Late October and early November brought several of my indigenous colleagues north on a joint speaking tour. It was truly a dream, and sometimes a bit of a nightmare, to introduce these friends to life up here. Not that they haven’t seen us all on TV and in the movies…but there are many realities that you can only get by being here.
The nightmare of course is getting a visa and traveling by air these days. Everyone seems to be treated like livestock, with potential criminal tendencies. An exaggerated fear of invaders forces us to walk through mazes in long lines, obediently removing shoes, belts and submitting to searches. All travelers must walk through immigration and customs and act calm while others go over our passports and belongings, sometimes confiscating things we were hoping to bring as gifts. My indigenous friends did this in pairs, coming from Bolivia and Perú, some leaving their hometowns for the first time ever and some, more seasoned travelers.
But the fun part was showing these folks some northern hospitality, the beautiful fall foliage, a bit of snow from the freak storm, some stunning parks and wooded places. And of course, our overabundant shopping malls and highways. We spent the first night near Warren Dunes State Park on the edge of Lake Michigan, then went to speak and listen at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. The occasion was a Symposium on the Teaching and Learning of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America, and there were classroom teachers, endangered language specialists, curriculum developers, a handful of anthropologists and historians, all talking about supporting and learning from speakers of populous languages like Quechua and Maya, and languages with few remaining speakers, like Yurakeré.
From Notre Dame, we went on to speak at Harvard School of Education, saw the curriculum kit room at the Boston Children’s Museum, and then to Rutgers University in New Jersey. Now we are back to our scattered places of work, hoping to keep the fires of collaboration burning via the internet and future joint projects.