Lindsey Chapman's Travel Blog

“Let Yourself Be Defined By Your Actions”
July 30, 2010, 4:29 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , ,

Cajón del Maipo, Chile: no internet access, no phone service, no distractions of city life.  Every class of VE Global volunteers gets to go on a weekend jornada, or day trip, to this quaint little ranch in the mountainside outside the city that is rented out by an adorable and generous  hippie couple who live there.

The purpose of the jornada is for the whole group to have a chance to come together to reflect and refocus on the mission behind what we are trying to accomplish at VE. It was very easy for me to become side-tracked amidst the excitement of travel, meeting new people and places, and the fact that Santiago is one big non-stop party.

We began the weekend with loads of silly team building activities and mushy talks that really set the stage for the entire weekend. We broke into small groups and discussed the multi-dimensional aspects of poverty and the endless cycles that exist within the economic classes.  The disparity between the classes here in Santiago is immense. With 18.2% of the population under the poverty line, the top 10% of the population here consumes 41.7% of resources while the bottom 10% consumes only 1.6%. The statistics are alarmingly drastic, and probably are in the country where you reside as well.

Photo of Cajón del Maipo from Flickr user Naturaleza

One of the aims of VE is to seek to improve awareness  and in turn, improve the situation for those in need. When you view poverty from an outside perspective, many times it is easy to mistake the effects of poverty for the causes, and the cycle continues. I believe a difficult cycle exists within the upper classes as well.  People who grow up with money become accustomed to having and doing certain things that are no longer recognized as privileged, but normal. My heart breaks when I think about the privileges I have been handed and taken for granted. Most of those being privileges that the children at Anakena, the school where I teach, would never imagine possible. I am not from the view that everyone should feel ashamed and guilty for taking advantage of opportunities in life. However, I do think it is our responsibility to be aware of what truly is privilege and what is necessity. Fortunately and unfortunately, those of us who have never experienced what poverty feels like will never be able to fully empathize with those who endure the oppression that poverty brings with it. We are left to strive for awareness and compassion.

During our weekend retreat, we were given free time for some reflection of our personal and professional goals as well as objectives we hope to achieve within our institutions and with the children. It was so refreshing to take the time to sit alone with nothing but your thoughts, a pen and paper. One of my personal goals in coming to Chile was to consummate my independence as a woman. The first step was getting here alone. The second step is being intentional about tracking the progress of my goals in a tangible way.

I have learned that it really isn’t enough to simply desire to be a certain type of person, you have to live it. Someone recently told me a phrase that really stuck with me. “Let yourself be defined by your actions.” Although a simple theme, the phrase inherently carries with it a deep-rooted, yet fundamental challenge to be the person you want to be.  As I sit here in Chile, journal in hand, I bring this challenge to you. Wherever you are in life, whether you are traveling abroad in China or Latin America or you are settled in a place you call home, allow yourself to be defined by your actions.


The Unattainable Andes
July 30, 2010, 4:27 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Getting back on the slopes for the first time in years in the Andes Mountains is not only scary for a beginner skier but can also be life threatening – especially when one has only experienced skiing down hills in the Midwest a handful of times.

Try to picture this: me cruising down what they call a bunny hill here in Chile, at a speed far exceeding what I could possibly have control over. Then barely making it down, avoiding a couple of wipe outs due to sheer luck.

The next logical choice is to try making it to the top of the mountain, right? Well, that’s what my brain decided. You have to take two chair lifts to get to the top, which takes a good forty minutes.  For a person who still uses the snowplow turn pretty consistently, this was probably not the wisest of choices, something I realized as I escalated higher and higher. Low and behold, just as I’m about to proudly dismount the chair lift in an attempt to blend in with the advanced skiers surrounding me, my ski slips and I fall flat on my rear. It was sort of a full body wobble, ending with me in a starfish pose, ski-less.

Photo of the Andes via Creative Commons from Flickr user Here Everywhere

As I gathered myself and my gear, I stood up. I realized that even though I had a really difficult descent ahead of me, it was definitely going to be worth it to witness the view of the Andes Mountains I was staring at that very moment. Despite my lack of control and skills in skiing,  I couldn’t quit halfway up the mountain out of fear of falling and miss out on such a beautiful masterpiece. It’s a theme I think applies to a lot of things in life. There are many situations that can seem too difficult to bear, or even seem unattainable.  But if you just try — sometimes many times — overcoming the hardships is what makes life worth living.

Philosophy aside, I sat perched on the top of the mountain for a good twenty minutes before descending, soaking up all the beauty nature was offering me. I had never seen anything like it before. The trek down, however, was a long slow battle. I was probably the least able-bodied skier to ever approach the top of the mountain and attempt to make it down on skis. After about thirty minutes of intense snowplowing — I familiarized myself with a few of the snow banks, ending up with a couple of sore thighs — I made it down without killing myself. Even though I probably looked like a fool doing it, that was definitely a mountain worth climbing, and a day worth living.

“Chi Chi Chi – Le Le Le! Viva Chile!!”
July 30, 2010, 4:25 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , , ,

If I had one word to describe Chilean fans, it would be dedicated. The students and staff at Colegio Anakena are no exception.

Photo of celebration of World Cup game from Flickr user Kmilo

“Chi Chi Chi – Le Le Le Viva Chile!” is what I heard walking into Anakena on Friday. As the children arrived, the tias were painting the students faces in Chile’s colors of red, white and blue. They were blowing horns and shouting this famous cry of all Chileans during the World Cup.  All the students and staff at Anakena had gathered to cheer on their team and eat completos for the game against Spain on this Friday. (Completos, in case you don’t know, are a very popular Chilean delicacy. It is simply a hot dog smothered in guacamole, mayo, diced tomato, and ketchup. It is enormously messy and all the kids were wearing their completos by the end of the game after sufficiently playing with them rather than consuming them.)

I’m not sure who was more excited after the game on Friday, the students or the tias. Even after a LOSS, they were brimming with anticipation for the upcoming game versus the famous Brazilians! It was so great to spend some time with them outside of classroom lessons, just having fun. I feel like I am getting to see more of who they are as people. I can tell the kids are feeling more comfortable with me and that is encouraging. I am also beginning to decipher the students specific speech impediments, despite my Spanish language incompetence, which is helpful for both them and me.  As I continue to work on my Spanish, and learn the types of words and sounds the children struggle with, I will be able to help them so much more effectively. I will also be able to develop closer and more real relationships with them. The mere  thought of that brings me so much joy.

A Week of Three “Firsts”
July 9, 2010, 5:07 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , , ,

1.  This week I started working at Colegio Anakena. My first day on the job I was greeted by a sad little girl wearing a puffy down jacket lying on the floor of the classroom, bawling her eyes out. All four of her limbs were spread out, and she had her baggie of crackers still in hand.  She was one of the most adorable four year old girls with the biggest brown eyes I’d ever seen.  As the tia started the lesson for the day, the crying didn’t subside for one moment as she was so sad to part from her mom. The tia asked me to take the sobbing niña outside to try to calm her down. I held her tightly in my arms, rocking her back and forth while whispering  “Está bien, está bien, ssshhh.” We returned to the classroom after about ten minutes where she gradually quieted down and became comfortable. I will never forget the look she gave me during the tia’s next lesson. Her eyes said, “Thank you for loving me.” From then on she has referred to me as “Tia mia.” Precious.

2.  I experienced my first Chilean World Cup win last Wednesday. They beat Honduras one to nil. I thought people in the States were obnoxious when it came to rooting for their home teams, however, I humbly concede that Chilean celebrations far exceed any celebration of a sporting event I have ever witnessed or heard of in the States. It is not even in the same ball park. The festivities commence the night before the game and increasingly anarchy and chaos ensue, resulting in tear gas, water cannons, flares and mass destruction. I was awoken several times to honking horns, beating drums, yelling and clapping. In my sleepy haze, I thought a high school band decided to hold their practice on my head board. Work and school is either canceled or dismissed temporarily. Immediately following the game, the streets below my apartment filled with crazed fans, pooling in from every bar, house and establishment that housed a television. The crowds swelled so much that the roads had to be closed. Riot police lined the sidewalks to prevent looting and violent mob mentality.  However, the crazed celebrations simply cannot be effectively controlled and violence was sure to ensue. Eventually the riot police resorted to specially equipped vehicles that released tear gas and sprayed 50 meter streams of water.  Loco, right?

3.  What Chileans refer to as hills, I refer to as mountains. This week I ran up my first mountain, Cerro San Cristobal, which stands at 880 meters above sea level. The elevation kicked my butt, coming from an elevation of 240 meters in the planes of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but I’ve never been on  a run with a better view. It is so amazing to look out onto a big beautiful city with the enormous snow covered Andes in the background. Photographs do nothing for something so spectacular.