La verdadera educación consiste en sacar lo mejor de uno mismo -Mahatma Gandhi (Real education consists in drawing the best out of yourself.)
I still cannot believe that I have been in Santiago for two and a half months – time has flown by. Going into new environments always comes with a certain degree of uncertainty, but I have been fortunate enough to meet many great people along the way. Thus far, I have made it a point to create community wherever I go and to be comfortable in the uncomfortable.
Since my last post, I have had the chance to be a part of various events and explore new places throughout Chile. For starters, Rebecca and I won lottery tickets from the U.S. Embassy in Santiago to attend the 4th of July reception. We ate corndogs, chicken wings, and topped it off with 4th of July themed Dunkin Donuts! It would not have been right if we did not eat burgers, so we also hosted a small 4th of July celebration at our friend’s house and made burgers. Shout out to Ramzi for letting us host at his apartment!
Left: U.S. Marines at the U.S. Embassy in Santiago.
Middle: Forrest Gump themed cake at the 4th of July reception.
Right: Our semi-successful attempt at making burgers.
Additionally, Rebecca, a few friends, and I visited the city of San Jose in Cajón del Maipo, a canyon located approximately an hour and a half south of Santiago for a weekend trip. During our trip, we visited the Cascada de las Animas (Animas Waterfall), which had breathtaking views of the Andes Mountains, as well as rafted along the Maipo River. While rafting, our guide pointed out a former home that belonged to Pinochet during his dictatorship. While living at this home, there was an ambush against Pinochet on September 7, 1986. The attack was carried out by a Marxist-Leninist paramilitary organization called Frente Patriótico Manuel Rodríguez (Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front). Although Pinochet survived the attack, it resulted in 5 deaths and 11 injuries. Currently, the home and land that surrounds it is still property of Pinochet’s estate with part of the land being rented out to the Universidad San Sebastian (San Sebastian University) for students studying expedition and ecotourism engineering.
In addition, I went on a weekend trip with a few friends I met at Life Church Santiago to Loanco, which is approximately 6 hours south of Santiago. My friends’ parents recently bought a home in Loanco and they are in the process of creating cabins on the property. They will rent the cabins out to guests and use the space to conduct youth retreats for their church. This was a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city that combined the best of both worlds – countryside and beachside. Besides eating home-cooked Chilean food the entire weekend, I my friends and their family plant shrubs throughout the border of the property. I really enjoyed the fact that I was a part of this experience. I may never see the end product of those shrubs, but it is great to know that the land will be used for a place where youth will learn more about the Word.
Photo 1: My friends’ family home in Loanco.
Photo 2: The family’s chickens and hens.
Photo 3: Life Church Santiago’s worship team.
A few other exciting things I have done include celebrating Peru’s independence day at Peru Fest 2018 in the Estadio Nacional (National Stadium), rock climbing at Cerro Lo Curro (Lo Curro Hill), and visiting Maipu, a neighborhood in Santiago, where my friends grew up, to name a few.
In terms of work, I have dabbled in a little bit of everything. My colleagues and I finished the project proposal I mentioned in my previous post, but the objective of the proposal changed direction quite a bit. Instead of proposing an Arts Education Week in the Caribbean, we decided to create a project proposal that seeks to empower youth to embrace the richness of cultural diversity in Suriname through arts and culture education. While Suriname is a part of the South American continent, its position on the coast and its cultural makeup makes it a part of the Caribbean community. It is comprised of many ethnic groups that include Indian, Maroons, Creole, Indigenous Amerindian, Chinese, European, and mixed ethnicity. We submitted the 17-page concept note to UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, which forwarded it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan for review. We will hear back from headquarters in September to find out whether our project proposal was accepted. Fingers crossed!
In addition, I have translated many documents from Spanish to English and vice versa, including meeting notes, concept notes, working papers, meeting agreements, logistical notes, preliminary programs, meeting agendas, and press notes. The most difficult part about translating has been capturing the author’s intention as opposed to the literal meaning of a sentence or paragraph. Since these documents tend to range between one and 15 pages, it is often difficult to consult with the author when I need a more in-depth explanation of their words in order to render an accurate translation. Although translation has probably been the most tedious task for me during my time here, it has drastically improved my Spanish reading fluency. Although I grew up speaking in Spanish at home, my reading fluency has always been average. When I first arrived, it would take be a couple of hours at times to get through a working paper, but now I am in full swing.
Other tasks have included, but are not limited to: 1) creating regional summary reports on various topics (i.e. inclusive and resilient education systems, national education policies and plans, teacher policy and training, and technical and vocational educational training) that were submitted to the System of Information on Strategies, Tasks and the Evaluation of Results (SISTER), a UNESCO-wide management and reporting system 2) editing a working paper on the gaps and trends in youth and adult learning and education in Latin America and the Caribbean and 3) working on a 10-month project that focuses on social emotional learning in non-formal education.
We have partnered with Fundación Súmate (Súmate Foundation), a Chilean-based organization that focuses on non-formal education among children and young adults that uses social emotional learning as a guiding principle to reintegrate children and young adults into the traditional school system. The intent of this project mentioned earlier is to provide technical assistance in rethinking the design of programs by focusing on the dimensions of socioemotional learning. Within the next few weeks, we plan to visit some of the schools to begin conducting interviews with students, teachers, and school leadership.
Although I am staying at UNESCO until the end of October, with that, I leave you all. Thank you for reading our GW UNESCO 2018 blog. I hope it was as much of an adventure for you as it has been for us.
Melquin is a master’s candidate in organizational leadership and learning.