Yet another entry about food…Santiago, Spring 2009

But I promise this one includes other Chile-related reflections as well!

As part of my class schedule, I have an internship for 10 hours a week at Educacion Popular en Salud (EPES), a nonprofit organization started during the military dictatorship to meet the needs of marginalized populations that did not have access to adequate healthcare. Since 1982, EPES has used an approach called “popular education,” which focuses on personal and community capacitation, viewing health as one of people’s fundamental rights. It’s an interesting approach and an interesting organization, with every week bringing something new to do. Today that “something new” was as follows:

I arrived at EPES and finished a project I’d been working on in EPES’s library. This was easy, as it involves alphabetizing and hole-punching, both of which are skills I readily possess. Then, as my most current work involves administering a telephone survey to rural health workers, I made a few phone calls. I knew from experience that these phone calls would go rather poorly. The goal is for me to make “cold calls” to these healthcare professionals and then, once I reach them, to explain the project and ask them four simple questions. The problem, of course, is that (1) when someone calls you, introduces herself as being from an organization you have potentially never heard of, and then wants to ask you questions, you might be instinctively wary of her intentions (in fact, I have a feeling that, in the U.S., you might just hang up on said person) and (2) even if you do not mind sparing a few minutes to respond to the questions, you may choose not the response that is actually most appropriate based on your organization but, instead, the response which is most intelligible because you unfortunately couldn’t understand all of the other responses due to the survey administrator’s mispronunciations.

After the successful completion of only two surveys, I went to a meet a woman, Ana, who I’d met at one of EPES’s previous workshops and who had since invited me and one of the other interns to attend some of her group’s activities (which included a Tai Chi session on Tuesday morning during which the other intern and I were mocked for being unable to follow directions adequately; unfortunately, the other intern, a Chilean, was unable to attend today, leaving me to brave the unknown by myself). The event took place in the group president’s house and consisted of a brief administrative meeting, onces (which, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, is a snack or small meal eaten around 5) and lota (which translates as “lottery” and may be a catchall word for betting games. I am not really sure because today’s game closely resembled Bingo, and, although I wanted to ask the group what “lota” meant, I didn’t because it struck me as one of those questions where the answer appears blatantly obvious, and therefore unexplainable, to everyone involved except the person who asked).

The whole experience was great, as I had no idea what to expect. Unbeknownst to me, the “club” was a senior citizens’ group, making me the darling (foreign) grandchild of everyone there. One of the woman lent me her teabag (apparently it was a bring-your-own-cup-saucer-and-tea-bag-or-coffee occasion, but I obviously came unprepared) and I also had the pleasure of sharing onces which consisted of five sopaipillas (which I’ve already explained are fried dough made from wheat flour, lard, pumpkin and salt). Two of the sopaipillas were served in a sweet syrup and three were served with salsa (both toppings are quite common). However, after everyone had finished their sopaipillas and the table had been cleared, guess what everyone was given? Two white rolls. Why? I have no idea. I don’t believe I saw anyone actually eat theirs, as most people tucked them into small plastic bags they’d brought (I didn’t come prepared with that either) to save for later, I suppose.

After eating though, we commenced to play “lota” and, although I didn’t win, it was good number review for me as the person whom I’m calling the “Bingo caller” went a little rapidly for my comprehension skills. Three women won prizes but I, ever-so-luckily, received a grab-bag-style consolation prize of….a tiny pink crocheted pouch containing a box of matches! Mom, if you’re reading, is this one of the things I should bring home with me or one of the things I should part with in Chile to ensure that my suitcases don’t exceed 50 pounds?

All in all, an incredibly amusing afternoon. Thanks IES for counting this as part of my class time!

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1 Comment

  1. I’ve been telling my colleagues all weekend to get here and take a look at your thread…

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