The students arrived back from Valparaiso in fine form. The sun came out Saturday afternoon and a proper beach was found and all were happy. Except the one who got violently ill. I gave her a hard time about how a college student could possibly find themselves very sick in a beach town on a weekend but she and all others swore that the obvious cause wasn’t the actual cause. They were convincing. Evidently she got a bad piece of meat or something and was hurling violently well before any extracurriculars had begun. I’m a little surprised this hasn’t happened more and that probably shows my prejudices coming in. I’ve traveled in Latin America more than the students but that is a low bar. The food here is good, the water clean and in all respects you can sort of live and work as if you were in North America without danger.
That prejudice shows up in other ways as well. We were all told, often, about how it is customary to be late in Argentina and Chile. To be sure, when it comes to social engagements, everyone arrives late. If you are asked on a date here and they show up on time, you should probably consider them a stalker. However, when it comes to professional or official meetings, I’ve found both the Argentines and Chileans to show up on time. No one is early but they’re there when they said they’d be there. Thus far, the Americans in the program have shown no such tendency. And I think the reason for this is our orientation. Over and over we’re told that the Latinos will be late so we have to be ready to adapt to that. So what would you do if you were told that the people you’re meeting will be late? You’d arrive late yourself, obviously.
I alluded to this on Friday. We were to meet a member of the UDP staff and a Chilean tour guide in the lobby of our hotel at 10:00. At 10:05, three of the Wake students were there. All the AU kids were present as were the two Chileans, who walked up exactly at 10:00. It was uncanny their timing. I sent some texts and walked around. As soon as someone got there, they wanted to go get water or find a bathroom. I finally found the last of the group sitting in the restaurant, casually having breakfast, at 10:15. I told them we were leaving and walked out. Unfortunately, but understandably, our tour guide had, himself, wandered away because I wanted us to leave. As it is, we did, in fact, walk out of the building before all the Wake kids were fully part of the group. But they walk fast and caught up.
In any case, I was furious. I don’t think I realized exactly how upset I was until I started talking to people about it. I’m not looking for sympathy here, but I don’t talk nearly as much in Chile as I do in the United States. That isn’t a bad thing as it means I probably think more. But Mary got an earful and I managed to bring it up to the next two people I talked to on the phone back home. So, at the end of the last class on Monday, I gave them both barrels. It was short but sweet and everyone looked properly chagrined.
In my mind, such a laid back attitude to a group schedule is disrespectful. No one likes to wait but by arranging not to wait oneself, you force others to. However, it isn’t a bad group of students and they do not, generally, behave disrespectfully. In talking to some of them on Friday, during the tour we started late, they expressed surprise that we were all ready to leave on time (as well as surprise that I was angry – I don’t think they’d seen angry Paul yet). Some of their attitude, no doubt, is being young. But the AU students, their exact peers, were there on time. I really do think the orientation, where we drill into them the custom of arriving late in Latin America, does the students a disservice. It is a disservice to the Argentines and Chileans, as well, who are as professional as anyone in the United States. Perhaps it is an out of date point of view and professional meetings once started late routinely? Or, perhaps, it is just American ignorance or arrogance that the rest of the world can’t function as well as we do. You certainly don’t have to look hard to find that attitude in the United States despite the fact that much, if not most, of the planet functions quite well, even better in many cases, than we do.
Anyway, I’m not sure the students completely believe that I will leave them behind on Easter Island if they’re late for the bus to the airport but I will damned sure leave them in Santiago on the way there.
Fall began yesterday here in Santiago. Days are getting shorter – it’s just 8:00 and still pretty dark out. Time doesn’t change until May 15 by which time I think we’ll all be ready for it. The students are starting to look for trips to make. Our next scheduled group trip isn’t until May so they have some time to head out on their own. Chile has great night buses, so we’ve been told, where you can get a sleeper seat and wake up far from where you lay down. And they’re very cheap. I thought of taking one for my next trip but then remember I earn a salary and have a 40-something back so I bought a plane ticket. I do think I’ll take the bus to Mendoza at some point so I can cross the Andes on the ground. But that needs to be soon as the pass gets balky and can be impassable as early as April. The other things students must consider is that going south will result in colder weather. That is, of course, the reverse of what we experience in the north. Some students are doing a Patagonia tour in late April. This is, roughly, akin to going to Newfoundland in late October. They might get good weather but I wouldn’t bet on it. I am practicing my “I told you so” look even now.
I, myself, booked another trip yesterday and now have a couple upcoming outings around Chile that I will tell you about it due course. For now, I must write a quiz and think about sinks.