Sunday, December 13, 2009

things I'll be learning

WorldTeach sent me this really great "Living and Teaching in Chile" booklet they've put together over the years. It's got all kinds of stuff on Chile, the dynamics of WorldTeach's involvement there, the education system, the culture, and tons of excellent and helpful quotes from volunteers throughout, including a number of them that contradict what WorldTeach says (which is on purpose: WorldTeach places a really high value on volunteer feedback).

I'm anticipating a lot of challenges with the language. It's sort of how, if you say "fanny pack" to an Australian, you will not get the desired reaction, because fanny is a synonym there for "vulva".

My favorite so far: Pico means "penis" and gallo is "teenager", so pico de gallo (one variety of Mexican salsa) is probably not what you what at that particular restaurant.

This is typical of the comments about winter:

Okay, no matter how much everyone tells you how cold it is, there's still a little part of you thinking, "I'm going to South America, how cold could it be?" And, I'll tell you--VERY cold. Bring sweaters, long underwear, boots, hats, mittens, and hot water bottles...and, be prepared to still be cold. And, I'm from Minnesota.
This all seems a little confusing until you get to the part about how Chilean buildings have neither central heating nor insulation. On top of that, the culture contains some nigh-medieval ideas about how diseases spread, so at one school site, they left the doors and windows open, "because germs spread much more easily in enclosed spaces".

Also, my intuition was right, and I have a lot of clothes shopping to do before I leave: I need some decent sets of actual professional-looking grown-up clothes, like khakis and stuff. I've been meaning to do that for years, so that's okay, and when I get back it will help me when I go back to work.

We're getting into the home stretch before departure. There's a famous Zen koan called "Proceed On from the Top of the Pole" (Gateless Gate Case 46, if you care):
Sekisō Oshō asked, "How can you proceed on further from the top of a hundred-foot pole?" Another eminent teacher of old said, "You, who sit on the top of a hundred-foot pole, although you have entered the Way you are not yet genuine. Proceed on from the top of the pole, and you will show your whole body in the ten directions."
We spend our lives on top of the hundred-foot pole. We don't always realize it, but every day, we can't control what's happening; every day, consciously or not, moment by moment we are letting go and stepping off our pole, into the unknown, making our decisions and hoping the consequences resemble our intention. Most of the time it's a small step, but sometimes, like with me right now, it's a big one. We never know how things will turn out.

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