What a week.
On Saturday Nan returned from seven weeks in Uruguay. His stay was productive and fun, working on his Spanish, exploring Montevideo with Santi and friends, and traveling with the Guzo family. When we talked with Nan on Friday as he was preparing to fly north, he said that he was looking forward to two things: water and cheese. Nearly two months drinking bottled water and eating yellow goopy cheese-like stuff, we learned, was enough.
Alas, the Bolivian Consulate in Montevideo was not able to issue him a visa for his upcoming trip. And so a drive down to New Haven to catch the train to New York to visit the Bolivian Consulate. There he learned that a one-day turn around was not possible; in fact, they said at first, that they would not process the visa until the following Tuesday. Nan persisted. They agreed to Thursday.
As Nan was convincing the Bolivians that he needed his visa before his flight to La Paz on Friday, Chesterfield’s new moderator, Rebecca E. Todd, was overseeing the primary election at the Town Hall. One of her touches was deciding to bring flowers for all new voters to celebrate the milestone.
Once the votes were counted (Trump and Sanders were at the top of the local tallies)—and after a twelve-hour round trip on Tuesday (two hours on the train each way offered sleep) and a rest day on Wednesday—Nan headed south early on Thursday for another day-long excursion to the city and back.
An exhausted boy slept all night and we did a hasty final packing session and he headed out the door with his backpack for a three-month adventure in Bolivia and Peru. He flew to Miami and met his group late Friday afternoon. Then he boarded a plane for an overnight trip south. His originally scheduled flight was re-routed to the city of Santa Cruz, instead of landing in La Paz as scheduled, and spent the night in hotel. Finally, he boarded a flight to Sucre on the way to Aritumayu, a farm outside Sucre.
Through intensive Spanish language courses, trekking through a wide range of ecological backdrops, exposure to remote indigenous communities, and an extended home-stay, Andes & Amazon students connect deeply with the local culture while exploring a rich panorama of Andean and Amazonian realities. Dragons students will also examine current political trends, social movements, and environmental conservation efforts in the mountains and jungles of Bolivia and Peru.
The Andes & Amazon Gap Year program is based in the tranquil agricultural town of Tiquipaya, on the outskirts of Cochabamba in Central Bolivia. Here students live with local families, largely of Quechua descent, and have the opportunity to connect intimately with a local community. Our time is characterized by intensive Spanish instruction, exposure to local activists and social organizations in Cochabamba, and opportunities to delve into independent study topics. Based at the foothills of the Andes, this is an ideal backdrop for settling into the rhythms of a local community, exposing students to issues affecting the Andean landscape, while offering them the time to develop critical language and leadership skills. Our Program House is situated on an organic farm, creating unique opportunities for students to engage with local food systems and agricultural practices.
Beyond Tiquipaya, the semester takes us to the fascinating twin cities of La Paz and El Alto, dramatic urban centers that sit above 13,000 feet in the midst of the sparkling snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera Real. Here we partner with a local theater group in El Alto, the indigenous capital of Latin America, while meeting with local figures and exploring the bustling streets and markets of El Alto and La Paz. Excursions take us into dramatic mountain settings, traveling by foot to the base of glaciers and then down into the lush tropical forests of the Amazon basin. Peeling back the folds of time, we travel by boat along tropical waterways to lowland indigenous communities where rivers function as the only roads and the forces of past and present can be seen in stark relief. In the lowlands we are exposed to development and conversation issues in the most bio-diverse corners of the planet, while taking in the incredible cultural and ecological diversity of the Amazon jungle.
In Peru, our journey takes us around glittering Lake Titicaca to the heart of the Incan empire. Trekking routes carry us by foot to the lost city of the Incas at Machu Picchu, while remote mountain excursions take us farther afield to remote Quechua communities that exist much as they did half a century ago. Our time in Peru is highlighted by dramatic mountain landscapes, exposure to remote indigenous communities, and a deeper understanding of development trends and contemporary issues in southwestern Peru.
On the Dragons South America Gap Year program, expect to hone your Spanish skills while discovering the links between vibrant indigenous peoples and the diverse and breathtaking landscapes they inhabit. Dragons students will come away with a deep understanding of indigenous political trends, important challenges in conservation and development, and a first-hand understanding of day-to-day life in some of the earth’s most dramatic locales.
We will report more when we hear more. Buen viaje Nan!