Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In Chile with the Global Fellows Program

Hello all! My name is Annie and I am currently in Chile with the Global Fellows program. 

What is Global Fellows you ask? It’s awesome is what it is. Last February, five other students and I were selected through an application process and were given the opportunity to explore Chile, to study its culture as well as environmental sustainability. In the last 3 weeks we’ve been all over the country. We started at the end of the earth (or civilization anyway) in Puerto Williams – the southernmost town in the world. From there we’ve steadily made our way back up north, visiting Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas down in Patagonia, Valparaiso on the coast, and ending up where we are now in Santiago (the capital!). 

But while we have been able to see a lot of amazing sites during our stay here, this trip is bigger than tourism. We’ve gone through a series of experiences that have allowed us to immerse ourselves completely in the culture and deepen our relationship with the environment. While we were down in Puerto Williams, we were able to spend time with Julia – the only person on the planet who speaks Yahgan (the language of the indigenous people of the area). We also went on a camping trip where we got up close and personal with nature – with the Robalo River in particular. We drank straight from it (no worries – it’s the cleanest water you’ll find anywhere) and we used it to wash our dishes. It helped us to realize firsthand how important water is in our lives.

And while we were down in Patagonia we were introduced to some pretty awesome wildlife. There were cara cara, austral parakeets, rhea, guanaco, and (my personal favorite) magellanic penguins! 

When we ventured further north, we were introduced to a different sort of ecosystem. One that was full of color and bustling life. In Valparaiso we found a number of things that we weren’t used to seeing back home, including some pretty stunning graffiti. It was on just about every flat surface! And here in Santiago, we’re truly at the heart of the country.

We are all heading back home soon, but I’m pretty sure I speak for everyone when I say that we’ll never forget this experience. Some parts were definitely a challenge – one of the biggest for me was the lack of peanut butter in this country (I miss it so bad!) – but looking back, it was totally worth sacrificing three weeks worth of my favorite spread. Being forced out of our comfort zone made the whole trip a more personal experience. I know for certain that I would not have made it through any of our stops here without the expertise of the people we met here. We’ve relied almost completely on the locals and their culture to show us how things work down here.  I can’t imagine meeting more interesting people on any other trip. Through these new relationships we’ve built with the people and places of Chile, we’ve truly had a once in a lifetime experience.

If you want to learn more about our trip, there’s going to be an ACES event on February 6 at 7:00 PM. We’d love to tell you all about it!

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