During my time as Principal of Carachipampa Christian School I supported a program where a Spanish tutor was available for much of the week to teach on-on-one lessons for teachers. Most of the teachers who came to the school came “short term” and we hoped that if they were able to communicate well in the culture they may extend their time with CCS.
Given my interest in the language development of teachers, and my position at the time of “education consultant” for SIM Bolivia, I was asked by the mission to establish a language centre for training SIM missionaries in Spanish and perhaps in Quechua. The centre began in one of the old, adobe houses on the Carachipampa grounds. I think we had 4 or 5 tutors who taught one-on-one classes to teachers from the school and others from SIM and sometimes from other missions.
Later, when the house in Carachipampa was no longer available, the mission allowed us to use the property in Av. Ayachucho which was much closer to the centre of the city. At that time I had a number of different responsibilities and could not spend too much time in the Centro but it was obvious to me that Mauge was very capable of organizing things such as timetables, staffing and finances and she took over most of the operation of the Centro. When, in 2005, we left Cochabamba to return to Australia, SIM asked me what would be happening to the Centro de Idiomas. I suggested that they simply hand over the Centro to Mauge to run as a Centro independent from SIM. This was done and the rest, as they say, is history!
My involvement with the Centro de Idiomas was organizational and oversight as well as arranging for culture orientation visits such as those to the city, the Cancha, art galleries, and the Portales museum. It was always amusing, though embarrassing, hearing new arrivals trying to communicate with stall owners in the markets: using the idea that if you just say it louder and slower in English they will understand! Of course, we all make mistakes when learning another language and some of these are hilarious! I hope a list has been kept for the amusement of those to come.
I was also able to invite visiting speakers to sessions with the language students. In particular I remember Yuri Ortuño speaking about la musica autoctina in Bolivia and Jaime Escalante speaking about education. Jaime, a “hero” of Bolivian and North American education has now passed away but I still remember that once he began on his favourite topics on education, he was very hard to stop!
The visits and speakers were partly orientation, so that students could “survive”, but they were also to help them become immersed in the culture. Language and communication are central to our living and engaging with all those around us. When those around us are from another culture, with another language, it is so essential that we work not only to learn the language but also to understand the culture within which the language has meaning.
Meaning is developed together with other human beings and, while it may be possible for us to develop “our” understanding of a particular phrase or word, understanding what it “means” within another cultural setting is a whole other thing. As I have learned over the last thirty years, we can simply translate into English words like, for example, tu in Spanish, quanxi in Chinese, orubuntu in some African languages, but the literal translation is devoid of so many layers of richness and meaning that are only acquired with long term engagement with the cultures in which the words and their specific meanings have evolved.
The Centro, now Conexiones Entre Mundos, has always stressed a deep engagement with the culture in order to give students the most complete language learning experience possible.
Since 2005 and our return to Australia, I have only been able to very briefly visit Conexiones twice but as I hear from Mauge and visiting the website, it is such a blessing to me to see the variety of programs and the Christian ministry foundation of the work.
Adelante con Dios.
Geoff Beech, PhD
So what Happened in Geoff's life all these years?
After teaching in Australian schools for around 20 years, Geoff and his family were called to serve in Carachipampa for 2 years. Little did they know that they would finally be leaving the country 16 years later! For the first few years in Cochabamba, Geoff taught in Carachipampa before becoming the school principal for 3 years. Later Geoff was SIM’s education consultant for Bolivia and then internationally. Apart from setting up the language center, during that time he worked with Bolivian Christian schools, helping to organize conferences and local and national associations as well as preparing some education materials.
On returning to Australia in 2005, Geoff worked with the National Institute for Christian Education—a postgraduate training center for Christian teachers. His PhD on decision making of leaders in city and rural leaders in Bolivia was completed, with some coordinating assistance from Mauge who helped to arrange interviews with local leaders around Cochabamba.
In 2012, Geoff’s wife, Michelle passed away from cancer and the next year, following the death of his father, he took an early retirement from his position as Academic Dean of the Institute to care for his elderly mother. In late 2015 Geoff married Beth, a missionary from the USA who had worked in Bolivia for many years and they live near Sydney, Australia. Beth now serves as the Academic Dean of the Institute and regularly gives Geoff work to do—writing courses and supervising some online students—as well as co-writing a book, as well as doing research and writing articles with him.
Thank you so much dear Geoff for sharing with us a liittle bit of yourself, your loved ones and your connection with us. We are grateful for you life, you ministry and the amazing impact it has made in the lives of others.