Onto the next

Ah, finally now I have more than 10 min of free time to write another blog post…,which I guess, is not a bad thing and am certainly not complaining. Since coming back into real life in Chile after Fiestas Patrias, life certainly picked up again to 100mph.

Now after 6 ½ weeks of classes, 5 hours each week, while living with our host family, the first segment of the semester is coming to a close. The courses I’ve taken have been great and I am truly grateful for the organization put in by the SIT staff. Apart from our daily Spanish classes, which are taught by the same professors each morning who conduct very high-spirited classes and enlightening excursions around Valparaíso to observe and interview (to the local fishermen’s dock, the local feria, plazas, etc.), our seminar classes each afternoon are taught by a different professional and/or passionate activist in the field of that day’s class.

SIT program and our Spanish teachers

SIT program and our Spanish teachers

We’ve had a very skilled documentary director, Sebastian Moreno, whose film is extremely powerful and a worthwhile watch about photographers in the streets of Santiago during the dictatorship (http://www.laciudaddelosfotografos.cl/), another speaker, Camilo Ballesteros, who’s a leader in the Student Movement , and multiple survivors of torture and detainment during the 70’s and 80’s. Needless to say, these classes and our excursions are great first and second hand encounters with the very sensitive and complicated realities of this country.

A few weekends ago, a few friends and I took a few days to travel outside of Valpo and head about 6 hours north by bus to La Serena. It was great to bum around a different funky city for a day, play soccer on the beach with some Chileans, and then also went up in into the Elqui Valley which offers quite a unique landscape filled with extremely dry mountain spurting out of the valley floor that is filled with endless vineyards for wine, but mostly pisco. Here in the valley is a dinky town called Pisco Elqui, where we went on a tour of a pisco distillery and camped underneath beneath a beautiful clear sky that night. Apparently Elqui Valley is home to some of the clearest skies in the world and some of the world’s most prominent observatories.

Pisco Distillery

Pisco Distillery

Valle Elqui

Valle Elqui

Last weekend our program planned for us to do some community service in one of Valpo’s less developed neighborhoods very high up on the cerro of Playa Ancha. Danko, one of the SIT main staff members, told me that “this high up on the hills, anything can get robbed, but never the view.” And indeed, the view is breathtaking. However, now tall apartment buildings are being built on the hills every day and stealing people’s miraculous views.

view from Montedonico, Playa Ancha

view from Montedonico, Playa Ancha

Although many of us in the program wish we could have done a lot more for this neighborhood, we helped build a small soccer field enclosure and built/painted a small playground made out of car tires. After completing the work, SIT and the local community center organized a small parade to march through the small neighborhood to try and rally kids to come down to the new playground- a very fun, lively atmosphere inspired off of “Mil Tambores,” which we celebrated the next day. The entire community service experience again proved to me the authenticity of Chilean hospitality and how it almost felt they were spoiling us more than we were helping them. Nonetheless, I’m always extremely grateful for Chilean welcoming spirit.

Opening of the new playground

Opening of the new playground

The next day, a few of us went to celebrate “Mil Tambores” (1000 Drums), a celebration of life, community, and cultural preservation, which takes place every year in Valpo. After last year’s celebration got too rowdy and turned into a riot of sorts, the government initially banned all Mil Tambores festivities seeing that presidential election are now less than a month away and the government would like the keep people off the streets in mass gatherings as much as possible during the next few weeks. However after much disapproval from the people, the city allowed the parade to take place. The parade is filled with naked bodies artistically painted, elaborate costumes, jugglers on stilts, thousands of people playing drums and dancing in the streets.- Was such a scene of love, life, art, and compassion. And much to our surprise later that evening, while waiting in the ER for a friend who fell off the bus and hit her head (who thankfully now is healthy), we saw ourselves on the nightly news TV channel, half naked dancing to a drum line. I think I can go home now that I’ve finally made my appearance on Chilean news.

Mil Tambores

Mil Tambores

Some body art at Mil Tambores

Some body art at Mil Tambores

Mil Tambores

Mil Tambores

Caralee, myself, Cristal

Caralee, myself, Cristal

Mil Tambores

Mil Tambores

Mil Tambores

Mil Tambores

Earlier in the week, when we had been waiting for 4 ½ hours in the civil registry to get our ID cards after the employees there had been on strike for over 25 days, a few of the girls decided to take a nap on the floor and were subsequently caught on tape by another Chilean news station and sure enough found themselves in the news reel later that night (Maybe us gringos actually aren’t doing that great a job at lying low after all).

After Mil Tambores, we were lucky enough to hear Michelle Bachelet, one of the favorite liberal candidates in the upcoming election who was president 2006-2010, speak for a few minutes in the main square in Valpo. It’s been very cool to witness the process of a crucial presidential election happening elsewhere than my home country, that’s continually filled with inspiring examples of pride and protest.

Protest sign during Michelle Bachelet's speach

Protest sign during Michelle Bachelet’s speach

Earlier in the weekend, I went to a see “Inti-Illimani” (Chilean version of The Beatles) in concert in Valpo. They’re a folk music group of political musicians, genre of Nueva Canción who were forced into exile during the dictatorship and have always been and remained a symbol of communist perseverance. It turned out to be a very talented yet mellow concert as everyone in the theater was sitting down and composed for most of the show (a bit of a different scene from Red Rocks Amphitheater), but authentic to say the least.

This weekend, being the end of our program’s first phase, was fun and jam-packed with a Chilean fútbol game against Columbia (which we unfortunately lost but still have one more chance on Tuesday to qualify for the world cup!), a beer festival in abandoned train cars and warehouses, a picnic with all the students and families on my program, a 21st birthday complemented by great live skah music in a dance bar (Mano Inquieta  and LaSmala , and a day of surfing and some lacrosse with Valpo Surf Project.

Valpo Beer Festival

Valpo Beer Festival

Now, besides getting some more sleep these next few days, I am preparing to leave Valpo/Viña for 2 weeks to travel to Chile’s northern Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world, to live with an indigenous Aymara community. I’m very excited for this unique opportunity and am sure many stories will come of it. Upon returning from this 2-week excursion, the month long independent research period commences. I am still finalizing the logistics and hypotheses, but no matter will be teaching lacrosse in physical education classes in a public school and a socioeconomically contrasting private school and comparing the kids’ reactions to this new sport as an indication to which demographic may hold higher levels of ‘openness to experience’- and filming it all! Until then, hopefully all the logistics come together and my project will turn into a success of some sort.

There’s always so much and too much to do here and so little time to write about it all, but I hope to continue keeping people in tha loop when I come back from the desert. Much love to all. Keep happy and healthy.

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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.

 

 

Música Chilena

I’ve been lucky enough to be hearing a wide range of music while down in Chile. I’ve been getting a taste of some funk, rap, folk, socialist, rock, and of course mainstream club music. There’s a little bit of everything down here and the Chileans take great pride in their music. Everyday when I ride the metro to/from class, there is always someone performing on the train- anything from an older woman playing the recorder to hippies playing the guitar and bongo to a four piece band complete with trumpets and violins to adolescents freestyle rapping in Spanish. It’s all here and is a great representation of Chile’s immense diversity- in all senses. Even Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen shows great respect for Chile’s music culture. The Boss was just in Santiago last week playing a huge concert and ended the show with a tribute to Victor Jara, a leftist political musician who was tortured for 3 days and killed when the Golpe de Estado occurred in 1973, by playing his version of Jara’s “Manifesto.” The video is below as well as a small sampling of popular Chilean music.

I’ve not only being seeing great raw talent on public transportation but also been exposed to lots of different music in my house and from some of my Chilean friends. “Los Jaivas” is pretty much Chile’s version of The Grateful Dead. A timeless band that’s now being playing together for 50 years. Leftist música folklórica

Los Tetas” is a very fun Chilean funk band that can really get you movin’.

“Vruno” (real name Bruno Saldivar), an electronic music producer, that I met last week at an asado (a BBQ) in Valpo, has some great tribal house music tunes. Check his soundcloud out here.

Tiro de Gracia,” an urban hip-hop trio is a very popular group with kids my age. Some good tunes on their Myspace page.

Los Miserables” is a leftist punk rock band that became very popular after Pinochet’s regime fell.

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