Archives for the month of: March, 2014

Krista (new)By Krista Chinchilla.

We gathered around the CASA de la Mateada staff members and I felt dumbfounded as we went through our weekly avisos (check-ins): NPR reports to keep us updated on the news, the schedule for the upcoming week, and food and transportation stipends. “It’s already March?!” I found myself thinking. Time is flying and Argentina has been an incredible teacher. There is so much I’ve already experienced, but there are a few things that really stand out to me when I think about what I yearn to implement into my daily life.

I had always seen service as ‘helping’ another. Now, I can see the type of hierarchy that goes into this mentality; it denotes a kind of superiority and inferiority between me and another person. Accompaniment is one of the pillars of the CASA program, which I hoped would go right along with transforming my definition of (and, more importantly, how I acted out) ‘service.’ I liked the idea of accompanying another more than the ‘helping’ perspective on service, but there was still something that didn’t fully click. I couldn’t exactly pinpoint it, so I ignored it and hoped my time in Argentina would clear things up for me. After all, we’re here to simply be there with people, which didn’t really make much sense to me. What does “being there with others” even mean? It seemed so…useless. But here’s where some really great people come into the picture.

Soon after the end of our orientation, we were introduced to most of the women who work in a jardín (kindergarten) in Nuestro Hogar III, a small city in Córdoba. This jardín is one of our praxis sites; it is a space that also functions as a type of community center for various activities for those who live in Nuestro Hogar III. The women eagerly greeted each member of our cohort with besos (kisses on the cheek). While we are a smaller cohort, we were still about nine people walking into their daily lives. “Tienen hambre? Ya desayunaron?” “Are you hungry? Have you have breakfast yet?” they asked as they prepared mate and sliced some bread. We spent the day charlando (talking) and, yes, simply being there. Without fail, whenever we return, we’re greeted the same way: with eager eyes, excited words, welcoming faces and sometimes some dancing.

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Diego and Students“Would it be possible for me to be paid in books?” That was the question put to us at the end of last semester by Diego Fonti, Academic Vice-President (here, Vice-Rector) and Professor of Philosophy at the Universidad Católica de Córdoba. Frankly the question caught us a little bit by surprise. Diego earns a regular salary for teaching his “Philosophy from the Margins” course to our Casa de la Mateada students. And we were in the process of preparing to make the payment to him for the teaching he had done for our first cohort of students when this question arose. But paying him “in books?” Hmmm. What would that entail? We would have to look into it.

Well, we did look into it. And it turned out that it was indeed possible. And we did in the end “pay him in books.” But the story of why he asked us this and how we were able to fulfill his request is worthy of a fuller telling.

Let us begin with the request itself: payment in books. Ok, on a certain level that request makes perfect sense. Books still matter. Even in this digital age, when almost anything you could want to read can be delivered to you Kindle of phone in a matter of seconds. Still, aren’t books becoming relics of a past age, the age of paper and ink and binding and shelves? Aren’t we in the process of moving past all that? Perhaps. But in truth not everything is available to us in digital form. And besides, there are unmistakable pleasures to be had in holding a book in your hands, in turning down the corner of a page, in making notes in the margins with a pencil or pen, in turning off all electronic media and just disappearing for a few hours into a chair or a hammock—just you and the book and the rich imaginative world in which you suddenly find yourself immersed.

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