Today’s blog post is written by API’s Senior Vice President of Organizational Policy and Student Success, Courtney Greene. For a full statement regarding the ongoing situation in Chile, please click here.
I have long said that I would be more than happy to move to Chile if I could live abroad.
Having had the fortune to develop programs in Chile for my graduate alma mater and for API are two of the highlights of my professional career.
Back in early March of 2010, I was scheduled to travel to Chile to start investigating the possibility of opening an API site there. I was horrified to wake up the morning of Saturday, February 27, 2010, and learn that a major earthquake had struck Chile. I remember the relief I felt upon hearing from my host family (with whom I had stayed during numerous visits to Santiago) and the tears that continued to fall upon reading more about the effects of the earthquake, including estimates of human casualties. It broke my heart to learn that the beautiful Chile that I knew and loved had been so badly affected by an act of nature.
Needless to say, this past week, with the declaration of a state of emergency in Chile, has been intense.
Our students on-site have been shaken by the reports of casualties, the presence of the military in the streets, the sounds of shots being fired at night, the continued suspension of their courses. Students have seen protests weaving through the streets near their host families’ homes and worried how the situation might continue to escalate.
In the face of continued uncertainty, some students have elected to return home. Others remain, hopeful that more peaceful protests that have occurred this week will continue, and the state of emergency will be lifted. They are reassured by the potential to return to class on Monday and by other signs of improvement– many Chileans returned to work earlier this week, and transport systems have begun to operate more fully.
As a traveler to Chile, it is incredible to me how the news reflects reality, just as much as it distorts it.
API’s on-site director in Valparaíso/Viña sent me an email today, including several pictures of our API students. In a beautiful balcony with a cloudless blue sky behind them, they smiled at the photographer. And that image brought tears to my eyes.
I realized yet again how true it is that a picture is worth a thousand words. The Chile of today is indeed one in which military personnel patrol the streets and masked protesters fight against growing inequality — the result of an economic development process that has left many Chileans behind and struggling.
But Chile today is also one of great beauty, strength, and calm, a land of geographic contrasts unlike any I have ever seen before or am likely to in my lifetime. It is a place where many Chileans are eager to see their country return to normalcy, an improved normalcy, one in which the societal divisions are a little more evident and hopefully, one in which a more aware government will take measures to inspire some necessary social changes. That beauty is the real Chile, just as much as the more frightening photographs that we see in the international press.