Mini Vaca in Santiago, making new friends and colleagues.

Mini Vaca in Santiago and making new friends.

Profesora Paola Aceituno O. teaches at the Universidad Tecnológica Metropolitana (UTEM) in Santiago. We are both members of the WFSF (World Futures Studies Federation).

Mixing business with pleasure can actually be quite enjoyable sometimes.

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The Santiago weather was not very kind to my hair outside today.  My “do” almost turned into a wavy Afro.  But, I think that would have been kinda cute. 🙂  Any-who, earlier in the year I was accepted into the WFSF (World Futures Studies Federation), which is a worldwide organization of scholars, researchers, policy-makers, and world-citizens who have an interest in forecasting and futures studies.  Profesor Aceituno meet during the grand discussions worldwide during the March 1st International Futures Day.  She learned that my research was in Chile and we agreed to make time to meet upon my return to continue my dissertation/visiting scholar experience this semester.  Well, fortunately for me, she was available for a list minute meeting request as I need to travel to Santiago on this past Sunday.  Today, I had the good pleasure of meeting with her face-to-face over an enjoyable lunch.  I hope she shares my sentiment that I believe I have found a new lifelong friend and colleague in this journey of academic inquiry and research.  I very much appreciated our conversations over lunch, visiting a historic area in Santiago for lunch, and moreover additional assistance in identifying more participants to take my research survey which is a part of my quantitative portion of this mixed methods study.

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As we walked, Paola showed me this above restaurant that typically isn’t open on Mondays and I immediately had a Georgia flashback to our most popular late night/early morning eatery, Waffle House.  I have literally had dreams of WoHo’s delicious and inexpensive food while in Chile and will make it my business to get some while I’m back in the US for a spell.  Nevertheless, seeing this place made me immediately feel at home in Santiago with visions of Rosco’s Chicken and Biscuit dancing in my head. Ha ha!  I have also enjoyed capturing in pictures the amazing graffiti art that I am seeing all over Chile.  Much of it always amazes me and I often wished I knew what was on the mind of the artist making these images.

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I forgot to mention that my Spanish continues to improve and is much better than when I arrived her last year.  Professor Aceituno is also learning to speak English so I offered to be her conversation partner via Skype and we can help each other fine tune our language skills as well as share academic interest.  Her academic area is in the arena of Political Science and my interest in Spiral Dynamic Theory in relation to civic engagement appear to be excellent intersections for academic collaboration.  Our conversations went so well I actually didn’t realize that we spoke very little English.  Nevertheless, she had her smartphone translator and I my purse size mini dictionary close by if any emergency translation needs arose.  Fortunately, no such crisis emerged.

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Barrio Lastarria

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The people at my hotel had told me about the wonderful a famous Chilean places to dine that were in walking distance of the Park Plaza Hotel called the Barrio Lasterria.  However, last semester I was only there for a day trying to resolve my Chilean residency registration issue with my dear friend Camila.  We had very little time for social/entertainment adventures but were able to enjoy fellow ship and coffee this evening.  Camila and I are going to hang out more tomorrow and visit the museum near my hotel which unfortunately was not open today.  Nevertheless, Paola treated me to a heavenly meal for lunch in this beautiful area of Santiago.  That was the best fish I had eaten in ages and was so sad that I was too full to finish it all.  I told her tonight I was going to be wishing I had this food late in my hotel room.  That is in fact the case as I am typing this blog post at 3:13am and looking at this meal again is making me very hungry.  I have plans to revisit the fine-dining areas with Camila tomorrow for lunch and I hope that Professor Aceituno can also join us so that I can return the favor of treating her to lunch.  🙂

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The entrada (appetizer) was a chicken and shrimp dish in a type of light cream soup base.  There were also supposedly “hot peppers” in the bowl, but I laughed as I shared with Paola how these was not nearly as hot as I like my food.  Hot Sauce and jalapeños have become a regular part of my culinary delights.  I was surprised to learn that Chilean foods aren’t typically hot in flavor as you would find more common place with Mexican foods.  But this meal was divine (¡Muy rico!).

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Professor Aceituno is also an accomplished author and she brought a present for me in the form of her latest publication to lunch.  I only just this evening realized that I forgot to ask her to sign it for me.  That is a must do upon my return to Chile.  I told her that I was going to post her book, picture jacket, and foto on my blog so I can tell everyone that I am good friends with a famous international author and scholar.  She actually, is the journal editor of UTEM’s journal Revista de Estudios Políticos y Estratégicos (Journal of Political and Strategic Studies) in Chile.  She recently extended an invitation to me to submit an article for the September deadline and we discussed my introduction my doctoral research, Spiral Dynamic Theory, Memetics, and multiple intelligences theories for the manuscript submission.  I likely will not be able to cover all of these areas in relations to civic engagement, but certainly believe I can write and introductory document of these topics for their review.

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Here is the museum Paola helped me to locate after lunch and where Cami and I will visit tomorrow.  It was quite literally in walking distance of my hotel.  I’m very excited!!

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Above is a very beautiful statue of an angle that was directly across the street in a nearby park adjacent to the museum.  The guard allowed us limited access inside today (as they were closed) so I took this photo of the unique column structures made out of people on the upper level inside the atrium of the museum.

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I was able to return to my favorite loft apartemento at the Park Plaza Hotel on Huerfenos in Santiago.  Man!!  I love that place.  Initially, I was placed in a standard room not realizing that they had given me an upgrade upon my first visit there.  I was not happy with the standard room as I usually do all of my hotel and travel bookings on Orbitz and I selected the more expensive option thinking I was getting the loft.  But, I was wrong and initially very sad.

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However, hotel worker Marcello came to my rescue and explained to the hotel manager my disappointment.  As a result, they moved me into the loft the next day for the rest of my stay in Santiago for no additional charge.  How cool of a blessing was that?!!  I think I’ve now found my favorite hotel in Santiago. 🙂

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Park Plaza Hotel knows what’s up, and that a black woman needs her body lotion. We’ve got to resist the “ashyness”. Ha ha!

The cherry on top for the evening is visiting with my first and longest friend in Santiago mi querida Camila.  She had a ton of laughs over coffee and sandwiches this evening and I had to get a picture of her with her minion t-shirt on.  She loves those little creatures!  Ha ha.

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Introducing the first and only Chilean who does not like the Pharrell “Happy Song”, yet at the same time loves the “Despicable Me” minions! Brahahhahaha Mi cariño Cami. 🙂

¡Hasta mañana todo el mundo!

Well that was Pretty Awesome!

Cultural Exchange Experiences

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Last Fall semester 2013, I presented in a class with Universidad Católica del Maule students.  I shared with them about the focus of my doctoral research and they also where able to interview me.  The course Professor Partrick Metzler informed me that this would be the first time many of them had ever met someone from another country (in my case the United States).  Their challenge was to speak and listen in English as much as possible, but if I would notice any furrowed eyebrows suggesting someone was not understanding me, I would translate by speaking the response or questions in Spanish which seemed to help allay many of the students’ nervousness.

Upon my return to UCMaule this semester, I finally had an opportunity to go by  Professor Matzler’s office and view the students’ project posters they used in their final class presentations.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how much they had  keyed in on particular topics.  I am sharing copies of their work in this blog post.  Their Professor  and I were very proud of the work that they did.  He and I  have plans to do something similar this semester with another class, and I will also do more of an academic teaching event with them in my Visiting Scholar capacities. 🙂

During their interviewing of me last semester, I spoke about my research focused on the civic engagement activities of adult learners following their careers as undergraduates (post-título).  I mentioned that my theoretical framework used Gravesian theory (Clare Graves) and it’s offspring of Spiral Dynamics a theoretical framework developed by Don Beck & Chris Cowan.  My scholarship and research also incorporates Multiple Intelligences theory (Howard Gardner) and Memetics, birthed from the early works of Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene) and Susan Blackmore (The Meme Machine).  In essence, I plan to wear my “teaching hat” with the students here at UCMaule moving forward,  and I’ve also been invited to present to faculty and students at the Universidad Autónoma del Chile  her at their Talca Maule campus.

Being much younger than the adults I typically teach, these pregraduado  alumnos (i.e., undergraduates) were less interested in the ethereals of my doctoral level  graduate student life, but more attentive to discussing North American sports, racism, the University of Georgia, and my hometown of Akron, Ohio.  Clearly, some of the students did their research and visited my blog  site, because I noticed that a few of the posters focused on subjects I don’t remember discussing in their class.  Nevertheless, to those budding young scholarly researchers I say, “Well Done!”

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Issues of college sports, LeBron James, and athletic exploitation was discussed.  It’s ironic that subsequent to my visiting with them on these subjects, the courts have recently passed a law allowing college athletes to unionize.  Perhaps, that was the Futurist part of me coming out during our discussions. 😉

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Many student wanted to know about the history of American Slavery (Chile was one of the first countries to abolish slavery) and from my very limited research on these topic (not my area of scholarship), this country did not have as intricate a system of Chattel slavery as is historically documented in places like Brazil, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Cuba, etc…  Maybe that is why demographical Chile does not have a very large black population.  Honestly, issues of race rarely come up in conversations here.  I did witness an interesting exchange during my research with people trying to determine if they should call themselves white of latino/a.  That will be in my findings section where I mention possible future research.  But, I did learn that there is a supposedly thriving black population in northern Arica, Chile.  The name of the region is clearly named after the continent of Africa and I believe that there are some wonderful stories yet to be told by those inhabitants.

I will say that it was very interesting to me that no one really asked me much about my time as a field organizer during the 2008 Senator Barack Obama Presidential campaign.  I spent more time talking about LeBron James than President Obama.  That was different! lol  So, moving forward I am going to share the students’ visual aid documents and if any of them are reading this blog I want you all to know I think you did a great job on this assignment.  Kudos to Professor Patrick Metzler as well. 🙂

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I spent some time talking about North American racism and the historical legacy of both the Northern and Southern states in relation to the civil war and the Civil Rights movement.  That could easily be a class all by itself of course.  The interview and discussions had occurred fresh off of the recent court ruling in the George Zimmerman trial.  Seems liked someone must have pick up on some still raw emotions from me surrounding the killing of Trayvon Martin.

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“A Mazing” Experiences

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As I was exiting the Ramsey Fitness Center Parking lot I began to reflect on my first days as a brand new late 40-something student starting a new life, in a new state, in a new Ph.D. program, and moreover a new chapter in my academic odyssey.  I chuckled this evening when I remembered how I had gotten lost trying to exit the Ramsey Center parking deck 4 years ago.  I seemed to be in a never ending maze of circling around and around and around the deck with no exit in sight.  I was trapped and didn’t know how I was going to ever get out of that deck as the signs, sounds, and bright lights, left me unsure of myself and anxious.  I felt so helpless and inadequate at that time.

I almost turned into the “do no enter” portion of the deck trying to escape this seeming Twilight Zone nightmare.  Tears literally swelled in my eyes as I resisted the urge to call my daughter in Ohio for help.  I thought to myself, “Call Bridjette, she’ll know what to do!”  My daughter at that point, was a freshly minted graduate of Wake Forest University and would be most certainly familiar with this foreign land I had come to know as 21st Century University life.  I eventually calmed myself and asked what appeared to be a parking lot attendant for help and subsequently was able to finally locate the exit gate (shown above) and free myself from the “A Mazing” experiences.

As I am now just 12 days shy of my first ever trip outside of the United States, I am humbled and feel incredibly blessed.  I am so grateful for how God has guided me in what I think would be appropriate to describe as the “second act” of my life.  Not only do I have the chance to do what every Ph.D. student dreams of doing, which is to pursue a dissertation research topic that is interesting, potentially ground breaking, and be a positive source for new knowledge; I also have the opportunity to serve as a Visiting Scholar at the Universidad Católico del Maule in Talca, Chile.  I will be able to engage in meaning relationships and learning that has implication for enhanced international adult learning.  I find that to be very cool. 🙂

So now in hindsight, I have come to cherish that maze experience in the Ramsey Center parking lot some 4 years ago.  It has become a valuable piece of what is now an “A Mazing” ride, as I stand at the dawn of continuing my academic odyssey in Chile, South America.