Play, Work, Live

After spending another week in northern Chile (5 days of which I spent living with on other student in a small pueblo of ~30 people, Socoroma, living the daily life in the fields, helping out at the school, and studying the town’s current water and irrigation system), I arrived back to Valparaíso at the beginning of November with a whole lot of work ahead of me as I entered the Independent Research Project period. Before any work could begin though, much play and friends had to come first. Two of my best friends from Tufts, Abbie and Janie who are studying in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, came to Valpo/Viña to get a taste of the high life staying with Wee Wee and fam at my house for the 1-3 of November. Between being spoiled by Wee Wee, going to a beer festival, taking a tour of Pablo Neruda’s house, lounging on the dunes, and having a an asado and playing beer pong with Wee Wee, I’m pretty sure the girls had a successful weekend here.

Me, Abbie, Janie

Me, Abbie, Janie

Daniel, Isabela, Sebastian, Me in Socoromo

Daniel, Isabela, Sebastian, Me in Socoroma

After the girls left, I was immediately greeted with a meeting with my advisor, a sociologist at the University of Chile, who assured me I still did not have a grasp of a specific research question that I could use for my project (something I’ve been told for the past month and a half). After that heart-warming meeting and a few days of scurrying, article rummaging and Google translate, I finally was able to create a concrete enough idea to get off the ground with. As a quick summary, I’ve decided to observe social interactions, specifically competitive behavior, in two socioeconomically contrasting physical education environments by entering into a public and private school to teach 3 sessions of lacrosse in each school. To complement my behavioral observational field study, I will also conduct interviews through out the month in order to comprehend the sources and influences of the kids’ healthy or delinquent daily habits and values in and outside of school. Even after my first intervention in the public school, I already began to pick up on many behavioral subtleties, and with the aid of a fantastic person and physical ed teacher, I have been able to focus in even further on a few key concepts/examples of the student’s behavior that I will continue to build upon in the next few weeks.

No matter how intense or time consuming the project is, I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity to do hands on field-based research about a topic that I’m passionate about.  Everyone has been so supportive of my ideas here and it even seems as though my original idea of making a mini documentary will turn out! In the past couple months, I did make another short film of my lacrosse ventures before heading on my excursion to the north. Check out the video here…

Still, can’t let my time pass here in Chile without seeing or experiences something new every day. Lsat weekend, I made a trip about an hour south of Valpo to Algarrobo, where I stayed with an incredibly hospitable family (like the majority of Chileans), whom I met back in Colorado this summer. (The inlaws of my sister’s Chilean nanny). Although a strange connection, it was another reassurance to me of just how strong Chilean warmth really is- to have faith in someone you know by 4 degrees of separation, to welcome them into your home and treat them as if you’d know them for years and years. A truly special, beautiful, calm weekend complemented by the world’s largest man-made salt-water lagoon, beautiful walks on the beach, a family reunion/asado while watching Chile’s most prominent soccer teams faceoff (truly experiencing South American love of fútbol), a community parade celebrating the Festival of Spring, and some home made empanadas.

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A true treat it was, but now back to work!…I did come here to study.

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Home Away from Home

After another couple weeks in Chile, it’s getting easier to call this place my home. Between going to classes twice/day in Valparaíso during the week and coming home midday for lunch with the family, I’m getting the hang of traveling around the city. Nonetheless everyday is different and learn something new each time I leave my bedroom.

SIT is great in the sense that multiple experiential excursions planned for the program through out the semester- a great opportunity to interact the Chilean people on the most authentic level. Last Tuesday, we had class down at the pier and each student individually interviewed local fisherman in order to get a strong sense of the humbling reality, which “Pescadores Artesanales” live every day. To say that the local fishermen’s rights are exploited would be an understatement. In the waters near Valparaíso, huge commercial fishing ships dominate the water while the local fisherman scrounge up whatever is left. After los Pescadores Artesanales real in their catch, their sale profits are then distributed usually between five families. The profits are distributed so because the cost of maintaining even a small fishing boat is so high because of the high taxes and strict regulations placed on the local fishing industry by the government. Meanwhile the government allows the large commercial fishing ships free reign over the waters, little to no taxes, and no regulations all so that the commercial fish sales will bring money into the cities. However consequently, since the big ships have no regulations to when they can fish, the ships end up taking the fish out of the water before they are fully developed and also end up taking the fish eggs out of the water, leaving less and less fish for los Pescadores Artesanales who are forbidden to fish during these regulated times. Needless to say, these hard working fishermen struggle to live on the poverty line and was very humbling to speak to them in person (although I can only understand about every 5th word they say as Chilean Spanish is very hard to understand if someone is not consciously trying to slow down and enunciate- words just bleed into each other in a seemingly slurred dialect).

fishermen's lockers

fishermen’s lockers

the pier

the pier

At the end of the week, SIT took us to Santiago for a day where we ate a huge traditional Chilean meal, visited La Moneda (the Chilean version of the White House), and finished off the day with a tour of El Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos that was constructed to commemorate all the missing, tortured, and killed Chileans as a result of Pinochet’s military Golpe del Estado and the succeeding dictatorship. Like the holocaust museums in DC and in Israel, this museum hits hard and is impossible to take in in only one visit.

An enlarged sculpture of Allende's glasses found in La Moneda after it was bombed

An enlarged sculpture of Allende’s glasses found in La Moneda after it was bombed

La Moneda

La Moneda

Salvador Allende memorial outside La Moneda

Salvador Allende memorial outside La Moneda

Like I said in a previous post, leading up to last Wednesday, September 11th, the media and common conversations have been saturated with the commemoration of the 40 anniversary of the Golpe. Certainly strange to be enveloped in this dark aspect of Chile’s recent past on September 11th while recognizing that September 11th means something much different for most Americans…and I believe with this reality comes a bit of ignorance. It’s been extremely interesting and sobering to hear of the US’s involvement/financial aid given to Pinochet during the early 1970’s and yet the majority of Americans are not aware of this unflattering truth.

outside La Monedo

outside La Monedo

Last weekend was another chance to get out with Valpo Surf Project for a day with the kids- unfortunately we were unable to get a car to take the surf boards to the beach, so instead we went to a local Valpo beach and played lacrosse and soccer! The kids are so intrigued by the sticks and the way you fling a ball out and get to push each other around (a reflection of my initial interest in the game). Surprisingly or not, it’s the girls who are more willing to pick up the sticks and have a toss after all! I’ll try to put another video together in the next couple weeks.

Inside Valpo Surf Project's classroom where I volunteer every Thursday

Inside Valpo Surf Project’s classroom where I volunteer every Thursday

outside the VSP classroom

outside the VSP classroom

This week is Chile’s independence celebrations and certainly proving to be the country’s time to shine- a week full of friends, family and food instead of just one day. The past few days have been a chance to eat great food (mostly empanadas and red meat), drink terremotos and chicha, fly kites, and attempt to dance the Cueca, Chile’s national dance. I’ve been schlepped around to multiple family asados at one of Wee Wee’s kids house outside of Viña del Mar and another one in at a beautiful park in Olmue (about an hour into the interior where my family used to own a second house) where we all played some lacrosse too. It’s quite a distinct landscape there in the Chile’s central interior- steep green and lush mountains sprouting out of the valley floor filled with vineyards and farmland.

Olmue

Olmue

lil laxer

lil laxer

La Cueca (Wee Wee and Sergio in the middle)

La Cueca (Wee Wee and Sergio in the middle)

Nonna (88 years old) is still quite a dancer!

Nonna (88 years old) is still quite a dancer!

Chile's first national lacrosse team

Chile’s first national lacrosse team

No Chilean goes this week without a family asado or a trip to Las Ramadas/ La Fonda… “Ramadas feature a dance floor, music, and tables to eat. Fondas, or refreshment stands, offer a wide variety of Chilean food including empanadas, anticuchos (shish kabobs), chicha (alchoholic drink), and more” – pretty much a big fair with people of all types including tourists, dancers, overly drunk teenagers/flaites, and everyone else. Quite a lively scene! And after a night at La Fonda last night, we had one last family asado at the house today then my host brother, Felipe, and I went sand surfing at the sand dunes that line the coast about a 15 min micro ride north of Viña- after a mouth full sand we decided it was our one way to justify all the food we’ve been eating these past few days.

Felipe and I atop of the dunes

Felipe and I atop of the dunes

View west from the dunes

View west from the dunes

view from dunes looking back at Valparaíso

view from dunes looking back at Valparaíso

Sand Dunes just north of Viña

Sand Dunes just north of Viña

By the end of this weekend, I have to decide where I want to go during my two week excursion in October- either to the northern desert of Chile to experience the Aymara culture or south to Temuco to spend my time with a Mapuche community. There’s definitely no bad decision, yet both present very different landscapes and people.

As every day goes on, I continue to fight against my own desire to do all that I can while I’m here and still stay healthy and exercise regularly. Even so, I am alive and well and looking forward to tomorrow. Love to all.

 

 

Chilean Time

My heart rate is finally settling down a bit after a hectic and exhilarating first week and a half. Nonetheless, I am still eating extremely well and frequently (courtesy of Wee Wee) and constantly on the move, trying to take advantage of all that’s here and improve my Chilean slang without making too many comical gringo slip-ups along the way.

My host parents' grandchildren

My host parents’ grandchildren

Graffiti in Valpo

Graffiti in Valpo

I started taking a few classes this past week (after the past few weeks, it never crossed my mind that I’d have to do actual school work!) at Casa SIT where I will take a Spanish class every morning, Monday-Friday, and a Research Methods and Ethics class every Monday and Thursday afternoon. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I’ll be taking 2 courses, Justice and Socio-economic Development in Chile and Sociocultural Transformations in Chile, at Tecnica Federico Santa Maria University( those classes will start this week). All the classes will be in Spanish with a few tests, presentations, and field trips/excursions built into the courses.

horse tied up on the main street in Valpo

horse tied up on the main street in Valpo

I filled my free time this week by biking around Viña a bit on Felipe’s old and rusted bike (nothing WD40 can’t fix!) and exploring the city of Valpo with fellow gringos/students. The city of Valparaíso has so much flavor- to the eye and to the experience. We went on a boat ride/tour of the bay in front of Valpo and got a magnificent glance at the aesthetics of the city from the perspective of the boat as well as a history lesson of the city and of the Golpe de Estado 40 years ago. The city is so colorful and dramatic as the cerros/foothills rise immediately and steeply from the bay. The anniversary of the Golpe, Sept. 11, is certainly the hottest topic in the country right now. Every media outlet is covering the story from dawn till dusk, adding to everyone’s hype of the day to come. Our teachers and families have advised us students that Wednesday is not a day to be out in the streets. We need to come straight home after our classes end and should not participate nor watch the marches, protests, and chaos that are sure to fill the city. So, like a good informed citizen, I’ll be tuning into the hectic action through the protection of the media.

A march for improved education and same-sex equality

A march for improved education and same-sex equality

On Friday we had the day off because the Registro Civil, is on strike and demanding improved wages, and thus were not able to go to get our student identification cards. So, I took advantage of the free but cloudy day and took a bus with a few gringo friends about an hour south to La Isla Negra, home to one of Pablo Neruda’s 3 homes in Chile. Señor Neruda continues to prove himself as quite the character, “a lover of things.” His house at La Isla Negra is constructed to shed the appearance of a boat and a train, and the interior is filled with stuff- LOTS of stuff. Everything from seashells, globes, art, taxidermy, ships in bottles, trash, fine china, and massive telescopes line the walls and ceilings of the house. And of course his bedroom is filled with an expanse of windows looking out to a beautiful beach and what I’m sure is an incredible view on a clear day.

Neruda's house at La Isla Negra

Neruda’s house at La Isla Negra

view from Neruda's bedroom

view from Neruda’s bedroom

beach in front of Neruda's house

beach in front of Neruda’s house

Neruda's house

Neruda’s house

During these weekend nights, I have definitely begun to get accustomed to the idea that the night does not end until after 5am!…everything just gets going a bit later here, and nobody stops partying until dawn. Exhausting but extremely fun as I have begun to make a few Chilean friends who continually prove to be nothing but welcoming and hospitable in every way- inviting me to the VIP sections in clubs and others to play ultimate Frisbee in the park and watch the Chilean national fútbol team beat Venezuela and earn a birth into the World Cup.

This same friendly culture permeates into other gringos who call Valpo home. As I try to get connected with masses of kids who I can show lacrosse and connect with in order to gather future research prospects for my project, I have already been able to link up with a couple after-school organizations who’s mission it is to connect with local kids in a positive and influential manner through surfing, skate-boarding, English lessons, and rugby. This past week I started volunteering for Valpo Surf Project (VSP), who’s “goal is to use surfing instruction and academic mentoring to encourage English language skills, personal character development, and environmental consciousness among underprivileged and at-risk youth in Valparaiso, Chile.” I brought a few sticks along with me to class this week and then brought a full set of sticks and goal to the beach on Sunday for the kids to play with we weren’t surfing (or me trying to surf). Even after only a week of working with these kids, I am really interested in diving in further with this organization, improving my teaching skills in and outside of the classroom, and consistently incorporating lacrosse into VSP’s existing curriculum. In the next week or two, I will be getting involved with a local rugby club as well to perhaps integrate lacrosse in a similar way. As my lacrosse opportunities present themselves, I will also be posting for 3x Lacrosse on 3xlax.com and for Lax All Stars on laxallstars.com.

Sand Dunes just north of Viña in Reñaca

Sand Dunes just north of Viña in Reñaca

VSP's surf board chauffeur

VSP’s surf board chauffeur

La Boca- VSP's surf spot 20 min south of Valpo/viña

La Boca- VSP’s surf spot 20 min north of Valpo/viña

I know that my experiences and what I will learn during these next 4 months will reach far beyond simply playing toss with the kids; and already I have learned and picked up on many subtleties of Chilean culture in regards to sports. Through my observations and interactions over the following weeks, I will focus in on a more concrete research question that I will be able to efficiently execute during the 4 weeks that I will have in November to carry out my independent research project. Until then, I will continue searching for more opportunities to take advantage of where I can connect with a variety of Chileans on a deeper intrinsic level.

Chao

Graffiti in Valpo

Graffiti in Valpo

Chile or Bust!

After leading 8 incoming Tufts University freshmen on a very successful, dirty, fun, and exhausting 5-day backpacking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, alongside my co-leader, THE Hannah Bassett, I am immediately changing course and heading on an entirely new adventure in Chile. Our 5 day trip was great- starting near Ethan Pond on the Appalachian Trail and making our way past Thoreau Falls, Zealand Mountain, the Bond Mountains with perfect blue bird weather and finally down the Bondcliff ridge through the wind-ridden clouds, everyone on our trip made it through with a sense of accomplishment and some awesome new friends who certainly who not have been made otherwise.

A-12 Treat-yo-selve!

A-12 Treat-yo-selve!

View of the White Mountains atop Zeacliff

View of the White Mountains atop Zeacliff

Now, while back on Tufts campus for a brief moment, there are certainly bittersweet moments of seeing and saying hi/bye to some of my best friends in a matter of minutes, knowing that I will not see many of them for a year. A bit overwhelming, but mostly exciting, and I know that it will definitely be worth it.

As I pack my final bags before the airport, I am extremely grateful for the experiential opportunity I have ahead of me. I will be heading to Valparaíso, Chile, where I will stay with a host-family for 7 weeks while taking a few courses at “Casa SIT” in Valpo. After, I am fortunate enough to be able to spend 14 days in Temuco and delve into the culture of an indigenous Mapuche community. Finally, I will be completing a 4-5 week independent research project (ISP) of my choice before traveling to other areas of South America towards the end of December. For my ISP, I propose to sociologically compare the role of sports/athletics in the lives of Chilean youth as compared to American youth. (A very broad idea that will eventually become more defined and concise). In order to better connect with and communicate with the Chileans around this topic, I want to bring some lacrosse with me to serve as a game/tool, completely unfamiliar to most Chileans, as to hopefully break down some social barriers and ease Chileans’ possible hesitations to talking with and opening up to a gringo like myself.

Fortunately, 3x Lacrosse and Maverik Lacrosse, have generously donated some equipment to me to use during my stay in Chile. “3x Lacrosse” donated two “3x” backyard lacrosse goals and Maverik donated 12 full lacrosse sticks. I could not be more appreciative and I only hope they will prove beneficial and fun over these next few months. I will be posting for 3x Lacrosse on their blog about all my Chilean lacrosse endeavors, as well here. A few more possible writing opportunities may present themselves in these next couple weeks too that I will certainly pass along should they work out.

Maverik's and 3x's donations

Maverik’s and 3x’s donations

It’s crazy to think that my study abroad adventure is actually here after all the preparation, anticipation, and distraction during the past few months. Nonetheless, I could not be more excited- for the good, the bad, the ugly. Thank you to everyone who’s helped in my preparation for the trip and I cannot wait to share the stories.

Con mucho amor,

Joel