Our group participating with the Andean ensemble directors and camp participants
I dropped off my good friend, Tony, off at the airport in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday morning, June 13. We had spent the past four days listening to music from Kaleo, Chance the Rapper, Flume, Glass Animals, U2, Gallant, and more on The Farm in Manchester, Tennessee at Bonnaroo. Pulling out of the airport, I readied myself to meet the other participants, as well as the organizers, of the Fulbright-Hays GPA program through Ohio State University. That Tuesday night we met at the home of the co-director of the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS), without whom none of this would be possible, and had dinner, drinks, and lots of introductory conversation. The night was a warm, comfortable meeting of educators who valued Spanish and Latin America, specifically the Andes. Experience and content area vary between all of us, but most of us are Spanish speakers, and a majority of us are Spanish teachers.
Wednesday morning found us at a round-table in Haggerty Hall on the OSU campus, drinking coffee and snacking on fruit salad as we excitedly talked about the program, how we found it, our students, and what we are excited for most. Over the next two days, presentations would include crash-courses in Andean Spanish variations, Quechua pronunciation, expressions of courtesy unique to the Andes, risk management, and conversations about curriculum design and implementation. Many of our conversations were led and facilitated by our leading faculty member, Dra. Michelle Wibbelsman, who is a professor in the department of Spanish and Portuguese at OSU. Her book, "Encuentros Rituales" (Ritual Encounters), is one of the required readings for us as participants. The work is the result of field work with the Andean people of Otavalo, Ecuador, and explores the practices, products, and perspectives of Andean people in this region in relation to their festivals, cosmological views, epistemologies (ways of knowing), and geographies.
Dr. Wibbelsman is a confident, soft-spoken scholar whose smile is the steady background of amazing information, anecdotes, and challenging questions. While I have always told my students that there's no such thing as a dumb question, Dr. Wibbelsman challenges her students by saying there there are good and bad questions, and that the quality of the information we gain from inquiry is fully reliant on the quality and thoughtfulness of the questions we ask. Michelle is a fantastic resource for learning and understanding the culture of the Andes, specifically in Otavalo where she conducted her field work.
From this point forward, my posts will be an effort to communicate some of the most interesting experiences and ideas of this journey. If you are still reading, I would like to first of all thank you for dealing with my wordiness. I would like to, secondly, invite you to keep up with these posts. I will do my best to be concise and thorough. The next post will include photos from our pre-trip training at OSU, as well as some really mind-blowing ideas (and I do mean mind-blowing). To my students, thanks for your patience, and I hope you're doing some exciting things with your summer. Don't forget your Spanish, and keep tuning in. No doubt I'll have a good embarrassing story to share sooner than later.
Before I continue, I would like to thank any students of mine who are reading this blog. I am not as good a writer as Mr. Thomas or Mr. Lockhart, but I have committed to documenting my experience in the Andes this summer. I hope you find it interesting, engaging, and at times entertaining. I will not hesitate to share with you my mistakes, embarrassments, and lessons learned abroad. You need only the patience to tolerate my wordiness and excessive detail. Never hesitate to email me and ask about something you've read, or if there's something you would like me to investigate for you while I'm away.
I have been debating with myself as to when to begin this blog, whether to start when I arrive in the Andes, when I arrive in Columbus for pre-trip training, or a few weeks ago when I started this series of adventures in London. I have decided that now is the time to start, while in Columbus doing my pre-trip training. The Fulbright-GPA program is a short-term program funded by Fulbright, and mine specifically is being offered through partnership with the Ohio State University in Columbus. The theme of the program is "Teaching the Andes", and is designed for K-12 teachers who want to design engaging, meaningful curricula that focus on the Andes region of South America, specifically the Peruvian/Ecuadorian Andes. OSU has a strong program in Spanish and Latin American Studies, and their Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) is who I have been communicating and working with most. I'll describe the program more in a moment.
For anyone who isn't already aware, I teach Spanish at J. Frank White Academy, my alma mater, and a 4-12 school on the campus of Lincoln Memorial University. My deadline for application to this Fulbright program was around January 12, and I got the news of being accepted in... I don't remember, late February? My goal in participating in the program is to learn more about the Andes, Andean culture, and indigenous Andean languages in order to teach a comparative study of Appalachia and the Andes. Both regions are mountainous, rich in tradition, unique in geography and dialect, and rural. In my statement of intent, I wrote that I wanted to avoid a superficial side-by-side comparison of the two regions, which would result in some cheap parallels and little learned. My goal is to analyze, deconstruct, compare and contrast, and lift up these two regions as sisters. As sisters, they will have immeasurable differences, but also much in common. Those similarities, I hope, will create a memorable bridge between two of the Americas, North and South, and result in a new understanding of how they relate to each other. Now, perhaps more than ever, is the time to ask our neighbors how they do things, discover our shared values, and celebrate our differences.
"Teaching the Andes," as a program, is a month-long immersive and intensive study of the Andes in Peru and Ecuador. In the course of this month, we will spend around two weeks in each country, listening to professors, artisans, community leaders and organizers, and other scholars. Through a hands-on interaction and engagement with the Andes and Quechua (more later on Quechua), and along with the hundreds and hundreds of pages of pre-trip reading we are required to do, I expect to learn more than I can now imagine. Eleven other teachers complete the participant group of which I am a part, and we will led by Dra. Michelle Wibbelsman, from OSU. I expect to be writing a lot more about these people, and the things they teach me, once we all arrive in country. The next post will describe the three days of pre-trip training I just completed in Columbus at OSU, along with several pictures of lectures, artifacts, and activities that filled our time.
Un gran abrazo a Tennessee y los que me hacen falta allí.
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