Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Public Service Announcement

Love your veggies.

 Seriously. You like your body in working condition? You like elasticity in your brain cells? Then love the vegetable matter. Especially since sometimes...

...the veggies are bigger than you. (Or, at the very least, bigger than your skull. That cauliflower made awesome curry.)

Picture storage

It seems to me that with the software/hardware difficulties that I´m encountering, the best way to go with things is to streamline. I still need to try out SmugMug, but for now all of my pictures (including some doubles, which I´ll hopefully get around to deleting in the next few days) are going up on Picasa. (If any person screams "No!" at this idea, please let me know why. With that site I´m going to be designing for the health promoters I may end up using Picasa in terms of user-compatibility and computer-friendliness.)

Better Than the Average Axolotl

Links are fun! So, that´s the main storage site. Pictures will be moving from there to here with titles and stories in tow.

Monday, April 25, 2011

La pieza de monedas

I think the only coin not featured in this post was the 500 pesos coin, which I adore. It has helped to get me coffee or small things many a time. It is the most useful coin I can think of in this monetary system (even more so than the 100), and this is why I do not have one to show you.

Sometimes you can´t have it all...

I have these periods of thinking that my brain has the elasticity of a child, and that my Spanish grows in noticeable leaps and bounds from day to day or from every other day to every other day.

Then I have days like Saturday, where I completely fail at understanding several things, and end up slightly annoying a new friend with a day of denseness. After days like Saturday, I tend to be extremely self-conscious for several days.

I need to keep remembering this: I got myself here, and that native speakers continously comment on how my Spanish is incredibly good for a non-native speaker.

I also need to allow space for introversion. I notice that I tend to think clearer in Spanish when I give myself hours of buffer zones (I tend to think clearer in general, and, as a note, I don´t think all that well in English when I haven´t had the solitary time that I require).

Mis deberes

Many people have asked me (and rightfully so by curiosity´s standards) what I´m actually doing in Chile, in Santiago, at EPES. Am I sitting at a desk most of the day? Am I out saving lives and curing diseases (uh... no... I´m not a superhero or some version of deus ex machina)? Am I out there on the street talking to people all of the time?

Well, you don´t have to wait any longer. I finally have some answers to give on this subject.

Being that this is week 4 of my internship, you might be a bit stunned to realize that I don´t, as of yet, actually have a finalized workplan within my grasp. Hopefully this logistic will be firmed up later today during a meeting of the educational team and I´ll end up making a nice little graphic that shows my tasks and objectives and when they are due, and my small want for something solid in terms of a schedule (and this is why I´m pursuing a life rooted in community health, obviously. Right) will be satisfied. Until then, however, I´m already quite happy. The last few weeks have been spent in the following ways:

  • Getting to know my coworkers. In all honestly and seriousness, this job would absolutely blow and give me nothing in return if I didn´t get to know my coworkers. This job underlines a cultural value for interpersonal relationships in the work place (the work day is from about 9 -6:30, but you get around an hour to two hours for lunch and chatting, give or take a few minutes since you are not supposed to and not expected to watch the clock), and I wouldn´t be given important tasks or offered daily emotional and technical support without making an effort to become acquainted with each staff member of EPES. I even get the sense that I´ve made a few long term friends, which, especially in such a short time, is a huge thing for me.

  • Starting a literature review on obesity and diabetes in Chile, in Latin America, and reaching even further into an international spectrum while concentrating primarily on social determinants of obesity. I was specifically asked by my supervisor, Sonia, to look at whether and how gender and poverty could influence this type of chronic disease (the answer to the first part of that question is "yes"). So, I have had a desk job for the last few weeks, and I´ve read hundreds of abstracts (not exxagerating) in both Spanish and English (I even glanced over some articles in Portugese and French) and several long reports. I´m in the process of compiling a final bibliography (which I want to be done today, please...) and I´ll hopefully have a short report written up (in Spanish, with correct grammar and proper diction) by Wednesday.

  • Participating, first as an observer and then as a semi-member, of a local community network that works to promote safe sex practices and to educate the populace about HIV/AIDS. It´s amazing being able to take part, and to have been invited to take part, in such a longstanding group (they just celebrated their 20th anniversary) with such incredible women.

  • Being sick. I was sick last week with some stomach thing and ended up staying away from work for a couple of days. I figured that vomiting in the work place does not really make for a great impression, and that reading and sleeping were better choices for a person who couldn´t even drink orange juice without feeling queasy. Also, it seems that several sicknesses are making the rounds in Santiago ever since the weather started to change from clearly shouting summer to zipping quickly into that midway point between fall and winter.

So, that´s what I have been doing at work. And eating bread. Because I´m in Chile, you should just assume that I´m always eating bread (and drinking at least three cups of ceylon tea per day).

What I will be doing, to the best of my knowledge, is as follows:

  • Finish up that liteature review on obesity and the accompanying report. Go to an education team meeting sometime later this week or next week and present my findings, and suggest further steps that can be taken to learn more about this health issue.

  • Team up with health workers to start looking at ways of performing interviews within the El Bosque neighborhood to gather views on healthy eating and barriers to buena alimentación. Perhaps also work out a way of community mapping to involve both schools and almacens.

  • After getting some information from interviews, start to outline how an educational model could be made to train health workers in promoting healthy nutrition.

  • Work on a web page/blog for the community network mentioned above. I´ll be working with one of the members to sketch out content, and then I´ll work up a project proposal. Depending on the suggestions and comments on the proposal, I´ll start working on the page, launch it, and create a training module for running and sustaining the site that I´ll present as a capacitation exercise to the network. (I´m actually also starting that proposal today).

  • Attend a capacitation training in May, as well as various events and marches happening during May and early June.

  • Work on an inventory for some of the old educational games that EPES produced during the 80s and that the in-house library is trying to catalogue (think 20 years of backstock).

  • Enable skype on several computers here.

So yes. That´s the life of Jamie for the next while. A bit of desk work, a bit of walk work, hopefully a lot of interaction with the community (or at least a fair amount).


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Damn you, Wilkie, and other...uh... weekly updates

So it occurs to me that it´s been two weeks since I wrote anything down here, and a lot has happened since. My dad asked me the other day (through the google internets) whether I was having trouble getting to my blog. I actully laughed out loud. I haven´t had trouble getting to my blog (I end up visiting a ciber café 6 out of 7 days each week), but I have had trouble writing. My normal methods of processing new things, new complex things, are a set of tools I seem to have left back in Portland (looking at you, dear people and home space), and so the main summary of the last two weeks is this:

  • For the first week, and for some of the second, I felt very alone, very sad, and a bit angry at my surroundings (without reason. My responsibility completely, and I knew it).

  • I had a Spanish class, at a small language school about a thirty-minute walk away from my apartment, for that first week. I wish all language classes were taught as such. Immersion grammar for four hours that is then followed by two hours of conversation. Plus, a long lunch, and coffee breaks. Oh, not to mention the class size of six plus a kind, introverted, semi-crude professor who was more of a peer than someone on a different educational level. I wish there was a way to take the advanced classes.

  • I miss that coffee machine at the language school. For $300 CLP a day, it made me semi-crappy café cortados.

  • I don´t miss feeling different (non-partyish/non-flirtyish/non-smoker) from most of the other foreigners attending the school.

  • I don´t miss a similar feeling that I had while attending a party (I was invited by my roommate) that started at 10pm, in Las Condes (ritzy part of town), and involved the birthday girl running fist first through a glass door because was drunk enough and excited enough that she didn´t understand that it was a window... and not a door. The party continued after she was taken to the local clinic for a deep cut ona her nose and a small cut on her hand. (She was lucky).

  • Was told by people at the party that La Cisterna (where I thought EPES was located. It´s actually in El Bosque, which is one neighborhood further south) was a horrible neighborhood where the people couldn´t help being violent. ...uh-huh.

  • I went to see "The King´s Speech" again in order to feel less homesick, and I was amused at the subtitles (How do you translate britishcisms like "bob" anyway? Or tongue twisters? The answer is, you don´t). Finding the theatre was interesting. I must have looked for it for over half an hour, and finally realized it was underneath the ground I had been pacing.

  • Spent my first Sunday in Santiago reading close to 600 pages (the entire book, mind you) of Wilkie Collins´s The Woman in White, which I shall now recommend as one of my favorite 19th century novels ever. It´s 19th century pulp! How can you resist? It has mistaken identities, murder, asylums, wacky foreigners...and it´s written in a way that clearly demonstrates its orginal form: as serial installments that appeared in one of Charles Dickens´literature magazines. I picked it up intending to start reading it. Within about 30 pages, I knew that I wanted to finish it that day, by golly. I´m not going to say anything about the plot, since one of the best things is discovering bit by bit what is going on. (For those of you who don´t want to read the book, but want me to expound upon it, shoot me a comment.) Yes, in fact, there is an eponymous woman who dresses entirely in white, and, no, she is not on her way to a wedding.
(Edit: I arrived to the ciber late tonight, and so I have to close this post for now. Let me say that on Monday I will explain the title of the post, and why I am much happier now, if still incredibly overwhelmed, now that I´ve started working for EPES. Also, the picture situation is interesting. Define Interesting. Well, you see, I´m starting to be less shy about taking pictures, both of places that one generally takes pictures of and of things that captivate me somehow, but I´m having issues with uploading the pictures in a fashion that doesn´t annoy me with: a)time, and b)batery draining. I´m experimenting with different photo storage sites, and when you start seeing pictures, you´ll know I´ve found a good one... Okay. I´m also just a sucker for trying new programs and new technology. Hasta Lunes!) Or rather... Hasta Miércoles, since the cibernet had no free computers last night. I checked back four times! Okay, so the second week... now known as last week:

  • Got up my first morning for work, took the Metro to La Cisterna (end of the line) and got completely and utterly lost in looking for EPES. It shouldn´t have been that hard, but I only had an aerial image from Google Maps in my head as a reference for location, and my paper map (given by Contact Chile) stopped just south of Providencia. Oh technology-accustomed brain!

  • Arrived early, around 9:30, and it turned out that the Administrative Secretary had just gotten there. It was a weird day, I learned, since most of the staff had gone to a funeral.

  • Spent my first few days here learning names, learning how to understand the Chilean accent/dialectual differences, listening and sometimes briefly joining in conversations, taking part in lunchtime social gatherings, and reading. So much reading. What my supervisor wanted, and what seemed best, was that I should learn as much about EPES as I could in context. I read transcripts of seminars, of curriculums, bits of history, etc.

  • I went to a party on Friday night for an EPES staff member who is leaving her position in order to get her doctorate in history (specifically focussing on the history of women in Chile). The party was wonderful--good people, good food, fun games (including escondidas! Hide and seek!)--and I started to feel like I was part of the group... Maybe the staff member who was leaving, Mari, including me in her farewell speech was a surprising part of that.

  • I´ve been walking around different parts of the city in order to explore my surroundings some more while getting exercise. I spent an hour sketching in the Plaza Ñuñoa on Sunday, and I spent Saturday walking around a feria with a coworker in Puente Alto.

  • I´m less homesick, overall, and I´ve started writing again.

Saludos desde El Bosque!

Un regalo para ti: A video about EPES and efforts after the earthquake and tsunami in 2010