La Bomba de Tiempo

This is the extremely awesome improvisational percussion group I went to see with some of my program-mates tonight. (Yes, on a school night. When in Buenos Aires, get no sleep as the Buenos Aires-ians do.) We were right up front and next to the speakers, so it was SO LOUD, but the music was excellent and the crowd wasn’t too wild. Some people did start a mosh pit directly behind us, but we were dancing too, so it didn’t bother us too much.

Now off to bed so I can get to class at 8:30 tomorrow! Blech.

Mari mari lamgen

Our week in rural Chile was full of so many activities and seminars and whole new realities that I’m not sure I can do it justice in one post… but I’m going to try, because I have a paper due tomorrow and then we leave for Buenos Aires on Friday! Numbered lists are always good ways to break things down, right?

1) El campo

Throughout the program, we’d been referring to our rural excursion as the trip to Temuco, but that was a major misnomer. Temuco is a city. We were not living in a city. Our host families actually live in Chapod, which is a farming/subsistence agriculture community about 45 minutes outside of Temuco, and believe me, it is definitely the countryside. None of the roads are paved; not many people even have cars, I saw at least one horse-drawn cart. There are animals roaming around everywhere — you couldn’t walk ten yards without spooking at least a few chickens, or having a dog bark at you. My first morning walking to the community’s escuela básica (our meeting point all our activities), I had to edge carefully around a cow that had wandered out of its pasture and was grazing on the side of the road. Not quite as difficult as navigating morning traffic on the metro, but challenging in its own way.

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Here, read someone else’s analysis of Chilean education for a change.

I’m back in Santiago after a lovely, action-packed week in Chapod, Región de la Araucania, Chile. I’m working on a loooooong post about what I did and learned while I was there, but it’s going to take me a while to put together. So much to talk about!

In the meantime, I will try to tide you over by linking to this piece in the Economist, which talks about the economy, education, and the student movements here in Chile — basically, a bunch of the stuff I’ve been talking about in my (Very) Brief Overview of the Chilean Education System posts, but with actual quotes and charts and things. It’s long, but it provides a good (and VERY comprehensive) summary of the current situation, with the relevant bits of history thrown in. It also features a quote from Camilo Ballesteros, who was the student leader who came and spoke to my program about the student movement. I’ve met someone quoted in a magazine article! I’m super cool!

Liceo Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra: Observations

Note: I’m in Temuco this week with limited internet access, but I’m going to let WordPress auto-update my blog with a few posts I’ve been meaning to publish. If something gets screwed up, I’ll fix it when I’m back in Santiago.

Over the last couple of weeks, I spent five mornings observing in Liceo Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra, a public high school in the Centro neighborhood of Santiago. My first morning, I was placed in a 4º medio (12th grade) Language class (meaning a Spanish class), with a very experienced teacher who knew all her students from the year before. She led class in a very participatory and discussion-based manner, which I was pleasantly surprised by; I’d heard from a few college students that most of the teaching here is done in a more lecture-based style. The class was one on Literature and Identity, and the discussion — which revolved around how to define literature, how to define identity, and why it was useful to study both of them in combination — got very philosophical at points. When I spoke to the teacher afterwards, she told me that most of the class had been heavily involved in the protest movement the year before (this school had been taken over for seven months), and so had some really interesting viewpoints and perspectives that she wanted them to share. Overall, I was super impressed with the quality of teaching and the level of critical thinking I saw in the class.

The other four days, I sat in on English classes, observing one English teacher in particular. Those classes were also interesting to watch, but a bit more difficult. Continue reading

Hablo espanglish

Note: I’m in Temuco this week with limited internet access, but I’m going to let WordPress auto-update my blog with a few posts I’ve been meaning to publish. If something gets screwed up, I’ll fix it when I’m back in Santiago.

The nice thing about living in a Spanish-speaking country is that I’m getting better at understanding and having basic interactions in Spanish pretty much every day. The annoying thing about living in a Spanish-speaking country is that I sort of can’t speak English properly anymore.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration — I can still make myself understood in English way better than I can in Spanish. But when I do speak English, occasionally my brain will supply Spanish words for what I’m trying to say instead of the English word I was going for.

Sometimes it’s a matter of convenience: When talking about money, I’ve noticed I say things like “Those shirts over there cost three mil” (three thousand/tres mil), because mil has one fewer syllable than thousand, so why not abbreviate? (Also, 500 Chilean pesos = $1 US, so 3,000 = $6 = actually not a bad price for a cute shirt.)

Other times it’s a matter of similarity: I was trying to tell one of my program-mates about Arizona’s latest piece of absolutely terrible legislation, and started out “Also, there’s that new ley in Arizona,” because ley and law are really very similar words. At the time my program-mate laughed at me… but then she did something very similar a few days later, so I got my own back.

But now that we’ve all been here over a month, it’s affecting all of us, and we’ve sort of just decided to let it. It’s no longer weird to hear someone start a lunchtime anecdote in English and end up in Spanish halfway through. If someone from my program says something to me in one language, I might respond in that same language… or I might respond in the other language if I feel like it, or in some sort of mixed-up combination. It doesn’t really matter; they’ll understand me either way.

It’s also sort of a sign that we’re getting better at Spanish: people often think that intra-sentence code-switching (going back and forth between languages within one sentence) is a sign that the speaker doesn’t know very much of one language, but linguistically it’s actually a sign that they’re very competent in both. To switch back and forth between languages without totally mangling the grammar of either one, you have to be pretty well versed in how each language puts their sentences together… and while I we tend to mangle a lot of grammar in our inadvertent code-switching, we’re getting better at figuring out our syntax and conjugations. So our conversations in Spanglish have lots of upsides: it’s an effective form of communication, it shows we’re actually pretty good at both languages, and it lets me geek out about bilingualism and linguistic principles at least a few times a week. Totally win-win!

A (very) brief overview of the Chilean education system, part 3

Chilean Student Movements

Chilean students have a generations-long history of mobilizing and being a force for social change in their country. In the 1980s, high school and university students were a huge part of the effort to end the dictatorship. In 2006, high school students all over the country took over their schools to demand improvements to the secondary school system. And those are just the big ones — there are dozens of examples of students of various grades/school levels organizing to improve their lives and/or the lives of the whole country.

What I’m going to focus on in this post, however, is the student movement of 2011. You may or may not have seen things about it on the news last year — reports were kind of sketchy in the U.S. — but this was a big freaking deal. I’m still not super well-versed on all the details, but I’ll lay out what I’ve learned:
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