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www.zidao.com Apprentice harmonizer, for sheer fun. Journeywoman writer, for work and pleasure. Starting point was Iowa, current stopping point on this journey is Switzerland, with frequent pauses around the world to watch and listen to the crowd, and occasionally make comments.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A world of small Christmas tales: Santiago owls


Santiago, Chile, 2001

These owls, of hammered tin, were one of the many charms of the Pueblito de Los Domínicos, a crafts market in the capital. I was there to visit international schools, but the most memorable stop was at a proud little school in a shantytown, run by parents who were determined to give their children and their country a brighter future. The friendships forged by international students at Redland School and their poorer neighbors held much promise for the future. Redland helped create and supports the bright white primary school that sits at the edge of dirt paths edged by lean-to homes made of tin not much stronger than that used for the Christmas tree owls.

Before visiting Chile I knew little about the country except that it had very good wines, a reputation for beauty, and that its recent history was stained by the blood of one president, Allende, dead in a coup, and by the blood of thousand of citizens spilled by another president, Pinochet. Two teachers insisted I visit the presidential home where Allende died. The sheer ordinariness of the scene, with two young female police officers guarding the door and chatting and laughing, was eerily at odds with recent history.

I hope the history of the near future belongs to the shantytown children, and they learn to tend it as carefully as the little fenced in flower gardens they grew from seed, at their school.

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