Chilean Chronicles, Part XXXII: Day Two of Learning from Fulbright Classmates

Today was the second day at the University of Chile with my Fulbright colleagues, and, again, there was an extraordinarily rich array of intellectual content to absorb.

Yesterday’s presentations centered around the theme of sustainability and environmentally-oriented projects, while today’s sessions covered a series of topics.

Key points from each stood out from each one.

The emotion in his voice pushing through his voice as he gamely delivered his lecture in Spanish, David Bergin spoke about Mr. Webb, his former high school science teacher whose passion for his subject left a firm and life-changing imprint on him and many other students during his decades-long career.

Camila Lopez and David Bergin.

Camila Lopez and David Bergin.

Steve Sadlier used the image of a protest about domestic violence in which a black poster saying that not another woman should be killed was surrounded by papers with victims’ names interspersed with shoes to talk through the socio-cultural issues of society, culture and language.

Steve Sadlier relaxes after his presentation Thursday.

Steve Sadlier relaxes after his presentation Thursday.

In her talk about the Mapuche in Argentina and Chile, literary scholar Camila Lopez talked about “entre,” the space of being between two worlds that characters travel through in the work of Argentine novelist Maria Rosa Lojo.

Camila Lopez proudly displays her pisco sour.

Camila Lopez proudly displays her pisco sour.

Greg Gogolin gave an eye-opening talk about Cybercrime in which he shared that the chief of the Detroit Police Department told him that they don’t even go after crimes that are less than $100,000 in a month.

This means that cybercriminals can do as much as $1 million per year without even being pursued by the police in the city.

Beyond that, Greg gave us perhaps the most useful piece of advice at all; change your passwords, especially for banking, to nine characters.

Make sure to include at least one number, one capital letter and one unusual character.

Bumping up the total from seven characters to eight can increase the amount of time people who want to crack a password up from minutes to days, he said.

Adding one more character to nine can make the time to break the code from days to years.

Greg Gogolin, left, and Larry Geri share a light moment at lunch.

Greg Gogolin, left, and Larry Geri share a light moment at lunch.

In the final presentation, Paul Quick spoke about the expansive kind of interdisciplinary sharing that can happen when colleagues get together, eat and soak in the pleasure of each other’s company.

Paul Quick and his sponsor Fernanda.

Paul Quick and his sponsor Fernando.

The mood was certainly upbeat and the conversation rich as we broke bread, well, salad, fish and potatoes and a very stiff pisco sour, at the building where Admiral Merino, General Pinochet and their cronies set up shop after they deposed the democratically-elected government in September 1973.

Alternately joking and serious, we switched back and forth from Spanish to English as we discussed the relative merits of Chicago and Santiago’s transit systems. (Santiago’s Metro won in a romp over the El, except at Rush , even as Felix from the Fulbright Commission put in a plug for the virtue of the Loop as a neighborhood.)

We talked about the best time of year to head over the cordillera and go to Argentina’s Mendoza region for what Victoria Viteri of the Fulbright Commission said is the world’s best meat and food.

Felix and Victoria from the Fulbright Commission.

Felix and Victoria from the Fulbright Commission.

Many Chileans go to Mendoza during the week of September 18, the date on which the nation celebrates its independence. But the consensus among the Chileans at our end of the long wooden table was that Journalism Department Chair Carlos Aldunate was right in telling us, during our four-hour long dinner, in a tone that barely got to the half joking level, that Dunreith and my going there during that time would be an insult.

Dunreith showed family pictures that elicited oohs and aahs, and University of Diego Portales institutional memory Josefa Romero invited us to visit her family’s home in the fields a couple of hours away when Aidan comes to visit in late November.

Josefa Romero of the University of Diego Portales.

Josefa Romero of the University of Diego Portales.

The hour at which I needed to leave to make it on time to my class at 3:30 came just as the dessert and coffee arrived.

We have to have postre, Dunreith and Josefa said together in a tone that indicated they would brook no disagreement.

We did, gulping down the white and dark chocolate concoctions a bit faster than usual, but still long enough to savor the sweet, creamy mixture.

The time to talk the Metro had passed, so the three of us took a taxi after we made the rounds of both tables and said goodbye to our new friends.

Six weeks ago today, Dunreith and I boarded a plane that took us to Dallas and, from there, to Santiago, the capital of a country we had wanted to visit for more than a decade.

Yesterday, I met the entire group of this year’s Fulbrighters in person for the first time.

Filled with the food, drink and knowledge I had absorbed, feeling surprisingly at home, I walked up to the third floor, retrieved the blue University of Diego Portales binder from the departmental office and headed down to my classroom.

The students would be arriving in less than 15 minutes.

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