Don’t worry, I’m not actually going to recount a normal working day here in great detail. But I will do so in sort of vague detail. (Vague detail? Is that a thing?) My working days here are not too unlike a normal working day back home and no one would want to read that. Can you imagine? A blog about a day at Salem Hall? People would disconnect from the internet to avoid it.
They are similar in this way: I wake up earlier than I need to, screw around longer than I should and then rush to work. Rushing to work here includes dodging in and out of the pedestrian traffic which, for someone from the USA, is mind-bogglingly slow. Lots of folks on phones, lots of groups clustered together gossiping instead of walking, old folks, blind folks…it’s not clear if this is a Chile/USA difference or a urban/suburban difference. The only folks walking in suburban USA are people who actively like to walk. We drive more, park closer and generally avoid places we have to walk when we either can’t walk or don’t want to walk. Here in Santiago, everyone walks everywhere. Even if you’re going to take the bus or metro, you have to walk to get there.
The point is, I walk a good bit faster than those around me. You’d think my being twice the size of most walkers would clear me some space but the responsibility is clearly on the faster walker to find a way through. No problem, viewed as a game, it’s a good time. And I’ve not crushed anyone yet.
So, having arrived at work, my next task is exactly the same as when I get to my office in Salem Hall: Find caffeine. The offices at UDP are strange, to me, in that there are no water fountains and no faculty gathering area or lounge. Forget community coffee. So, if you want something to drink or eat, you have to go buy it. This is, I think, a good thing. I can pretty comfortably enter Salem Hall in the morning back home and never leave it until I go home. Here, I have to get up and move around.
After that it’s what I normally do: read, write, meet with students, meet with colleagues to gripe about students, meet with other colleagues to gripe about administrators, sit in my office and gripe to myself about everyone. I can’t complain but sometimes I still do.
I go get lunch at some point. More coffee. Though I have to admit, having to go buy coffee every time I want it cuts down on the intake. My classes are in the afternoon so it’s a rush home around 7pm. Forage for dinner. Some reading, maybe some TV, then bed.
Anyway, life is life. Folks are folks. Living and working in Santiago isn’t unlike living or working anywhere. I think people generally get so focused on their own tasks that the surroundings don’t get through the filters. Sitting in a room watching students work problems on a white board, I could be in Winston-Salem, Durham, Baltimore, Stillwater or Santiago (Couldn’t be in Chapel Hill, of course, what with the students being in class and all). In my office, writing, the view out the window doesn’t really play a role.
Maybe it’s me and I should be more aware of my surroundings as I work. Maybe it just isn’t possible to focus on work while also taking in the larger world. But I get to the end of a number of days here and realize the day was very like a day back home. It seems a waste to have days like that when we’ve come so far to experience something different. In the moment, however, I don’t see a way to work with a student on a mechanism and experience Santiago. And, perhaps, it’s not possible to have the adventure dial turned to eleven 24/7.
With that, office hours begin. Cheers.