La Mesa de Conversacion: The Preparation Whirlwind

It’s been a hectic reentry into my hometown of Nehalem, Oregon, where La Mesa de Conversacion is taking place. The weeks leading up to our first meeting have been filled with changed plans and anxiety about my own role in orchestrating everything.

While originally planning this project early this spring, I had prioritized bilingual youth, assuming that I could easily attract friends to take on leadership roles and help me out in translating the group’s cross-cultural conversations.

However, although everyone I contacted was excited about the project, very few kids were interested in committing to attending on a regular basis. People were busy with finals, working, and already spend a lot of time translating in their day-to-day lives. In planning this project, I had always dismissed a deep-seeded fear that nobody would show up; yet as the project start date neared, I realized that this fear could be a reality. I had overestimated my ability to draw in the latino community, and was worried our first meeting, if attended mostly by anglos, would alienate any latino folks who showed up.

So I made several changes, reevaluating my budget to offer compensation to one of my friends for regular translation services and delaying our start date until well after school had gotten out for students. I met with stakeholders, reached out to ESL leaders in the community, and designed posters in both English and Spanish. I also ordered bilingual books and dictionaries from Amazon (a deliciously fun task!) and contacted a local Mexican family-owned restaraunt about catering our first meeting. The night before that first Tuesday, I wrote in my journal, “nobody’s going to hate you for trying.”

I’ll designate my next post to debriefing our first few meetings. Perhaps I’ll even manage to finally take some pictures!

Greetings from Chile

Rosa Druker
Pintando La Parva: Afterschool art classes at La Parva school. Viña del Mar, Chile.
Week One

When I arrived in Viña del Mar, Chile, my friends Maika and Beno were waiting for me outside the terminal. The last time we had seen each other was New Year’s Eve, which I spent as a guest at their house. Beno, one of the executive directors of 360– my partner organization– got right down to business filling me in on our plans for the day. “Everyone is excited to meet you,” he assured me, “but first we are going to eat lunch.”

During my two months here in Chile, I will lead workshops on mural painting with the help of the school’s art teacher. Our dream is that the murals students paint on the school walls will be an important step towards transforming the physical space of the school, and expanding the art program beyond the bare minimum. Additionally, I will partner with teachers to bring art activities into the classroom. Older students meet with the art teacher weekly, but younger students are taught art by their regular teacher, who generally do not have the tools to integrate art instruction into their curriculum.

In the past week, I have settled into my life here. I spent my first week meeting with various stakeholders in my project, planning my lessons, and orienting myself in this new culture. My main task at the moment is to synthesize what each stakeholder sees for my project into one, consistent vision. The principal of the school hopes that our murals will explore the history of the school. My students are more interested in exploring new styles of painting. My partner organization want to launch a long-term project that could be brought to other schools. The art teachers wants to bring more opportunities to her students who excel in art. And what do I want? All of the above!

In my next post, I’ll talk about my first workshop and educational inequality in Chile. Now, I’m going to go eat a deep fried empanada.