After my most recent trip I returned to school expecting everything to be just as it was when I had left. Much to my surprise, my first day back I discovered that the school was officially “en paro.” While before my departure to Brazil, I was aware that students were beginning to protest in an effort to express their desire for free education, I did not think that their protests would escalate to this level. Instead of filling the halls of Casa Central patiently waiting for classes to start, students congregated outside of the academic buildings refusing to attend their courses in an attempt to get their point across. In all honesty, the whole situation was somewhat comical. Even though the students were protesting against the education system, PUCV allowed them to use the courtyard in the primary education building to organize groups, paint and display banners, and vote as to whether or not to initiate “tomas” and overtake the academic school buildings.
The struggle for a quality and free education in Chile has existed ever since Pinochet made drastic changes to the education system during his dictatorship which lasted from 1973-1990. Before the military regimen of Pinochet, Chilean President Salvador Allende implemented a multitude of educational reforms aimed to both promote and better the educational opportunities for Chilean citizens of all ages. However, after Pinochet took over, the quality of education greatly diminished and has yet to see drastic improvement. This fact, coupled with high costs and low wages after graduation, has acted has a catalyst, promoting students across the country to protest for the standard of education that they deserve.
Since the students have been protesting, you never know what the academic day will bring. At one point, they overtook one of the academic buildings, piling chairs against the gates to prevent anyone from entering.
Additionally, there have been a multitude of marches in the streets (which conveniently distract me as I try to complete assignments from my desk at work) and other forms of revolt. Just last night, my bus ride home (which is normally only 20 minutes) lasted 2 hours due to the fact that students had set up barricades in the middle of the street. You would think that the police would have a better handle on things, but thus far it seems like the students are running the show.
As a result of the recent uprisings, my Economics class was cancelled for the rest of the semester (devastating, I know). While it was awesome not to have to attend class for 5 weeks, in order to receive credit for the course, I have been diligently working on a 20 to 30 page paper that analyzes one of the infamous Chilean wineries. Riveting stuff… let me tell you.
In regard to my other academic courses, I just finished up the my semester at PUCV! WOOO HOOOO!!! I must admit, the last few weeks of class were bittersweet as I have grown very fond of my teachers and loved absorbing so much information with respect to the the Chilean culture and Spanish language. We ended our dance class with a celebration of Chile’s Independence Day. Even though the official day is not technically until the 18th of September, our teachers decided to celebrate early to give us a taste of the fun that we would be missing out on. We ate homemade empanadas (my teachers mom and dad made them right before our eyes), played traditional Chilean games, and drank wine and Chicha de Uva (a traditional Chilean drink which is essentially like hard apple cider, but made with grapes instead-can you say delicious!?!?!) at 9:00 in the morning-It was awesome! I can only imagine how much fun it would be to participate in the actual festivities.
In addition to the Independence Day celebration, as we commenced the semester, my culture class had the opportunity to explore Cerro Polanco (one of the many hills in Valparaíso). Currently, Cerro Polanco is part of a graffiti project and teams of local artists are covering the walls of the neighborhood in vibrant explosions of color! I loved every minute of walking around the hills and taking pictures. Check out a few of my favorites…
With all final papers completed (well almost completed) I have started to work full time at my internship. As I approach my final month in Chile and my fellow peers begin make their way back to the States, I am starting to get a little bit nervous about coming home. I cannot imagine what it is going to be like to step off the plane and be on American soil for the first time in 6 months. I have allowed myself to slip into a life of normalcy here and I have no doubt that I am going to miss the unique culture that I have come to love.
On a final note, I couldn’t finish this blog post without mentioning the fact that I had the chance to see two of my fellow classmates, Maggie and Josh, from Butler last week! The pair have taken on a 2 month trip across South America before they will reluctantly enter the working world, which we all inevitably try to put off as long as possible. As part of their journey, they stopped in Valpo for a few days and I had the chance to show them around Viña, giving them what seemed to be their first encounter with civilization in the last month. After a day of exploring my current stomping grounds, complete with a trip to Lime Fresh Mexican Grill and Starbucks, I ensured that they were well fed before they headed out to take on the next part of their journey. It was truly great to see them and I could not be happier that our adventures crossed paths.
Welp…that’s about all I have for now! Currently working on finishing up some final papers for PUCV and Butler, and pushing through the last two weeks of work. After that, it is off to Buenos Aires! Don’t fret, I will be in touch before then. Missing everyone at home, but I know it won’t be long before I can reunite with you all! Yikes!