Friday, April 9, 2010


Ministry orientation is officially done. The American ex-volunteer employees urged us to be brutally honest, so I wrote a couple pages of script (I started out printing but realized it would be too slow) listing some of the various contradictory or cracktastic elements of the training. My final comment: "It's better than nothing, but it doesn't come close to preparing first-year teachers to teach in a foreign culture."

(The young folks are pushing better changes year after year, but apparently everyone always says the orientation was great--either to not hurt feelings, or not having anything to compare it to--and then the midyear survey says the orientation sucks and didn't prepare them at all. If everyone can be honest and say it sucked right at the beginning, that's data they can use to make more changes.)

Tomorrow I'm headed out to "the country" with a guy I met at the Zen group last week. His name's Pedro, and we hung out talking for a while after the sitting. I'm not exactly sure where his out-of-Santiago place is--by "not exactly sure" I actually mean "I have absolutely no idea and didn't bother to remember the name"--but apparently he and his wife and baby daughter go picnic for a bit there every weekend, and he invited me along. Allyson encouraged us to accept these kinds of invitations (unless you're a girl and it's some skeezy guy), because it's an invitation to participate in a more traditional, non-urban aspect of Chilean family life. I've no idea what to expect or what to bring, but I like hanging out with Pedro (who also doesn't like to drink much) and I figure it'll be fine. As long as they don't try to kill and eat me I'm perfectly capable of making my own way home if need be.

Here I am, mere days away from the 6am bus to Valparaíso. I don't know if school has started, what my host family's like, what part of town I'll be in. Not-knowing has been a delicious part of this whole thing; people back home would regularly ask me if I knew what ages I'd be teaching, or where I'd be, and when I'd say I wouldn't know until I got there, they'd give me this look of...incredulity? I don't know what they thought: that I was brave or crazy or just that they would never proceed under those conditions, or what.

But if I knew, what good would it do? If you tell me I'm teaching 5th-graders or 11th-graders...I've never taught before, I've never managed a classroom full of any age group before. It's not a meaningful distinction to me. If I had found out I was going to be in Quilpue or Quillota or Zapallar (those lucky bastards, Lauren and Bennett), that doesn't mean anything more to me than it does to you. I could look it up on Wikipedia, but what else could I do except create a fantasy about it in my head? The Internet can't tell me if the people are nice, whether my host family has a dog, what my students will be like, whether my co-teacher will actually speak English (definitely not a given with Chilean English teachers) or whether s/he will be open to how I want to teach.

We want so much for everything to be under control. In our lives in the U.S. most of us are able to plan things in advance, to have an idea of what to expect. We want our jobs to go well, our lovers to behave the way we want. We go through all sorts of contortions to avoid the panic of not-knowing, the falling-off-a-cliff feeling of having to meet each moment as it comes without knowing what it will bring. We don't realize that not-knowing is the nature of things, and to live with intention in not-knowing is perfect freedom, because we never know what each moment will bring. We just think we do, and we're right often enough to solidify it into a delusion we cling to for protection against a world we think is separate from ourselves.

No knowing, no control. I just have to see what happens when I get there, and respond to it with whatever I've got.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Chris,

    Great adventure you're having ... I'm envious - somewhat ... Mom shared your blog site so I'll check on you once in a while. Enjoy ... and stay safe!! Love from Brewster, Dick and Gail