Hi, my name is Mary-Jo and I’m really looking forward to meeting and sharing the trip with everyone. I teach high school Physics and Environmental Science. My love of the outdoors began as child and evolved into a long-standing interest in environmental systems and issues including studying environmental science in college (where we discussed the potential for future climate change long ago), working as a hydrogeologist and water resources engineer, and, finally, my current teaching. My early personal global experiential education was non-deliberate – I simply enjoyed exploring and took advantage of opportunities to go places (Honduras, Norway, China), usually in 2-week vacation chunks, as they came along. The trips were awesome, and I learned all sorts of things, many of them completely unexpected. Then I took a long break fueled by raising a family and a fear of flying developed on a jet struggling to gain altitude with shaking, rattling and bins flying open (experiential learning backfire…).
Amazingly, my teaching job reopened the door providing the opportunities for teacher development trips to China and Israel, and chaperone trips to Ecuador and Belize. These trips obviously had more deliberate educational agenda, and this, combined with sharing and supporting the students’ experiences, made for incredibly rich learning. But again much of what’s come home with me was the unexpected. So, excitedly and nervously, I look forward to this summer’s experience hoping for the expected global links and climate change perspectives from a Bolivian standpoint, for developing my teaching approaches and skills by going back to being a learner, and for all the unexpected things ahead.
One of the quotes that particularly resonated with me was “a whole new realm of exotica arises out of the way one culture colors and appropriates the products of another”. When I was first in China in 1988 most things were radically different from what I was used to at home – bicycles were the overwhelming mode of transportation and bicycle traffic jams could be crazy, Mao style clothing was prevalent, and there were abacuses used in the shops. On returning 25 or so year later, cars were everywhere and traffic jams prevailed, clothing was westernized, and cell phones prevailed. This was initially disconcerting, but our guide cars had Mao on the dashboard, western sweatsuits were the school uniform for hundreds, and students “hid” their cell phone use in half wall stalls surrounding squatty potties. Another favorite – line dancing was encouraged in the cities over Tai Chi – but the line dancing was done together by hundreds of people in the evening in a massive square – incredible! Fascinating overall, still definitely China with things done Chinese style.