jueves, 17 de abril de 2008

As the leaves turn...

Now that I'm not travelling all over the place and have (some) actual homework, nothing pressing enough happens at any one time to remind me to update this...hence la pausa.

I'm finally getting back into the swing of classes, but sometimes things still feel to unrealish to take them as seriously as at home. It doesn't help that classes here are much more theory-based than the ones in the UCs (says the philosophy major). Three out of four of my la Chile professors have assigned reading or given lectures on postmodernism, which apparently is big here, and my Economics profe gave a quick overview of the history of philosophy this week, from Hegel's dialectic to existentialism to the tiny ray of hope offered by Nietzsche's superman because he thinks the Chilean university system is so busy focusing on specialization that it churns out graduates completely ignorant about anything outside their area of study.

Like Santa Cruz, the more profitable majors have nicer facilities: Economics has screens all over the place listing upcoming classes and monetary exchange rates, and there's ALWAYS toilet paper in the bathrooms. In contrast, the Architecture and Urbanism campus (my home front) has few computers, no toilet paper, and a perpetually-closed photocopy room. Luckily, my campus has all the design students and thus more character, with a life-size metal chess set and huge, floating women in the trees. Foosball tables are standard at all campuses. Plus the casino (cafeteria-type area) isn't owned by Sodexho, which has apparently reached South America. Rumer has it that the science campus is aMAzing.

The university feeling here is completely different. Even though the university in total has many more students than UCSC, it feels like a small high-school. A guy in my GIS class showed me the second-year geography-major photo-blog, and you never see anyone solo on campus. We just assume it's because people live at home and want to get away, but it's made me self-conscious for just chilling and studying solo.

A few more UC-led excursions: a loooooong day at the rodeo en Rancagua...not nearly as violent as matadors, but most of us were rooting for the cows. Basically everyone wears huaso (Chilean cowboy) hats and sits in the sun watching pairs of caballeros herd small cows sideways into the wall of the arena for four hours. We did get to say hello to some horses and absorb the rodeo atmosphere, though.

Back in Santiago, for our class a professor and former detainee under Pinochet showed us around a prison-camp-turned-memorial-park at which he himself had been tortured as well as the Cementerio Nacional (not the most uplifting of days). I really can't imagine wanting to relive that all the time to large groups of students, but he said he'd me morally remiss if he didn't do everything possible to keep such experiences alive in the collective consciousness so as to prevent it from happening again. It's impossible not to like a person who tears up when he talks about inequity in the school and university system while showing us Allende's tomb/memorial.

Also for the class we were bussed to El Teniente mine, the largest functioning below-ground mine in the world, owned by Chile. We suited up in tons of equipment and saw a big rock-chopper thing and I fell down some stairs, because I'm me. We also took a tour around the former campamento, a town built right next to the mine by the former American owners to keep workers and their families provided-for and entertained so the skilled labor wouldn't run off and leave the American jefes in a jam. Rooms were tight and alcohol prohibited, but the hospital was the most-advanced in Latin America and there was a bowling alley. It was odd to imagine this town of people tied to the mine, completely cut off from the world in the winter (the mine is up in the cordillera). Now it's a ghost town, partially torn down, but the rest is a world heritage site and appropriate for tours for foreign students.

The weather is cooling, but every Sunday there's a used-clothing and other things fair in the park and I stocked up on cheap sweaters and a jacket. There are also rastafarians selling soya-burgers for cheap all over the place, so it's now one of my favorite places.

Hope all is well with everyone, as always!

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