I´d forgotten about the quality of light in the desert. The sky is so clear, with few trees or other obstructions, between me and the bare mountains in the distance. Sometimes in Hawaii we have light like this in that ¨golden hour¨just before sunset, but here in the Atacama Desert it seems like that hour lasts almost all day.
View of the desert hills behind my friend’s house
I´ve been in Chile for a little more than a week now and am finally adjusting to the time zone (although it didn´t help that they went into daylight savings this weekend and moved yet another hour eastwards). When I landed in Santiago, it was cold and smoggy. I went out to walk around and spent several hours in the Museum of Memory and Human Rights (with a highly moving permanent exhibit focused on the 1973 military coup and subsequent 18 years of Pinochet dictatorship, plus a temporary exhibit on the voices of indigenous peoples of Chile) and the Museum of Precolombian Art (which astounded me with both the creativity of the artists and the state of preservation of textiles from 1000+ years ago).
3000-year-old jar depicting a lady holding her pet, from the Chavín culture
1000-year-old wool llama toy on a 1000-year-old pillow, from Peru
Our Fulbright orientation was scheduled for Monday and Tuesday of last week. I had assumed it would be full of boring sessions, people talking at us about things that don’t really matter. Instead, we had a fascinating discussion about higher education in Chile (since all Fulbright Scholars are associated with and financially supported in part by one or more universities), followed by an excursion to the Concha y Toro winery, where we had a long and delicious lunch (with wine) and a wine tasting. Day two we presented our research plans (you can watch mine here), received a low-key safety briefing from the US Embassy representative, and then had another long and pleasant lunch (this time with more wine!).
Wednesday I flew up to Copiapó, where I will spend the next five months working with colleagues at the Universidad de Atacama in the Department of Languages, helping the teaching credential students learn about reflection and the instructors develop their research skills. With only 4000 students, UDA is small compared to UH Manoa or Ubon Ratchathani University. The campus is also small and quite walkable. I’ve been given an empty office (no distractions from all the books that normally surround me when I’m trying to work!) with a computer that is underlining every English word I type since I can’t figure out how to turn off the Spanish spell check.
View of the Copiapó River from the UDA campus
Something interesting about Chile is that the university students regularly go on strike to protest things large and small. This year they were on strike for the entire month of June, meaning that they didn’t finish the Fall semester in July before their winter holidays started. Classes are back in session now, but instead of starting the Spring semester at the beginning of August, they are still wrapping up their Fall classes. They will take exams at the end of August and begin the new semester in mid-September. I’m not quite sure what my schedule will be or when I will get to start teaching the writing class I proposed in my Fulbright application, but until then, I am sitting in on other teacher’s classes and attending meetings related to research and the e-portfolio assessment system. Today I guest taught a part of a teaching methodology class for 4th year students, leading them through some activities to practice classroom observation note-taking. They will be designing action research studies to conduct next semester in their teaching practicum, when they work in middle and high school English language classes.
*** My colleague just stopped into my office and asked if I can prepare a proposal for workshops 1) for the instructors and 2) for the teacher education students to support both groups in doing research on their teaching and finding places to publish their research. I will write more later this week.