Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Yes, I´m alive

So here I am almost at the end of June.  I have been meaning to update with the best of intentions, but I find that it´s very easy to put off.  And put off, and so on and so on.

So, what has happened in the past month?

I took a trip to Melipilla and visited some friends who are teaching at DUOC (community college) there.  Melipilla is about an hour outside of Santiago, and there´s not much to do there.  The day trip involved visiting their house, getting some delicious lunch with a bowl of cazuela about the size of my head, taking a pilgrimage to get chicha (a sweet flavored alcoholic drink) and letting Laura give me a haircut.  Looking back, I hadn´t left Santiago for 3 months until then.

appetizer of ham with salad and mayo

It might not look like it, but this bowl of cazuela was as big as my head.

And vanilla ice cream for dessert!
Warren and I enjoying our dessert

Samuel, the neighborhood dog

We got here after a 45 minute pilgrimage that Warren said would be 15 minutes.

This is what chicha looks like.

The sun setting on our way back

Laura was really enthusiastic about saving me a few luka and giving me a haircut.

This jean jacket is famous in Melipilla.  The owner, however, is not yet determined.  (Sarah or Carlos?)

Trusting my hair to Laura

Unfortunately last week I spillled a bowl of cereal (with milk) all over my laptop.  It stopped working, but a Chilean friend has helped me get it to a repair shop.  The hard drive is definitely ok, so it´s a matter of if the computer itself can be saved.  Roberto found a place that will charge me 30,000 pesos for the repair if my computer works in the end or 10,000 pesos if it doesn´t, which will include rescuing all of the data on my hard drive.  I should have news about it by the end of the week.

Other than that, my life has been pretty uneventful.  I´m putting off traveling until I can save up money to pay my college loans and pay back my dad for all of the help he gave me with traveling this past year, and I also need to get an emergency fund set up and save money for the summer when I won´t have many classes to teach.

Especially with the winter weather, it´s very easy to get into the pattern of coming home from work and just staying in.  Avoiding social interaction with people hasn´t been the best thing, and so I´ve found the times when I´ve made the effort to go out and hang out with people or invite them over I get to practice my Spanish and learn about new insights and views I hadn´t considered before.

One example is the student strikes that are happening in Chile now.  Many schools and universities are on strike with students refusing to go to classes.  Why?  They don´t like the privatized system of education.  They feel it´s run too much like a business and is too expensive, and they want education to be free like it is in Argentina and Peru.

Before talking about my opinion, I think it´s important to consider my educational background.  I went to public school in suburban New Jersey, and the quality of the schools I was at was excellent.  I was able to take AP classes, foreign languages, play in orchestra, and even take classes in music technology.  My parents instilled me with a steady work ethic which encouraged me to study hard and do my best, and I participated in and eventually became the president of the Interact (community service) Club in my junior and senior year.  I also played the double bass starting in middle school and played in various orchestras.

So what happened when I was ready to go to college?  My parents wanted me close to home, so I applied to Rutgers.  At that time it cost 13 grand a year, and after financial aid it would cost me 8 grand a year.  I wanted to go away for college, and my dream was to go to Occidental College in Los Angeles.  The problem: it cost 35,000 a year, which was far beyond what my parents would be able to afford.  I had to convince them to let me apply and see what would happen with financial aid, and I was accepted with financial aid of 33,000 a year.  My aid was a mix of merit scholarships, grants, and a few thousand dollars in loans per year.

I was ecstatic that even though my family didn´t have many resources that I was able to go to such a nice school.  If it weren´t for a privatized system that had money for financial aid for students in my situation, I don´t think I would have ever gotten to go away to college.  I had definitely benefited from a privatized system of education in this sense, but honestly I don´t know how many people actually are in a situation like mine.

Considering this, I have mixed views.  Yes, I feel that everyone should be able to get a high quality education.  But I feel that public universities back in the States have limited resources to provide help to students with low resources.  Private schools, however, have more financial aid available, smaller class sizes (in general), and students get more individual attention.  Private schools, while more expensive, provide another option to people.

But then again, how many people can private schools help in this way?  Everyone?  Or just a select few?

And this raises another question in my mind: should a high quality education be reserved for those who can afford it and those who a private university can provide sufficient financial aid to?

And what about loans?  I was lucky to escape undergrad with 8 grand in loans but got hit hard in graduate school with all loans. 

As you can tell, seeing these students on strike and protests really makes me ponder what is best for the people in Chile and reconsider my own views based on my experiences.

This has led me to a broader insight.  It´s very easy to become comfortable with one´s political views and only associate with people who have similar views, but it´s such a growing experience talking with people who have different views and life experiences to expand your horizons and broaden your mind.

I haven´t been in tune with the news and what has been happening outside of my English-teaching world, and I´ve been losing valuable opportunities to learn about other viewpoints, the world around me, and practice my Spanish.  This realization has given me a renewed interest in expanding my horizons and keep my blog updated more often.

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