Global Faculty Adventures
Dr. Debbie Klein--Venezuela 2007. I participated in a Global Exchange Reality Tour to Venezuela. Though the trip was only two weeks long, the experiences and knowledge gained from the tour have directly impacted my teaching, scholarly research, global activism, and personal awareness. My Cultural Anthropology courses include the following Learning Outcomes: demonstrate the wide range of variability of human cultures; identify and demonstrate the dangers of ethnocentrism; and analyze and explain cultural practices as they are embedded within systems of race, class, and gender. Before participating in the Reality Tour, my courses addressed these outcomes through cases studies in Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. Having studied and traveled to Venezuela, I am now able to address these outcomes through the unique and lively case of Venezuela in South America. Since there are so many myths and misunderstandings about Venezuelan politics, getting the chance to meet, study, and network with Venezuelans has been invaluable. As an Anthropologist, there is no substitute for “fieldwork,” actually getting the opportunity to observe, interview, and learn from people whose cultures we seek to understand and represent. I can only hope for similar opportunities for my students. For many Anthropology students, the chance to conduct fieldwork in another culture is perspective-changing and thus life-changing.
While my own research has been located in Nigeria, I have begun to broaden my research to include diasporic, African descended, communities and cultures throughout the Americas. When in Venezuela, I learned that there are communities of African descended Venezuelans who trace their traditions and roots back to Nigeria. This has been an exciting new research avenue for me to explore and gain access to. Of course, I always integrate my research findings into my course curricula so that students benefit from my new findings.
There are many online networks that keep members informed and educated about local and global issues. One such network that I am now participating is a Facebook group called “I went to Venezuela With Global Exchange.” When our students travel with Global Exchange, they too will become part of such “living” networks for the rest of their lives, if they choose. It’s a whole new world!
On a personal note, I was deeply moved by the different forms of community-based and community-driven organizations that were helping people in need throughout Venezuelan cities and small towns. Before this trip, I had never visited community TV and radio stations, housing rehabilitation projects in barrios, farming cooperatives, or urban murals. The opportunity to travel to Venezuela with Global Exchange has imprinted Venezuela on the map of my consciousness in ways that reading books never could. I look forward to taking students there in the future!
Enrique Luna--Cuba 2008. In many ways the structure of the Cuban educational system is very similar to those of the “back to basics” movement in the US. There is an established state curriculum that is disseminated throughout the nation. All students, through middle school wear uniforms, there is standardized testing to measure learning outcomes, a tracking system that leads some students toward specialized and schools, and starting in 3rd grade English is mandatory. 2) Cuba does not face many of the challenges of other nations, including the US. Society is stable in many ways. There is a slight negative population growth, and an established racial make-up. Race/ethnicity issues are much narrower than in the US; predominant racial mix ranges from White, through Mulatto, to African. Stability in these areas provides government an easier target to study problems, and attempt solutions. While there are still economic and racial divisions, the spread from richer to poorer, and racial divisions, are much narrower than in most countries.
Students should go. A tour can identify areas of interest, and Global Exchange will look for ways to fulfill them. It appears that Global Exchange is well established in Cuba, and has significant number of contacts to draw from.
I will definitely include the insights of the trip into my classes; most applicable for me is History 2 coursework. Insights from this trip fit well with discussions of the US Neocolonialism, the Cuban Revolution, the Third World, and current immigration issues. Additionally, material from this trip will likely be part of an Introduction to Global Studies class, currently being written.
Leah Halper --Argentina 2008. I learned how astonishingly similiar US history and Argentinian history are, and how many ways there are to draw parallels. I learned how Argentinians rose up in revolt against the elite class and corrupt government when the nation's economy tanked in 2001 due to unbridled greed and exploitation, with a unhealthy dose of international collusion in the mix--something not seen in the US despite similiar provocations in the last year. And I learned how Argentina's unusual history of racism, immigration, and The Dirty War of the 1970s and 1980s gives this nation its particular sorrowful legacy and its urgency to remember.
Buenos Aires is one of the best places in the world to be young, to have adventures, to learn about another culture. The food, arts, politics, economics, and street life are all hard to beat. Students must visit the memorial for the Disappeared, and talk to some of the Mothers of the Disappeared at the Plaza del Mayo. They should also eat at the Cafe Obrero, stay at the worker owned Cooperative Hotel Bauen, and learn how to tango.
Photo: Sri Lankan boy by James Frazier