Chile 2014: Volcano Climb

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How do you climb the Villarrica volcano? The answer is: one step at a time, with instruction from professional guides who showed us how to use our ice picks to support our steady advance up the wet snow trail. The way up requires good knees, as well as a significant amount of sweat and patience, although no technical knowledge. At the summit, the volcano decides how long you get to stay – in our case, we had only just changed into our windproof gear before a cloud engulfed the view, and the wind began to send noxious gases our way. Our guides rounded us up and started us on our exhilarating descent, swiftly gliding on small plastic sleds down a snowy trail almost all the way to the bottom. After all our efforts to reach the top we would have liked to linger, but nature spoke, and this time we really had to listen.

Next up: Crunch time


Chile 2014: Dinner with a Friend

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Max is not just our van driver – he’s a knowledgeable environmentalist, an organic gardener, a seasoned ecotourism guide, and he’s also our friend. Although the group of students changes each year, Max welcomes us as if we were old friends, even those of us getting to know him for the first time. On every step of our journey in Pucon, Max has been there to provide guidance, support and insight into life, ecosystems and culture in this corner of Chile. One piece of Max wisdom is that you can achieve great things through love, caring and respect, and that learning to value one’s environment starts with respecting the people immediately around you. Our dinner as a group was a celebration of the ongoing friendship that has become a valuable part of our students’ Chile experience year after year. Salud!

Next up: Volcano Climb

Chile 2014: The Eyes of Lake Caburgua

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Los Ojos de Caburgua, or the Eyes of Lake Caburgua, are pools of water that form along the path of a river that appears to emerge from nowhere – nowhere, in this case, is actually an underground river that connects the series of turquoise pools, streams and waterfalls to their source, Caburgua Lake. The pathway alongside the “eyes” winds through native forest and up natural steps of tangled roots to various lookout points where we can capture the white-foam waterfalls with our cameras. But the photos are only a flat representation of a truly beautiful place which people will be able to enjoy for many years to come, thanks to interest from national and international tourists. We have made our contribution by paying a visit, thus showing the world that, in our opinion, Chile’s natural wonders are worth preserving.

Chile 2014: Chilling with Nature at Corral del Agua

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Our two-night stay at Corral del Agua ranch was a welcome break from technology, with no internet access or cell phone service, and it was a chance to rediscover our more carefree selves in nature. Our activities included hiking to a nearby waterfall, sharing laughter and music around the fire pit, and riding horses through a field bordered by forest and grazing cows. At Corral del Agua, we focused on one of the important concepts of the Introduction to Human Ecology course; to want to preserve nature, it is important to care about it, and one of the best ways to learn to care about nature is through direct contact. So even relaxing, when we’re outdoors, is part of our learning and part of the work we traveled so far to do.

Next up: working on research project and visiting Ojos de Carburgua park.

Chile 2014 : Overnight Hike through El Cañi

by Lindsay Cox

The hike through El Cañi reserve was long and uphill, and could have been very arduous. But we took the advice of Rod Walker, our Cani 3guide and the father of environmental education in Chile: walk slowly so you have the energy to feel, observe, and maybe take a moment to talk to the person next to you. The breeze introduced us to the fragrance of plant species which were new to our senses, and the birdsong and running water formed a constant yet varied natural music.  In the steep sections, the rhythm of slow walking helped carry us up, and we had time to reflect on our experiences thus far, which have been many in a few short days. Our overnight trip in El Cañi was the culmination of some of the concepts of human ecology we had been discussing– human beings cannot exist separately from nature, there is intrinsic value in exploring our connection to nature, and our connections with other people help us to expand our vision of how we interact with our world.

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Chile 2014: A Glimpse into the Mapuche Culture

by Lindsay Cox

Dinner in the RukaRuka Kimun was built for educational purposes in the style of a traditional Mapuche home. Historically, families in a Mapuche community would get together and form task groups to complete various parts of the construction – cutting straw, logging, preparing food for the workers – all was done using local materials, sometimes prepared far in advance.

We dined in the Ruka while we chatted with Curi, our guide, who is also a wood carver who creates traditional Mapuche statues. During our tour, we also visited the native forest of Cerro Ñielol, where we learned about medicinal plants and herbs still in use in Mapuche medicine.

Studying native plants in ChileTo end the day, we visited the greenhouses of a Mapuche women dedicated to collecting and cultivating the seeds of native plants in order to prevent their extinction. It was a fascinating glimpse into one culture’s intimate relationship with its surroundings.

Next up: An overnight hiking trip to El Cañi nature preserve.

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All photos courtesy of Piedrosa Obrera del Arte (Nayade)

Chile 2014: Mud-slinging in Los Riscos

by Lindsay Cox 

Students learn mud-slinging to build houses in Chile. I don’t believe we’ll soon forget our first day of mud-slinging (among other work) at the building site in Los Riscos, the future home of a Waldorf school run by Pucon resident and environmentalist Jerry Laker. Jorge and Leo, our mentors and builders, made it look so easy – scoop up a handful of the sand, clay, straw and manure mixture, take aim at a spot on the wall, and release! Once stuck on the wall, smooth with a spatula and repeat. Keep repeating, and you’ll soon have a smooth surface that will be ready for painting once dry. This looked easy, so we took aim and fired with confidence; our mudballs flopped onto the floor like sad, somewhat stinky pancakes. But with some patience from Jorge and Leo, and over the course of the next couple of hours, our hands became acquainted with the texture, elasticity and unique nature of our building material. Slinging the mixture on the wall became easier; we acquired just the right touch for smoothing so that our recently completed work would not cake off. Both students and teachers reached a rhythm, a harmony with our surroundings and our teammates; it seems we reached the point where we could just begin to put our fingers on the pulse of sustainable building.

Over three days of hands-on volunteer work (not only mud-slinging, but also hauling rock and sand, carpentry, and equipment repair) and conversations with our new friends in Los Riscos, our students got a first-hand peek at what it means to be a sustainable “do-it-yourselfer”. Use what is at hand (old bottles, cans and bags were used to fill interiors of walls), use what is local (sand, clay and manure), and use simple building methods that are accessible to people who are neither carpenters nor contractors. In this way, great things can be achieved – the old scheme is broken. What we assumed was unattainable without someone else’s specialized equipment and knowledge, as well as significant financial resources, really IS possible to do ourselves – sustainably, in harmony with the surrounding landscape and the local community, and in cooperation with others who share the same vision.  We don’t know what path our students will follow down the road, but we do know that their experiences at Los Riscos will have an impact. Not only that, but our students have made their own contribution, one that goes beyond  the walls they helped build – in traveling from halfway across the globe to spend their time volunteering at a sustainable school, they are sending a powerful message that our planet, and our future, are worth the effort.

Follow all the adventures from the 2014 Landmark College Study Abroad Program in Chile by subscribing to this blog now.

Positive Connections

2013-01-06 11.16.39 (2) (800x571)“Positive connections are those moments of clarity when we see the elements of the world around us in balance: when children are happy, not just entertained; when food is good for the soul, not just for the pallette; when our surroundings are full of life, not just superfically attrative; when we laugh from the heart, and feel it.”   KodKod

Dedicated to Human Ecology

“To reverse the effects of civilization would destroy the dreams of a lot of people.  There’s no way around it.  We can talk all we want about sustainability, but there’s a sense in which it doesn’t matter that these people’s dreams are based on, embedded in, intertwined with, and formed by an inherently destructive economic and social system.  Their dreams are still their dreams.  What right do I — or does anyone else — have to destroy them?

At the same time, what right do they have to destroy the world?”

Derrick Jensen, Endgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization

We dedicate this blog to our wise, talented, and inspirational teachers who have taught us the most important lessons about this crucial time in the history of the earth. They have dedicated their lives to putting talk into action, as we will strive to do when we leave here and return to our own communities.  Thank you!

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To the Top of the Volcano

IMG_1838 (800x533)Villarica“The fact that a cloud from a minor volcanic eruption in Iceland—a small disturbance in the complex mechanism of life on the Earth—cpower to transform an bring to a standstill the aerial traffic over an entire continent is a reminder of how, with all its nature, humankind remains just another species on the planet Earth.” ―    Slavoj Žižek

Today we climb to top of the active Volcon Villarrica. The climb is tough and long, but it gives us time to reflect on our studies down here as our stay in Pucon winds down. In the evening we watch a film “180 Degrees South”.  It explores the beauty of southern Chile and tells of the distruction of traditional lifestyles of indigenous peoples there and the spread of pollution of both land and sea through the development of mining, hydoelectric projects, pulp mills, and commercial fishing.  As we gazed into the mouth of the volcano today, we got a true sense of the power of nature over humankind.   Of all we take away from our experience here, the most important lesson is that for the rest of our lives we will embrace nature every day and, as E.B. White instructs, ” taste her sweetness and respect her senority.”

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photos by Laurence Freedman, Laith Saffo and Rhea Weinstein