Conferences, or how to write a memoria in no easy steps


November 2, 2012 by jiejie768

As some of you know, I am working on my Master’s in Spanish Language and Culture at the Universidad de Salamanca. I spent part of last summer in Salamanca taking classes and this year, I am writing my “memoria” (thesis). I finish up my classes next summer and on July 26, 2013 I’ll graduate in the Paraninfo, with Miguel de Unamuno and Fray Luis looking down from Heaven (or at least from their portraits). Most people I’ve talked to are NOT excited about writing the memoria but I’m actually kind of looking forward to it. I like doing research and I am in the (probably) unique position of not working full time this year. I’ve also chosen a topic that relates specifically to Peru and the population of this area. Hopefully, this will force me to stay on schedule, as I only have so much time to be immersed in the topic and it will be much harder to do when I’m not here anymore (tear). Meg 2-Memoria 0 (which also reflects how much I’ve written so far…a big fat 0).

This past week I took time off from KATC to attend two educational conferences with the goals of focusing my research, finding sources and networking.

As with everything in Peru, the conference began with a parade. Here are the remnants.

I found the speakers at both conferences (one in Ayacucho and one in Lima) to be similar to the academic presentations we were required to attend at USAL this summer. The speakers get up, or more often than not, stay seated, and read off a paper. Sometimes what they say relates to, or directly quotes, the notes they gave us. Sometimes it has NOTHING to do with what you thought they were going to discuss. Sometimes there are no notes to follow at all. Sometimes the topic is on point and interesting. Sometimes they spend 55 minutes of a 90 minute presentation talking about the parts of the brain, and you’re left wondering, “I thought his topic was educational reform and teacher development???”

I met some interesting people at both conferences. The woman I sat next to at the dedication in Ayacucho is in the first year of opening a new school and invited me to visit. I’ve been wanting to visit schools here, so that was exciting. The general director of the Bilingual and Rural Education office, who gave a fascinating presentation, said I could have a copy of her Power Point to use as a resource for my memoria. I heard presentations that related exactly to my topic and ones that didn’t relate to what I’m studying, but demonstrated how similar the Peruvian and American school systems can be, even though I don’t necessarily see that on a day-to-day basis.

The Director of Bilingual and Rural Education presenting in Ayacucho.

The conference in Lima was okay. I was expecting more, if I’m being completely honest. The topic, Linguistics and Education, is exactly what I’m writing my memoria about and I had high expectations. The biggest problem was the organization. Nothing started or ended on time, speakers didn’t show, the sign-up process was confusing, some speakers went over on time and pushed out other speakers I would have rather listened to. It was just a little strange.

However, there were definitely highlights. The two main speakers on Thursday, Liliana Sanchez and Virginia Zavala, are very important linguists here in Peru, and they were fascinating. It was also nice that the audience was small. The Ayacucho conference was absolutely huge, and it was hard to see and hear. The Lima conference was in a small auditorium at Universidad Nacional San Marcos. Overall, I’m glad I went to both conferences, but after four days and no sleep on Wednesday, I was burned out. I also really missed the kids this week. It has been 10 days since I’ve been at KATC! I did meet lots of interesting people. Everyone was so kind and wanted to talk about KATC, living in Ayacucho, my research, etc. … People are always shocked that we don’t live in Lima. They kept checking our tickets to make sure we were getting on the right plane today. Aren’t you supposed to be going to Cusco with the other gringos? Nope!

A simple chart to show you where to place accent marks in Spanish. Viva linguistics!

P.S. One more thing: Can we ban cellphones at events like these? Even though my Spanish is good, I miss things when I’m distracted, and I was frequently distracted by people’s phones going off and then them either taking the call IN THE ROOM or trying to leave. Seriously, if I took a drink every time a phone rang, I’d be dead. I’d have been dead if I was drinking juice (diabetic shock … the juice is really sweet here … that’s how diabetic shock works, right?). If I had a Peruvian Nuevo Sol for every ring, the trip would have been paid for (sponsorship by Movistar and Claro) … I could go on.

2 thoughts on “Conferences, or how to write a memoria in no easy steps

  1. Pattipeg says:

    My colleague who was one of the foci of my memoria decided the last week of August that she didn’t want to be observed after all, so I’m having to start from scratch. Keep writing about your memoria, and I’ll be inspired to keep working on mine, in spite of distractions. Good luck.

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