Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Me, Guatemala, During my masters research project in Patzun, Chimaltengo, Guatemala 1982
When I first traveled to Latin America, or more specifically, Guatemala, in the early 80’s and when I worked with kids in schools there, or met in communities I visited, I naively asked them what they wanted to do when they grew up. The answer was always, a shrug and a “no se” (I don’t know).
It wasn’t a middle class, bored USAan[i] teenager “I don’t know”, it was a literal a not-dreams-were-possible-because-there-was-little-to any-future-I-don’t-know. Sometimes it was a “I don’t know” that said they were content to carry on doing the same thing that their parents and grandparents had been doing for hundreds of years I don’t know.
The “I don’t know” of contentment, which for me is admirable. I come from a particular social class and culture of discontentment, and needing and wanting more, and better and faster and bigger is a genetic flaw that, as a Buddhist, I have to constantly work to tamp down, to ignore, to send this discontentment away.
So when my husband finished graduate school, and we decided to move to Brasil, mostly because as you either may or may not know, the USA does not afford GLBT people equal marriage rights and the ability to sponsor of their spouses, as striaght people do. We applied for and were awarded positions as faculty members in small university high in the mountains of Minas Gerais. I retired from California State University, Sacramento and we are both professors in the Centro de Educação Aberta e a Distância (the Center of Open and Distance Education) at the Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto part of UAB (the Open University of Brasil) which provides higher education opportunities to thousands of Brazilians that traditionally would never have had access.
I have been teaching K-Univeristy students since 1978. My first teaching job was in a rural school in Oregon. I went to Oregon State, taught school in Oregon, then Guatemala, after which I went to graduate school in New Mexico, returned to Guatemala for masters work, and did research in Puebla Mexico with computers and kids as part of my doctoral research.If I recall, the school there was a test site Apple de México, and they were debugging the very first keyboard that allowed accents and things necessary in Spanish and Portuguese. Before that time you printed out the document, and then drew in the accents and the all important ~ over the letter n. My research replicated what we were doing in Guatemala and New Mexico with LOGO and kids in their math lab.
My first trip to Brasil was in 1992, and once again I asked kids, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” And again the answer was, more often than not, “Não se". And for much for the same reason I found in Guatemala a few years earlier. Yet I began to notice a subtle difference, more and more, the answer began to change, “Eu quero ser um…” I want to be a… I began to see dreams. Brasil, like much of South America was awakening, the Green Giant was waking from its slumber, it was moving forward.
In 2005-2006, when my husband Milton and I realized his visa prospects were wearing thin, and it became to expensive for us to stay in the United States (over 12 years his visa had cost us over $30,000.00) I took up an offer as visiting professor on Ouro Preto, thinking it was time for us to begin moving south. Half way through my stay in Ouro Preto, the San Juan Unified School District in a suburb of Sacramento, offered to sponsor him for his green card. Obviously, this changed everything, and his dream, of earning a doctorate, was suddenly possible. This allowed him to pursue a doctorate degree, and he graduated as CSU’s first doctoral student! So back I went, all the time our dream was to return to Brasil, so I continued working at CSUS and visiting, working as a visiting professor, publishing, and lecturing until the time came for us to pull of stakes.
Our program sends course work to over 5000 students in 30 polos in three states in Brasil. A few months ago, I represented the university at a graduation of our students in one of our polos in the state of Bahia. As is my custom, I asked a 9 year old daughter of one of our students, “o que você quer ser quando crescer?”
She looked up at me, pointing her finger at me and with great confidence said to me, “Vou ser um médico!” (I am going to be an doctor!). It was more than a dream, it was an expectation, a right, an assertion and knowledge that she could, no she would do it, because she had seen her Mother study, and now graduate, and so would she.
Like I said earlier, I have been teaching since 1978, and rarely if ever have I been privileged to actually witness the physical difference in what I do makes in the lives of my students and the communities they came from, at another graduation, in a region of Brasil that made a discovery of natural gas and oil, the mayor and the school superintendent told me that if it hadn’t been for UFOP, this tiny town of 7000 people would have lost any hope of taking part of the wealth. Hundreds of people were expected to move in from outside, and traditionally when this occurred the locals were relegated to menial jobs, but because of the student earning business administration, pedagogy and math degrees via CEAD-UFOP, they had been given their own tools to build their own stores, open their own restaurants, build their own apartments to rent, even a new hotel. They were creating and achieving opportunities… dreams. It was then, at the ripe old age of 57, that I realized that I was finally doing what I wanted to do when I grew up.
So, I ask you, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”
Me, teaching online CEAD-UFOP, 2012
|Daily Buddhist Wisdom|
Helping All Beings
If hungry people come, give them food. If thirsty people come, give water. If suffering people come, help them. That is our job—life after life, just continue to help all beings. But to do that, you have to have mind which is clear like space.
- Seung Sahn, "BOOM!"