Viewfinder Global Film Series
By Spencer White
From the Spring 2010 Caller
Our heads fill these days with reports of environmental degradation, the unraveling of indigenous communities, and the harsh realities of human conflict on our globe. I find this overwhelming and sometimes downright scary. I can only imagine how these problems make my 11-year-old students feel as they move through school, becoming more aware every year of the issues we, or they, will live through. Regardless of the life paths our students choose when they leave Catlin Gabel, they will face a world characterized by ever-increasing communication and collaboration with international communities. Technology has brought us the ability to maintain relationships and conduct business with people just about anywhere on the globe, at any time of the day. How our students engage in these relationships— in essence, their diplomacy—is of great importance to our world.
“Looking back in my journal I see how I have really never felt a connection with someone that far away from home before.” —Catlin Gabel student traveler
“I really care about conserving water. I mean I did it before, but not nearly as much as I do now.” —Catlin Gabel student traveler
“I was really surprised when I got back at the sheer amount of resources we use every day, how easy it is for us to have a hot shower, and how we take so much for granted.” —Catlin Gabel student traveler
“There is no real way to explain what has changed about me. What I can say is that the way I see things is as if I am seeing it on two planes, two perspectives. I see things the way I see it from Costa Rica and from the U.S.” —Catlin Gabel student traveler
Last year I applied for a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching. Much to my amazement, I was awarded a grant to study for a little over three months in Israel. On the application, I wrote a proposal for connecting students using graphic arts software to help overcome language barriers. How naïve I was. The first issue my mentor, Jay Hurvitz, pointed out was that I had hardly proposed a topic which could be researched. No problem, I countered. Being a mentor teacher in the United States, I was more than willing to look at how student teachers were being trained to teach with modern technological tools. In my mentoring, I had discovered that student teachers were proficient at using technology, but had little training in how to teach with technology. I told Jay I was also interested in how veteran teachers were acquiring the new skills necessary to teach with emerging technology.
I was not a researcher prior to this Fulbright Award. I teach children. I have done so successfully by most measures for nearly thirty years. Teaching is about building relationships. My students learn because of the relationship I have with them. In order to learn about the state of technology in Israeli education, I began developing a personal learning network (PLN.) I created a blog that, according to Google Analytics, has received more than 700 visits. Each visit lasted an average of 2:36. Clearly, people are reading what I have written.
Actually doing research was my problem. I was going to be in Israel for 102 days. I spent a week getting acclimated. 95 days left. Israeli universities have a semester break in February. Down to 80 days left. K-12 students have a spring (Passover) break. That left 70 days for me to complete my research. I learned a great deal while in Israel. Yet I am just now beginning to understand how little I know, and I will be teaching Catlin Gabel seventh graders in 14 days. As a wise Israeli fifth grade teacher reminds her students, “When you travel, you learn a lot about other cultures. But, you learn more about yourself.” What did I learn about the Israeli education system? What did I learn about myself?
I was eager to begin my research into the Israeli school system, but I don’t read, speak, or write Hebrew very well. I needed to talk to people who spoke English, read articles in English, etc. But Hebrew is an important part of Israeli culture. It is one of the ties that bind people. Speak Hebrew and one is seen as an Israeli or at least trying to be part of the culture. Speak English and people might be tolerant or even translate, but I was still an outsider. Fortunately, I met many people who talked to me in English, newspapers such as Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post have online English editions, and both Google and Microsoft have passable translators. Technology became my lifeline. It kept me afloat, yet did not quite allow me to swim. I could translate Hebrew into English, verify my understanding with Israeli colleagues, and e-mail people on my laptop. I had a cell phone for person-to-person conversations and interviews. I learned that Israeli educators deal with many of the same issues facing American educators. Finding similarities eased my language anxiety a bit and allowed me to focus more on some of the differences.
Education in Israel is a complex enterprise. I divided my study between higher education folks and K-12 schools. Beyond this basic divide, there also are secular schools, religious schools, ultra-religious schools, and Arab schools. Funding and political power are unequal. While much funding is federal, schools are administered by municipalities, which means wealthier neighborhoods have schools with more resources, parental involvement, etc. There are areas where the school is the only building in a village with electricity. I visited one Bedouin school, near Be’er Sheva, where a generator the size of a camping trailer was providing the school with electricity. Residents, by contrast, relied on solar power, if they had electricity at all.
Israeli schools are faced with a wide spectrum of issues. Often, technology isn't a high priority. I wanted to talk about technology and how teachers were being trained in its use and using it with kids. But I kept reading about violence in schools, poorly paid teachers, high teacher turnover, lack of qualified teachers, curricular differences between religious, ultra-religious, and secular schools, and schools refusing to teach certain students. Perhaps most importantly, education in Israel has to deal with security measures unlike any I have ever experienced as a teacher in America. Every school in Israel is not only fenced, it has an armed guard at the gate. The guard won’t actually admit anybody, but will allow visitors to contact the office. Even when I visited schools as part of a team of Israeli educators, we still had to be admitted by someone who worked at the school, not the guard. Schoolchildren on field trips are accompanied by at least two armed guards the entire time. While no one mentioned the effect of security on kids and most Israelis take security precautions in stride, it has to affect the kids and the adults. Learning about Israeli schools is, as the ogre, Shrek, says, “Like an onion. Peel it back one layer at a time.”
A good mentor tries to develop independence in his charge, and Jay was an excellent mentor. He accomplished four major tasks with me. Jay helped me become independent as a traveler. Israel has a terrific bus system, but it took a number of trips before I felt comfortable. I am now able to travel to any part of Israel to meet educators, visit schools and colleges, and return to Jerusalem safely. Jay introduced me to a few educators who are doing unbelievable work in the field of education technology. Sometimes he attended these meetings, other times I met with people on my own. I joined Israeli educator forums, which required more Google/Bing translation work, and I have been a contributor to these forums since my arrival. One of my suggestions is currently being tried out on Edureshet, a Ning group of technology-using educators. Jay also introduced me to a group of college instructors who were learning how to use technology in their courses. My skills as a technology director and technology-using teacher came in handy, as I was able to participate in class even though my Hebrew was not up to the level it needed to be to participate fully. More than once, after I made a comment, someone would remark, “Oh, so you understand Hebrew.” I didn’t and still don’t, but I understand what is on a screen and have been a presenter often enough to correctly guess what was going on. Lastly, under Jay’s guidance, I attended conferences at Mofet, a unique Israeli institution. Meeting colleagues of all stripes at these conferences was a highlight of my time in Israel, and I look forward to keeping in touch with many of the fine educators I met. While I know Jay did his best to broaden the circle of people with whom I met, and even though he knows, in one way or another, many educators active in the education technology field, my exposure to these people was inevitably influenced by his circle of friends and acquaintances.
More than anything else, I treasured the time I had to read, think, and write. I have followed a few blogs for a number of years, but my blogroll has now grown substantially. Speaking with Israeli colleagues and observing teachers in their classrooms piqued my interest in areas of technology to which I had not previously paid much attention, including ways to incorporate Facebook, Diigo, and other social networking sites, Google forms, and submitting assignments via Moodle. School visits caused me to reflect on my own teaching methods and curriculum. Reading what others wrote on the subject and commenting on posts connected me to educators not just in Israel, but the entire world. I’m not sure where I will find the time to continue all of the reading, but I suspect I will find ways to keep up, or I will join the legions of tech folks who have way too much to read. Thinking about my own teaching, how I approach learning, how I incorporate programs such as All Kinds of Minds, how I utilize the rich resources available to today’s students and teachers, and which skills I want kids to have when they leave my class are all areas I have been lucky enough to explore during my Israel Fulbright. I have shared some of these thoughts in my 33 blog posts.
Now that I am preparing to return to the US, what have I learned about the topics I wanted to explore? There are some Israeli schools engaged in global sharing projects. Perhaps Catlin Gabel will join the growing list of schools participating in global sharing when I return. Some of the software I wanted to share does not “accept” Hebrew input. I have an ongoing correspondence with three software companies encouraging them to tweak their programs to accept Hebrew characters. According to the Israelis, it should be no problem.
There is an ongoing program in Israel, the Athena Fund, whose stated goal is to address the current poor state of the education system, wherein a gap of digital understanding exists between teachers and students, teachers showing fear of computers and not using them for the purpose of teaching and communicating, and their general status in the eyes of their students is at its lowest. The Fund's main project is "a laptop for every teacher."
The Athena Fund aims to complete its work by 2012. From my limited observations, most Israeli schools have a long way to go. Israeli student teachers are not part of the Athena Fund program. This is unfortunate because, if they were, they might be ready to teach with technology when they began their own teaching careers. Instead, they become part of the program only after completion of their training. If I could make one recommendation it would be to give every teaching candidate a laptop at the beginning of their training. Teacher training is stuttering. Early adopting teachers are moving ahead, but many teachers are simply hoping, “this, too, shall pass." What few in the education community are talking about is that Israeli kids already bring cell phones to school and the phones are creating the same problems as cell phones in schools do in the US – distraction of peers through inappropriate use, ringing during school time, class distinctions between students who have “cool” phones and those who do not, etc. There are so many “turf battles” being waged in the education sector that it is difficult for all the folks involved to move in the same direction.
Cutting-edge teaching is always inspiring! I visited schools where creative teachers were involved in innovative programs. I observed students in middle schools where each family had purchased a laptop for their child to use, conduct research, create tables in a word processor and upload the document to Moodle, all in a 45-minute period. I met teachers whose students were creating audio files to go with their stories, which they then used as part of an English lesson. I brainstormed with teachers who were setting up a program to get parents more involved in their local school by having parents and children learn together about using computers. I learned more about the importance of social networking in education than I can possibly recount. This is, of course, a two-edged sword. Students enjoy social networking because they use the tools all the time, they are familiar with them, and they don’t seem like “real work.” But teachers need to help students understand the responsibilities involved in using social networking sites in classes. This includes focusing on school projects, not just updating status, checking on friends, etc. The issues surrounding “proper use” of social networking are not limited to Israeli or American schools/students. Increasingly, corporations are either filtering or intensively monitoring what employees are doing/viewing/ while connected to the corporate network.
Teaching is about making connections. I have done that during the past three months in Israel. Current technology will allow me to stay in touch with the educators and students I have met here. As a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher, I have learned new ways of looking at my teaching, improved my teaching, and I have been fortunate enough to have begun working with others to collectively improve education in both the United States and Israel. As Brian Jones stated after he and his partner had just completed the first around-the-world balloon flight, “I am an ordinary person to whom something extraordinary has happened.”
Viola Vaughn, founder and executive director of the nonprofit 10,000 Girls (http://10000girls.org) in Kaolack, Sénégal, West Africa, will speak at Catlin Gabel on Wednesday, April 7, at 12:45 p.m. in the Middle School Commons during her tour of the United States.
Vaughn is an American with an Ed.D. from Columbia University who received a CNN “Hero” award in 2008. She is a social entrepreneur who has built 10,000 Girls from an idea to a vibrant program currently serving 2,567 girls in 10 towns and villages in rural Sénégal. She periodically tours the U.S., speaking and participating in conferences to raise awareness of her organization's success in helping West African girls succeed as students and entrepreneurs. During her time in Portland Vaughn will also speak at Portland State University.
10,000 Girls has two primary programs: after-school education and skill-building, helping girls stay in school and complete their educations; and entrepreneurship, teaching a craft or trade and business basics to older girls who have already left school and need life skills to become self-reliant. The educational component provides tutoring and resources to help girls succeed in school. Older girls, who are no longer in school, learn sewing, baking, and other marketable skills, creating products such as dolls and table linens, which they sell locally and online. The girls also grow, harvest, and produce hibiscus, which they transform into tea and hope to export to the U.S. as Certified Organic. The girls in the entrepreneurial program have decided to donate nearly 50% of their earnings to the program, making 10,000 Girls entirely self-sustainable. In Sénégal – where 54% of the citizens live below poverty and 48% are unemployed – 10,000 Girls transforms the lives of participating girls and their families.
The dynamic Viola Vaughn, a long-time resident of Sénégal, dramatically describes the challenges and joys of running 10,000 Girls and speaks with passion about her organization's mission. She can relay fascinating stories, including how she convinced banks to open accounts for young girls, a first in Sénégal; why the girls chose to bake and sell cookies to raise money (like America's Girl Scouts); and the what poignant questions the girls pose at summer Democracy Camps in Sénégal.
In Portland, Violla Vaughn hopes to connect with individuals and organizations interested in the education of girls, as well as with businesses that might want to sell 10,000 Girls' products. She will also encourage individuals intending to volunteer for 10,000 Girls in Senegal.
Invitation for young people in Kathmandu to meet with visitors from Catlin Gabel School in Portland, Oregon, USA
If you have anything to say about the arrival of corporate food culture in our city, take part in a discussion with youth from the country where it all began—United States. Exchange points of view and discuss the recent coming of KFC and Pizza Hut to Kathmandu with youth from Catlin Gabel, a high school in Portland, Oregon.
Portland is well known for being a progressive, environmentally conscious city where all things local, organic, and fairly traded thrive. While fast food outlets exist there, a growing number of people actively support locally owned restaurants and farmers, as well as the globally renowned Slow Food Movement.
The Slow Food Movement was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.”
Is fast food something American young people support? What role does fast food play in their lives? What kind of food choices do their families make? What kind of image do fast food companies portray through advertising? Is fast food especially popular among their friends? Is it popular with any particular segments of American society? Would they like to work at a fast food chain?
On March 6, prior to the discussion, we will screen the movie, Food, Inc., which examines how today’s “food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment.”
Since the recent establishment of KFC and Pizza Hut (both owned by Yum! Brands, “The World’s Largest Restaurant Company”), people in Kathmandu have quickly embraced them open arms, not addressing any of the major concerns voiced by people who have been eating fast food for decades. So let’s ask some questions.
Do Nepali consumers really know what they are getting? Why have people been lining up to eat at KFC and Pizza Hut? Is fast food cool? Is it a status symbol? What does it mean to Nepal’s culture now that it is here? For our environment? For our health? For our local farmers? Who is making the profits? Why should we care? What can we do?
Join us on Saturday, March 20, 9 a.m.–noon, at Today’s Youth Asia venue at Babermahal Revisited for a fun, informative conversation with youth from the United States. If you are 15-18 years old and interested in taking part, email us as soon as possible at email@example.com.
We will screen the movie on Saturday, March 6, at Crehpa (time to be decided). Nepali participants are required to attend the screening prior to the program on March 20.
Questions posed to Nepalese student applicants:
Do you know where your foods come from?
What is your diet like? What do you wish it was like?
What do you think about KFC and Pizza Huts’ presence here?
What is your perception of America and from where have you gathered this perception?
Which TV channels do you prefer to watch and why?
Hola a todos!
Espero que les hayan disfrutado las fiestas de la navidad y el año nuevo. Les estoy mandando este correo con un poquitito de información sobre mi año sabático. Estaré parte del panel de ex-alumnos sobre la vida después de CG, hablando un poco sobre mis experiencias en Perú y los beneficios de un año sabático. Viví en Urubamba (en la provincia de Cusco) por 3 meses con una familia que sólo habla español. Para mi trabajo, hice cocinas con chimeneas y filtros para agua sana (los dos de cerámica) para comunidades pequeñas y pobres cerca de Urubamba, hablando con la gente para enseñarles sobre las cocinas y los filtros sólo en español (y con un poquito de Quecha, el idioma nativo de Perú).
Para el próximo parte de mi año sabático voy a viajar a Barcelona para vivir con Guillem y estudiar (sólo un poco cada semana...sí pues, es un año sabático, ¡no un año más de la escuela!). Estudiaré "Cine Español" y "Arte Moderno y Contemporáneo" a la Universidad de Barcelona, Estudios Hispánicos, y Francés al Instituto Francés de Barcelona. Mis dos cursos con la UB serán totalmente en español (¡y con ensayos también!) así que vamos a ver como hago...jajajaja.
Jenny Faber writes from Spain during her year abroad, November 30, 2009
"The Endless Search"
Back home finding the perfect parking spot poses a serious challenge for my dad, circling the rows of cars like a vulture and stalking pedestrians loaded down with shopping bags following them back to their car. But my dad’s quest for the parking doesn’t even compare with the lengths Juan, my host father, went to during las fiestas de Pilar. Even during frenzied Christmas shopping or a Costco run before the Superbowl, the most hectic parking times in Oregon, it normally doesn’t take more than half an hour to find a place to park. But after an hour of winding through the streets of Zaragoza, Juan didn’t show any signs of weakness, even when we passed the parking garage, with the bright green illuminated LIBRE sign.
La Ofrenda de las Flores, the most religious aspect of Pilar, started early Monday morning, and Pili and Jorge, my host mom and little brother were up with the sun to join the procession. Juan isn’t a native Aragonese and wouldn’t walk in la Ofrenda. Instead he and I planned to get to Calle Alfonso in time to see Pili and Jorge walk by in their native costumes on their way to Pilar. Normally it takes me about fifteen minutes to get to Pilar on the 29 bus, so it should have taken less time by car. It was such a weird feeling being back in a car, in the month I’d been in Spain, I’ve ridden in a car twice, instead taking “tu amigo el 29” as Juan calls it. I hadn’t expected such an adventure in the car, normally all my exciting transportation moments occur in the bus.
We started out at 11:15, Juan asking me, “¿Te molestas si fumo?” Sí me molesto mucho but I couldn’t just tell him that. It was a rhetorical question anyway. We drove by my bus stop, just as a 29 was pulling up, the people packed on like sardines, headed to Pilar. I scoffed at their misery, crammed into the bus, the Spanish abuelas staring down anyone without gray hair, trying to get their seat. We’d get to Calle Alfonso much more comfortably than them, and quicker too. We crossed the river and made a quick loop around Pilar, just to be thorough but it was evident we couldn’t get a parking spot that close. That was just wishful thinking. The streets were difficult to navigate, with cars lining both sides, and everyone hurrying in the direction of the Ofrenda. It was like a step back in time, with the women walking around in floor length dresses, with petticoats and shawls and the men wearing stockings and vests. The drive through town was surreal, it would have been much more apropos to ride in a horse drawn carriage.
By 11:40 we’d driven into a part of Zaragoza I’d never been to and Juan became a tour guide. That fit well with the picture I’d formed of Juan in my mind, when he emailed me in June, saying he’d be my “solucionador de cuestiones”, my solver of questions. In all the ideas I’d dreamed up of my year in Spain, I never thought of anything resembling our parking odyssey. KISS FM played on the radio, occasional American songs popped up and other times Spanish music courses through the car. Juan told me little tidbits about each song, even the American ones. As we passed certain buildings Juan explained what their used for and occasionally their style of architecture. Sometimes, I could understand him perfectly and was on top of the world, considering myself basically fluent. Other times, I couldn’t understand anything and realized how much I have to learn.
By the time we passed La Romadera, the soccer stadium, we were farther from Pilar than our house was. The casual manner in which we drove around made it seem like it wasn’t vital to find a parking spot and more important to enjoy the drive together. There was no swearing, nor rude gestures at the others searching for parking, instead camaraderie, drivers signaling if a parking lot was full. At that point, I’d been in Spain a little more than a month; I no longer felt like a stranger around my host family. I was beginning to feel like I lived in Spain, rather than just a tourist. But that still didn’t mean being alone with my Spanish dad didn’t terrify me. Try as I might, I just couldn’t communicate with him as well as I wanted to. He’d ask me a simple question, and I’d repetitively respond with a puzzled “¿Qué?” Or when I got sick of asking him to repeat it with simpler words, I’d just jump in and respond, more often than not answering him about something he hadn’t even asked me. I could handle a short car ride, but the clock kept going and I desperately longed to fill the awkward silence.
Juan was on cigarette two when we drove back by Pilar to start circling again. The fumes were bothersome, but smoking is an ever present culturally accepted pastime in Spain. The infamous Zaragoza wind, El Cierzo, picked up right as we drove past a construction site, and it was a mad race to see if Juan could roll up the windows of the car before the dust cyclone hit us. The windows rolled up just in time, and a new topic of conversation started, one of Juan’s favorites, about how I would freeze this year. It didn’t help that I wore a dress and tights, perfectly accentuating his point that I never dress warmly enough. But Juan’s nagging doesn’t bother me; it’s his way of protecting me, making sure I don’t become an American Popsicle. “Abrígate” has become Juan’s trademark phrase, replacing hello and good-bye. It’s not uncommon that I’m sent to put on more layers before I’m allowed leave the house.
At noon we’d been searching for more than 45 minutes, breaking all records from back home. A lesser man would have given into the temptation of the parking garage, only a moment’s walk from where we planned to meet Pili and Jorge. But Juan resisted the lure of the green glowing LIBRE sign, beaconing like a holy grail, and we drove off to scour elsewhere for a parking spot. The farther out we went the easier it was to see people’s desperation for parking. Cars parked on the sidewalk blocked all pedestrians and cars parked in the street blocked all drivers. Once we crossed back over the river and closer to home than Pilar, it would have been quicker to take the bus. After more than an hour of searching we pulled into a parking lot close to home that was overflowing with cars and buses. There were no rows to drive down to look for space, because cars were crammed into every space possible. It was utter madness, and the poor cars parked in the back were stuck until Pilar festivities finished, and the cars would give up their coveted spaces. Juan works in renewable resources, with los molinos, but he doesn’t drive a compact hybrid car. There was no way his SUV was going to be squeezed in anywhere. Though it worked perfectly we hopped the curb to park in a free spot of sidewalk. It didn’t matter to Juan that we parked closer to home than to Pilar, and still had to walk halfway there. We triumphed, and against all odds, found a parking space. Juan had evidently planned for our extensive search, because we made it to Pilar exactly the time Pili and Jorge walked by, dressed to the nines in their native costumes.
On December 25, teacher Paul Monheimer, his 8th grade daughter, Noa, and his wife, Pam, flew to Tel Aviv on a Fulbright research grant. Among many cross-cultural pursuits, Paul is researching the use of technology to connect students internationally. Also, he is looking at how teachers are introduced and trained in the use of technology to aid learning.
Well, my experience has had its ups and downs. There are so many differences. Learning the language has, and continues to be, a challenge, but I am definitely improving. Also, its hard being so far away from all my friends and my family. My host family is really good. I have my parents, and three sisters, Elisa is 21, Leti is 19, and Maria is 12. We live in this tiny apartment, I have my own room, but it is quite small. We live in the north of Madrid, and really close to a Metro stop. The Metro in Madrid is AMAZING! I love it, the locals don't like it as much as I do, but even they say that it is better than most citys. My school is very different from Catlin. I am taking 9 classes (7 meet each day), I have no free periods, my teachers all love me because I am the sweet American exchange student, we have three major testing weeks in the year and in most classes 60% of your grade depends on how you perform on those tests, there are no extracurriculars or clubs or sports teams, my school building isn't really a building, its like rooms connected and then the hallways have a roof but no walls, so it is cold, but it never really rains, so its not a big deal, my teachers come to my class instead of me going to their room, my class has about 65 people in it. The people are different, but very nice. Spanish don't really do exercise (especially the girls, the guys do, but none of the girls in my class ever exercise), and I am used to always doing a sport during the year, so that has been a complete change. On the weekends though the kids my age do basically the same things that americans do: see a movie, eat dinner together, etc. The only difference is that sometimes they go to discos, but that is not too common, only like once every other month or so. The food in Spain is very strong, especially the winter food. They like their meat. I am more of a fish person so getting used to the strong food has been somewhat of a challenge for me. My family especially loves meat, ham or bacon is put on EVERYTHING, but it does depend on the family because some of my classmates don't like meat too much either so their family usually eats fish. Another cultural difference is never really having any personal space, like even if I am in my room alone, I can hear my mom talking on her telephone, my sister memorizing her homework (when Maria does her homework, she always talks aloud), and someone watching tv. The thing I think I miss most about my life in Portland was the freedom that I was given. Like, when I felt like it I could just go to a coffee place alone and do homework, here no one does that, or I could walk my dog in the neighborhood, here my family doesn't really let me do that. So it has been difficult transitioning into this new style of life, but little by little I am getting settled in and understanding the normal things to do and not to do.
I thought that everyone in Spain would be very fashion forward and dress in all the latest styles, wear bright colors, and always look put together. So I packed to be fashionable: my more fashionable jeans, sweaters instead of sweatshirts, flats and boots instead of converse, and blouses instead of tshirts. However, I wish I had packed differently. At school most people wear jeans, a t-shirt, converse and a sweatshirt (normally a zip-up). The sweatshirts are pretty much exactly like the ones that I didn't pack, same with the tshirts and the converse (I didn't bring converse so the second week I begged my mom to send over a pair). People are really relaxed at school and don't really care what they wear or look like. The only major difference is that girls wear their jeans the same way boys do - loose and sagging low so you can see their underwear. The first time I saw this I was kind of in awe, I had to keep reminding myself not to stare at peoples' crotches. Now I am gettting used to the trend, and might consider buying a pair of boy-jeans.
A note to let you know that we returned safe and sound from Chajul, Guatemala. This will give you a taste of the purposes of our research trip.
Our arrival was a bit late, and through a miscommunication, Nicolás had waited for us at the Catholic church in the plaza of Chajul until 9:30pm. Thinking we weren't arriving, he saddled his burro and began his decent to “Tierra Caliente” at 4:30am, walking the 4 hours over the 6,000ft. pass, back to his humble home in Pal. Nicolás just lost his third son after being kicked in the head by a horse. They live far from definitive medical care so he didn't survive the 20 hour journey on a makeshift stretcher. We felt awful arriving just 3 days after his death and for the miscommunication that lead to the purposeless 8 hour round trip for Nicolás. Despite it all, he and his family received us with open arms and welcomed us to sleep around Miguelitos' shrine. We brought a framed picture to add.
Translating from Ixil to Spanish to English, Dr. Andrew Zechnich and I saw around 14 patients in the tiny clinic in Pal alongside the very capable Pedro Alberto, community health facilitator, and saw much of what we expected; pulmonary issues, infections, stomach and head aches. One 9-year old boy showed all the telltale signs of an appendicitis and was urged to make the 10-hour trip to the hospital in Nebaj. We left all the medical supplies that we could carry down and were deeply impressed with how effective they are with such little resources.
We returned to Chajul on Sunday evening, waking early Monday to begin investigating the stove projects that reduce the wood needed and the smoke produced in the one-room homes of Chajul.
Christina Meyerhoff on behalf of OES and a collaboration that we are exploring, in hopes of bringing students from both schools here in the future, organized a friendship bracelet project between CG and CEMIK students. Not surprisingly, the students here have a knack for weaving and were ecstatic about sending their creations to our kids.
Generous medical supply companies donated as many sutures, gowns and lidocaine as we could stuff in our bags, and we presented these to the medical team at the Centro de Salud in Chajul. They especially appreciated the donated, non-invasive Pulse Oximeter worth $2000.
This experience has been profoundly transformative. Notions of wealth and connections to place are completely transformed while walking with contemporary decedents of Mayan Ixiles, visiting ceremonial sites and sharing meals.
Spencer, Andy, Christina and Joan
Summer trips to India and China widened horizons
Summer international transition day bonds students from around the world
Introducing the Viewfinder Global Film Series
The inaugural film night is Thursday, October 8, at 6:30 p.m. Films shown will focus on India and China, connecting to the Upper School students and teachers who traveled to those countries this summer.