Thursday, August 7, 2008

If I wasn't a celebrity...

Seriously, this is ridiculous. Gringo takeover is in full-swing here in Iquique and I couldn't be more intrigued, disturbed, nor in awe of my own white skin and green eyes. Besides entering every high office in this regional capitol, being interviewed for newspapers and nightly news, and treated like Victorian royalty, our entrance to our respective schools was overwhelming. Having taught before in Worcester city public schools, I was used to the blossoming high school sophomore females telling me they'd "show me a trick or two" in the parking lot during lunch hour. Having taught in Asia, I was used to the wide eyed fascination as I towered over World of Warcraft wizards and lonely housewives alike. But this was something new. While scraping my brain to try and find suitable comparisons to my welcoming, here's what I'm getting. Joaquin Phoenix as newly appointed emperor Commodus' extravagant entry to Rome in "Gladiator" is a clip you might want to view. And then double it.

Yes, every square inch of the halls, overhangs, and stairwells were flooded with curious eyes. But so was the courtyard where I sat alone in a folding chair, flocked by 700 students. Where they danced for me. And sang. And presented me with gifts of stale candy, plastic bracelets, high fives, and shouts of "te amo". What time did you line up the human sacrifice? Connecting with the scene from Gladiator more than anything, was my own feeling that this was all unwarranted. What have I done besides hop a flight south and take a four month adventure in a semi-developed country? I've got the transfer of wine to urine down quite nicely but water to wine wasn't something I was ready to produce quite yet in front of the adoring throngs. Brad Pitt's never had as much sympathy. While the impossibility of making more than 6 inch strides due to a 10 student deep personal circle of worshippers is not something I currently have any qualms with, I can't imagine this going on for four more months. And maybe it won't. Fads ebb and flow, and if I have to analogize my school experience with Pogs, that's something I can be content with. Interestingly enough, the school has such low standards due to its socio-economic position in the Chilean grand scheme of things, that a weekly Simon Says and possible Pictionary lesson might just be all they're looking for. But just hearing the unfortunate plights of the majority of these students, does not allow me to give just that. Intrinsic value for education somehow peaks with the underprivileged and at this critical juncture in their lives, being an educator is more powerful than any other career imaginable.

After speaking with my fellow volunteers, it seems that they too received deity treatment. Extending our own personal popularity to those less fortunate within the school is just as much our responsibility as an hour of present continous verbs. If this is my fifteen minutes of fame, I'll take it. Now fork over another package of oreos, Gabriela.

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