Tuesday, July 7, 2015

En Toma \\ the takeover

Universidad Diego Portales has been "en toma" ie: taken over for like three weeks now (can I also mention that I HATE spanish keyboards because it just took me way too long to locate the stupid quotation marks and right now every single word I have typed thus far is underlined in those annoying little red squiqqly lines because these words are in english and thus unrecognized by the spanish spell check- also there goes my spelling so forgive me please- just for this post). 
Don't ask me what that means because I'm actually not sure...but this was at the entrance of UDP
I found out that being "en toma" is actually different than being "en paro" because taking something over includes giving ultimatums and canceling class indefinately while being "en paro" is more of a temporary call for changing conditions or requests. So my fellow Chilean students, PAYING students (this is a private university) are refusing to go to class for the last month of the semester all for the cause of something that maybe one half of the student population could explain to you if you asked. Most students really have no idea what they are protesting, they just go along with it, sleep in, drink more and skip class. How productive right? The cherry on top is that yesterday after the teachers and administration tried to meet up with the students in charge and talk about their demands and how they could move forward towards a solution, the only thing that was confirmed was that the student population would continue their takeover (I know it sounds silly but takeover is actually the most accurate english word I can think of; they have literally put chairs up against the doors to the school, blocking the entrances and classrooms. In fact, since they are paying students, the security guards that typically stand at the entrances have to listen to the students when they tell them not to let anyone in.) Furthermore, while only 10% of the students showed up to this nice little negotation meeting, and less than half of that said population voted in favor of continuing with their protest, the school has to accpet their wishes because for some silly reason there can be no shadow of a doubt and it would have to be a unanimous vote or something like that for things to change. Loco I tell you. These kids have parents paying for their educations and yet they refuse to go for silly ideas like arguing the fact that a higher education should be free (for a failed model of this just look at Germany where people are capitalizing on the free education system and staying in school until they are 30) and that they should have a say in the way the classes are taught and structured. When my Chilean friend tried to expalin the later to me, it took all my will not to laugh about this absurd proposal. "You mean you want to choose the format of your tests, the lectures and how the teacher schedules the semester? Who do you think you are..." But to him it seemed perfectly reasonable.
One last thing that the students have been protesting within their individual facultades (departments) is the repression they have encountered amidst their peaceful protests. I'm pretty sure I mentioned on here how a boy from U. Catolica (see below picture; also side note- they are lucky he was attractive because his face makes for a great attention grabber...just saying) was knocked down by these giant, powerful hoses the police use during the protests. Although there are many stories, upon further review the government did find that the police were much closer than the legal limit to the students when they started spraying students with the hoses (I think I heard something about 6 vs. 10 feet- which is almost half the distance if you think about it..). And yes you may say the students provoked it but the optimist in me has heard my friends who have participated in these events (chileans of course) who suggest that typically the protests only turn violence after the police do things like spraying down a 20 year student who was then sent to the hospital and suffered severe head trauma....Anywho- there's another side of the story you can ponder of your morning coffee. Rodrigo was apparently a normal, respected student at La Catolica and so when he was hospitalized and severely injured the students at this university, where I was taking classes took it hard. I heard that he is doing better now but when it first happened it was looking bad for his health..

In other news when I was looking at my blogging notes I realized there were a few anecdotes I had written down about my trip to La Serena from the last post. One night we decided to go shopping when a little girl came up to me and asked where I was from. When I said I was from the US she got so excited and told me that I was the first person she had ever met from there and then proceeded to call her mother over to come talk to me. She was only 14 years old but she confidently told me that one day she would be going to the United States to study and that she was one of the hardest workers in her class because she desperately wanted to learn english. Her ideas about the US and everyone from there were just about the sweetest and most naive (probably misguided because she had quite optimistic ideas about us) things I had ever heard but nevertheless it made my heart melt a little because I hoped to God that she was able to find what she was looking for and that she would truly make it there one day.
Yet another beautiful soul we encountered that weekend was our tour guide for the Pisco Distillery of Mistral who gave us (me and my 4 friends who went to La Serena with me) a HUGE compliment. She said that at first she thought that we would all only speak english and pretend to understand her speel about how Pisco is made, the history of the facilities and such. She said a lot of times when she gives a tour in spanish the gringos just kind of nod and pretend they understand but she can tell that they have no idea what she is saying in spanish. On the contrary she said that she was surprised to see that we actually easily understood and even had questions (mmmhmmm snap judgements...). While it may sound silly that this is such a big deal for us gringos- the truth is when Mama or the store clerk or whomever decides to stop listening to me and bring over a english speaking employee (this happens all the time- and the sad thing is that most of the time these Chileans don't even try to listen to what I say, they just hear my accent and assume I have no clue what I'm talking about) it really hurts your ego. It's like I've been here for four months now, I'm pretty confident that I can get by with my spanish and honestly that was no easy task. It is NOT easy to speak another language when you learned it when you were already in high school. The truth is that I have days where I feel like I am doing great and can have conversations, but then there are days where I don't understand a single word that comes out of Mama's mouth (especially when it's early in the morning and she wants to have full, enthusiastic conversations...). ANYWHO- the moral of the story is that it is really hurtful when people do or say things like that because I feel like I try really hard and it's frustrating when people can't take a minute to reciprocate my attempts to communicate and just assume that I'm just another gringo...When someone compliments your spanish in Chile either you know they are lying and probably hitting on you or you feel amazing inside for just that one moment because you feel like you really have achieved something!

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