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Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012


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A week from today was the day I was supposed to return to the United States. I should be on the shores of Lake Titicaca, surrounded by the rest of my group, engaged in a transference activity. Maybe discussing a favorite memory from the trip, filling out a final course evaluation form, or enjoying api and fried dough, looking out over the water. We would keep reminding ourselves of how little time was left together, exchanging contact information, planning vacations across states in the months to come. As time continued to flee, moments would become more and more cherished. We would be walking around the city, getting last minute gifts for friends and family back home. Lingering in the markets, bargaining for the last time, accepting traditional meals wholeheartedly, knowing all of our American cravings would be met soon. Some of us would be anticipating our arrival back home, others dreading it, but all of us saddened by the end approaching. Nights would be ceremonious, each sunset more beautiful than the last, each nightfall bringing close to yet another day. Time left would be counted in sunrises, meals, and evening walks along the shoreline. We would be astonished by how quickly our three months together seemed to pass, yet delighted in the limitless memories we made. Fights or disagreements from the course would melt in appreciation for one another, not letting any minute pass by unwanted. The primary desire of this final week would simply be one another’s company…

I have been in the U.S. prematurely for about a month and a half now. The final week on my Dragons course was not spent leisurely or joyfully, as it should have been. It was one of the most intense emotional cataclysms I have ever experienced. Within only a matter of days I witnessed my newly made friends fall apart, the group deteriorate within parameters of “he said, she said”, and our instructors withdraw all trust we had built in the six weeks prior. However despite these negative aspects, I also saw strength at the most surprising of times, disputes neglected, and a new level of understanding reached. I kept reminding myself of all that I was losing and how easily I let this profound learning experience slip by. While we were waiting for the final verdict, I was constantly explaining to the instructors and other students how much more we would get out of this if we got to stay, how greatly impacting this event would be on the trip, and how much there was to lose by simply sending us home. How little I knew…

I cannot speak for my fellow students, but I can say sincerely for myself that this incident has been the greatest lesson I have come by in my life so far. For me, in order for this trip to have been a learning experience, that was exactly how it was supposed to end. It was time for me to discover that us teenagers aren’t invincible after all. I breezed by my high school years with futile attempts at punishment from authority figures. This created a false aura surrounding the cause and effect cycle, leading me to believe I was capable of getting out of anything. Dragons made me finally realize, quite literally, that signing a contract, and in turn, breaking that contract, carries a consequence. A promise documented on paper, solidified through a signature. I was so naïve in believing that my actions would stand alone, unattached to anything other than that particular moment. Coming to terms with this, I believe, is the first step to growing up.

This intense, real, eye-opening event was the only way that my harmful habits from home, which followed me to Bolivia, were going to change. While they may define my past, these destructive ways will not outline my future. I may have a long way to go, with set backs on route, but now I’m headed in a positive direction. I know this wouldn’t be the case if I hadn’t taken responsibility for what I had done. If we had never been exposed, never sent home, this would be added to my list of countless getaway stories. It would be only a matter of time until the dates were mixed up, facts confused, just like all the rest. But this one, with its radical turn of events, has a category all to itself. This one rises to the top because it is the only one I’ve actually learned from. It is lessons like these that are the hardest to appreciate, but the most valuable to come by.

I often think about how easily all of this could have slipped by. Maybe I could have decided on NOLS instead of Dragons, India instead of South America, placed in Group A instead of B, stayed sober throughout the whole course instead of drinking in Cochabamba…

I feel simply grateful in how these events evolved. I never thought I would feel this way, and that shows already how much I’ve matured and reaffirms my belief that everything does happen for a reason.

All this did not happen on my own doing… First off, I would like to thank my parents for supporting (and funding) my decision to go abroad for my final semester of high school. But more importantly, for listening and understanding how the course came to a close. Without judgment or anger, you both handled the entire situation with care and affirmative action. I love you so much.

Secondly, I would like to thank the rest of the students on Group B. You are all beautifully unique people, whom I had an excellent time with, up until the very end. Transitioning to life back home would not have been as easy without all of the skype calls. Even though now we may not be as present in each other’s lives, know that we will forever carry one another subconsciously through the times we shared. Best of luck in events to come, and I look forward to seeing where each of your journeys unfold.

Thirdly our instructors, Liz, Luis, and Ariel. The entire course was held together exquisitely through you three. It is such a shame that our abrupt ending may tarnish our memories, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We must remember all the good that we had despite the bad. Through the end your strength and attitudes were amazing, something to strive for and look up to. I respect all three of you so much and regard you as some of the best mentors of my life. I wish you all the best in future travels to come. Hopefully no other group puts you through what we did…

And lastly, I thank Dragons. While at first maybe I was angry, or thought the situation could have been handled better, this was my way of redirecting the problem and blaming anyone else but myself. Thank you for sticking to the contract that was clearly defined. This was the best for us in regards of safety and repercussions. Also, I hope the organization can learn from the infamous Andes and Amazon Group B in turn for all that it has taught us.

Even though I am not in South America, I still find myself in awe of the beauty of nature. Right now I can hear the waves of the Pacific Ocean, just a few blocks down from the guesthouse I’ve been living in for the past month. I’m on the rooftop with a gorgeous moon and inviting stars above me. Sand is in between my toes. The sun has kissed my skin, my hair, enveloping me in a summer glow. My aunt, uncle, and cousins were gracious enough to welcome me into their home in Santa Barbara, California, so that I could spend a little more time away from home. May 15th will be the day I leave here, not Bolivia as originally planned, to join a friend from the trip, Parker, in Colorado Springs. I can be away from the mountains for only so long… We will hike, camp, see a concert, and hopefully the Dragons office! And then we will drive up to my hometown, Jackson Hole, Wyoming for my graduation. A completely different plan of senior year than what I expected but wouldn’t change now for more time in South America. In Jackson I will face a multitude of people who won’t be able to put any sense to this story, and who will only get the quick and dirty version: Kicked out of a program for violation of the rules. But that’s the beauty of it all. Everyone will be able to see a change in my character, and with that, we can let them wonder…

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Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

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Rooftop Reflection

Sally Morton,Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

Description

A week from today was the day I was supposed to return to the United States. I should be on the shores of Lake Titicaca, surrounded by the rest of my group, engaged in a transference activity. Maybe discussing a favorite memory from the trip, filling out a final course evaluation form, or enjoying api […]

Posted On

05/10/12

Author

Sally Morton

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I was waiting awkwardly by the entrance of the cemetary when Jovi disappeared. We were told to embrace awkward silences in this country because here, unlike The United States, they are not something to be feared. While many of us shudder at a car ride without conversing, or a dinner in silence, Bolivians do not feel the need to fill every moment with empty words. As hard as it was, I sat quietly by a man handing out keys to the graves on a shadowed bench while I waited for Jovi, a fifteen year old girl who cleans headstones in the cemetary in Potosi to support her family. Everyone in our group had been paired with a child worker for the day.

She returned with a handful of flowers and said, ¨Vamos¨. I followed her quietly through the cemetary. I had no idea what we were doing, no one had asked for a headstone to be cleaned in about an hour. Sundays, she said, are the slowest days. We walked to the children and infant section, where the graves are in the ground, not stacked upon one another and adorned with extravagent lapidas. These are more simple, with only flowers and cement headstones and names. Its hard to adorn a grave with very few moments of a life cut short.

¨Mi hermanita¨, Jovi said before a grave that blended in with all the rest. Her little sister died of an infection at age four. My face fell as she told me the story, but she was all smiles. We cleaned out the dead flowers, scraped the dust off of the top, filled up the vases with the new flowers and fresh water. This was not a sad time for Jovi. She explained to me as we walked away that she´s greatful that she can work in the cemetary. When days are slow, she visits her relatives. She told me that yes, at times the cemetary is very sad, filled with tears and cries of people mourning the dead. But some days, similiar to this one, it is also so peaceful, quiet. The silence is what gives her the time to look back and appreciate, to recount, and to remember.

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Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

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Cemetary in Silence

Sally Morton,Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

Description

I was waiting awkwardly by the entrance of the cemetary when Jovi disappeared. We were told to embrace awkward silences in this country because here, unlike The United States, they are not something to be feared. While many of us shudder at a car ride without conversing, or a dinner in silence, Bolivians do not […]

Posted On

03/11/12

Author

Sally Morton

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greetings to all.

Today was a fine day for the Dragons of B in Potosi, the world highest city (self declared).

Bolivia has a very big number of children that work (whether or not that is necessarily something that should be stopped remains a topic of conversation). Regardless, today that number grew by twelve. we spent the morning shadowing twelve kids - four of which were shoe shiners, four worked at the cemetary and four sold newspapers (El Potosi) all over the city. George was a shoe shiner for the day and Elliot was a paper boy.

We think that this was an experience to rival the homestays of Cochabamba. For Elliot the chance to follow Raoul, an 11 year old kid, was one of the best of his life. Not only was he able to get a brief (4 hour) insight into the way this kid lived, but also into the city in which he lived.

For George the chance to shine shoes was exhilirating. In his own words "shining shoes is heaps more fun when their not your own shoes".

The day offered oppurtunities that we would probably never have done back home, as Elliot stated at the end of the day "with every newspaper I sold, I felt I was giving a part of me back to Bolivia a country that has given me so many new experiences"

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Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

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shadows

Elliot O´Reilly and George Marchant,Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

Description

greetings to all. Today was a fine day for the Dragons of B in Potosi, the world highest city (self declared). Bolivia has a very big number of children that work (whether or not that is necessarily something that should be stopped remains a topic of conversation). Regardless, today that number grew by twelve. we […]

Posted On

03/11/12

Author

Elliot O´Reilly and George Marchant

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We began our trek by leaving the hostel in Sucre at 5:10 am. Once everybody had their bags packed and were on the bus, we drove with our guide, Henry, two hours to a remote church in the mountains. We then walked for a few hours before reaching these amazing cave paintings. We ate lunch there and then headed out to finish the remainder of the day´s hike. About 4 hours later, we walked across a bridge and arrived at a village of about 150 people. We all set up camp, and then Elliot, Isaac, George, Tony, and Mew went and played five of the locals in a soccer game. They played well, but ended the game losing 11-13.

The next day, we walked for about 2 hours to the destination where we would be meeting our friend, Parker, who was arriving to finish the trek with us. While we were waiting for him, George, Tony, Isaac, Elliot, and I decided to do a bit of tanning, while listening to David Bowie. When Parker and Jordan arrived, we walked about 18 kilometers to our second camp spot, which was a beautiful green pasture surrounded by mountains.

On our third day, we spent the day doing our solos, which consisted of Isaac, Elliot, George, and I climbing up a nearby hill. While on the hill, we spent the next few hours tanning and taking in the beautiful scenery.

The fourth day, we walked to our third camp site. We walked about 22 kilometers. The beginning of the day consisted of us reclimbing the hill, walking through a crater, and walking another 8 kilometers to the camp site. This camp site had the most amazing view of the mountains. When we got to our campsite, we played an ultimate frisbee game: west vs. east. There were four westerners and six easterners. The west dominated with a final score of 9-2. During dinner, we had the most amazing view of the moon. It was so beautiful and so bright.

The final day consisted of us walking about 2 hours and then taking a 5 hour bus ride back to Sucre.

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Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

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The Second Trek

Hayes Wurzweiler,Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

Description

We began our trek by leaving the hostel in Sucre at 5:10 am. Once everybody had their bags packed and were on the bus, we drove with our guide, Henry, two hours to a remote church in the mountains. We then walked for a few hours before reaching these amazing cave paintings. We ate lunch […]

Posted On

03/8/12

Author

Hayes Wurzweiler

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    [post_date] => 2012-03-08 00:00:00
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Our alarms sounded at exactly 4:07am, our bags were packed, we dressed in the dark and made our way to the bus outside the hostel. From downtown Sucre we traveled an hour and half to a remote church situated at the top of a mountain. The fog blocked in our view of the surrounding terrain, but as it cleared the exposure blew us away.

Four hours later we passed through a wooden gate and found ourselves under a large rock overhang. The guide began to explain that we had entered an ancient trading site full of petroglyphs that were dated back over two thousand years ago.

17 kilometers later we walked into a small river-side village of about 100 people. After setting up camp in a freshly built school room five of us challenged the locals to a game of futbol on the local cancha (soccer field). Our instructor told us we were going to get smoked but after 35 minutes of play we had lost the game 11-13, thanks to our star forward Elliot.

The next morning we awoke to clear skies and began hiking, after about one hour we stopped on the side of a dirt highway to wait for our freshly rabie free brother Parker Curry. Our waiting was filled with tanning and plenty of David Bowie. Once our comrade was gathered we trecked 15 kilometeres to the most epic camp site ever. The site was a lush, green, wet, and flat piece land the size of about a football field. The view outside of our tent door was of drasticly steep mountains with cascading cliffs of cedimentary rock. In the morning we awoke to pounding rain that lasted from two in the morning till about nine.

After a great all day solo we went to bed with full bellies and slept well all night. Once again the morning was filled with rain but like always we conquered the elements and began to treck on. After another 15 k we stopped for lunch at the site of dinasaur foot prints. They were cool...

That night we camped in a small village packed full of mischievious little Bolivianos. Durning the middle of the night they threw rocks at our tent and when we asked them to stop they yelled ¨yo soy malate¨, which means I am bad we gave up and went to sleep. Our last day was filled with two hours of hiking, and then we boarded a bus back to Sucre where I sit now writing this yak.

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Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

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That One Hike

Isaac Sacca and Anthony Martin ,Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

Description

Our alarms sounded at exactly 4:07am, our bags were packed, we dressed in the dark and made our way to the bus outside the hostel. From downtown Sucre we traveled an hour and half to a remote church situated at the top of a mountain. The fog blocked in our view of the surrounding terrain, […]

Posted On

03/8/12

Author

Isaac Sacca and Anthony Martin

WP_Post Object
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    [post_author] => 39
    [post_date] => 2012-03-02 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => 

Hello everyone!

Our time in Tiquipaya is coming to a close, it has been a busy week and a half filled with Spanish class, Carnival celebrations, good times with homestay families, soccer games, and local speakers. It is sad to leave this wonderful community, but luckily we will be back in a month to continue getting to know Tiquipaya better!

We are leaving tonight on a night bus for Sucre, where Saturday will be spent prepping for our trek; buying food and sorting gear. Bright and early on Sunday we will be off for a five day trek in the Cordillera de Los Frailes, and will be out of contact. Yakking will resume when we get back to Sucre!

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Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

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Out Trekking

Instrcutor Team,Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

Description

Hello everyone! Our time in Tiquipaya is coming to a close, it has been a busy week and a half filled with Spanish class, Carnival celebrations, good times with homestay families, soccer games, and local speakers. It is sad to leave this wonderful community, but luckily we will be back in a month to continue […]

Posted On

03/2/12

Author

Instrcutor Team

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    [post_date] => 2012-03-01 00:00:00
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In 1999, under pressure from the World Bank and the IMF the Bolivian government contracted out the privatization of Cochabamba´s clean water supply to the internation cooperation Bechtel. For years Cochbambambinos had been suffering from a lack of access to clean water, however, they were not outrageusly charged for water. During the 90´s, Cochabamba, one of the largest cities in Bolivia, had grown extensively due to the migration of miners to the urban life. With this new population, water became harder and harder to access until finally the Government formed a contract with Bechtel to drill wells and regulate the flow of water in Cochabamba.

This outraged Cochabambinos as under the Bechtel contract the cost of water sky rocketed and citizens were forced to ask permission even to collect rain water. Cochabambinos would not have this. As is customary in Bolivia, when the people want change, they begin protesting. And so blockades and street protests became a common scene in the streets of Cochabamba. These protests began to escalate and turned into one of the biggest protests in Bolivian history. Oscar Olivera, a key leader of the protests was able to unite all classes against the governments decision to contract with Bechtel. "Water is not only life, it is power" Olivera said to us regarding his experience in the winter of 2000. The protests became violent and finally ended in an all out battle between the citizens of Cochabamba and the Bolivian government. Although water did not become a public utility, the citizens forced the government to cancel their contract with Bechtel. Twelve years later not much has change. The water is still in the governments control and Oscar Olivera and his foundation continue to fight for public control of Cochabamba´s water.

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Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

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Guerras de Agua

Molly Kaye and Isaac Sacca,Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

Description

In 1999, under pressure from the World Bank and the IMF the Bolivian government contracted out the privatization of Cochabamba´s clean water supply to the internation cooperation Bechtel. For years Cochbambambinos had been suffering from a lack of access to clean water, however, they were not outrageusly charged for water. During the 90´s, Cochabamba, one […]

Posted On

03/1/12

Author

Molly Kaye and Isaac Sacca

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    [post_date] => 2012-02-29 00:00:00
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Six stories above los calles de Cochabamba lies an air conditioned flat, well furnished, exquisite view of the skyline, and Cathy and her daughter, whom areboth ex-pats. They greeted us in English. It was as if we had stepped out of Bolivia and into the United States. It felt strange. How could they possibly call themselves the Andean Information Network?

As Cathy began talking of Bolivia´s history, the coca trade, and the horrendous effect that the United States government has on Bolivia´s, it all came into place. Cochabamba has been her home for more than twenty years. While she isn´t a native, I thought, my parents settled into a small ski town just over twenty years ago, and that is their absolute home. You could feel in her presence how much she cared for Bolivia and its social problems. She knows so much, probably much more than many of the indigenous or even some of the government leadersin this country. She informed us well and offered resources of other insight.

In the room there were fourteen United States citizens, and two Australians, all conversing, talking, questioning, engaging in a country that they can not call their own. This, I believe, is special, very rare. But we still all felt a little responsible, hypocritical, it was our country (except the Ausies)that had caused most of the problems! It´s a fragile position. We care, we honestly do,but we carry United States all across Bolivia just because of the color of our skin. And we will be stared at and ripped off for all three months that we are here. And to think, Cathy also faces this every day, while she has fought desperately for this country for nearly half of her life. But by simply sitting there, in an air conditioned room, by flushing the toilet, by turning on the lights, we had spent more money than many Bolivians see in a month.

We want to, and we will learn so much, and in some small way we will all help Bolivia, but still, it´s a fragile position.

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Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

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Andean Information Network

Sally Morton,Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

Description

Six stories above los calles de Cochabamba lies an air conditioned flat, well furnished, exquisite view of the skyline, and Cathy and her daughter, whom areboth ex-pats. They greeted us in English. It was as if we had stepped out of Bolivia and into the United States. It felt strange. How could they possibly call […]

Posted On

02/29/12

Author

Sally Morton

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    [post_author] => 39
    [post_date] => 2012-02-28 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => 

Here we are, Tiquipaya. For almost three weeks now we have been waking up to the sights, the smells, and the sounds of Bolivia. Over the last six days, however, we have been far closer to the Bolivian people than was previously possible. Every single one of us now belongs to a Bolivian family here in Tiquipaya. We eat, sleep, breathe, learn, and play Bolivia.

No number of encyclopedias, travel guides, or accounts of friends could possibly immerse us in this country as well as homestays can. Despite the innumerable awkward moments and the language barrier, the moral of the group has never been higher.

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Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

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Tiquipaya Homestays

Elliot and Hayes,Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

Description

Here we are, Tiquipaya. For almost three weeks now we have been waking up to the sights, the smells, and the sounds of Bolivia. Over the last six days, however, we have been far closer to the Bolivian people than was previously possible. Every single one of us now belongs to a Bolivian family here […]

Posted On

02/28/12

Author

Elliot and Hayes

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    [post_author] => 39
    [post_date] => 2012-02-22 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => 

Saludos queridos amigos!

Greetings to all from the Dragons’ program house in Cochabamba. The last eleven days have been a spectacular combination of orientation, group bonding and challenges both mental and physical. As instructors, we just wanted to give you an update about what we’ve been up to and let you all know just how pleased and fortunate we feel to be here with such a special group of young people.

We started off our course in Samay Wasi (which means “place of rest” in Quechua, or “the compound”, as it came to be known by our group) a retreat center located in the tranquil farmlands outside of Cochabamba. The first half of orientation was spent preparing students for the challenges to come, safety and culture briefings, outlining our group expectations and learning goals and enjoying massive amounts of homemade traditional andean cuisine. We were so pleased to see the enthusiasm and intentionality that this group brought to every orientation activity. Yes, life on the compound was good, but eventually the time came to move on to the second phase of our orientation, a four day trek in the Torotoro national park.

The students were divided up into four cooking and tent groups and charged with the tasks of purchasing and sorting food as well as preparing and dividing gear for the trek. Once all was prepared, we headed out for the town of Torotoro, located within the borders of the park. On the five hour drive from Cochabamba we were inspired to see the landscape change from green rolling hills and agricultural fields to the dramatic canyons and rivers of the Torotoro park. We learned that the name “torotoro” is derived from the Quechua phrase “t’uru t’uru” which literally translates to “mud mud,” and it wouldn’t be long before we would find out just how fitting this name was. Waiting for us in the community of Torotoro was our guide and local adventurer Don Mario. An unassuming man of slight build with an easy smile, Don Mario is credited with discovering the majority of the attractions within the park, including many dinosaur footprints and over fifty caves. On our first day in the park Don Mario led us into one of his favorite caves, formed from the ancient flow of an underground river.

The next day we were off trekking. Our traverse of the park took us through some truly awe inspiring settings. We crossed rivers and high plains as we worked our way in and out of the ubiquitous canyons of the region. It was a pristine trek, free from almost any hint of human presence except for the occasional small towns where we were hosted in schoolyards and goat pastures. One particular town, Cusi Cusi, whose name translates in Quechua to “be happy-be happy”, was especially unique for many of us who rose early to watch the sunrise over what seemed to be the edge of the world.

Our time in Torotoro was both challenging and extremely rewarding. Together we faced all extremes, from cold and wet river crossing to hot and dry walks on the high plateaus, always with the omnipresent “mud-mud” for which the area was named clinging to our boots and gear. Thanks to these challenges and the cooperation required to carry out a successful trip in the backcountry, the same group that entered Torotoro as individuals left the park transformed into a high-functioning, interdependent unit. Thanks to Don Mario and the host communities we learned to unite under the motto that permeates life here, cusi-cusi, be happy-be happy.

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Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

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Mud-Mud, Be Happy-Be Happy

The instructors,Andes and Amazon "B" Semester, Spring 2012

Description

Saludos queridos amigos! Greetings to all from the Dragons’ program house in Cochabamba. The last eleven days have been a spectacular combination of orientation, group bonding and challenges both mental and physical. As instructors, we just wanted to give you an update about what we’ve been up to and let you all know just how […]

Posted On

02/22/12

Author

The instructors

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