Teacher María José´s invitation to Panimávida changed me

Teacher María José´s invitation to Panimávida changed me

This was far and away my best experience to date in Chile and an excellent story to come after I get some rest. La Escuela Básica de Panimávida´s first ever English language show.

My Beautiful Crin Art Gift

Crin Horse Hair Art

These were given to me as a gift following my day long visit in Panimávida, Chile.  Rari (in mapudungun, a type of bush or shrub) is a village in the Chilean municipality (comuna) of Colbún, Linares Province, Maule Region located in the Andean foothills of this province.

Rari is close to the well-known hot springs of Panimávida and Quinamávida and lies 20 km to the northeast of Linares, the provincial capital. Unique handmade arts and crafts are among the important activities in the area. These crafts are made of “crin” (horse hair) by a group of skilled artisans – overwhelmingly female – specialized in this trade. Some of them have been working on it for more than seventy years.

Together, Rari and the surrounding villages (Paso Rari, San Francisco de Rari), have a population of about 1,300. The geographic coordinates of the place are: latitude: 35° 46′ 0S, longitude: 71° 25′ 0W, altitude: 246 mt.

Information retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rari

El Principio

Today started for me at 5:30 am (muy raro) as I usually don´t go to bed until well after 1am most nights making getting up Wednesday morning quite the challenge.  We started the morning all dolled up but, ended pretty much make-up free and tired when I returned back to Talca…


Continued blogging 5/12/2013

As I mentioned yesterday, I arose very early in the morning to travel by bus the 1.5 hours neccessary to reach Pavimávida.  Its a very small rural village within the Linears Regional Provience of Maule.  I currently live in the Talca, Maule area of Chile and Linears is a little more of a metropolitan area, similarly to Talca.  The ride required a first bus from Talca to Linare (where secondary school teacher María José met me) and then our subsequently connecting to a shorter bus ride that would take us into the countryside and village of Pavimávida.



During the ride I started to make note of the view of the Andes mountains and remain facinated by the ideal that these are the longest range of mountains in the world spanning the full length of Chile.  Here´s a BBC documentary link that talks more about the mountain range which spans the entire length of this beautiful country  [youtube=http://youtu.be/nXByvZUeueQ] for over 3,000 miles.


One of the first things that struck me when arriving into Chile was the high level of litter I saw in Santiago and parts of Talca.  However, I think this social practice is slowly starting to change as Chile continues on its road to economic development with aims of attracting new business and opportunity to the country.  In the picture above, as my bus passes San Javier, the overpass bridge specifically makes mention that they are a clean (limpia) municipality.


Another view of the Andes mountains in the background lining some the beautiful countryside photos below:


I am beginning to notice more an more businesses that I see regularly in the United States appear in small towns in Chile.  The sunvisor used by the bus driver had an Daewoo logo and words written Japanese print.


I also saw an old homegrown Akron, Ohio business (though the economic boon of our town as the ¨Rubber City¨ has long past) in the form of the Firestone company sign as we entered the small city of Linares.


Similar to Talca and other southcentral Chilean areas, the damage effects of the 2010 Terremoto (earthquake) can still be seen in both towns which registered as one of the strongest on record.  Many buildings in Linares as in Talca remain damaged and/or hollowed out awaiting repair or some investor coming into the town to redevelop the site.



Althought the earthquake of 2010 was very desvastaging, many people have shared with me that it served as a spring board that fueled Chile´s economic boon as jobs become plentiful and led to employment for many people.  Evidence of prosperity are all around Talca, as an example, our neighbor´s home expansion project left me with many an early Saturday morning wake-ups as his builders could be heard directly near my window with hammers and drills making continued sleep untenable.  Additionally, new sales of cars, bikes, and appliances are all over the stores and malls in Talca.  And similar to Talca, the provience of Linares (below) has also witnessed forward changes in their economy and infrastructure.


But, unfortunately with these types of Spiral Dynamic meme shifts you often see an increase in the more undesirable aspects of community development as well.  Below is a picture of one of the oldest high schools in Linares area and also the site of the first gun related fatality in a recent incident between youths at the school.  I also noted that several of the windows appeared to have been vandalized and broken.  This is still a fully operational school and to see broken windows (with no clear attempts at repair) on a school building again, reminded me of how much abundance we have in the US.  That is not to say that some schools in the United States don´t suffer the same challenges as it relates to maintainance but, at the very least an attempt to board up the window or duct tape it with plastic would have served as a temporary means to avoid additional injury.


Below is the bus station in Linares where Teacher María José met me to travel the rest of the way to Panimávida.  She was originally born in Santiago and attends UCMaule (where we met) as a graduate student in the School of Education.  She was raised by her Grandmother in Linares and when her Abuela took ill and subsequently passed away, she moved to the area to help coordinate their family affairs and maintain the family home she had grown up in with her Grandmother.   María José shared wonderful stories with me about her grandmother who she clearly loved very much and I could tell the same fisty spirit and love for people she articulated about her grandmother also lives in her.  Therefore, I was honored that she invited me to visit here public school in Panimávida to meet her colleagues and students who she looked to motivate and encourage.


Of course, being ever the observant researcher, I noticed an advertising in the bus station encouraging students to enroll in a newly developing private for-profit preparatory school.  The school was clearly targeting youth as it was  looking to focus on STEM areas (see below) and María José mentioned how that particular institution, and other private for-profit schools were seeking to attract many of the students who would otherwise have attended the available public schools.


After what seemed like a very short bus ride (as we were chatting and sharing the whole time) we arrived to Panimávida.  María José´s school is named La Escuela Básica de Panimávida.  The school and small town possessed some of the most lovely countrysides and views I had ever seen since coming to know Chile.  Coming into the area reminded me of the old farms some of my family members owned growing up in Ohio where we would go to my Aunt Vera´s and ride her donkey during the family reunion on my mother´s side of the family and also see the animals and farm life on my Uncle Boot´s place on my father´s side of the family.




In an effort to encourage school attendance among the parents and get the farm children to school, made available to them by the State are these two buses that provide transporation for the students to and from school each day.  They also have state sponsored lunch programs available on site for the students which is similar to what you would see in many low income US public schools.  The school has an enrollement of approximately 300 children ranging from pre-school to 2 levels of 7th grade.  Many of the students do not matriculate further than this school and will typically continue in a lifestyle of farming as their parents and grandparents had done.  However, I spoke to a group of children who talked to me about their big dreams and visions for their better lives though education (as does María José ).  I will remember all of them in my prayers going forward with the hope that the dreams shared with me will come to pass by all who want a different type of career or different manner of making a living.



Here is Mará José beeming with enthusiasm and energy as we walked to see her English Lab classroom.  Inside the school was quite large and comparable to many of the elementary schools I have seen while teaching in the Columbus, Ohio City School District.  They had a number of computers and electronic equipment.  However, many of the programs necessary to facitate learning had not arrived so the full potential offered by the technology is not relized.  Nevertheless, using what they did have available everyone was excited about today´s opportunity for the first ever schoolwide English Language Show.


Above is my program invitation and I had a moment of intercultural dissonance as the inviation reminded me that the US was not the only major English Speaking country (e.g., The United Kindom, Canada).  The children discussed and presented information and entertainment from many English speaking countries including Australia on Wednesday and I enjoyed it all.  I was also honored to be introduced to the community as their first North American visitor (so I by default also hold the title of first African American person to visit the school) and was just ¨tickled pink and green¨ (Skee Wee ha ha 🙂 ) when María José presented me to the entire community of Panimávida and they received me with a hardy round of applause.


Pre-program preparation was taking place backstage and her team of student workers, who made the magic happen that afternoon, are picture below.


María José made and handcute each of the beautiful letters and stars used to decorate the stage and I assisted in hanging the letters since I had a bit of a height advantage. 🙂





The charming hostess and host of ¨Who Wants to Be a Millionnaire¨ practiced their routine in front of me and periodically asked how to say certain monetary denominations in English like 1,000.


As you can see in the above photo, the show presentation schedule was very full and rich!


I had the pleasure of taking a picture with the oldest children of the 7th grades A and B classes.  María José was especially proud of them as they were so committed to participating in the show which in the past she explained, it was difficult to get the older students to do things of this nature.  I could tell that everyone in the school was invested in the success of her program that day and it all came together beautifully.  I am so proud of María José and spoke over her that one day she will be the Minister of Education in Chile.  I truly believe that, she is an amazing person and teacher.


During a break when I went to get some sun in the courtyard, a groups of  students began to  swarm around me outside asking rapid-fire questions about me, my family, my country, sports, celebrities, and life in such a ¨rich¨ country.  I also had the chance to ask about their family, lives, dreams and goals as well.  It was a life changing experience for me to see the innocence and wonder of these young people.  Someone had actually touched me gently in the back of my head as I stood talking but when I turned around no one was there.  I laughted with my daughter that evening when I recounted the event with her over Skype saying, ¨Well, I hope if there was any annointing from the Lord on me, that it transferred from me to the person that touched me, that they were made whole!¨ 🙂


The Chilean hospitallity continued as I was invited to lunch with the teachers in the faculty lounge.  María José shared with me that a local person from the community makes lunch available for the teachers each day.  Isn´t that great?!! There were so many examples of civic engagement and community reciprocity that day.  Even the town mayor and a local news crew showed up to lend their support to her event.


During this time I am having flashbacks to my time as a High School Science teacher at West High School in Columus, Ohio.   But, the big difference being that all of the conversations were conducted in Spanish.  Sigh… Good Times!! 🙂





So above Teacher María José gets all dolled up (Señorita Muñaca) and the ¨Diva force¨ was in full effect but in the most positive of ways.  She took command of the day and presented herself with class, style, and dignity.  You all are going to hear great things about this lady going forward, trust me!


The preschoolers were absolutely adorable as they performed Humpty Dumpty in English with a little boy playing the giant egg.  It was so CUTE!!!  He kept falling down over and over again as the Kings´ on their stick-pole horses (as well as the little princesas) tried to put him back together again.  I am so upset my camera power ran out before I could record them but, María José is going to seed me the film (or link) the newscrew recorded.



One child had serious cognitive limitations and simply could not learn the materials, so María José encouraged he and his mother to make this statue of liberty which was on display as an integral part of the stage scenery.  See how special a person she is?  God is really going to bless her efforts and I am very convienced of that!!


All of her school colleagues and Principal joined in to make the program a success and support both teacher and students.




In the photos both above and below all of the students present facts, poems, songs, and readings all in English with the occasional slip to Spanish when the child became nervous. 🙂


38  40 41




Below are the earlier host and hostess post-rehearsal of the ¨Who Wants to Be A Millionnaire?¨ gameshow.  They were looking sharp as they provided Q&A that challenged both the teachers and audience of clearly proud and excited parents.



By the end of the day, I was exhausted but with a full heart.  I took a momentary break to just reflect and take more beautiful pictures of the Panimávida countryside and experience.






My bus tickets to and back home from Panimávida.


I finally got a chance to see some rivers and lakes (there are none in walking distance to me in Talca).  María José said that the lakes are very cold but refreshing as the Chilean summers can be very very hot.


Another faint view of the mountains (above) where you can actually see the snowcapes on top of the Andes.


My return to Talca and a view of a portion of the Andes mountain range that oversees our city (no snow here as the altitude is much lower).


I found this picture image on the internet and thought it so apropos to my experience and sentiments about Chile this Fall 2013 semester.  If you look closely, the little rectangle captures and outlines a small portion of the American flag that creates an image of the national flag of Chile.  And this picture is reflective of how Chile will forever be a part of me.  The field of Adult Education is best known for its theory of transformational adult learning but, as a Christian transformative learning has always been a part of my adult life for more than 30 years.  Each day I come to appreciate the scripture in Romans 12:2 that reads, ¨but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…¨ 

That verse has been my daily practice and guiding principle as I read my bible and medidate on the Word.  Being a maturing Christian has shown me the value of being reflective of the love and character of God in all things and toward all people.  My time in Chile has made me come to appreciate even more, the blessings I have, the gifts and talents that I´ve been given, in order to employ these things within a life that is purposeful, full, and free.  This blog post was written in the wake of Nelson Mandela´s recent passing at age 95, whose life was a shining example for all of us interested in civic engagement work.  I am grateful to have lived in an era of such a great man and freedom fighter. 

I truly can say that at this moment in time I have no worldly regrets.  Thank you God for all of your favor and blessings, thank you UGA and UCMaule for allowing me this Visiting Scholar experience and supporting my doctoral dissertation research abroad, thank you family and friends who pray for and support me continuously and finally, thank you Chile, for sharing together with me during a time of my life I will never forget.  I honestly look forward to what 2014 will brings us as we continue this journey of conocimiento together.

Chau Chau y hasta luego por ahora!


~Lisa  🙂

2 thoughts on “Teacher María José´s invitation to Panimávida changed me

  1. Dearest… what can I say… Reading this has been really special for me, because now I can understand other’s perception about chilean education. I am amazed the way you explain this experience in an emotional way, but also, reflecting what is really happening inside our educational system. I remark your spirit, your intelligence but above all, your big heart. Thanks for your contributions to my life and my student’s lives… You are absolutely welcome anytime you want. Te quiero mucho y gracias por tu maravilloso ser.



    • I will NEVER forget this experience as it was the highlight of my time here in Chile. I so look forward to working together with you in the future in anyway you think I can be of support. You and your students are awesome… y Te quiero mucho también hermana. 🙂


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