A three-week trip to Bolivia was an excellent way for Thacher students to study the effects of climate change. Eight students travelled to this landlocked South American country with Thacher faculty couple, Bob and Lucia St. George, in the summer of 2018. Auspiciously, they arrived on the Andean winter solstice and spent the first couple of days exploring La Paz ,using the gondola system as their transportation. Then, they trekked 48 kilometers (30 miles) from 4,800 meters (15,750 feet), down through multiple ecosystems to 4800 feet in the Yungas jungles. During the trip, the group spent two days on the shores of Lake Titicaca, one of the highest lakes in the world. During the second half of three-week trip, a second homestay gave the students a chance to be immersed in Bolivian culture and to practice their Spanish language skills. They also visited Samaipata, a small community in Bolivia’s lowland region known for its permaculture farms and the UNESCO World Heritage pre-Incan ruins "El Fuerte,"
Bob St. George, history teacher
Lucia St. George, library assistant and Project Studio coordinator
Why did you choose Bolivia?
We decided to offer that program to study the issue of climate change.
What did you hope to accomplish with this trip?
We wanted to gain an understanding of the way in which climate change affects Bolivia. Our goals also included gaining an understanding of the diverse Bolivian culture, travel in a beautiful country, and to experience life in the way that Bolivian live.
There were several things that made the Bolivia trip special. All eight students on the trip were rising juniors, so we all knew each other well before even leaving the country. Once we arrived, many of us experienced the effects of Bolivia's notoriously high altitude for the first time. Mr. St. George's pen exploded in his pocket, I fell over trying to put on my heavy hiking backpack, and we were all out of breath taking our first steps around the capital of La Paz. It took us several days to adjust to the altitude, especially on our strenuous four-day hike through the Andes Mountains. At one point, we reached as high as 17,000 feet, which was a feeling I can never forget. We were fortunate enough to explore both the rural and urban parts of the country, through two homestays (one on the iconic Lake Titicaca and another in the tropical community of Tiquipaya) and several excursions in the cities of La Paz, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz.
To be honest, the trip was life-changing. It was my first time traveling in Latin America, and I could not have asked for better students or teachers with whom I would want to share this experience. My Spanish improved immensely, and it reminded me of all the work that needs to be done in the world to make it a better place for all. The things we learned on climate change, American neo-imperialism, indigenous Bolivian culture, and the problematic nature of the term "developing country" made a profound impact on me. I owe thanks to the Thacher ShaGlo program for providing me with this opportunity.
James '20, Union, New Jersey
Traveling to Bolivia this past summer with seven other Thacher students, two Thacher faculty members, and two awesome Where There Be Dragons guides was amazing. After four days of hiking in the Andes, we spent two days with families along the shores of Lake Titicaca, the world's highest body of water and one of South America's largest lakes, resting at around 12,500 feet of elevation. The compassion displayed by these families has impacted me deeply and has inspired me to become a more understanding and openly kind person to all that I meet. Thanks to this Thacher trip, I have not only become closer with those I traveled with, but I now have a new and profound perspective on the world, one of compassion for those right here in Ojai or for those abroad. Being removed from our everyday routine reminded all of us of human kindness, and that will stick with me forever.
Luca '20, Santa Barbara, California