I’ve had several conversations in recent days along the lines of “has the trip gone fast or slow?” I’ve written about that here and continued thinking about it. For the last week or so, actual moments have passed very quickly and I seem to think, “That’s the last time for that” several times per day. But the overall time is going very slowly (14 days). It’s a bit of a strange dichotomy.
As I write, I’m watching the first two students take the organic final. One leaves tomorrow – she seems giddy and overjoyed and is clearly the student who enjoyed Chile the least. Which is good because I don’t think she had a bad time, exactly. She had a poor homestay experience and preferred Argentina. If that is the worst that we had, we did well. The other student booked an early return for some sort of family engagement and is more ambivalent about leaving. Like all of us, she’s ready to go home but no one ever wants to take an orgo final early and leaving is, itself, final. The program has been, overall, a wonderful experience and so even though we’re all very ready to go home, the fact that it is ending is bittersweet.
In addition to teaching my final classes, conducting exhaustive reviews for students who don’t really need it and trying to make sure everyone I owe money is paid and that I’ve collected from everyone who owes me, I’ve had several adventures. The astronomy one will have to wait as it may not be over (oooo! teasers, a new feature in my blog). The other involves our end of class celebration. On the whole bittersweet angle, I realized that we would not again be together as a group, because of the two students leaving this weekend, and thought we should try to mark the occasion somehow. So I suggested we go out after our last class. Alas, two students (the same two named above) begged off due to how much work they had to finish before leaving and both having colds. A third declined due to his having a final class project due at midnight on the last day of classes. No final exam but a rushed schedule.
So we were minus three at La Piojera. This made my fourth trip to the somewhat famous dive bar. Before my colleagues or employers get upset about my conducting an end of term celebration at a bar, note that my first trip here was on our official tour given by our university hosts. If they get to take us there, I get to take us there. My second and third trips were with smaller groups of students where we ended up visiting on weekdays at odd hours, as our end of term visit would be. During these off hours, previously, the bar was pretty calm and there was ample seating available. I felt like we could pop in, have a celebratory drink and be on our way before the place filled with the night crowd.
However, I had failed to take into consideration the Confederations Cup. On the day of our last class, Chile played Portugal in the semi-final of the tournament. Chile was not favored against Ronaldo and his gang but outplayed them (so I heard, I was working) over the course of 120 minutes and then “won” 3-0 in penalties. I put that in quotes because I can’t really state strongly enough my feelings on the stupidity that is deciding games with penalty kicks. Not that anyone in the soccer universe cares about what I think. I’ve had this conversation with soccer fans and it always starts with “but they’re exhausted after 120 minutes”. I respond, reasonably enough, with “allow more substitutions at that point.” I’m then told that “but that isn’t futbol!!!” So, obviously, the solution is to have the equivalent of a free throw contest to settle things.
Anyway, Chile advanced to the final against (we know now) Germany. They drew with Germany in the group stage and, so, despite again being heavy underdogs, they have a shot at a cup. That’s Sunday at 2pm. I plan to stock up on supplies.
On Wednesday at 6pm, the country was still deep in the throes of celebrating their semi-final victory and La Piojera, while not packed, was busier than I’d seen it and the folks present had been there a long time, through a stressful game that ended in victory. They were, as the saying goes, in their cups. It turns out a few were also in their pipes. We managed to wrangle a bunch of tables together in a backroom and the 16 of us sat down and placed orders. Very soon after that, I found myself smothered by a woman who smelled like a million drinks rolled together and poured over cold papas frites. She was very friendly. She wanted to know where I was from, what I was doing with all these chicos, etc. It was a very intellectual discussion. Then she caught sight of one of my older looking – and, frankly, better looking – students and proceeded to chat him up. He was taken aback. It was an odd experience for me, being the cool one in dealing with a forward woman. Of course, having no interest helps alleviate the stress of such a situation. She wanted to know if we were from New York and was not in the proper state to learn new geography. We finally settled on our being from Atlanta as she knew that place. I’m also ashamed to admit that both my student and I attempted to get her to move to the other end of the table were there was a student from New York. Who was vigorously shaking his head at us. Fortunate for him, she was also not in the proper state to move that far or comprehend our broken Spanish.
She finally realized she wasn’t getting anywhere with us, not that we were ever clear on where she was trying to go. A lot of Chileans, like people anywhere, seem really interested in foreigners. I guess no one is really neutral on foreigners. You either think they’re great and interesting and worth getting to know or you think they should go back home and quit cluttering up the place. Fortunately, the inebriated inhabitants of this back room fell into the former camp.
The lady’s boyfriend took his turn and offered me a pipe. “Marijuana! Muy bien!” It didn’t smell like it. Now, look, I would have said no anyway. I think the laws against marijuana are ridiculous and, in a place explicitly selling vast quantities of alcohol, anyone getting morally outraged about a small pipe is crazy. On the other hand, my interest in such things is long past and, legal or not (very much not here in Chile, despite the fact that it being almost as common on the street as avocados) I’m pretty sure I know how my employer would feel about my partaking in front of students. Hell, I know how I’d feel about someone partaking in front of students. So, I politely, but firmly, declined. The gent went off in a huff, offended by refusal to share.
My students said they were surprised I was as cool about it as I was but they missed my tell. When I’m surprised and need to speak here in South America, I do so in English. Even when I know the Spanish words, the English is just pre-programmed. So, if I bump into someone I do not say, “Disculpe” or “Perdon” I say, “I’m sorry” or “Pardon me.” So, when offered the pipe I did not say, “No, gracias,” I said, “No, thank you,” and sort of flinched. If the students had been paying attention, they’d have seen that I was in no way as cool as they thought.
But, leading by example, I managed to keep my students free of the wacky weed. They did have the wacky ice cream. It was a warmish day so they were able to enjoy their terrmotos, a very popular drink with our students. A little while later, our friends left the establishment looking quite green. I’m pretty sure they did not enjoy the rest of the evening.
We broke up soon after and split into several groups. The group I was in was headed to a Mexican place near my apartment. I’ve been wanting to try it so was happy to join them. It was decent enough. I had an excellent bowl of pozole but the other dishes looked fairly average.
Okay, so back to the exams and grading. I’ll let you know about the ongoing astronomy thing when and if it pans out. Cheers.