Se inicia el cierre de puertas

I’m back in Santiago after two days in cold, windy Algarrobo. (Winter has definitely arrived in Chile.) We did our ISP presentations, all of which went really well, and then hung out and reflected and had a final dinner and basically said goodbye. I’m pretty much just ignoring the fact that the program is over right now — I think it’ll all probably hit me when I head to the airport tomorrow. I’ve said goodbye to Casa SIT, taken my last metro ride, bought my last fresh bread and avocado from the little supermarket three buildings over. My bags are almost packed (and not too heavy, hopefully).

I’ve been going back and forth on whether I’m actually ready for it to be over. On the one hand, I want to go home and see my family, enjoy the 80ºF weather, get on with my summer, etc. etc. On the other hand, I really really really really really don’t want this semester to end. I can’t even really explain why, but it’s been so amazing, and I’m going to miss everyone involved with this program so much.

I can’t figure out anything else to say that will be comprehensible to anyone who wasn’t on this program, so here’s a song we sang at least a dozen times in our Spanish class, way back when we were just starting out:

5 days until…

  • parents
  • siblings
  • dog
  • cell phone with full keyboard and unlimited texting
  • buildings with central heating
  • summer weather, so it doesn’t really matter whether the buildings have central heating or not
  • peanut butter
  • different kinds of cheese
  • the ability to watch stuff on Hulu
  • thousands of people who are phonologically capable of pronouncing my name correctly
  • not living with a cat who doesn’t like me very much (and to whom I am allergic)
  • clean clothes that come out of the dryer soft and warm after an hour, instead of coming off a drying rack freezing cold and stiff after three days
  • being able to understand the people I’m living with when they speak, or at least being able to immediately recognize what words they said
  • In N’ Out

…yeah, I think I’m ready to go home now.

¡Por fin!

(Please imagine the above photo with a soft golden light shining down on it from the heavens, and a chorus of angels singing in the background.)

And that, my friends, is what a finished ISP looks like!

Getting this thing put together was quite the journey, but I’m glad I did it. All I have left now is my oral presentation, which shouldn’t be too difficult to put together — I know my research inside and out, and after three months of living in Latin America, I’m going to have no trouble babbling about it in Spanish for fifteen minutes. The hardest part is going to be changing the language of each text box in my Powerpoint to Spanish. (No, but seriously. Dear Microsoft, why the heck isn’t it possible to change the language for an entire presentation all at once? Why make it so that you have to change each individual text box one at a time? You suck.)

I’ll post something about the end of the ISP period in a few days, when I’ve had a chance to breathe. For now, though, I’m off to hang out with my chicas, and enjoy the rest of our time here in Santiago!

Nooooooooo

I’m back in Santiago! It was really difficult to leave Buenos Aires — especially emotionally, but also physically, because Ezeiza Airport is laid out in a really really confusing way. Trying to find my gate felt like wandering through some mid-level circle of hell, with all the closed stores and random check-in desks I didn’t understand and signs that didn’t really point where you were actually supposed to go. It was very odd. And then they didn’t do a normal boarding process, just skipped right from “we’re going to pre-board families with small children” to “this is the final boarding call!” And then the gate was really far away from where the plane actually was, so they took us on a little bus thing. All in all, a strange and somewhat unpleasant airport experience.

But I got to Santiago just fine! I’m generally happy to be back, especially since it means I get to see all the chicas again, but I’m slightly annoyed that I can’t use my Argentinian accent anymore. (I mean, I could, but I think I’d get a lot of weird looks.) It’s so much more fun than a Chilean accent — and it comes way more naturally to me, since I had a good friend in my high school Spanish classes who used it. Oh well.

I refuse to believe I have less than two weeks left in South America. It’s just not acceptable. I reject your reality and substitute my own, where June 11th is at least another month away, and I can just hang out with my program-mates the whole time! So there!

…sorry. I’m really tired, and really need to finish the rest of my ISP. I’m going to end this post now.

Writing writing writing, keep those fingers writing…

My goal for today was to finish the first chapter of the body of my ISP and write the entire second chapter, and… I think I might have managed that already? It’s only one in the afternoon, too — I wasn’t even awake at this time yesterday. It’s amazing what waking up at a reasonable hour can do to my productivity.

So the writing is going relatively well, but I’m doing my best not to get too overconfident — I still have two more chapters to write, plus my introduction, my conclusion, my theoretical background, and my abstract. And then I need to go through all my notes and make sure I haven’t left anything out, because I did a lot of writing in bits and pieces as I completed various interviews. It’s a whole big process. I’m going to amend my goal to include writing at least one section of my third chapter by the end of today, just to keep things moving along.

I head back to Santiago on Thursday, and as much as I love Buenos Aires I’m really excited to be going back to Chile. I miss my program-mates! I miss the program staff! I miss having more than a week’s worth of clothes! And, as of today, I have exactly two weeks until I leave for the U.S., and I really just don’t know how to feel about that. On the one hand, I really really want to see my family and friends… on the other hand, I am going to be so upset to leave this freaking amazing group of girls I have here on my program. Nothing about this situation is okay.

Breakthroughs!

I now have a week left before I need to send my ISP to my advisor and head back to Santiago, so it seems like a good time for an update! Also because I discovered something in my interview today that kiiiind of changes what I’m working with.

My research, like any social science research, has been… evolving, shall we say, based on what I’ve been finding out. I haven’t changed my theme, or anything, but the focus of my project has shifted a bit. It turns out a) that the relationship between poverty and educational problems has a lot more to do with various social challenges that poverty brings than specifically with the lack of money (which I knew), and b) that there are a lot more projects and interventions to try and deal with those challenges and problems than I had realized before. The latter is particularly important for my project, because it’s been three weeks now and I haven’t been able to get in touch with anyone who’s part of an EOE (School Orientation Team, the program I wanted to write about initially).

Today I found out why I haven’t been able to get ahold of them: in School District 19, where I’m doing my research, the entire EOE consists of two people. TWO. PEOPLE. D.E. 19 has 23 primary schools and I-don’t-know-how-many preschools, all located in neighborhoods that have high levels of poverty, violence, and drug trafficking, and the city has assigned TWO individuals to try and deal with all the behavioral and social problems that come up in the district. Great job, city government. Way to support the kids in your constituency. (And the professionals who work for you, for that matter — being one of those two people has got to be the most stressful/least rewarding job ever.)

So I’m not expecting to hear from them at all — I’ll probably end up using what the other teachers and professionals have told me about their work (and the difficulty of getting in touch with them) as my evidence for my paper. I have talked to people who work in a bunch of other programs, though, and gotten a lot of good insights from them. I just think it’s kind of funny that the entity that got me interested in the topic in the first place is turning out to be impossible to interview precisely because of the problem I put into my hypothesis. Oh well!

Anyway, I have five interviews’ worth of material and some good theoretical and statistical information, so now it’s on to the writing portion of the exercise! I started working this week and last week, and have a couple of sections done, but there’s a loooooong way to go. Wish me luck!