiago, visiting vineyards, and trying to become even the tiniest bit more fluent en español. Needless to say, I was ready for adventure…I could go on and on about all the things that we did and I learned but for the sake of time and to keep your jealousy at bay, I will choose my 5 highlights of the trip.
I cannot say enough about the food in Chile. Of course in the beginning us silly Americans were weary of eating certain foods, fresh fruits (unpeeled), lettuce, the list goes on. But in the end I figured, “The Chilean people aren’t dropping dead, I’m gonna indulge!” So indulge I did. The food in Chile was so incredibly fresh and amazing. Even their vegetables were better than our vegetables. I ate so many tomatoes while I was there, it was unreal. Also, since I am a pescatarian (a vegetarian who eats seafood), I often had lots of salads and in Chile that meant asparagus, tomatoes, and hearts of palm. I was in love. Give me a good Chilean meal any day of the week.
The Sense of Community
At both of the schools that we visited, San Joaquin and Santiago College, you could see how invested everyone was in the education of the children. The former headmaster of San Joaquin is currently the Dean of the School of Education at Universidad Finis Terrae and her name is Dean Luz Marie Budge. She was absolutely DYNAMIC as she spoke of her passion for training good teachers who will go back into their communities and raise the standards of education in Chile’s public school system. Dean Budge also stressed the importance of curiosity and nurturing that curiosity within the field of education. That is what makes us want to know more, to seek knowledge, to be educated! I was invigorated and moved by her charisma and obvious passion for education. It made me wonder about my own experiences in teaching, am I nurturing my students in a way that catalyzes their desire to learn?
Similarly the two NGO’s that we visited, Educacion 2020 and Elige Educar were about not just making schools better or transforming education, they were about changing the priorities of the community as a whole. Lets get excited about learning, lets engage our children in the quest for knowledge, lets make schools teachers and education a priority for every one in Chile on behalf of our children and those yet to come. I liked the approach because I think in order to sustain the momentum of any real change, you have to change the hearts and the minds of the people. One thing that I loved was how Elige Educar say they were on a suicide mission–they were working hard now so they would not be needed in years to come. It truly incredible to see how different parts of the community were coming together to fight one huge fight–attacking it from all sides.
It was everywhere. On the street, in the way people spoke, at the conference, on the television! EVERYWHERE! Chile is truly “the land of poets…” While we were there we got to visit Isla Negra which was home to Pablo Neruda, but we also heard the poems of Gabriela Mistral and Isabel Allende. One of my personal favorites was one by Gabriela Mistral who was a poet and an educator, to borrow her words:
Decalogue Of The Artist
I. You shall love beauty, which is the shadow of God
over the Universe.
II.There is no godless art. Although you love not the
Creator, you shall bear witness to Him creating His likeness.
III.You shall create beauty not to excite the senses
but to give sustenance to the soul.
IV. You shall never use beauty as a pretext for luxury
and vanity but as a spiritual devotion.
V. You shall not seek beauty at carnival or fair
or offer your work there, for beauty is virginal
and is not to be found at carnival or fair.
VI. Beauty shall rise from your heart in song,
and you shall be the first to be purified.
VII.The beauty you create shall be known
as compassion and shall console the hearts of men.
VIII.You shall bring forth your work as a mother
brings forth her child: out of the blood of your heart.
IX. Beauty shall not be an opiate that puts you
to sleep but a strong wine that fires you to action,
for if you fail to be a true man or a true woman,
you will fail to be an artist.
X. Each act of creation shall leave you humble,
for it is never as great as your dream and always
inferior to that most marvelous dream of God
which is Nature.
To end the above slogan, it goes: “Chile: The land of poetry and wine.” In a country when water costs pesos at a meal, you may as well drink wine. And what fine wine, Chile had! There was a special type of wine that is only available in Chile called Carménère, it is a red and the two that I tried were very smokey and dry but very tasty. My guess is those that like merlot would love carménère. While I did not quiet become a sommelier in my 10 day respit, I did gain a great appreciation for how much work surely goes into making a bottle of wine. When we went out the the Chilean country side, we saw literally miles and miles of grape vines. I could not help but wonder, WHO IS WATERING THOSE?! Not to mention picking them once they are ready!? I cannot imagine…but there is definitely a reason that Chile is becoming a vino hot-spot, it is plentiful and delicious!
The understated and unassuming
I found Chile to be beautiful in very quiet ways; in ways that you would miss if you were not standing still enough or looking directly at it. In a way the land was much like poetry. You can read a poem without connected to the emotion and sentiment of the words, and you can read it again and it can bring you to tears. That was how Chile felt to me. All over town I found amazing pictures of quiet unassuming beauty. I did not get a shot of everything, but when I close my eyes I can see it there. It stayed with me, as all truly beautiful things do.
All in all I have to thank Dr. Lea Hubbard and Dr. Rose Martinez for leading such an amazing trip. I was grateful to be apart of a dynamic group of educators and was so excited to learn that the problems of education are a global problem and that it will take us investing as a community (local first then globally) to really fix them and thrive as a people. I carry in my heart the rugged, but beautiful spaghetti noodle