There’s something about being here in Chapod, a rural Mapuche (the indigenous people of Chile) community, an hour outside of Temuco (a Chilean city 8 hour south of Santiago, the capital). It’s something about walking with my 13 year old brother in the dark with flashlights with crazy clear skies full of stars above us for fifteen or so minutes by dirt roads and through fences and down a muddy hill and over a bridge to return to our house after watching a Jackie Chan movie at our “cousins” house and talking about what he is going to do next year because the community school ends in eighth grade so he needs to go to the city to continue studying. . . and it’s something about scooping out 3 big spoonfuls of powdered milk and one spoonful of powdered coffee into my mug and filling it with hot water at least 3 times a day even though I have never in my life drunk hot milk nor wanted to. . .and my host mom building a fire outside and letting it die down enough until there is a good amount of hot cinder for her to burying dough in to make “tortilla” – bread – and that digging it up twenty minutes later, dusting it off, and chowing down . . . with jam and butter and peanut butter and nutella (and even banana on top) that my family loves, gifts from the United States. It’s something about attempting to make Quaker oatmeal cookies three times for my family. . . the first 2 times without a recipe . . . and succeeding at making cookies but never succeeding at making cookies that tasted like oatmeal cookies ought to taste.
It’s something really powerful about learning that one of my sister’s was the one and only of her classmates to continue on to University and the very old man with a face full of deeply etched wrinkles in the front row during the church service who just danced and danced – for 2 hours straight, praising God, and playing cards for hours on end . . .a game we decided to call OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH because you have to slap pairs and “sándwiches” and people slap with gusto and our hands ache and ache, but we just slap harder and scream louder and laugh and laugh. There is something so special about sitting at a table with my oldest sister who is a teacher in the local school and married and has a five year old daughter as my second-oldest sister does her homework for her education class and tests out her testing methods on her little niece with the help of her teacher older sister and I get to soak all that up, and get their advice on my project. And there is something about hanging out with a little second grader guy who grew up living with my two older sisters and his mom while my sisters where attending high school in the city and playing UNO and him saying, Tía (“auntie”) . . . tu eres mala tía! (you’re bad, or you’re evil . . . completely in love, not hate) When I play a card that makes him draw a bunch from the draw pile or when I win and he looses because let’s be real he just puts whatever card he feels like and doesn’t follow the rules because he is 8 years old. And my host parents explaining from chairs around the woodstove about how my host brother is not their biological son, but that their oldest daughter was doing her practicum and met my brother and his very young mother and realized that this little boy needed a home and famil, so she asked her mother if she could bring the baby boy to live in their home to be raised as their son. It’s something about seeing how much this son loves and respects his parents and the gift they are to him. There is something about watching one of the families in the community who is hosting the two other students from my program who are here for their projects love my peers so well as they go through an incredibly hard situation as a family caring for their gravely ill mother/grandmother. And there is something about the daughter of this family who accompanied me on the micro/bus into town and helped me find internet and that found me later on a street corner when I had no idea where I was and accompanied me home on the hour bus ride and talked and talked and talked with me. And there is something about not have phone signal nor internet that makes you really appreciate phone signal and internet. And there is something about receiving an encouraging text message all the way from Africa from a kind and loving and dedicated boyfriend when you thought for sure you just weren’t going to be able to hear from him. And there is something about not showering and very cold nights and watching lots and lots of fútbol as Chile prepares to head to South Africa for the world cup.
It’s something about thinking my final project would never get going and then arriving at the school this afternoon and having the students participate with enthusiasm as I had them write and draw what they think/know/believe about the world on big sheets of blank white paper to collect their thoughts before my project so that I can later collect their thoughts after my project . . . and I got to walk around and hear what they had to say and their questions and have my classmate, Tracey turn to me . . . and say, look, we are teaching! In Chile! They are writing about the world! Maggie – this is your dream!” and to take up their work at the end and read everything they had written . . .in lots of misspelled Spanish. And then it is walking home after with the 13 year old brother who was part of my class and to have him ask, how do you think the “class” went? I told him I was excited and felt like people had great ideas and that they were enthusiastic. He said he felt like it went really well and that he liked it. . . but he said, Maggie, sister, you have to always remember that you are the teacher. You are in control. So if people are acting up you just say, cut it out and then they have to cut it out. . . no other option. Believe that you are the teacher. He does not want people goofing off. That’s what he told me. . . I have a “consejero” for my project . . .an advisor. But I already spoke with this advisor about the reality that I have another 13 year old advisor who will be assisting him. And the funny thing is, my advisor is the one who brought this subject up. . . because he knows my brother and his advising potential. It’s something about looking forward to continuing my project and be challenged that it is not going to be easy . . . I am going to use the world cup as a jumping off point and teach about the world . . . .okay, the world cup is taking place in South Africa . . .. where is South Africa? What is it like? What ocean will the soccer team need to cross to arrive in South Africa . . . what does that ocean look like? What countries will be represented in the World Cup? What do the people from Ghana look like? What type of food do the Italians Eat? What language do they speak? What is France famous for? What does the United States look like? And following that up with soccer games outside . . . . Japan versus Brasil, ect
It’s something about waking up to geese honking and roosters cock-a-doodle-doing and sheep baaa-ing and pigs oinking and dogs barking. And it is something about knowing that I am blessed to have this wonderful family here in Chapod, and a wonderful mom and sister who are waiting for me to return at the end of May in Santiago, and a wonderful Argentinean family who put up pictures on facebook and send me e-mails checking in . . . and my beautiful family . . . my parents who met me the day I was born and who have always been 100% with me for 21 years and my always favorite brother and my always favorite sister and all those other great extended grandparents and aunts/uncles/cousins I have to return to in June. . . and my mom who is coming to Chile in less than a month! It’s something about all those things and then some. It’s something about that I am even getting to experience any of this at all. Like we say here in Chile, ¿CACHAI? . . . .”You understand? You get me? Do you see what I mean? Can you maybe imagine a little bit what the something I can’t sufficiently describe with words is? It’s a really beautiful something.