In-Country Orientation

Hugo Santiago - Ecuador


December 20, 2015

 

    There’s was this one girl called Tali Bailes (she was in my Spanish class); a girl atteneding Cornell next year who without hesitance was able to catch onto all the little dull grammatical details our Quito Spanish teacher extolled. There was also this other kid named Daniel Horlocher, he was from the global private school “United World College” who caught onto things during our traning seminars-things that just slipped right in front of me. Can’t forget about Hannah Cho. I’ll bet you 10$ right now that if you google search image the words, “cultivated people” there’s a 89.6% chance you’ll be bound to see a picture of her pop out somewhere, sporting a “Wellsley” t-shirt. Hell, this is just three kids from the Ecuador Cohort-a guy would go bonkers hearing about the other 77 fellows scattered across the globe.
    See this is exactly why I signed up for Global Citizen Year. To meet the other fellows, to meet the best of the best from across the world, that was one of my true ambitions on signing the Global Citizen Year Program Contract. Hong Kong, the States, the United Kingdom, Africa-you name it! These kids hail from all across the globe. These were the kids I heard about growing up who attended private schools, who held “State Champion” titles and who made applying to college so competitive-wow.

 

    I just couldn’t view myself as someone who could stand to their caliber, to their accomplishments. I stayed in this mindset toward the end of our days of “In Country Orientation”(ICO) until we were asked to do one of our last training exercises, a priviliage walk. The rules of the walk went like this; everyone started standing next to eachother on a horizontal line, if you could relate to the question at task you either took a step back/forward and if you could not relate you would stay in your place.

 

“If either of your parents did not graduate from college. take one step backward”

 

 

(No. My mom wanted to go so bad…she wanted to graduate high school too…but her mom died, then her brother died, her dad left her to start a new family and the little family that was left was seperated forever. That’s why my mom always told me how special it was that I would be the first in my family to graduate high school, I always rebutted her saying a public high school education was a joke. Why was I such a snot-nosed jerk? Now my mom has been in the United States for over 20 years, she still does not have the documentations to go to Mexico to see the last of her siblings…I’m the only family she has in the States and she’s the only family I’ve ever met-and I’m not even with her…i’m out here in Ecuador…I took my step back).

 

 

 

“If you were raised in an area with crime and drug activity, take one step back
(I remembered the irony on how meth has been sold in my city for years right behind the local police station. Then I thought about how the local police station was also involved in, “the Bell Scandal”-the political scandal where it was found our city officals took advanatge of the immigrants citizens who entrusted them, all in avarice intentions. It was found our former mayor, Oscar Hernandez, was illegally profiting from tax funds even more than the residing president of the United States at the time was payed in office and how in turn my city went near bankrupty for his faults. I took a step back).

 

 


“If you went to galleries, museums, and plays with your family, take one step forward”

 

 

(No, no because they were always working weekdays, weeknights and weekends. Then I felt bad for myself because I saw so many other kids go forward. I thought about all the times my parents were not there for me because they had work. I thought about for all the times I had to stand up to my bullies alone, how I had to figure out about my Mexican culture on my own and most of all how I always hated coming home to no one, so instead I had to resort to my high school staff for support. I thought about how I did not let them be there for me the few times they could be because I was too arragont to accept their apologies/offers. I just stayed in my spot).

 

If you were ever offered a job because of your association with a friend or family member take one step forward.

 

 

(Whoa-this was the first time I really took into account just how many of my peers who took a step forward were Caucasion and just how few were minorities. In the few seconds we had to process what was just asked-I recognized this was what it meant to be a minority in the United States. Just how many minorites worked in factories and how in the professional workforce we are not represented. It also made me remember…I did not have any family in the United States to offer me an internship or simply just…be there for me. The only family I had was in Mexico and they never bothered to call me for a birthday in the 17 years I had been alive. I had never met them. I stood my ground).

 

 


“If you can legally marry the person you love, regardless of where you live, take one step forward.

 

 

(That’s was the one that really broke me. “Oh that’s right-i’m also damn gay” I thought to myself. Dammit. I finally accepted that I was gay and I kept forgetting I was now apart of a new community. “There’s just another bag of issues I have to deal with” I thought, but most of all it hurt to physicall hear it-to hear who I love is not and will not be recognized in other parts of the world, it wasn’t even recognized in my own country up until a few weeks ago. “My love isn’t worth anything…” those were my last thoughts and I really felt like crying for the first time-something I hadn’t done in months. Looking down I tighten the fist my hands made and I stayed in my spot.)
This exercise went on for a while. They were other questions that followed suit where I went forward, stayed in place or took another step back. By the time the questions were finished, I noticed something. We were scattered all across the field, but from my viewpoint I was just looking at the backs of the other fellows, with just a handful of others.
***

 

    Growing up in Bell the minority was the majority, my friends and I always heard terms like “first-generation college student”/”low-income” thrown at us and I never really got ahold of what that meant until my Global Citizen Year commenced on August 19th. The “Privieldge Walk” made me cognizant I deserved to hold the title of a “Global Citizen Year Fellow” just as much as anyone else. From the other fellows I learned that there are kids out who really haven’t faced always being strapped monetarily, who actually have family who can feasibly travel 10,000 miles to visit them in their host countries and who do not know what it is like to be scared of calling the police. Yet, the best thing about these other Fellows is that when I explained how I felt about the “Priveldge Walk” in a speak up is that they did not pity me for my disadvantages and I did not resent them for having what I did not have. Instead we were empathetic-I finally started to get what “Empathy” meant-toward one another. I just have to say I was so glad I was around such open minded people who may or may not have understood where I was coming from, but recognized it rather than a narrow minded person who would just say that I as a “minority” was just not working hard enough to make up for my surroundings (and that makes all the difference in the world).
    As the great Celie from “The Color Purple” once fictionally stated, “I’m poor, black, I might even be ugly, but dear God, I’m here. I’m here”. So I’m starting to get it. I’m poor, brown, I’m a “first” and I may even be gay, but damn I’m here. I’m still here. It has only been about three months since it ignited, but my Global Citizen Year has made me come to the conclusion that I want to represent kids who faced the same struggles and don’t have the support to help them out. I want represent the Poor, the Mexicans, the Gays and most of all I want to represent the “First”‘s (First Generation College Students). I have realized that I want to become a politian to represent my people in a world that is still largely dominated by a majority.
    I draw back to the question we were asked in the privilege activity, “If you were ever offered a job because of your association with a friend or family member take one step forward”. I am a First Generation American and have no family/friend connections to the political workforce-I do not know how I am going to enter the sphere of politics or where to even to start. At the same time, I can’t help but draw back on the inspiration I find in the other Global Citizen Year Fellows. I can do this. I can make this work. I have an entire Global Citizen Year to think it over.

 

 


 

 

Hugo Santiago