OTTUMWA — When we travel, or even simply meet travelers, we can learn as much about our own way of life as we do about theirs. And sometimes, similarities make our differences stand out.
Ottumwa Rotary had five visitors from the South American nation of Chile. One, John Bolton, is a Rotarian from there. The other four are young professionals, sponsored by Rotary to travel internationally.
"This is our fourth week in Iowa," said John Bolton, the Chilean Rotary member and leader of the delegation.
Though the four travelers with him are not currently Rotary members, their guides locally were.
"Part of the [idea] is to promote peace," said John Helgerson of Ottumwa, "through communication and friendship."
His guests, all young, English-speaking professionals, agreed that it's less likely friends will declare war on one another.
"We exchange opinions and learn from each other," Bolton said.
Rotary makes sure the exchange groups get to visit and study businesses, but they are also able to tailor a trip to professional interests of the party, which in this case consisted of four teachers and an attorney.
For example, that morning, the group observed a lesson on English Language Learner reading at the Ottumwa school district. Bolton said it was similar to what the group's English teachers do in Chile: teach a Spanish-speaking child how to read in English. The visiting teachers even had their own suggestions on how to enhance the learning.
"Not only does the student read, but talk about what they are reading as well," said Javiera Reyes Araya, an English teacher.
That way, the student is encouraged to speak and think, in English, about the words they've read on the page.
Club members also adjusted on the fly. The travelers had already visited an area education agency, where they witnessed the co-op nature of those regional education supporters and the surrounding schools. So instead of going to another one as scheduled in Ottumwa, member Tom Lazio contacted his daughter, a teacher, to see about getting the group a visit to an in-session public school.