¡Gracias Santi!

Santi OutdoorsAs we draw near the end of this inaugural year of Casa de la Mateada, it is time to offer heartfelt thanks to those who have given so generously of themselves to the program. It has been a team effort all the way, with folks from LMU joining those of us here in Córdoba to help bring this amazing new study abroad program into existence. The team at LMU worked hard for over two years in Los Angeles before hiring Santiago Bunce to lead the way in preparing the ground in Córdoba. Santi’s tireless efforts and creative energy were crucial to the birth of Casa here in Argentina. He left the team in January 2014 to pursue other work. He also left his mark on all of us and on the program. We want to take a moment here to remember all that he did and how he touched us, with his leadership, intelligence, fierce energy, infectious (often goofy) humor, mad fútbol skills and (of course) musical stylings. What follows is a small expression of appreciation from some of those (colleagues and students) whose lives he touched during the past year. ¡Gracias Santi!

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Santi Jen“After being hired by LMU and trained at Casa de la Solidaridadin El Salvador, Santi landed in Argentina in February 2013, sleeping at his uncle’s house while slowly learned to navigate Córdoba. This was a city that was both new to him (he had never lived here before) as well as a kind of hometown (his mother’s family live here). He had to implement LMU’s vision for the program more or less from scratch; and he had exactly 6 months to accomplish this gigantic task before students would arrive, expecting a fully operational program.

Everything that we have in the program now—three rented houses, furniture, dishes, staff, policies, students, faculty, praxis community relationships—bears witness to his hard work and perseverance to create something where there was nothing in that intense stretch of time.  When Doug and I came to visit him in Córdoba a few months after he moved here, we felt how lucky we were to be able to work with him—an extraordinary guy who was witty, smart, determined and able to get things done.  We also discovered his  major weakness for sour patch candy, watching the Simpsons, and Reeses peanut butter cups, all of which was quite endearing.  Santi made moving across cultural and linguistic boundaries look so easy, even though we knew from our own clumsy personal experience, how hard it was. Maybe it was the fact that he could play fútbol so well that added to his credibility.  At any rate, there are very few people who could have accomplished what he managed to do.  We are very grateful to him because we know the Casa program in Argentina owes its shape here to him.” (Jennifer Abe, Professor/Co-Director)

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“I never thought I would have the experience of meeting a guy from North America who came here to Argentina to work with me and who ended up feeling like my brother. My brother. That is so amazing to me. Thank you Santi for everything!” (Martin Maldonado, Professor).

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Santi Red“When I think of Santi, and the gift it has been to work with him and call him my friend, I immediately think of some one who always has my back- which in the end, there is no greater expression of friendship; nothing more simple, and yet more important. And that’s what our friendship has been – support, comfort, making each other laugh when that’s the last thing we feel like doing, some one to laugh with (and occasionally laugh at), a shoulder to cry on, endless conversations and YouTube watching sessions.  Being so far away from everything I’ve ever known and loved, Santi’s friendship and his ability to make you feel supported, heard and loved has meant more to me than he could ever know. But that’s what he does. He makes you feel home.” (Michelle Lally, Community Coordinator)

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“This program would not be where it is today without all Santi’s work. Thank you for dedicating so much time and energy to creating Casa de la Mateada. I miss our car rides going shopping when we would blast music with the windows rolled down. I loved having lunch with you, many times leading to dessert afterwards. I loved watching different comedians with you and Michelle after a long week or big event; it was such a good way to relax. Thank you for sharing your friends and for showing me parts of a Córdobese life. Thank you Santi!” (Bianca McNeil, Community Coordinator)

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“Santi was the older brother I always wanted. He encouraged my ambition to play guitar, learn the in and outs of futbol, and of course, talk to Argentine ladies. If our parents (LMU) hadn’t been watching I’m sure we’d have endless tales to tell that I couldn’t share here. But hey, Santi prevented me from scaling various heights, and so I must thank him for protecting me.” (Dan Letchinger, Fall, 2013)

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Santi Swordfight“Casa de La Mateada took a lot of effort from a lot of people, none more deserving than Santi. Much is to be said about his hard work, but what really stood out to me were his childlike disposition and honesty about incorporating the Casa experience into life back home. In a female dominated program the guidance from Santi was particularly important for the first cohort of casa males. Santi had the ability to lead and organize while maintaining a light hearted, childlike disposition. One time he yelled at Dan and I for playing the guitar in less than decent attire upon the casa roof. After a thorough ass chewing he walked away, stopped and admitted his understanding of our actions and that he would have probably been doing the same thing in his Casa era. He embodies a lot of the qualities casa tries to develop, and anyone with connection to the program knows that that is much easier said than done.” (Jake Wild Crea, Fall, 2013)

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Santi group“He really made a place for us in Cordoba, a niche for the CASA program, as well as one for each of us as individuals. The way that Santi cared for my CASA cohort and connected with our friends at the Praxis sites exemplifies his caring spirit. In and out of class he helped me grapple with hard questions and was always ready with a dad-style joke. He generously offered hospitality in more ways than imaginable. He helped me with language questions, encouraged us to engage with the communities we encountered, and did everything he possibly could to keep us comfortable and safe. Santi shared his experiences, knowledge, passions, and care. I will be forever grateful for his friendship as well as the impact he has had through the CASA program which he put so much love into establishing. Santi really is a person for and with others, hund-oh-p (one-hundred-percent)!”  (Catherine Goggins, Fall, 2013)

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“Thank you for everything you did for CASA. I know you made it the most incredible experience possible. It honestly changed my life and I am so grateful. I wish you luck in your next adventures. So much love for you.” (Jake Harter, Fall, 2013)

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Santi AlyssaI remember meeting Santi when he came to LMU to recruit for CASA.  I had already applied and he was super enthusiastic and really welcoming.  Little did he know he was in for the time of his life with some of the coolest students EVER, but I also was unaware that it was the start of a beautiful friendship.  Papa Sants was our protector while he was in Argentina.  He was such a dad and was always looking out for us.  We could also just have real talk with him about things that were going on in our praxis sites. Even though we did not get to hang out with him as much as we wanted to, he would still find time for us to jam to Justin Bieber on the acoustic guitar.  We didn’t see him as often as we would have liked because of the insane amount of work that he did for us, but it did not go unnoticed.  He managed to work, go to school, be there for us, and still play soccer every week.  He was such a gift to all of us this past semester and I will forever be grateful for his ridiculous sense of humor and work for the program.  Santi was one of the best parts of our CASA experience, and words cannot begin to express how grateful I am to have met him.  (Alyssa Perez, Fall, 2013)

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Looking back on my time in Argentina, I find myself considering it a unique slice of time that can never be replicated or justly described. This has made me think a lotSanti Dancing about time and relationships in general. The conversations and friendships we cultivated seem to have left a mark on me and my attitude, as well as how I interact with the world now even though they come from a very specific and beautiful time and place an entire continent away. This is especially true about my relationship with Santi. Serving as a rock and companion for most everyone in the program, Santi was a stronghold for each and every participant of the Fall 2013 CASA Program. His strength of spirit and resolve were notable and his dedication to a program where challenges seemed to arise on a daily basis is truly admirable. Always there as a shoulder to cry on, even as he had what seemed like the world resting on those shoulders, he exemplifies what it means to be a true leader and friend. His constant joking and loving spirit is something I think about often when facing challenges of my own as well as when I am needed to help others through their crises. As unselfish and giving as they come, Santi taught us all something about both ourselves and our place in the world over just the course of a semester. The man that Santi is, in spirit and action, is what we should all aspire to be. (Kayleigh Sobieski, Fall, 2013)

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“I honestly cannot picture my time in Argentina without our co-director, Santi. Day after day he continually showed us his selflessness and love. I’ll never forget our first free weekend in Argentina. Naturally, we had wanted to experience the night life that many speak so highly of. On a cab ride back our home, another cab hit ours as lanes merged into one. My head hit the door and I got a concussion. The second we got home Santi was there and made sure that I was going to be okay and took me to the hospital. He sat with me the entire time, made sure that I stayed awake, translated what the doctors were saying, and made me laugh. I cannot express my gratitude enough for that night or for the many days that he spent with us. Thank you for absolutely everything from letting us embarrass you at your soccer game to letting us bug you about saldo to letting us take over your home at least every Monday. Thank you for absolutely everything you did for us those four months!” (Amanda Montez, Fall, 2013)

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“Santi, you accompanied us students with so much heart and strength. You grounded us in the new reality of life in Argentina, the joys, worries, and wonders. You introduced us to your friends, stories, sports, struggles, and favorite songs and quotations. You strove to make simple living, Community, Accompaniment, Spirituality, Academics, relationships with praxis sites, the LMU mission, and more, real and accessible and knowable and good for all of us. You laughed with us, teased us, endured teasing from us, played music with us, listened to us, shared of yourself, and gave us so much. You were a director, a teammate, a role model/protector, and friend. For that I, and all us students, are truly grateful. Every day memories from my time in Argentina flash into my mind – you helped make so many of them happen. Muchas gracias, para siempre.” (Sarah Scherk, Fall, 2013)

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Santi Outside with Jen“Have you ever noticed the sparkle of the sun’s reflection on pieces of metal like cars and things? I think of them as sun jewels and they’re beautiful because they follow you as far as they can. I remember the day you brought me a McDonald’s freeze ice cream. I was extremely sad that day. And then we sat in the back yard and we just talked. What you shared and your advice made me feel hopeful. What if you hadn’t been there and that conversation never took place? We must consider the fact that an experience would be changed in its entirety if a piece(person) of that experience were a replaced with another piece (person in this case). It wouldn’t have been what it was without you. I have great admiration for you and wish you all the best. Your hard work didn’t go unnoticed in our eyes.  (Lorena Brothers, Fall 2013).

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