Day 156

Less than One Month Left!

We know we’re a little late on this one, but we are a little less than a month away from completing our Fischer Fellowship. Historically, on some of these recap posts, we’ve done some Q&A. This time, we’ve brought in a guest question-asker (thanks to Dan Mackowiack) who compiled a list of questions for us. Check it out below!

What is one culture shock you expected to experience but didn’t?

Sarah: Something that we were told over and over again was “get used to it being a slower pace” or “you might not have things to do for a while” — but I never experienced that, haha. We had our first artisan visit for the video scheduled our second week, and it has been non-stop since then. And that’s a good thing. We had some collaborative meetings with the team about what they wanted to see changed or created, and those were my marching orders.

Nick: I’m not sure. I think my main focus was going to be the language barrier – and that definitely was true (both in that listening to Spanish is far harder than reading, and also that Chilean Spanish is so fast). I think I had set my expectations appropriately, but the amount of cultural changes aren’t that crazy different from our lives back in the United States. We knew we’d be living in downtown Temuco, which is a university town, so it wasn’t like we were going to be living in a far off rural community, or staying with a host family kind of thing.

I guess I expected to be harassed more since we’re the gringos from the US, but that’s been pretty uncommon. We do get a lot of stares when we’re driving Lemmy anywhere, but to be fair, I think people stare at those who drive PT Cruisers in the US as well. We haven’t gotten trapped much into political conversations about Trump, or anything like that. However, we have been asked a few times from different people “Is the United States like it is in the movies?” I still have no idea how to answer that question. Like are we talking about The Dark Knight? Major League? Animal House?

Again, maybe I expected to feel less safe down here, maybe? I mean, when we first started, we made sure to know exactly where we were going, and to avoid being out too late, etc. However, that’s normal for Chicago as well – you always need to keep you head on a swivel and be smart about your surroundings. Over time, we’ve definitely felt more safe, but not to the point where we’re making dumb decisions or putting ourselves in unsafe situations. One example about how I guess we should have felt more unsafe here, is that when we met with Arturo the first week, he advised us to always have a bag packed and ready in case we needed to leave at any time. We weren’t sure what that really meant, but it kind of freaked us out. Fingers crossed we don’t ever find out what that means either.

Oh, one thing that just came to mind was Chile is known for earthquakes – apparently they happen like every day but you don’t feel them. Well, we haven’t gotten the sense at all that we felt one until last week. Last Wednesday, we were sitting at our table in our apartment, and for like 10 seconds, it felt like someone was slightly shaking our building. Nothing was falling off shelves or anything, but we both looked at each other, thought it was possibly an earthquake and then I think high-fived for that experience.

What is one thing you’ll do (and/or) continue to do for the foundation when you return to the United States?

Sarah: The one thing I’ll do is rather broad, but I think I’ll continue to support a lot of the Foundation’s design needs throughout the end of the year. They have said that they do not have any upcoming volunteer support in design for the rest of the year. I don’t want the last month here to feel like a mad sprint to finish everything – especially since a lot of the things can be done from anywhere. I know I’ll continue to help problem-solve their website and make updates, make design items for their upcoming Fair Trade Festival in November, and also make a style guide for them to use the logo and branding moving forward.

Nick: Honestly, I hope to still be a resource for Susana as it pertains to soliciting and vetting volunteers, especially those that have a strong English-speaking background. I think this is something that I can still easily do while back in the US. Additionally, if Chol Chol is selected to attend the International Folk Art Market in 2020, I’ll plan to be their coordination liaison to ensure they have everything they need for the event. Also, Sarah and I would probably try to attend the event (in Santa Fe) as well – that’d be fun!

I think Sarah and I will start to be on the look-out for more local small shops that could be interested in partnering with Chol Chol in the future. I feel like when we go on weekend trips around the United States, we often find the downtown areas and just window-shop, but possibly we could seek out some places with the purpose of connecting Chol Chol with them down the line. Who knows!

What’s one thing you’ll do for yourself when you return to the United States?

Sarah: This is tough. There are a lot of things I want to continue to do that we’ve started here. Focusing on health, getting outside more, camping, etc. BUT something for truly me and only me that I want to continue is improving my Spanish. I’ve gotten past the nervousness of being afraid to try to speak Spanish, which is a big first step. And I know there are a handful of people at West Monroe that want to practice through the new Spanish committee. So, with that, some self-study, and even maybe a group class, I’m hoping I can continue to improve.

Nick: I really want to maintain the more active lifestyle that Sarah and I have adopted while we’re down here. I’m not sure if I’ve hit my weight goals (hey – one month left – crunch time – pun intended), but I definitely feel healthier. I don’t want to get back into the lack of exercise rut that I was in before I left. I hope I can continue to run/jog in the mornings, find a good work-out routine, and find a proper balance with food consumption. Also, in terms of really “for myself” – I’m going to golf a lot. I’ve missed it.

What’s one thing you’ll do for your partner when you return?

Sarah: Nick and I have been having a lot of conversations about money — saving money, budgeting effectively, and possibly buying a house when we return. A lot of good conversations that are sometimes hard to have. And while we’ve been living here, we’ve been maximizing and spending as smartly as we can, especially with 50% of our salary.

But being here has also shown us what we really need vs. want. Six months is a good chunk of time to take a second and realize what you need every day. And I think being able to see first-hand the rural conditions here in the south of Chile has put some things in perspective for me.

That being said, something I know he’s been passionate about is finding a way for us to budget together, and has done a tremendous amount of research. I want to follow through with the budget we’ll agree on when we return (and are back to everyday living) so it will set us up for the long-term.  #marriedlife

Nick: Talk about a loaded question, Dan. Well I guess I can interpret this in may ways. First of all, we’ve spent every day with each other for the last 6+ months, which is uncommon for us. So one of the first things, is to probably give Sarah a little space. Not saying she’s sick of me (I’m not sick of her), but going back to America, we probably just need to have a little bit of alone time to decompress from this whole experience.

Additionally, Sarah has talked a lot about her creative passions and outlets while we’ve been down here. She really enjoys drawing, painting, sketching, knitting, designing, etc. And while you’d think that she’s done a lot of that down here, well she hasn’t. One thing I want to do is to help support her in these ventures. She has an Etsy shop that she enjoys working with, and she’s looking to rebrand that to better represent the projects she likes to work on. While I’m no social media branding expert, I do want to ensure I understand her goals and see what I can do to help (e.g., project planning and analysis). Oh, and I’m going to need to get a haircut ASAP when I’m back. However, I’m not sure if that’s for her, for me, or just for everyone in general.

What was the worst food item you tried?

Sarah: I’m sure many Chileans will scoff at me, but I didn’t care for Paila Marina, which is a traditional soup of seafood prepared near coastal towns. Some background: I had a bad case of food poisoning from what I thought was oysters last summer, and it’s taken a while for me to recover. I heard about Paila Marina from a blog that said it was the best dish they’ve had, so I thought maybe I was over it. The soup was just seafood; no potatoes or vegetables. Plus it had a weird red sea cucumber-like piece in it. I guess I wasn’t over it, haha.

Nick: Hmm, for Sarah, it was a fish soup that we had in Chiloe. If she says otherwise, she’s lying. As for me, I forgot what “sweetbread” was the other day, but that’s on me, so doesn’t count. Therefore, I’m going to say that horse was probably the worst. It wasn’t terrible, but it was a very tough meat, and once you realize what it is, it’s just not that appealing. Otherwise, I’d just say that anytime a restaurant throws in a rogue olive in an empanada, I’m not pleased. Additionally, the sushi in Chile is not good. It’s just filled with cream cheese basically.

What is the first food you’ll want to eat when you get back?

Sarah: A TACO, please lord please, give me tacos again. I haven’t had true Mexican food since we left and I can feel it in my soul.

Nick: Well, we land on a Sunday night and will be getting picked up by Sarah’s parents and then head to Rockford. Knowing Connie & Jeff (Sarah’s parents), they rarely let us go hungry. So maybe I can use this question as an opportunity to put in a menu request with them? While I’d normally opt for anything that Jeff is making on the grill, in addition to various creative options that Connie normally comes up with, I think Sarah and I have been craving quality Mexican food since we’ve been here. They don’t really do tacos down here and corn tortillas are impossible to find. Therefore, hoping that we can have some tacos and/or enchiladas to satisfy our long-lasting craving.

If you had an extra 6 months at the foundation, what would you do? Would you stay? What needs to be done next?

Sarah: Oh gosh, what wouldn’t I do?! I’d love to do it all! I’d love to have 90% of the artisans represented by videos (because I don’t think I could ever truly be at 100%, with how the list of artisans changes every year). I’ve created 16 videos, but there are 20 artisans under contract, not to mention the non-textile artisans that sell in the store. Those that don’t have a specific video link to a general video about all the different types of art and the sentiment behind the store and the foundation. But as we were re-tagging everything, I noticed how many pieces go to the general video, so I’d love to have the general video be used less and less.

There are always things to do that pop up every day, just like in the United States. I think I could probably work full-time for a year or more and still have a full plate every day, haha.

And yes, I would 100% stay. The only caveat is that I could have one trip back home halfway through to see family and friends. And if Nick was still with me, of course haha.

Nick: I think Chol Chol could still greatly benefit from a better point-of-sale system at the foundation store. They are able to get by with manual processes and documenting transactions in a notebook, but in order for them to really understand their data and make more informed decision on pricing, sales, marketing efforts, etc., a system would be needed. I tried to get this project started early in my time here; however, the head of the board didn’t see it as a value add, and while I did some research on possible systems, I struggled to find options that worked for Chilean currency. I’m sure they exist out there, but if so, they are probably South American-based in which I wouldn’t have the capability to communicate with them in Spanish – definitely not at a requirements gathering level. However, if there was someone who had the right mix of Spanish skills and technical implementations, I think this would be a very worthy project. Possibly another WMP member will be motivated by Sarah and my work with this foundation and come down in a couple years.

I’m not entirely sure how to answer the “extra 6 months” question on my end. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t as I feel that I can make a larger impact in other places outside of Chol Chol (again, my Spanish never really got to where I wanted it to). However, if going into this, we knew we’d be here for a full year, then I think I would have approached things a bit differently. First, Sarah and I would have needed to create more of a network in Temuco of friends and what not to just have more laid back conversational Spanish. Sarah and I have always known that the 6 months will fly by (which it has), and therefore, we’ve focused our energy in selective places. All that being said, this has been an incredible experience, and if Sarah and I had the opportunity to do something like this again, we’d definitely consider it.

With less than one month left, what do you still want to experience?

Sarah: I don’t know if we’ll get to, but I’d love to watch or experience a Mapuche ceremony or event. Juan Manuel had mentioned going to one at the beginning of our time here, but that fell through. Ever since then, since I’ve known it’s a possibility, I wanted to experience it. We might still have time because our last weekend here is the Mapuche New Year, so maybe something will happen! If not, we’ve still experienced some incredible things!

Nick: Well as we’ve mentioned before, we still have quite the long to-do list at the Foundation. But beyond Chol-Chol work, I’m hoping that we can still make one more weekend trip (since we have to cross the border with Lemmy one final time), attending a soccer game in Temuco (a game is scheduled for next weekend!) and VISIT THE CIRCUS! Also, fingers still crossed to attend some traditional Mapuche ceremonies/festivities. Mapuche New Year takes place in a few weekends, so we may get an invite!

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