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Living & Learning en el Patio de Atrás

September 25, 2010

I’ve always been a Learner. After becoming an educator, I began to refer to myself as a “life long learner” (mostly because I learned the jargon and it made sense to me).

My own definition of this label means that within the day to day of my work and play, I willingly and comfortably assume the role of Learner.  I consider this a lens, orientation, or stance I take-up as I interact with the world.

Since arriving in México, I’ve come to recognize a powerful mediating variable that is currently causing me to critically reflect on the comfort and assumptions of my stance as a life long learner (and the implications of my experience on how I meet my students). The variable? I am living in México.

el patio de atrás

El patio de atrás is where I find respite from the dissonance of living outside the comforts of the United States. In other words, my patio (aka dining room, office, taller, etc.) is where I retreat from learning through my present experience(s).  I sit in silence. I eat food I’ve cooked recreating flavors that I enjoy. I listen to streaming online from Seattle, WA. I read texts written in English. I write emails and tweets, and pursue other scholarly endeavors (all in U.S. English).

After three weeks, I’ve begun to re-encounter the presence of mind to refract on the possible implications this experience will have on me and my future students.

I’m asking myself questions like:

  • How will my increased sensitivity to the dissonance of  “the new” impact my pedagogy?
  • How will my orientation(s) toward knowledge, truth, reality, the value of being a life long learner, and teaching and learning in general change?
  • How have they already changed?
  • How important are these transformations to my pedagogy?

And, last but not least, how will I recover from this experience?

I reside comfortably in the Questioning. Well, I like to believe I reside comfortably–my current experience is certainly pushing me towards extremes of comfort. And as all the educators in the crew know, that means I’m learning something–the what is to be determined (and enumerated).

Following is a snippet of an email I sent to kin and kith a few days back. I include it to illustrate the dissonance within which I (un)comfortably reside.

hmmm.  Where to begin?

Let’s talk about the weather.

Temps in Oaxaca (capital of Oaxaca state) right now are much like the Pacific Northwest this time of year.  I don’t think I packed enough warm clothes.  And, we don’t have heat, so the winter should be interesting. I’ll prob break down and get a space heater. Our dining room is outside, so we might relocate that to the salon which has a little woodburning stove.

I spend my days working a little, roaming a little, contemplating life, trying to conjure a vision of my life and my work in the future.

The city itself is lovely really, especially at night. This is when most of the people are not out on the streets. Every street is beautiful in a very artistic colorful, yet rough kinda way. Beautiful, colored homes, flowers with walls tagged with revolutionary graffiti and such. I like the contrasts.

The food is good. I’ve been going out about 40% and cooking in the house. The veggies and sauces and breads are great and the Mezcal, wow! The meat(s), not so much. Wine is expensive and beer is basically free.

I’ve submitted and have been approved (finally) to begin collecting data for my study. This should start next month. Its gonna get really serious, really quickly. I’m looking forward to that.

I’ve hooked into some of the more avantgarde spots in town and have meet some really cool folks thus far. I’m still struggling a little bit with my Spanish. I feel exhausted everyday due to major brain drain. I’ve begun to speak in English using Spanish grammar and have almost lost the ability to form a literate sentence in English. So that’s cool. I’m still struggling to describe my work to folks. I’ve taken to making up stories like “I’m in town doing research on how Oaxacans make love” very trite and mostly used to stop and distract the conversation.

Everything here is a major chore.  Laundry, water, trash, shopping, etc.  Everything we take for granted of course. I basically hate the fact that it takes a hella long time and a ton of energy to do very simple chores.  Positive outcome: really working on being patient.  [It basically feels like I’m camping 24-7. ] Ideas about cleanliness, comfort, etc. are being realigned (re-calibrated).  Not too bad, but definitely experiencing some cognitive dissonance, daily…. hourly.

The male-female interactions, wow, mind blowingly different… so there’s that mierda too.

Its late and I’m venting.  So, just know I’m doing well, healthy, mostly productive, and definitely learning and confirming a lot about what kind of situations I am most comfortable, content in.


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