It’s been four days since I returned from Brazil, and life has started to resume its (for now) normal rhythm here in Santiago.
I’ve worked with students and colleagues at the University of Diego Portales, had lunch at my favorite place near campus-you can get a tasty and filling meal of chicken and mashed potatoes for just $4-and taught our final English class to the adult learners at UDP’s American Corner.
After Dunreith arrived back from Brasilia last night, we resumed our ritual of watching Los 80, Andres Wood’s show that takes us through a pivotal decade in Chile’s family through the eyes of the Herrera family.
But the ripples of the conference remain, whether starting to explore the website mastery of the remarkable Gianinna Segnini or passing out the business cards I collected to my students and having them read out the countries of the new colleagues and friends I met.
One of them was a young female investigative reporter from Iraq.
She’s slight, with long, straight, black hair and is just a few years older than the fourth-year students I have the honor to teach.
We met outside the Royal Tulip hotel where we were both staying and took a cab to the campus where the conference was held.
I’m not going to share her name because she doesn’t use it when she reports.
She uses a pseudonym instead.
Her byline has no picture above it.
She gives no interviews.
And, while some of her immediate family know what she does, many others think that she works in a bank.
This reporter takes these measures to protect herself.
Because of the nature of what she writes-her most recent project is an expose of corruption in Iraq-she could be killed if her identity were to be revealed.
She told me this in a matter-of-fact manner, as if she were talking about the type of computer she uses or where her office is located.
She spoke without hesitation, fear or any plan of stopping doing what she loves.
On Tuesday I told my Chilean students about this brave young woman and her work.
On Wednesday, I wrote to her, along with all of the other folks I met at the Rio conference.
In the note, I shared with her that the young journalists in my class now know about her because of what I told them.
Today, she answered.
She thanked me for my email and then wrote a simple, but breathtakingly profound, statement:
People who appreciate our work are the ones who help us to fulfill the road
Think for a minute about the interrelationship she suggests between the author and the audience, the writer and the reader.
Think about the community she implies of journalists dedicated to digging up and sharing the truth with people about what is happening in their countries.
Think about the road she invokes and its direction toward a more open, informed and peaceful world.
Consider her idea that being appreciated does not mean that others do the work for us.
But it does help.
She went on to tell me that her most recent project will be published in Arabic and English if she can find an outlet before thanking me again for my note.
The gratitude is mine.
I’ll continue to move forward with projects here and planning with Dunreith what we will do when we return to Chicago.
But as I do, I’ll also think at moments of the wisdom of my courageous young Iraqi colleague, who continues to expose the truth of what is happening in her homeland, all the while being strengthened by those who acknowledge and encourage what she does.