Woah – it is really hard to believe we are heading into our last week of homestay’s in La Jastambo. As Lucy’s lovely recap of “lessons learned in La Jastambo” tells, getting accustomed to life here has been quite a hilarious, humbling, and interesting process. And as you also know, the students have been working hard on their Independent Study Projects (ISP) over the last month or so. I wanted to give a bit more insight as to what exactly their projects are! The students are preparing for their final project presentations this Wednesday, and the instructors are impressed to see how much they have learned in just a few short weeks.
Luca and Ezra: Both have been spending hours with their mentor Marcos, learning the charango. The charango is a small Andean string instrument of the lute family, which is thought to have originated in the Quechua and Aymara regions of the anti-plano. Marcos was amazed how quickly Luca and Ezra have picked up the charango, and said he was so happy to teach already talented musicians! The boys went even further with their projects and joined the local church band! Every week they have gone early to practice with the band, and play during the church service.
Bryn: Weaving is very much a part of life here in Bolivia. Woven textiles are important to culture here, and since Quechua was originally an oral language, weaving was a means by which people communicated their thoughts and feelings about the natural world. Bryn has been learning tejido, weaving, with 2 abuelitas from the community here. This is no easy task, and Bryn quickly learned that there is great skill (and patience) involved in weaving such intricate designs. Bryn has used her new skills to good use, making purses and belts and other useful items.
Maddy, Sam, and Rose: Hours of hard work in the kitchen learning to make different soups, jugos, postres, and typical Bolivian cuisine has kept Maddy, Sam and Rose very busy these last few weeks. All three have gained essential cooking skills, while also learning more about food here in Bolivia. They also have been writing down some of the recipes they have been using, in hopes of sharing their new skills with friends and family back home. The rest of the group is lucky to have them along – as our trekking meals are proof they are learning tons in their ISP!
Lucy: Lucy has courageously chosen to study Quechua as her ISP project. Working with Remerto, her mentor, she has been able to learn essential phrases to better communicate with her family and people in the community. Quechua is spoken across different regions in South America in the Andean highlands spanning from Ecuador to Bolivia, and still many families in La Jastambo exclusively speak Quechua in their homes. We have really enjoyed seeing Lucy’s dedication, and are excited to see her continue her studies.
Sierra: Sierra has taken on wood block carving for her project. This art medium involves carving designs into a piece of wood (backwards) and making prints on cloth and paper by hand. Sierra has been spending her afternoons with Andrea, her mentor to learn different techniques for intricate designs. Sierra has been loving the peaceful afternoons with her mentor, making art and has found it to be calming escape. She even has been able to practice her Spanish a lot with her mentor!
Sophie: Sophie took on a different approach to her ISP project, and decided she was going to create her own specific research project. Sophie is really intrigued with Bolivian politics, and has connected with her mentor Pablo to learn more about the political state of Bolivia. She also has specified in Indigenous peoples of Bolivia – the history, marginalization, and rights of different indigenous groups here. With a more academic approach Sophie has also supplemented her learning with museum visits, academic journal readings, and interviews.
Danielle, Nico, and Henry: There is so much to discover about agricultural practices in Bolivia. And as many of you have heard about the recent climate rallies that have take in place in Bolivia in response to the excessive burning of the Amazon this season – agricultural practices in Bolivia is a hot topic of discussion. Danielle, Nico, and Henry are all interested to learn more about what sustainable agriculture looks like here, and got involved in a greenhouse project at a youth center in Sucre. They are learning to plant, grow, and harvest local varieties of vegetables in the greenhouse. And most recently they have even constructed a new hydroponics system! Their mentor Guilme has dedicated his time to teaching the students about how to take care of a greenhouse – and about the benefits of local food systems.
A huge shout of to all of our ISP mentors who have spent hours teaching our students this last month. We are so grateful for the knowledge you have shared!
AAA Instructor Team