There is a time honored educational tradition in which students complain about wonderful educational activities painstakingly put together by their teachers. Their teachers then tell them, soberly, that complaining is unseemly and counterproductive. They should embrace life and the world and stop whining. The teachers then turn to the nearest adult and begin complaining and whining in such a spectacular fashion that a student could scarcely dream of complaining in the same league.
You have been forewarned.
We’ve now completed two orientations, one in Argentina and one in Chile, and, I have to think, the students must be very well oriented at this point. They are also unambiguously cranky. The last few days have been good, in my opinion, and long and drawn out in the opinion of many of the students. They’ve overdone their complaints of the last two days of the week but I’m going to have to give them a pass for this morning’s trouble.
Thursday, we visited the Museo de la Memoria y Los Derechos Humanos. It is a museum dedicated to the memory of the victims of Pinochet’s regime and to documenting that regime. It’s well done and gives a nod to similar historical events in roughly the same time span. It’s sad and heart-wrenching and I was moved most of the time as were most of the students. However, many also thought it too long and complained that we had to stand and/or walk slowly for two hours. Compared to what the Chileans under Pinochet went through this seems a minor point but I have to admit I woke up the next day pretty stiff myself.
How society can continue to largely act and feel normal as a brutal dictator takes power in a democratic system is probably a good question to think on. I told the students this. I’m not convinced I persuaded them.
On Friday, we visited the central fish and meat market and Vega Central, which is a very large produce market with many cafes, restaurants along with the produce. Avocados are sold, cheaply, by type. Who knew there were types of avocado? You could pick up a barrel of kiwis for a few dollars. The market also has quite a few cats, can’t imagine why. I love markets like this and was really looking forward to it. I was not disappointed. I’d say a solid half, maybe more, of the students were equally impressed. The remainder were horrified by how “unsanitary” it was. Americans.
The program then bought lunch. It is no small trick finding a restaurant in Santiago that can accommodate 31 people (we are joined at the hip in orientation with a similar group from American University and then there was the staff, etc.). But they pulled it off and we enjoyed a very fine lunch. However, due to the size, the menu was limited and it came out sporadically. The last lunch was served almost an hour after the first. Students complained. Service was slow (true). There wasn’t enough water (true). The food wasn’t good (false). I had to wait for X to finish eating (true). I had to wait for my food (true). You get the idea. I tried to point out it was free. They pointed out it was paid for by the program fee. I countered that mine was free. They didn’t laugh.
But, finally, it was over and we were off. One of the staff here mentioned that a famous bar, the name of which now escapes me, was right around the corner and served something wonderful called a terremoto. Which means earthquake. With such a fearsome name I expected a flaming glass of strong hooch. Instead, it was an ice cream float but where the root beer was replaced by grenadine and white wine. It works.
And that’s all I have to say about that.
So, the students had what I consider to be a really cool two days but they were tired and had to learn stuff and waa, waa, waa. I needed a break so I went hiking this morning. A former student who did the program two years ago tipped me off to some great trails in the mountains east of the city. I happily climbed around there (I am steadfastly NOT complaining about the mile of walking necessary to get from the nearest bus stop to the trailhead, no sir) for a few hours, returning home around 3 in the afternoon to a wonderful WhatsApp group chat.
The students, on this clear, cool, sunny Saturday had to be at a police station at 0750 to process their Chilean student visas. Getting a student up at 0750 on any Saturday is pretty tough. But on study abroad when they’re already in a bad mood? Dangerous. But how bad can it be? I figured they’d be back in their bunks by 10. Right. The last student left the station a little before 4pm.
I’m going to allow a little griping on this one.
Some photos from the last few days:
The fish market. I have a set of two very similar pictures of students going crazy over chocolate from each of the study abroad trips I’ve led. I like how this one fits and the very different demeanor of the students.
A fistful of terremotos. And a clown.
Looking back at Santiago from the trail.