After a few weeks of successfully ingraining supply and demand curves and shifts in our minds, we’re happy to move on to “real economics” and make use of the theories. We've been exploring the idea that Ecuador’s dollarization has been successful largely due to the abundance of oil in the region. As Oil Day approaches, we’re thinking quite a bit about how oil has provided economic freedom for the region (President Corea’s social programs are now significantly more encompassing) while at the same time the history and relative abundance have also translated, in a painfully ironic way, to debt (formerly with the IMF and now with China). Ecuador’s current situation makes for a perfect case study in many arenas: the effectiveness of dollarization/Eurozation, the connection between economic and political power for a nation on the global scale, and the relationship among natural resources, debt, and economic freedom. Courtney is now delving into John Perkin’s An Economic Hitman and beginning to prepare a presentation for the group on business ethics.
¡Saludos desde Tena, la entrada de la Amazonia! Greetings from Tena, the gateway to the Amazon! Intermediate Spanish is continuing their efforts hablando más español. Both the homestays in Agualongo and the Spanish classes with native speakers in Otavala have provided a wealth of opportunities for building vocabulary and conversational skills. Along with their intensive Spanish teacher Juan, the girls toured the world famous Saturday market in Otavala and practiced bartering in Spanish for recuerdos to bring home to family and friends. In the cloud forest at Yunguilla, Susannah and Kate both helped translate for the group and did an outstanding job! We’re now working hard on studying the differences between past and imperfect tenses and will be putting our knowledge to the test in creating an original series of postales depicting our viaje thus far.
Honors Natural Science: Biodiversity and Climate Change
After some literally breath-taking hikes, the girls are busy putting the finishing touches on their unit projects about the various types of interactions among species. In Yunguilla we had one of the most memorable classes relaxing on a summit in the Ecuadoran Paramo. Our guide, Edison, showed us what deforestation and conservation look like as we gazed from the summit into the distance where the dense and vivid greens of the primary forest stood in contrast to the weak saplings and sporadic growth of secondary reforestation. We learned about the pattern of the clouds and rain caused by the warm coastal air mixing with the cool Andean mountain air. . .and felt the intense weather effects throughout our weeklong stay. In the jungle, we learned about medicinal plants, sampled new and delicious exotic fruits, and listened as Gerson explained the complexities of the rainforest layers. Anne put her Spanish skills to the test and did a fantastic job asking pertinent questions while researching for her species project.
Our homestay experience in Agualongo de Quinchinche proved crucial to the girls' confidence in their existing Spanish skills. Since our focus lies in conversation during this course, the students were required to complete an oral history interview with a member of their host family. Topics ranged from childhood struggles, to wedding traditions, to bilingual Quichua education; the students wrote polished essays focusing on one specific story they unearthed in their conversations. They described the event using preterite and imperfect past tense verbs, and also included potential follow-up questions to keep their minds on the investigative power of personal communication. We will continue to practice these skills throughout the semester. As our time in homestays came to an end, the girls immediately entered into their language immersion classes in Otavalo. The purpose of these seminars is to provide the students with the valuable opportunity to learn Spanish from a native speaker. The Advanced Spanish class was pleased to spend their four hours daily with a charismatic and demanding teacher named Washington. Flying through complicated grammar, the girls loved getting the chance to have "real" conversations about abstract topics like climate change and Ecuadorian politics. At the end of their mini course, the class visited the world famous Otavalo street market to practice their bartering and reinforce their conversational skills. I had noticed an appreciable increase in the students' confidence and comprehension, so by the time we arrived in Yungilla, I knew it was time to start translating! The students demonstrated their motivation to continue to increase their language skill set by translating for the group on tours of the cooperative's marmalade and cheese making facilities. Scout, in particular, puts forth extra effort to translate whenever she can, and does so with increasing accuracy! As we navigate our way through the jungle and over towards the Galapagos, our class is starting to dive into reading El Alquimista (The Alchemist), by Paulo Coehlo. This novel is a challenging read about learning on life's journey: a perfect subject of conversation on our trip! I look forward to many intellectual discussions as part of this ongoing reading assignment while our group finishes up with Ecuador and moves south into Peru.
Balancing exercise with other activities can be challenging: in the last few weeks of our trip, we have had to find ways to be creative in our physical endeavors. While in Agualongo visiting Quichua families, the girls took part in a "minga," or community work day, and realized how physically exhausting it can be to dig, shovel, and move firewood. A couple of longer hikes (around the community and through cow pastures and over mountain ridges to the neighboring community) gave us a preview of the PE we can look forward to on the treks in Peru. In Otavalo, we were excited to discover a track nearby, which we used for interval running workouts. Dr. Kate has stepped in as a PE teacher on several occasions to offer yoga sessions in the mornings. In perhaps the group's favorite PE class thus far this semester, the girls took part in a competitive soccer match in Yungilla, which yielded a final score of 0-0 and many laughs as well. Rebecca was a standout player in the game, as she gave all of her cheer-background-inspired energy to her team. As our high altitude hikes approach, we are now in Tena focusing on cardiovascular endurance and core strength for long-distance backpacking.
Throughout their groupstay experience in Agualongo, the TJ students maintained a travel log of observations that they noticed about their host family, the community, or themselves. This turned out to be an effective assignment to process the experience, and allowed us to practice the art of making observations without making assumptions. While continuing our ongoing discussion of information gathering practices, the students also delved into conversations regarding the relationship between the press and the government, and visited the Journalistic Code of Ethics. As we returned to Otavalo, our thoughts moved towards techniques for writing narrative journalism and the requirements for our first formal article. The girls excitedly chose their topics for their first major article: a short piece that maintained a focus on a specific place that we have visited, and presented a concern of intriguing aspect about that place. After a combined writing workshop between the TJ and Literature and Composition classes, the students carried out a fruitful round of peer editing. As the deadline for their article approached, we focused on effective caption-writing for their featured photos, and the composition of a strong lead. Check out this fantastic lead by Alizah:
As Ecuador's climate conditions become increasingly unpredictable, farmers' livelihoods are destabilizing along with the weather. With roughly one third of the population employed in agriculture, price fluctuations in the global market have long dictated the state of Ecuador's employment and economy...
Her article continues, referencing an interview completed during a recent hike with a local farmer:
Although a seemingly endemic problem, climate change's impact reaches far beyond the receding borders of the Amazon - all the way to a small farm in Otavalo, over 350 kilometers away. "When I was younger, the crops couldn't help but grow," Fabiola Bautista, farmer and mother of two, laments in Spanish from a lookout above her extensive cornfield. "My grandmother had a bountiful harvest every week." Bautista, now twenty seven, has grown up on the family's farm, aiding in planting, harvesting, and selling their crops. Within the last decade, as the effects of climate change have proliferated, she has experienced first-hand the challenges brought on by undefined seasons and unpredictable weather patterns.