Different worlds but the same.

The national teacher’s strike is continuing in Chile. Schools have the option of returning to schools, especially because there is huge controversy over how much it is hurting the students – 8th and 12th graders who have exams to pass to complete their schooling. We went to a meeting yesterday to hear the update on the strike in Mejillones, and I was impressed. The person that seems to be leading the effort is a teacher from my school and really firm on standing united with the national strike. From what I think I could understand, they have been working on negotiations with the government and basically that the time is now, before the upcoming election. In some cities, some teachers have returned to school, but it is important to stand together and that more should be getting out there for the marches in Antofagasta. Then someone asked when are we going to march in Mejillones and suddenly they decided that we’d do it right then and there! So that was the end of the meeting, strike obviously continuing and we went to march through Mejillones to the municipalidad building, which ironically was also on a 48 hour strike! HA!

Oh South America and your strikes. Love the passion and enthusiasm, unity, creativiness in march chants and songs… but I think sometimes the demands are set so high that it’s almost impossible to be met. Somewhere in the middle might be better when facing such a giant like the federal government. But who knows, I don’t know all of the real details of the historic debt, demands, and agreements, but I do remember how it felt through The Rescue event, with people losing jobs, missing work and school, feeling hopeful with moments of hopelessness, all in protest awaiting for smaller results than giant sums of money from the goverment. I guess what I’m saying is that I admire the drive of the teachers, and hope it’s for a worthy cause and that they can reach some kind of result.

The other inspiration to write today is the recent repeal of same-sex marriage law in Maine. In reading articles on the repeal, I cannot believe how ignorant people can still be. It’s sad that people can use an argument like “if same-sex marriage is legal, children will learn about it in school” to help convince people that gay marriage should be outlawed. It’s SAD. Why is the impact on children thought to be so harmful? I had a similar conversation here a few weeks ago, but in spanish with some Chileans we met. They asked, how do you explain to your child what it is when they see two men or two women on the street kissing? What do you say to them? And we answered – I’m not sure, I guess I would say it’s normal. And the response was, “but if you say it’s normal, they will think it’s normal!” BUT IT IS. We went on to have a pretty uncomfortable conversation about why they think some people are gay and how they feel about it. This has been one thing difficult to accept here… I won’t generalize this for all Chileans, but many that I’ve spoken to over the subject seem to fall in this category. They SAY they have no problem with gays, they SAY they don’t discriminate, but they joke about it and overall are just uncomfortable with it. It’s like they want to say there isn’t discrimination, but they don’t understand that when they feel like others are less than normal, that’s the same! They are okay until we tell a joke about a bisexual friend having a crush on one of them, suddenly they don’t think of that person the same once they know, and all they can say is – oh he did seem a little off, talked really close to me – even though the day before it was fine. Anyways I think of this all because originally when these things happened here in Chile, I thought to myself – “I am so lucky to live in the United States where people don’t react like this”…. but now after reading some of these articles about Maine, and quotes from opponents to same-sex marriage, I am reminded that it IS the same still for some people in the U.S. And it still makes me sad.

I think one problem is that some people will never ever experience discrimination, and for whatever reason, they can’t even realize what their actions and statements really mean. Another conversation we had here once. A woman tried to explain to us that Chile has no discrimination problems… but we tried to explain that it’s only because EVERYONE is Chilean! And the few people that are not Chilean, such as the black Columbians, the Korean workers that live in a separate neighborhood outside of the town, the Peruvians, Bolivians…. they are treated differently, she admitted that! But still “no discrimination” she claimed. Ummm, sorry just because you don’t discriminate against Chileans, doesn’t mean that how you act towards those who ARE different isn’t discriminiation!! It blew my mind. Chile is another world, but there are still the same problems, same attitudes that we have in the U.S. …. but they seem to be in partial denial of it, but I think the U.S. often is too.

Anyways, not much else to update, just some thoughts… Friends visited for Halloween, no school still, possibly will help teach at a University for the last 2 weeks, and plan on going to Arica and Iquique for site-seeing and possibly hang-gliding and surfing this weekend and into the beginning of next week. Only about 20 days left in the program, it’s going to fly by… Here’s the plan so far:

  • Nov 6-9 – Arica
  • Nov 9-11 – Iquique
  • Nov 12 – Teach at Universidad Del Mar
  • Nov 13-14 – camp out at Playa Ornitos
  • Nov 15 – Thanksgiving Dinner, well we’re trying to put together one for our families before we go, but we’re missing a lot of ingredients so we’ll see.
  • Nov 16-20 – Last week of teaching either here in Mejillones or at Universidad Del Mar, MY BIRTHDAY Nov 17th, and then a birthday / last weekend celebration!!!
  • Nov 24 – head to Antofagasta for a regional closing ceremony
  • Nov 25 off to Santiago for the national closing ceremony! Over 200 volunteers to be reunited in the big city, should be exciting and chaotic!!!
  • Nov 28 – Program officially done and I start my solo travels to the South of Chile and Argentina!!!

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