Lindsey Chapman's Travel Blog


“Follow Your Bliss”
October 19, 2010, 2:18 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , , ,

It’s an odd sensation going through the same orientation I went through three months ago as a new volunteer, only this time as an “antigua” rather than a “newbie,” as VE Global likes to refer to their respective volunteers. Being on the side of preparation and serving rather than observation and learning sheds new perspective on the activities. But meeting the new class of volunteers has also proven to be a good way to end my time here. I’ve had the opportunity to be behind the scenes of an NGO, and ample time to reflect on my experience to give useful advice to those expecting to have a meaningful next few months.

Your time abroad is whatever you make of it.

Your current position on the globe isn’t what provides you with the life lessons you hope to learn, or goals you hope to achieve.  You have to seek out the challenges that will stretch you beyond your comfort zone, because the difficult things in life are the things most worthy of your time and energy. Furthermore, I don’t know anyone who has learned and honed a truly valuable life lesson or skill during the easiest and happiest time of their life.

As I am about to depart, it’s very grounding for me to think about the fact that Mom is still working at Otsego Dental everyday, Dad is heading to American Family Insurance carpooling with his buddy every other week, and Royce is starting up her first year teaching at Elk River high school after enjoying the summer off with her friends.  I’m not sure how they are going to feel when I tell them I want to leave again. I already know that I am not ready to head back into the working world in the States, as there is still so much I would like to do and learn abroad, especially with my Spanish.

But I’m finding I don’t mind the uncertainty of the future because uncertainty just means possibility. All I know is that I would like to continue working with the disabled whether I can find a paid position or not. And if all paid positions fail, I can always teach English on the side. I also learned that native English speakers can find jobs really easily in Santiago, so if you’re looking, I’ve got the hook up.

Even though friends and family will probably not encourage another departure abroad, it’s important to follow your heart. I’ve come to gain a new respect for the work of American mythologist, writer and lecturer Joseph Campbell who coined the phrase, “follow your bliss.” He also said, “When you follow your bliss… doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors; and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else.”

I think his theories are important for everyone but especially for the life of a traveler, because life abroad isn’t the norm. If you read his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, you’ll find that following your bliss doesn’t mean merely doing what feels most fun at the moment. It means figuring out what you are passionate about, and doing it. When talking about the journey of the hero he says, “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

So whether you are thinking “Should I go or should I stay?” or “Should I give up or push through?” follow your bliss even if it seems to go against all logic. Because in the end, it will have been the only logical decision.

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Olympiadas A Anakena
October 19, 2010, 2:09 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , , ,

Last week we had Olympiadas at an outdoor public field a few blocks from Colegio Anakena. In the first heat of runners, there were five kids all around the age of five-years-old. Uno, dos, tres and they were off toward the finish line. Until the boy in Lane Three looked down to realize that the ground he was running on was made up of sand. As with most kids, a sand box is at least a few hours worth of fun. So he plopped down and started playing in the sand. And then a few others stopped to stare at him with jealous eyes.  We all cheered, encouraging them to keep running. One tia had to come and help him up, and remind him that he was racing. Eventually he found the finish line.

There were two running events, one long and one short, and three other events consisting of biking, long jump, and throwing a tennis ball. After all the events were over,  there was an award ceremony with certificates, medals, and trophies. The age categories were “mini,” “super mini,” “hyper mini,” and “infantile mini.” It was absolutely adorable.

I had the glamorous job of crowd control, and attempted to keep all of the kids that weren’t competing from running out onto the field. It was difficult to say the least, and the key word here is “attempted.” At the end of the day, all of this competing is in preparation for a bigger Olypiadas when Anakena will compete against about ten other schools in October. I wish I was going to be here for it!

The sun was shining and everyone was smiling — we got lucky. Olympiadas at Anakena were a success! Hopefully, come October, they compete on a grass field.



Recognizing Difference
October 19, 2010, 2:07 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , ,

My experience with the disabled began with Colin.

He was a happy, 19-year-old boy with Down syndrome when I started working with him as a personal care attendant. During my sophomore year of college, I spent one or two evenings a week with him until a few months after I graduated. I also had the opportunity to help out at his Sunday School class that his mom lead, a class  full of students with any type of disability that existed within the church.

My interest in the disabled increased as my friendship with Colin and his family grew closer. I decided to join him, as a volunteer, at a week long summer camp he attended each year called Joni and Friends. I hopped in the car and made my way to Indiana about a month after I graduated. I was assigned to work with another boy with Down syndrome named Dan, who was also a happy-go-lucky kid around the same age as Colin. Because of the wide range of severity and accompanying complications within the same diagnosis, in this case Down syndrome,  it was a very good learning experience to work closely with another kid like Colin. They were very different. Colin was more reserved and used to love just sitting alone, trying to make me laugh by making funny noises. (Trust me, this could occupy his entire day if you let it.) While Colin wouldn’t touch water with a ten foot pole, Dan had the time of his life tubing behind a boat at summer camp.

As I work with the younger kids at Anakena here in Chile, I am continually reminded of the infinite levels of independence and unique personal characteristics possessed by children with the “same” disability. I had to ask my tia why Leonardo was in our class because for all that I could tell after working with him for a week, he appeared “normal.”  He helps with the other children and always knows the answers in class.  She responded by saying that he has a low level learning deficit and is probably the highest functioning child in the class. I hope for his sake, that being in that position doesn’t hinder his learning process. Then there is Alejandro, who’s autism is evident upon first glance. He experiences its effects both mentally and physically. He is a challenge, to say the least, because he’s in the stage of life where he must question authority at any given opportunity. And if you have spent any time with kids, you know that disobedience is contagious among a group of curious children. Disciplining children with disabilities opens up Pandora’s box of life lessons. The biggest one? Patience, patience, patience.

There are two children in the class with Down syndrome, Javiera and Felippe. They are both incredibly adorable and extremely stubborn in their own way. It is really interesting to work with them and think about what Colin and Dan might have been like at their age.

I have been disappointed with the education provided by Anakena when I am wearing my red, white and blue lenses. However, the school is quite impressive when you consider that “discapacidades en Santiago, Chile” brings up less than ten relevant results in Google, which is nothing for a city of five million. I’m not exactly sure what kind of resources exist for the disabled in schools and programs here in Chile, but I know it is little to none.  I have only seen one computer at Anakena, in the director’s office. The tias hand write all the assignments for each of the kids because there are no printers, copiers, projectors, or smart boards. They re-use all plastic “disposable” cutlery and paper plates each day for snack time. There is no heat and no hot water.

Yet, without all these things they manage to make education happen day in and day out. They make it happen out of necessity, but surely they would appreciate some of the luxuries we call “necessities” in the states. If you are interested in changing the lives of some teachers at Anakena or other schools in Chile, please contact VE Global to see how you can help.