Putting the Shades on Quito
Life is not black and white; we see shades of gray wherever we go. Unfortunately, the article “The Quito Classroom” (winter 2003, Bates Magazine) depicted only the black side of the CBB students’ experiences in Quito last fall. Though study-abroad experiences should be frustrating and even completely shocking, I believe that the lessons learned from these examples inappropriately generalized the reality in Ecuador. As a Bates grad working for the Andean Center for Latin American Studies, I saw these students’ experiences from a different perspective.
The article’s descriptions of northern Quito are one-sided. The mention of gates around ACLAS and the homestay family houses is going to be malinterpreted by North American readers who do not understand the security issues Ecuadorians deal with because of the grave social inequalities that permeate society. In the United States, gated communities are a sign of privilege and power. Here, they are a necessity.
I also feel that the article inappropriately depicted the students as heroes in their social-service environments. With all respect for the work the students did, I guarantee that what they gained from these contexts is double what they were able to give.
I do believe it is incredibly important to discuss and bring into light the negative aspects of the students’ experience here. These are important learning tools. Yet, positive lessons learned from Ecuadorians were not included. The article didn’t mention how culturally important it is to greet every single person with a kiss on the cheek upon entering a room. One student said that she became so accustomed to this that she had difficulty not kissing someone on the cheek when she got back to the United States. Nowhere does the article discuss the ALCA protests witnessed by students, the unique experiences students had in the indigenous market in Otavalo, or the conversations students frequently had with the taxi drivers who brought them home. These cultural differences challenge North American students to think about their own cultural identity — a very valuable lesson indeed.
If we seek to live in an international community that strives not to judge and put other people and cultures in boxes that are labeled and stored away for later, I feel that this article does not support this goal. As many members of the Bates community will be exposed to Ecuador for the first time when they read this article, I would have hoped for it to better explore the complexities of these situations and other, more positive experiences.
Nissa Gainty ’02
I, my wife, and our two children lived in Quito for five years. (The city, by the way is 9,500 feet above sea level, not 7,500). At that time the population was slightly under 1 million, which the city was better able to accommodate.
Small as the country is, it really is divided into many parts: the sierra, Quito and Cuenca; the coast, Guayaquil, Manta, Esmeraldas; other remote cities, such as Loja, near the Peruvian border. Not to mention the rain forests of the Amazon or the beautiful Galapagos Islands. The vernacular, customs, and expectations of people from these diverse areas frequently clash in Quito, where they all converge. In addition to the Spanish language, indigenous folks speak two totally distinct languages, Quechua and Quichua. The experiences of the Bates students reflect not only the culture shock but also the conflicts of seemingly friendly people who express a high degree of xenophobia toward foreigners of almost any origin.
The discrimination witnessed by the students permeates the Spanish language: chola (indigenous woman), flaco (skinny), gordo (fat). Some words appear to be used innocently; however, as we have learned with our own language, an important way to reduce discrimination is to refrain from using pejorative words — a difficult but constructive process.
We lived in an elegant house surrounded by poor indigenous folks who were open and friendly because our children played with their children and, when they jointly constructed a new home, a process called a minga, we would contribute beer and food. All of which is to say that we had a wonderful and enriching experience.
Would that we still lived there to receive the bright and curious students from Maine and share our experiences with them. Congratulations to Professor Guerra for helping to create such a vibrant and challenging program.
Stephen Hotchkiss ’60
On the Mark
The winter 2003 issue was just super! Our daughter Anne rowed for eight years — many happy and cold memories. Your “Quito Classroom” was right on the mark — the kind of lessons we need to learn to really understand and relate to our southern neighbors, and the ice storm story brings memories of crawling to the bio lab.
Emily Althausen ’62
To show you how far Bates has come in a half-century, I offer the following.
My good friend and classmate, and he will be unnamed, was dismissed from Bates one week before graduation because he chalked, on the road in front of Bardwell, our dorm, the following about his roommate: “_____ loves _____.” The dean of men found out his name, and he was dismissed from the school. He was a Korean vet, on the GI Bill, and the next semester graduated from Bates, making up lost credits. Now, a student is pictured in your winter 2003 magazine (page 2) chalking comments about homosexuality on a campus street, and he gets publicity, not expulsion. As a follow-up, my friend married a Bates coed, has a successful business career, and still is deeply involved in Bates as a loyal alumnus and friend. His roommate did not marry the woman whose name was chalked in the street, and the dean of men hanged himself.
Robert Greenberg ’54
Swing and a Miss
In the winter 2003 issue, you have ignominiously flunked your own test (page 4) on the Polo Grounds. As you noted, it was truly the “shot heard round the world” and finished the regular 1951 season, “The Little Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff.”
However, the “shot” was by Bobby Thomson. There was another Giant, Henry Thompson, but he was not involved.
Robert T. Ruggles P’83
Leave it to us, lifelong Red Sox fans, to blow it when talking about a pennant drive. — Editor
One small correction to the excellent article on crew at Bates (“Different Strokes,” winter 2003). Jo (Trogler Reynolds ’58) and I didn’t buy the two wooden shells that were the crew’s very first boats. In the mid-1980s, I was teaching a Short Term unit on environmental politics. One day, two of my students asked to be excused the next day because they were rowing in the first Bates-Colby regatta in 100 years. “What do you have for a boat?” I asked. (They did not know that our daughter Carin rowed at Dartmouth and for the United States so I had some interest in the subject.) “Oh, we don’t have a boat,” was the answer. “We’re borrowing a boat from Colby.” That was too much for a Batesie to take. I had a little money in the bank from a surprise class-action settlement, so I burst out, “I’ll buy you a boat!” Jo helped, and we bought the crew their very first new boat, a Schoenbrod 4+, which we named Jonathan Y. Stanton after the famous Bates professor. Later we bought the first eight-oared shell, a used Schoenbrod we named the Ernest P. Muller for our favorite Bates history professor. The two wooden Pocock shells were actually donated by Colby, so we owe them a round of applause for their generosity.
Grant Reynolds ’57
It was an editor’s error. — Editor
The Fire of ’47 reminder (“Scene Again,” winter 2003) gave us one view of those extraordinary days. While the picture of Bates men packed into a pickup truck going off to battle the flames was accurate in the early days, I recall an increasingly sophisticated operation as time went on. The Outing Club took on the responsibility of bringing order to the campus response. George Billias ’48 convinced Harry Rowe ’12 that men should be forgiven “cuts” accumulated on fire duty. Arrangements were made with the Lewiston fire department to channel requests for crews from around the state to the College. The fire department also provided bus transportation to some fire locations.
I recall going to Bowdoinham, Kennebunk, and Kezar Falls with different Bates crews. In the night trip to Kezar Falls we counted 13 blazes on the horizon before arriving at our assignment. In the center of town there was a truck in the yard of every house and family belongings were being loaded. From the staging point for crews, I was loaded on a dump truck with five other Bates men. We were taken up Route 160 toward the heart of the fire then devastating Brownfield. Halfway to Brownfield we were dropped off at a farm with brooms and shovels and told to try to save the buildings. Soon the fire roared through trees on the hills behind the farm. We moved into the hay fields and beat out small fires before they could reach buildings. After the fire passed, we sat in the dark and cold, wondering if Kezar Falls had been wiped out. At dawn a truck picked us up and headed for Brownfield where nothing remained except the winter supply of coal burning in each cellar hole. Kezar Falls was spared by a wind shift.
The 1948 Mirror records that more than 300 Bates men served on fire duty. And the football State Series was delayed two weeks by the fires.
Stanley Freeman ’47
For an excellent account of the Maine fires that burned for 10 days in late October 1947, torching 220,000 acres and destroying nine communities and more than 1,000 houses, read Joyce Butler’s Wildfire Loose (1987, Down East Books). — Editor
I was the engineer for then-WVBC one night a week in spring 1953. I spun the records (33 1/3 r.p.m.) for the “mystery woman’s” program, which was called “Your Girl.” She used a sensuous voice, which we would call “sexy” today, to read her prepared script. Some evenings her boyfriend would meet her at the end of the program. I believe it was from 9 to 10 p.m. The mystery woman was Ardie Ulpts ’53.
Roger TannerThies ’55
Jefferson City, Mo.
Ardie Ulpts ’53 reports that yes, she was the “Your Girl” host and says the show was patterned after a similar radio show popular in Boston at the time. — Editor
I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see that Bates was among 28 colleges that filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the University of Michigan’s admissions policies. I find it very sad that in 2003, so many of the “leading liberal arts” colleges continue to find it impossible to judge individuals on their own merits. Sadly, Bates does not yet have the integrity or courage to reach for Dr. King’s dream “that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
It is reprehensible that any institution, much less one that is dedicated to educating the youth of the world, should consider skin color a viable means of measuring “diversity.” Is not diversity achieved best by seeking out the best students from the four corners of the world and throughout this great nation? Is one person from inner-city New York more diverse than the one in the next apartment over because their skins are different colors? Doesn’t bringing a bright student from the Deep South yield more diversity than bringing another one from Massachusetts who just happens to be of a different race?
Shame on Bates for failing to live up to its own stated goals and ideals.
James W. Hunt ’84
Background on the amicus brief is at www.bates.edu/amicus-brief.xml. — Editor
The Ultimate Sacrifice
Merle Eastman ’43 is on the mark in the winter 2003 Class Notes (page 38). It’s time for Bates to recognize Veterans Day. Why cancel classes and devote a day of events to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., yet do nothing similar for all those who have served (and continue to serve) this country in the military? I hope next year’s academic calendar on Nov. 11 reflects the sacrifice that veterans have been making for over 200 years.
Jeff Mutterperl ’92
New York, N.Y.