Poetry, Art, and Nature: Concepción

For the next ten days I will be traveling to the south of Chile. There are many reasons for this trip: school visits, a book fair, networking, and differentiating findings for my Fulbright project. Plus, I can use some fresh air outside of Santiago.

My first stop is Concepción, a city 50 minutes away from Santiago [by plane]. 

I highly recommend Sky Airlines-  reasonable pricing, on time, and, most importantly, a smooth landing! 

I highly recommend Sky Airlines-  reasonable pricing, on time, and, most importantly, a smooth landing! 

I travelled to Concepción to attend a book fair and to meet Taty Torres, an author and poet, and Miriam Leiva, also an author and poet. I also was hoping to visit some schools but that didn't happen. Instead, I attended various events, poetry readings, book talks, question and answer sessions, and mingled with editorials and introduced myself and my project to authors and anyone else who was willing to listen.


I chose to travel to Concepción on 'Censo 2017' Day- a public holiday. The government made it a public holiday so that folks can stay home and be counted. There were 'censistas' at airports, bus stations, and hospitals. Getting to Concepción was a breeze. However, when I got here, I realized: I may not eat today. Why? Because everything is closed. And I'm talking everything except most vital establishments [think hospitals/toll booths/airports]. 

So, what's a girl to do? Checked into the hotel. The city is dead.

Rainy Concepción on Censo Day

Rainy Concepción on Censo Day

After roaming around the city for a half hour, I was getting kind of desperate. I had a good, big breakfast at the airport and finished my cookies and apples I brought with me. Then, I see El Araucano hotel, flags upfront, lights on. Looks expensive. And opened. Make my way in: "Do you folks have a restaurant in this hotel that's opened right now?" "Oh yes, 3rd floor." And that's how I got lunch and dinner.  

Day 2

Meeting authors, the Book Fair, and Poetry Readings

This book is called "Soñé" and has been created by a student. It's about what the student dreamed about and how it looked like (includes her drawings and blurbs describing the drawings].

This book is called "Soñé" and has been created by a student. It's about what the student dreamed about and how it looked like (includes her drawings and blurbs describing the drawings].

Day 2 was packed with events and readings. 

Miriam Leiva and Taty Torres Díaz (both poetisas) took me with them on various talks, author presentations, and the Book Expo.

  • Met many authors (that write both poetry and prose), and are involved with various initiatives to promote reading among your people. For instance, Jairo Guzman from Colombia (Proyecto Gulliver) and Augustin Rodriguez from Ecuador (Literatura en Movimiento) talked about how they promote reading with secondary school students, how they train teachers, and how they maintain momentum. I made sure I talked with them both to get more information and tell them about my Fulbright project.
  • Feria del Libro: was much smaller than I expected [compared to the book expos in the States]. I took the time to talk to multiple editorials that were represented – caligrafix.cl – gave me some samples to take with me. Caligrafix does NOT sell in the U.S. which is a shame. Not sure what we can do to get 25 class copies of something...
  • Also during Feria del Libro I had the honor to witness some beautiful poetry readings by both up and coming and established authors. Some authors were brand new and just started, and others have been writing for some time. Talked to some authors personally to congratulate them and introduce myself and the project. 

Day 3

The Sanctuary

Day 3 was sunny and beautiful. I woke up, had breakfast, looked at the map, found a green space, and said: "I'm going there!" I just had to get out of the city for a while, so I went to Hualpén Nature Sanctuary, about 1 hour bus ride from Concepción. 

Pinacoteca

After the sanctuary I wanted to visit the art museum located on the University of Concepción main campus. There were quite a few [unexpected] highlights at this museum.

The Mural

Right when you walk in, you are greeted by an enormous mural. You feel tiny and...bad. Why do you feel bad? Because the mural is dedicated to the atrocities that happened to indigenous population during the [mainly Spanish] conquest. A bleeding nopal cactus with knives sticking out of it? Check. A pyramid build on top of indigenous bodies? Check. A desperate face of a Maya, Inca, Aztec, or Arauco warrior? Check. A gorgeous [albeit nude] indigenous woman next to a Spanish conquistador? Also check. 

The mural is hauntingly beautiful.

“Presencia del America Latina”- a panoramic view

“Presencia del America Latina”- a panoramic view

And here are some fragments of the mural.

Over the mural, there is one sentence, extracted from the poet by Pablo Neruda.

…There is no beauty like the beauty of America spread out in its hells / in its mountains of rock and power, in its atavistic and eternal rivers…

…Y no hay belleza como esta belleza de América extendida en sus infiernos / en sus cerros de piedra y poderío, en sus ríos atávicos y eternos…

In addition to this striking mural the pitacoteca holds art by many 19th and 20th century Chilean painters: Pedro Lira, Jose Tomas Errazuríz, Celia Castro, Magdalena Mira, Antonio Smith. This can be used in our art unit in 6th grade.

Lastly, Pinacoteca had a very interesting expo of modern art as well, mainly comprised with Rodrigo Cociña’s art. Made with frames, recycled materials, like combs, utensils, food(!), and other random items.

Bottom left corner: a dried bread bun. I think.

Bottom left corner: a dried bread bun. I think.


Back to Feria in the evening. Poetry reading by Karina Kapitana and Cristian Condemarzo. Karina’s poetry was hauntingly beautiful; a lot about being a woman, being of mixed race, love, affection, and heartbreak. Cristian’s poetry was raw in a way that he used harsh words like puta, mierda, maricón, and others. But the message he was trying to get across was very strong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

School Visits

Thanks to Magdalena Merbilhaá of Red Cultural, two weeks ago I started my school visits! I visited Colegio Santa Ursula, an all girls school, located in Vitacura, a very nice neighborhood of Santiago. 


Facilitated by Andrea Mata and Karen Julio (both specialists in castellano) of Santa Ursula, I observed multiple events, starting from creative writing class in 3rd grade, and ending with real world issues debate in 12th grade. In addition, I observed a "cuentacuentos" or story time performed by a librarian for 3rd grade class. I also had the priceless opportunity to ask questions, browse around the library, take pictures of their bulletin boards (so inspiring!) and attend author presentations. 



I hope my collaboration with Santa Ursula continues and I could visit a few more times before I come back home in July. 

A dentist experience

Whenever I travel, I avoid going to local doctors unless it's an absolute emergency. Usually, I'll wait after my trip and I'll go to my doctor in the States.

A few weeks ago, a piece of tooth filling came out. No big deal, happened before. Thinking: will take care of it soon. That "soon" turned into about three weeks. 

Yesterday, on a complete whim, I called a dental clinic and they said "come on down! 4:30PM." Great, now I can't turn back, I have to show up.  

So I show up. And here are the major takeaways from a visit to a Chilean dental clinic.

1. In the States, they sit your behind down in a chair and you get out when they are done with you. Then you pay your deductible and the like. In Chile, you sit down, they evaluate the work that needs to be done, then you meet with a clerk that clearly outlines the amount of work and the price, then you pay, and only then you sit down to get your tooth fixed. I liked it, there were no surprises.

2. During the treatment(and I'm talking drilling, spackling, etc.), a Chilean dentist takes a mirror, yes, a mirror and actually shows you the progress of his work. OMG. It's not for the faint hearted. I have good teeth but to see my tooth all drilled out with an opening glaring back at me and listening to the dentist explain how he will fill it, from which side and how he will continue drilling is a bit too much. Mine did it for a total of three times as he continued working on the tooth.  

3. Chilean dentist really took his time, and he did a phenomenal job. I was in the chair for about an hour and a half- for one filling. I feel like with my doctor in New Jersey I'm in and out. With this dentist, I definitely felt like he was taking his time. He also wasn't "sliding" between patients like my American doc does. So, very happy with the attention I received. 

4. I have been patting myself on the back for going soon. And here is why (here come the gory details). The cavity was forming under the filling. A piece fell out and I saw a small hole. The dentist discovered that the damage is underneath and he needs to clean out much of the tooth before reconstructing it with a new filling. Bottom line, I came scarily close to having a root canal. I have never had a root canal in my life but know people who did and they say it's not fun. Not fun at all. So, kudos to me for taking care of it before it's too late. 

5. Price: very reasonable. I need to check whether my Fulbright insurance covers dental but if it doesn't - it won't break the bank. 

6. Anesthesia. In the States, when you get a filling you get a numbing shot.  In Chile, it goes like this: 

Me: "Please make sure I get a numbing shot." 

The dentist: "Usually we numb only if it's a deep cavity."

Me: "I don't care how deep it is. I need a numbing shot."  

Bottom line: they numbed me for hours.  And I'm grateful. 

 

Renting a Room from a Lunatic

At the beginning on my stay on this grant, I rented a room on CompartoDepartamento.cl from Viviana Miranda Ureta RUT 12695348-8, residing at Arzobispo Larrain Gandarillas 131 in Providencia, Santiago.

She requested that I pay in cash (ok), gave no receipt (ok), and charged an exorbitant deposit for a key ($75 but ok). To replace a key here is costs about $7. 

A few days into my stay in the apartment, the landlady told me that I needed to buy my own 1. pots and pans, and b. bed sheets. I thought that was strange since that was the whole point why I rented a room in a FURNISHED apartment. So I don't have to buy a. pots and pans, and b. bed sheets, or c. other basic stuff. The room was advertised as furnished. I was going to give in and buy a frying pan but then the landlady said "don't worry about it" and I said "that's great thanks, as long as you are sure." Although I tried to forget about this conversation, it rubbed me the wrong way. My intuition was saying "move the heck out, this is simply weird." But I didn't listen and paid for another month.


This past Saturday morning, the landlady started exhibiting signs of extreme aggression towards me, and I became frightened. She was throwing things, banging kitchen cabinets, and banging on the shower door while I was in the shower. I had to call Carabineros de Chile to be with me while I packed my bags to leave. Carabineros never showed up. The concierge of the building, Miguel Alvarado and the president of the building, Don Roberto Castillo, helped me bring my things down while the landlady was out of the apartment [side note, they can prove I didn't take her cheese --> keep reading, explanation below]. I left unexpectedly because the intuition was saying, no, screaming "get the heck out. NOW." At that moment, my instinct took over and I'm glad it did. I realized "I am afraid for my safety. I need to leave. But quietly."

After the anger fit, the landlady locked herself in her bedroom (mind you, SHE had a lock, MY room had no lock-another problem). I quietly came out of the shower, got dressed and started looking for hostels to stay until I find something else. I texted people saying "I am not in a good situation right now, check in with me regularly and wait for my response." I also received a text from the landlady (who is in another room) saying "I simply wanted to check in whether you were ok in the shower". Ok now. I know the difference between the "knock-knock, are you ok?" and "knock-knock, I have bad intentions."

I found a place, threw the essentials into my back pack and came down to talk to the concierge. He called the president of the neighborhood association. Well, they said, you are not the first one! Turns out, there were MANY tenants like me that left because of safety concerns. Many of them were much younger than me, first year students, were crying, and wanted to leave but had nowhere to go. The "consejería de vecinos" is aware of this problem but cannot do anything. The landlady keeps reposting her ad and keeps getting tenants. The girl before me lasted for three days. She left a week before me: March 3rd. I moved in March 13th. 

This is not simply the case of "we are different people and can't get along". This is the case of an anger disorder, aggression, not sure what else. Bottom line, she should not be allowed to have tenants. 

After I settled into the hotel, I went to return the key and get the key deposit back, just as agreed before, the landlady did not open the door and the door was locked from the inside, with the lock that, guess what, I didn't have the key to! (scammed again). 

What Viviana Miranda Ureta has is fraud: she rents rooms for people, does not tell them that she has major anger problems, takes advantage of them, takes their rent, and they have no choice but to leave.

She stated in her ad that the tenants are required to stay for at least 3 months. I think she should add a disclosure: "if you can make it".

The concierge showed me the statements he collected from other tenants that lived with Viviana and they confirm the  concerns I shared: zero ability to cohabit with someone, aggression, bizarre behavior, verbal abuse, and not returning deposits. After each tenant leaves, she continues to post on compartodepto.cl advertising the room, and there is no way to make other people aware of this. 


"YOU TOOK MY CHEESE"

On that day, I also received an email from Viviana, saying that when I left I took:

a. a lamp

b. a frying pan

c. salt and pepper shakers

d. a piece of steak

e. a pillow case, and other things. 

But most importantly, I took Philadelphia cream cheese and cheddar cheese! So, next time I am in your house, seriously- HIDE YOUR CHEESE. And pillow cases.

I received many other emails from Viviana Miranda, peppered with insults, verbal abuse, and in ALL CAPS. I guess that meant she was yelling. My response to her? "You are quite gifted with insults, I am impressed." 


Someone told me that if you are in Chile long enough, you will get scammed. So, I was scammed.

I am at fault: I trusted the person, I didn't require a contract or receipts, I stayed way too long, ignoring my intuition that was saying "You are making a mistake. Something is not right here. Leave."

I am not upset about the lost funds. In the grand scheme of things, it's really not that much. The Institute of International Education (those are the folks that administer this grant) very gracefully offered to reimburse any expenses. The Fulbright Commission, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Embassy have been extremely helpful and supportive as well. In fact, I was overwhelmed by the amount of support I received from family, friends, and fellow Fulbright grantees as I worked through this. 

"The Best Revenge is Living Well"

In the end, I have no anger. Many of you know that I believe in karma. So, I will let karma take care of this. I simply be living my life, and  living it well. I will be driving in the fast lane, and the landlady will be trundling along in the slow lane, doing the speed limit. That's what you get for scamming people. 

Concluding with a letter that the girl before me wrote in "el libro de registros" of that building. I wish I'd seen it earlier.

Concluding with a letter that the girl before me wrote in "el libro de registros" of that building. I wish I'd seen it earlier.

Concón, Valparaíso

My trip to Concón was quite unexpected: on Thursday, I had no leads and no school visits so I thought, ok where can I go hiking? After a brief google search, I saw that a lot of people go to Valparaiso or Viña del Mar. I heard of both towns before and saw that they are, although smaller than Santiago, still of a good size. A bit more research showed me Concón -- a small seaside town in the province of Valparaíso.

Condor Bus goes directly into Concón from Santiago’s San Borja station. At 10AM I was on the bus heading to Concón.

About an hour and a half later, the driver yelled “whoever is going to Concón, you’d better get off now!” I was startled because I was expecting a bus terminal, like I have seen in other towns I travelled to. Well, Concón is different. A “bus terminal” consists of a bus stop. That’s it. Even locals put it entre comillas when talking about Concon’s bus terminal.

 

I still wasn’t at my final destination-a private room I booked through Airbnb. After a bit of a discussion at the bus stop, sorry, the bus terminal, I was pointed into another bus stop where I took a local bus.

On the local bus, I showed the bus driver the map and stated the street where I needed to go. He, in turn, said something that I couldn’t understand, an old man with the cane got on, they started discussing how to best get the where I want to get. A lady gets on, she joins. So, picture this: me, with my phone and a map, and 4 Chileans arguing how to best get where I need to be. In the end, I got to Airbnb safely, and quickly. Takeaways: Chileans are very helpful with foreigners and when they argue it’s impossible to understand them.

My Airbnb hosts were lovely as well. Their house was on Las Elenas street and literally within a walking distance from the beach. The room was nice and clean, I had a private bathroom, and could use the kitchen and the living area as I pleased. The hosts were vegetarians and their house was decorated with all kinds of Buddhist, Hindu, and New Age memorabilia: incense, statues, pictures, and plants. A highlight of the stay was their pets: two cats and a small, Maltese type dog. One cat slept at my feet one night. Score!

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After I was shown to my room, I worked for a bit, looking for leads and emailing potential sites. It was the hottest time of day anyway. After a while, I went out for a walk around town of Concón, got dinner, and went to the supermarket.

The reason I mentioned the supermarket is because I was going to be in the area for three nights so going out to eat every night wasn’t an option. I got a nice dinner at the seafood place my first night, but the rest of my stay I cooked in Eugenia’s kitchen. By the way, our Walmart is called Lider here.

Although the purpose of this trip was to go hiking in La Campana [see next post] it was also fun to explore the town of Concón. Among the highlights were the Dunes [yes, DUNES]. These dunes were created in the Quaternary period, about 25 million years ago[!!]. Climbing these dunes is quite steep but the higher you go, the more traction you gain. I was lucky because I just happened to visit the dunes in the evening-just in time for the sun to set. The views were astounding. Here is just one: 

On my second day I roamed around the coast [yes, have been walking a lot on this trip!] and went to Concón's Humedal.  You ask what is Humedal? Let me put my teacher's hat on. Humedal comes from the Spanish word "húmedo" or humid. Humedal is a swamp-like eco area in the northern part of Concón. Think of it as a self containing eco-system/nature reserve where you can see local flora and fauna. I saw plants native to this region and birds nesting right there in the Humedal. This park reminded me of the Great Swamp Nature Reserve in New jersey-minus the beach. 

These are just some birds you can observe in the Humedal.

These are just some birds you can observe in the Humedal.

Birds in the Humedal "Parque Isla"

Birds in the Humedal "Parque Isla"

On a side note, I have started sketching out how this visit to Concón be used in our classes? Yes, talking to you, WAMS señoritas. We can do verbs, animals, descriptions, and even weather. 

Lastly, let me conclude with my first Chilean empanada-it was to die for.

Filled with gooey cheese, what a treat!

Filled with gooey cheese, what a treat!

 

 

 

 

Anywhere I stand, everywhere I talk (about my project)

There is an expression in Russian that goes like this "Где стою, там и говорю". If I were to translate it, it would mean something like "anywhere I stand, everywhere I talk". The translation sounds strange, I am sure. But the gist is: if you are trying to spread the word, raise awareness, or bring attention to something, you talk about it in every place [you stand]. 

So, that's what I have been doing-talking about my inquiry project everywhere to everyone. For instance, last week, a young girl [a UAndes student] helped me with directions on a crowded bus, we started talking, turned out her sister is a teacher in Providencia!

Stayed in AirBnB in La Serena, the owners were retired university professors, have tons of contacts in the education system. Was buying books in a bookstore, gave my elevator speech, left my card-the owner said she has editors and illustrators that she works with. Connected with Sofia Gassmann on Instagram via her account @creandoaprendo (a must follow if you are a teacher!)-met with her yesterday to talk shop and set up some visits to her school. She took me to a bookstore in Santiago called Plop! Galería where, of course, I bought quite a few books for the kids. Couldn't help myself!

In addition to me seeking connections informally, I met with the Fulbright Commission here in Santiago and they passed along some leads and suggestions on how to proceed with my study. Lastly and most importantly, my mentor Zenaida Suárez Mayor at the University of the Andes has been helping me a lot with leads, events, or simply by finding books and articles that relate to my inquiry project. 

The article that Zenaida had ready for me today when I came in to the University this morning!

The article that Zenaida had ready for me today when I came in to the University this morning!

 

 

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Deep into the Valley of Elqui

After La Serena I made my way into a small town in the heart of the Elqui Valley- called Vicuña. I stayed with a lovely lady called Teresa who is running a hotel in her family home. It looks small but inside its huge! And so beautiful. Here is the "living room" - with access to the sky: 

Notice the moon!

Notice the moon!

Vicuña turned out to be a beautiful small town, dedicated to their hero and much loved poet, Gabriela Mistral. There is a very comprehensive museum that talks in detail about her life and work. Although the museum is not big, it is thorough - I learned a lot. Like many others, I always thought that Gabriela Mistral was a poet that received the Nobel prize in Literature. That's it. Well.... I can't express how behind I was. She was a traveler, a diplomat, a writer, and, most importantly, a teacher! She lived and worked in many different countries, including the United States. She reformed Mexico's and Nicaragua's education systems; she was a prolific writer that wrote both prose and poems. She had Pablo Neruda es her student. And yes, she did receive the Nobel prize in Literature.

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I will print this saying and keep it at work since this is how I often feel as a teacher.

I will print this saying and keep it at work since this is how I often feel as a teacher.

Vicuña also offers a lot of outdoor activities: trekking, biking, and star gazing (remember, the skies are super clear). Around Vicuna there are dozens of observatories. I did go on an Astro-tour to Mamalluca Observatory and it was breathtaking. Saw the Milky Way, Sirius, Orion, and other stars and planets. Tried taking pictures of the nigh sky, well, you know how that went. All black!  

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On my second day in Vicuña I took a self guided bike tour. I was given a very detailed map of the area with the designated route and places I can find along the way. I did 18 km in 3.5 hours. The ride itself was very easy and flat, but there were ascents where I had to get off the bike and walk. 

Just the scenery alone is worth taking this tour! Mountains, vineyards, trails, small pisco plants, and cacti. Isolation, mysticism, strong energy, clean air. Will remember this ride for the rest of my life.  

Elqui Valley

Elqui Valley

Elqui Valley

Elqui Valley

After returning the bike, I rested for a bit and made my way into Vicuna's downtown. I really lucked out coming to this area this week because they are having the Gabriela Mistral and Astronomical festivals! I didn't see much of the astronomical activities but the Gabriela Mistral festival was awesome. In the main plaza, there were talks, presentations, and musical performances. Free of charge and very interesting. A rock band honoring Gabriela Mistral! It's like Guns'n Roses honoring Maya Angelou. 

The next day I took a bus ride to visit a small town located even deeper in the Valley-Pisco Elqui. The bus ride was very inexpensive (2,000CLP one way) yet it offered some breathtaking scenery! The mountains with cacti on them, the blue sky, and the valley below looked really magical. In fact, people say, that Elqui Valley does possess strong healing energy. It certainly healed me-I was ready to stare at the sky and mountains for the whole day! My plan for next time is to bypass La Serena and Vicuna and go straight to Pisco Elqui to spend more quality time with local population and scenery. Below are just some of the images I took in the valley. 

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On my last day, I saw this spectacular sunset- in Vicuna.

On my last day, I saw this spectacular sunset- in Vicuna.

La Serena

For the past two days I have been working in La Serena, a small coastal town- a 6 hour drive from Santiago. I had a few leads here so decided to take a trip. La Serena is a gateway to a place called Valle del Elqui, a mystic valley with arid mountains, indigenous culture, and booming astrological tourism industry (yes the skies are very clear).

New Jersey Transit has some things to learn from TurBus

New Jersey Transit has some things to learn from TurBus

TusBuses - waiting to head to their destinations, 

TusBuses - waiting to head to their destinations, 

There is a really comfortable bus - "TurBus" that runs direct to La Serena from Santiago. My ticket was a premium seat (meaning it reclined 180 degrees, had pillow, blanket and other amenities) -11,000 CLP or around $16. The ride is about 6 hours and the seats are tremendously comfortable and safe. 

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A salón cama style seat- premium and expensive. 

The seat reclines, becoming a bed, and you get a blanket and a pillow!  

The seat reclines, becoming a bed, and you get a blanket and a pillow!  

As you can see, traveling long distance by bus is awesome: cost efficient, safe, and fast.

I arrived to La Serena at 5:20 am and had to hang out in the terminal for a while since the town was ghostly! 

An ungodly hour at La Serena

An ungodly hour at La Serena

On my way to La Serena- the Moon! 

On my way to La Serena- the Moon! 

At 8 am my AirBnB opened and I went there. This house is owned by the nicest people: a retired couple, both former teachers. In addition to comfortable lodging, they spent time with me discussing problems in education, world politics, and animal rights. Yesterday we had a very stimulating conversation about public va private schools in Chile.

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Satchi (the dog and Martin (a 4 month bully :)

Satchi (the dog and Martin (a 4 month bully :)

I am making my way to Vicuña tonight to do an Astro-tour. But for my two full days in La Serena I experienced many wonderful things and saw an abundance of places. Below are some highlights.

Arquitectura in La Serena is a mix of colonial and adobe style houses. This is a store that sells everything from books to children's costumes. 

Arquitectura in La Serena is a mix of colonial and adobe style houses. This is a store that sells everything from books to children's costumes. 

Note the albatross on top of the cross :) 

Note the albatross on top of the cross :) 

In the distance you can see el Faro de La Serena  - the Lighthouse.

In the distance you can see el Faro de La Serena  - the Lighthouse.

I noticed that La Serena has a lot of flowers: roses, hibiscus, and others I couldn't recognize.

I noticed that La Serena has a lot of flowers: roses, hibiscus, and others I couldn't recognize.

The Japanese Garden, a definite must- see! 

The Japanese Garden, a definite must- see! 

Just like Santiago, la Serena has tons of Graffitti - some of it quite loaded... 

Just like Santiago, la Serena has tons of Graffitti - some of it quite loaded... 

A bustling downtown

A bustling downtown

What a wonderful, deep message! 

What a wonderful, deep message! 

The landlady served breakfast outside today because I mentioned to her yesterday how much I loved her garden. 

The landlady served breakfast outside today because I mentioned to her yesterday how much I loved her garden. 

Mom and kids in Japanese Garden. 

Mom and kids in Japanese Garden. 

Japanese garden- a place of beauty and tranquillity.

Japanese garden- a place of beauty and tranquillity.

Valle Elqui is a cradle of the indigenous civilization called "Diaguita". Diaguitas later mixed with Incas.

Valle Elqui is a cradle of the indigenous civilization called "Diaguita". Diaguitas later mixed with Incas.

Treated myself :) Not gonna eat until the rest of the day! 

Treated myself :) Not gonna eat until the rest of the day! 

A Bonsai tree

A Bonsai tree

La Serena streets  

La Serena streets  

This is a great idea!  To celebrate International Women's Day, the regional museum invited women to write about themselves in 150 words or less. Thats pretty much it for La Serena. I am glad I stayed tow full days - I could visit places without rushing, take my time conversing with people, and simply observe the daily life. 

This is a great idea!  To celebrate International Women's Day, the regional museum invited women to write about themselves in 150 words or less.

Thats pretty much it for La Serena. I am glad I stayed tow full days - I could visit places without rushing, take my time conversing with people, and simply observe the daily life. 

Inquiry Project is underway!

As many of you know, my Fulbright is organized around an inquiry project that seeks to understand how to use Chilean children's literature to drive instruction in the American world language classroom.

Library at the University of the Andes

Library at the University of the Andes

This week I started my research. The University of the Andes assigned me a wonderful mentor -Zenaida Suarez Mayor-that will be helping me establish contacts and get into schools for interviews and observations. Apart from interviewing and observing classes, I also get to shop. For books! 

Quiero Querer -a series 

Quiero Querer -a series 

This week I bought quite a few children's books and started analyzing some of them to see whether/how they could contribute to our curriculum at WAMS and, on a larger scale, to world language curricula across the country. 

There are book series that are created specifically incorporate character education into language arts classes. I bought levels 3 to 6 at the bookstore at the UAndes. For example, Level 3 [basico 3] has units that could fit so well with "Soy Unico" unit in William Annin. A unit that is called "Mi identidad: las herencias de mi familia" talks about identity, ancestry, and appreciating one's roots. In the same level 3, there is a sub-unit that talks about "sentimientos" [emotions] -that also can be used in our 6th grade. Here is a sample:

A chart that is used to unpack traits inherited from one's parents.

A chart that is used to unpack traits inherited from one's parents.

An activity explaining both positive and negative feelings.

An activity explaining both positive and negative feelings.

An authentic reading! Although it has past tense, it can be presented via TPR.

An authentic reading! Although it has past tense, it can be presented via TPR.

Another sub-theme in this series that can fit our curricula is called "Mi familia, mi casa, mi barrio" [My family, my house, my neighborhood]. Apart from essential vocabulary, it carries overarching messages, i.e. right at the beginning it states for the students: "you will learn about how family helps you, how you needs to appreciate your family, and how your family passes along values and traditions." Another message that resonated with me is "you [the student] not only learn in school, you also learn in your family". This sub-unit can complement our 7th grade "La Familia" unit. Amazing!!

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In summation, this series carries messages of character education throughout. Emotional growth and change, mind-body connection, healthy living, being proactive vs. reactive, dealing with difficult emotions, making choices, being a responsible and helpful member of family and community,- all these sub-themes are present. I still have to buy levels 1 and 2 but I think it will complement our curricula nicely!

I leave you with a meme that I found in level 3 - "Ayudas para ser mejor persona"

In these series, memes are used as a "hook".

In these series, memes are used as a "hook".

 

 

First Three Days -Highlights

I have been in Santiago for the whole THREE days ;) 

It's incredible to see how slow time goes when you don't have a lot of things to do. In the American culture busy often equals successful and I sometime epitomize that idea with everything I do. For the past three days I had so much free time! As I was reflecting on it, I realized that having free time is an uncomfortable feeling for me. 

My apartment building for the first three days-Barrio Dieciocho

My apartment building for the first three days-Barrio Dieciocho

On my first day [a Friday] here I was as productive as I could be [see, told ya]. I barely flew in and I started thinking what I had to do. So I went shopping, got a wifi plan, roamed around the neighborhood, had lunch, went to the bank, worked on my dissertation proposal... Turns out I still had time left over! So I went to yoga! Yogis and yoginis, get ready, yoga here is really cheap of of high quality: about $3 per class. Yep. 

 

Yuukti Yoga

Yuukti Yoga

Second day -a Saturday-oh my god, MORE FREE TIME! As an early riser, I was up at 6AM[ and that's late for me :]. Of course, went to yoga first. Then made my way to see a potential apartment in Providencia, met the landlady, loved it. Walked to Providencia from Barrio Dieciocho - took about 50 minutes. Great! That took some time! Had lunch, 40 minutes (!). Walked back, another hour. Good! Still time left over! Worked on my proposal for 2 hours. Anyway, you get the idea. 

 

Third day. A Sunday. On Sundays, Santiago is quite deserted. Especially for a person who woke up before 6AM [me]. Yoga is closed. Banks are closed, everything is closed! Work-life balance in action. For an American, such slow way of life could be intolerable. So, today I was out by 8AM and making my way into the center of Santiago. My plan was to see CicloRecreoVía. CicloRecreoVia is "a network of streets throughout Santiago that are closed every Sunday morning to motorized traffic and open to the public". Can you imagine the city government closing the streets in New York so residents can cycle, walk, and jog? Ha! 

I then wanted to go to a Museo de Bellas Artes. Turns out, it doesn't open until 10AM. [inhale, exhale]. Sat in the neighboring park for a while watched Santiago residents and tourists wake up and crawl out of their apartments. The roamed around the artsy neighborhood and snapped some pictures of a - very creative - graffiti.

Done with the museum [by the way, free on Sundays]. Stopped by the museum store. Children's books everywhere! Score! Bought quite a few [thank you to the Department of State and Bernards Board of Education for the funds]. I think kids will LOVE them :] 

It's only 11:30!! Googling "surviving Sundays in Santiago"... Yessss. An article! Yoga in Parque Forestal at 12PM and I am 5 minutes away! Except. No yoga mat. [inhale, exhale]. Googling "where can I buy a yoga mat in Santiago?" 

Making my way to Lastarria neighborhood-think Greenwich Village in NYC mixed with New Hope in PA. Lovely, lively, and artsy! Cafes, bakeries, arts shops, and street vendors. Go into Cafe Berlin and sit down with a cappuccino. OMG. It's barely 1 o'clock. 

Barrio Lastarria- Greenwich Village, NYC paired with New Hope, PA.

Barrio Lastarria- Greenwich Village, NYC paired with New Hope, PA.

 

Heat gets to me. Slowly make my way back to the apartment. On my way, I stop by a department store and splurge on a yoga mat. 

Santiago, Chile - Getting There!

What a smooth journey this was! After speaking with fellow grantees and having travelled before, I was ready for the things to go wrong. Problems, delays, and frustration are constant companions of any traveler. However, I am dumbfounded with the fact that my Journey, as long as it was, had no problems. My flights were on time, layover manageable, people helpful, and expectations met or exceeded. I found lodging that I like within two days, got a data plan to stay connected, and even started my yoga classes! All in all, I could not have asked for a better transition. Below I am sharing some pictures that I took on my way to Santiago.

 

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What a beautiful sunset! 

 

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And a sunrise! (Lucky to have an over night flight). 

 

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Got to have the screen shot of the trip progress screen! 

Productivity and proactivity

Both productivity and proactivity are popular topics with educators. Productivity means that your time is spent on tasks that contribute to your personal and professional success, while proactivity is a state where you take initiative before it's asked of you.

When I heard that I received the Fulbright Award, I was on cloud 9. Then I got to work.

The first thing I did was sharing the news with all my professors and our department dean at Seton Hall University. That prompted Seton Hall to interview me, do a photoshoot, and place the article on their front page. After they did that, I received many encouraging emails from people I met and strangers.

One of those strangers was Gloria Garafulich-Grabois, the president of Gabriela Mistral Foundation. The organization carries on the legacy of Gabriela Mistral, specifically, her love and care for the children and the aged of her native country, Chile. The Foundation awards monetary grants to institutions that make an impact on the quality of life and/or education of Chilean children and the aged, and individual scholarships to outstanding students to pursue graduate studies. 

When Gloria and I met, she already had a list of people I should meet when in Chile. She asked me to think about the persons on the list and let her know who could be the most beneficial contact. 

All this time I was under the impression that the Fulbright Commission will take care of the leads and contacts in host countries.  During the orientation, it became clear that it may not always be the case.

We are expected to do the legwork ourselves: cold calling schools, searching out leads, emailing the connections, setting up meetings, and staying on top of our research. Sounds like grad school, doesn't it?

After the fact that we are in charge of our own projects became clear, I emailed Gloria right away saying "I want to meet as many people as possible!" and she wrote the introductions.

So, far I am in touch with three persons at the University of the Andes and hope that other universities will respond to Gloria's introductions as well.

In addition to Gabriela Mistral Foundation helping me out with research contacts, I've been posting my project on Facebook, in various groups. For example, The Chile Experience and Chile Language Teachers offer tons of networking, tips, and best practices. Two Chilean teachers responded to my inquiry, and we will meet when I arrive in March. 

So, you know the old adage ~He knows a guy, that knows a guy, that knows a guy~? I feel that's how establishing research contacts goes.

In education, your success depends on a plethora of factors, including networking and talking to people. Oh, and being persistent, too.

Productivity and proactivity often go hand in hand. With this project, proactivity manifests itself in taking that first step, sending that initial email that subsequently may lead to other things, exploring the possibilities, taking that risk to appear bothersome to some people. Productivity manifests itself in working on my dissertation; reading, taking interactive notes; thinking about the material; asking for advice; forming the Dissertation Agraphia Group.

What about you? How do you stay productive and proactive?

 

 

 

Fulbright Distinguished Teacher Orientation Washington, D.C.

Back in April, I received some incredible news: I was selected to travel to Chile as part of the Fulbright Distinguished teacher program in march of 2017 to work on my children's literature study. 

The first week of August, Fulbright Commission gathered all of the recipients in Washington, D.C. for a three day orientation. A packed three days orientation. 

I arrived from Newark, quite promptly, and had no trouble finding the Lowes Madison Hotel. International teachers arrived two days before and the U.S. teachers arrived the day before. International teachers from Botswana, Finland, India, Israel, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, the Palestinian Territories, Singapore, and Taiwan met with U.S. teachers who will be traveling to Botswana, Chile, Finland, India, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, the Palestinian Territories, Singapore, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam to engage in discussions about their countries’ educational systems and their individual inquiry projects which they will develop during their program. Unfortunately, there was no Chilean teacher to touch base with, so I circulated from country to country. 

For the three days that we were there: mingling, eating all meals together, creating presentations, bonding, asking and answering questions, and drilling each other on what's it like to work, live, and make a difference in our respective countries.  We talked about international education systems, how to serve underrepresented students better, and how to take our projects to the next level. It was incredible, and I am grateful to IIE for organizing the orientation.

In fact, that's the picture we took during culture night. Can't you see, we are having fun?