Day 4 – Continuing the Conversations

The next morning we started the day once again with coffee and bread followed by a meeting in the courtyard. Everyone circled up and we played another chanting/singing game that I couldn’t even begin to explain called the “train of love.” Then the facilitators explained that it is important for us to continue to share with the families and converse with them. Today we would be given an assignment to fill out the answers to several questions pertaining to the family and things like their income and education and dreams for the future, without letting them know that we were interviewing them. When we got to our site after a cold and cloudy bus ride we sat in a circle on the floor we had finished installing that previous afternoon. Our team leader went through each question that we would need to fill out in the evening so we could discretely incorporate them into our conversations with the family. We were a little ahead of the other groups so the panels for the walls hadn’t yet been delivered so we decided to make our way across the road to join the family in some morning tea and more bread. By this point the bread had gotten pretty old, the only thing that kept it bearable was the varying spreads that were put on them.

Our group in an attempt to relieve our boredom decided to make up a dance. We all got on top of the floor as a few members took charge and choreographed moves that had to do with construction work as a battle between the boys and the girls, it was pretty funny. It sure did make the time pass because we headed back to the house after for lunch, still waiting or the wall delivery. The conversations with the family continued during lunch and through the afternoon when finally we received the panels. Today, Maria the 5 year old, seemed to have forgotten my name that she learned yesterday because she had come up to me plenty of times started her conversation with “what is your name” just wanting to hear my response. The jokes continued throughout the day to keep everyone laughing and having a good time. After putting up the walls and hammering nails into each panel we went back to the house for tea since today was even colder than the previous two days. Image

When we got back at the school we were later than usual so we had dinner right away. As I continued to meet other people in other groups staying at the school I noticed the most common question I got was “why Chile.” As in why, of all places had I decided to come to Chile for my summer. Of course the most simple and straightforward answer I had was that I have a lot of family here since my mom moved with her family from Chile to the US when she was 2. The American influence in Chile has always been something I’ve taken for granted but as I continue to converse with people it has stood out more and more. Everyone here listens to music and watches TV and movies made in the US. Everyone I meet knows at least a little bit of English because English classes are just part of their curriculum starting when they enter school in kindergarten. The impact of that hit me when I was talking to someone who told me she didn’t know any English and she asked me where I learned my Spanish. I told her I had taken 4 years in high school and then I made a trip to South America two years ago. I asked her if she took any English classes in school and she said yes, for about 12 years so far. Even though she says her English isn’t very good I’m sure it can’t be that bad having taken classes all her life. I am often asked what kind of music I like and I always respond with all sorts of kinds then usually I am asked if we have reggaeton in the US, which we don’t. As I started to think more about it, we don’t have much Spanish music at all, we have a few songs but generally all of the music my generation listens to is in English. In Chile the music listened to by most of the youth is half in Spanish and half in English. While the Spanish music is really fun, it is also comforting for me when a song that is popular in the US comes on and I am able to sing along of course with everyone here singing along as well. I started to think of this influence and then extended it to TV and movies. It is very common to go to the movie theatres to see a movie in English with Spanish subtitles. A lot of movies are dubbed but many people would rather read the subtitles since they had been trained to do so since they first started reading. Thinking back to my movie watching past, I’ve only seen a very limited number of movies with subtitles and when I do I’m often disappointed with the amount of attention that is taken away from the movie by constantly glancing up and down the screen to read and then back up to see the scene. I can’t even imagine watching half the movies I watch reading subtitles. The relationship between the USA and Chile in terms of media is by no means equally reciprocal. A sense of guilt started to weight me down as I thought of how little I knew about Spanish and Chile and how much everyone here knew about English and the US.  This influence changes a bit when we are talking about the poor in Chile. Their limited access to quality education makes it so they have very little exposure to the English language and limited knowledge of the culture and geography of the US. Many still greatly believe that they would give anything to live in the “land of freedom and opportunity” that I call my home.

After dinner we filled out the answered to all the questions and then gathered in our groups separately spread around the school. Each group was given the responses of another group and were read the circumstances of their family. The story we heard was a single 18-year-old mother of a 3 month old who live in a house about half the size of the family we are working with along with the woman’s father who is an alcoholic. We discussed how these conditions varied from our family’s and focused our conversations on the struggles of an infant living in the same house as an alcoholic. This situation was shocking to me because the young woman is just two years younger than me living with no water or electricity and she has a baby. I couldn’t even imagine how stressful life might be for this poor girl. We talked about her dreams, which were similar to Señorita Juana’s, to create a life for her children that is better than her own. They both hope that their new living situation will allow for more stability that will hopefully allow their children to lead successful lives. I hope so as well.

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