Camellia Travels the World: Sociology Research 101

January 10, 2020

Throughout the semester, each of us picks an aspect of Human Rights and conducts an individual research project with the guidance and help from our faculty and country coordination teams. The project is a qualitative sociology research, and it is very different from any other research that I have done in college. Besides literature review and online resources, we are asked to hold interviews with locals and professionals to learn more about specific cases in each country. And at the end of the semester, we share our work with each other. To tell you the truth, this is a very long journey and a hard one; step by step, I slowly developed my project and dived deep into my thoughts…

Firstly, I have to narrow my interests to one aspect of Human Rights that I am passionate about. After days of thinking, I started my project with “comparison of public and private schools,” analyzing quality of education in different countries. At the personal level, I see the difference between public and private education within my own family: my brother has always been educated in public school system in China, and I have been attending private schools in both China and the United States. On a national level, I notice the rise of private school system in China, and I am curious about the causes and the differences. Thus, I would like to learn about the education system across the world, and thus, reflect on my own case.

When I thought my topic was specific enough and was confident about my project, my professor posed many challenging questions. Out of all, the most critical issue is that it is obvious that private education is generally better than a public one; therefore, how could I make my project more unique and argumentative? Going beyond the evident inequalities regarding entrance to and the outcome of the education system, what do these differences imply? And how these differences affect the future of children?

With numerous questions in mind, I looked for the commonalities among three countries’ education system, and finally, I decided to address the inequality of language education in public and private schools. To be more precise, I focused on English learning in schools, because English has been used as an international language for communication and in academia, and thus, English learning becomes prevalent and significant for most parts of the world. I understand the importance of English, as I am a beneficiary of good language education.

 

During the final few weeks of the program, I spent hours at a café going through my notes and working on this project.

 

Yet, I still ran into a wall: how is English learning related to human rights? How can I justify the importance of language education when facing the call for language justice? Indeed, language justice is a human rights movement, fighting for equity of all languages and building multilingual spaces. I support the initiative, and I strongly believe there is no “superior language.” Then, why is language education so prevalent across the world? Is it just for global education and neoliberalism? Is there any other use of language education?

Again, I spent days at this bottleneck period, until I saw a video of Gayatri Spivak discussing English as a “tool of the masters”; by acquiring this tool, teachers can “make elite and subaltern meet.” She uses herself as an example, describing her role as an English teacher in India and how she and her students “defeated the English by loving the language.” Learning English is not an act of surrendering to the masters, but rising and speaking as the subalternity. At that moment, I finally found the connection for my research project: language learning is a tool utilized by people to demand and protect their human rights; it is to give them the power of speech and expression and let their voices be heard and understood on the world’s stage.

With this belief in mind, I argued that guaranteeing equitable language education in public education is to equip lower socioeconomic class and marginalized groups with a tool to rise to the stage with the elites, to articulate the violation of rights they have been in, and to protect human rights by themselves.

This is my first time doing a sociology research project, and as you can see, I had many moments of frustration and periods of stagnation. To me, this project has witnessed my progress, and I am very grateful for this opportunity to scrutinize one topic and develop my critical thinking and research skills.

All my thanks and love to this funky and funny, relaxed and resourceful professor that helped me throughout this semester.


Camellia Travels the World: Critical Bus Tour of Amman

January 6, 2020

A significant component of experiential learning is to explore and learn with our own senses, and then, reflect on our own emotions and thoughts. Thus, our local faculty organized a critical bus tour of Amman for us, as an experiential learning class of comparing and contrasting different neighborhoods and lifestyles.

Panorama of Amman from downtown. In the far back, you can find four enormous skyscrapers. Also, on the very right, you can see a Jordanian flag. This is the tallest flagpole of the world.

We hopped on the bus, going from 6th circle to downtown. In Amman, there are 8 circles on the main road, running from downtown to West Amman. We followed the circles and observed on the way. Amman is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world; there are remains of sites from three or four thousand years ago. The downtown area is where one can find the Roman Theater, the Citadel, and King Abdullah Mosque. Thus, it has been the place of wealth for centuries. Yet, in modern eras, because of the government project of Western Amman development and the influx of immigrants and refugees, most rich people decided to migrate west. The migration and gentrification, thus, separated the rich and the poor geographically, forming a special zone of Abdoun to Shmesani and Abdali in West Amman, while pushing the East further east. This phenomenon reminds me of a Chinese proverb: “Thirty years the east of the river, thirty years the west of the river.” Amman is a perfect example showing how wealth moves from time to time.

Passing by the 5th circle, I could feel the luxurious ambiance. Indeed, the 5th circle has a nickname – “5-star hotel circle”; one can find Four Seasons and Sheraton standing across from each other, and other luxury hotel projects in process. The 4th circle is the government circle. However, the actual circle does not exist anymore; rather, it is replaced with high security to prevent protests. A little farther down south from the 4th circle is the Abdali project. The neoliberalism ideologies and Westernized development are pronounced in the district. It is a zone of international finance, supranational authority, and local state. We stopped at the Boulevard Mall, where we got to walk on our own and examine the space with our critical eye. It is an outdoor shopping center, with a running fountain resembling the Short Pump Mall in Richmond. Instead of critiquing the space, I rather felt comfortable walking in this space, seeing the familiar coffee shops and makeup brands, reading signs written in English instead of Arabic.

I could not, somehow, critique the space; thus, I turned the critical eye to analyze myself. I found myself feeling guilty to be so familiar with these spaces of exemption and privilege. I was guilty for living in these bubbles and enjoying them without further contemplation: by whom are these places built? Who gets to enjoy these places? Whose spaces are they occupying? What influences will they bring to other locals?  Furthermore, this resembles the Western way of luxury; is this what all people consider as dream homes?

The façade of apartments inside the Boulevard Mall. The ads on the side were revealing their interior luxury.

What’s more, when we went to East Amman, I saw the drastic disparities within a twenty-minute drive. Since 1948, millions of refugees rushed to Jordan for numerous reasons. In East Amman, they established settlements; yet, these houses made with clay were not as robust as they looked. In recent years, many collapsed, leaving dozens of lives crushed under the buildings and many more in danger. The former glory of downtown Amman has disappeared for years; what remains now, is the debris of refugee housing. Standing on top of a mall, I saw numerous houses empty and grounds abandoned. Where did the people go? I kept asking. Why did they leave this place? To me, these people are not pushed further east; they are pushed out of the equation of neoliberalism and capitalism.

This critical tour experience taught me not only the situation of Amman but the way of looking at any space. “Who is here? Who is missing? What does this imply?” Well, from now on, I need to practice scrutinizing places with these questions.


Camellia Travels the World: Himalayas High, Dead Sea Low

January 3, 2020

There are many ups and downs in the program, but the most dramatic one happened this week. A few days ago, I was appreciating the Himalayas right in front of my eyes, and this weekend, I was swimming in the Dead Sea, the low point on Earth. Yes, we have arrived in our last destination of this semester – Amman, Jordan.

On our first weekend, we took a group trip to the Dead Sea, which is an hour drive away from Amman. Because of the altitude difference, the Dead Sea is ten degrees warmer than Amman! Also, it was pouring in Amman when we got onto the bus, and then, it was sunny when we arrived at the Dead Sea (geography always surprises me)! We rushed out of the bus, heading straight into a resort. There are public beaches around the area, however, we were suggested to go to a private beach for a more pleasant experience (on the public beaches, there are crowds of Arab men, and thus, they are highly sensitive about women’s swim clothing).

View of the Dead Sea from the resort.

We walked down to the beach, everyone was so excited to jump in. The sand was smooth, but there were also rocks on the beach and seabed. I slowly dipped my toes into the water, carefully watching every step I took. Then, when I looked up, my friends were already sunbathing in the middle of the sea. Seeing everyone joyfully playing with the saltwater, I rushed and took a big step, and then suddenly, my feet could not touch the ground anymore!

There I floated, straight like a pencil in the water. To be honest, it felt so strange! I was scared to move, and so, Rafa, the fellow in our program, came to help me. She grabbed my hands, trying to turn me to float on my back. I slowly followed her lead, but it was so difficult to pull my legs up from the saltwater. Finally, two more friends came over and grabbed my thighs and brought them above the water. I was already disoriented by this point.

Dead Sea mud treatment! It was my first time to cover myself with mud, and it felt surprisingly great!

After I adjusted a little bit, Rafa held my hand and tried to lead me deeper into the Dead Sea. I tried to do a few strokes, but because I could not put my face down into the water, it was more challenging.  As I went farther from the beach, my fear came back to me, and then, I panicked! What if I drown in the Dead Sea? What if I cannot swim back to the shore?  What if I float all the way to the West Bank? I know, according to physics, no one will sink in the Dead Sea; but at that moment, science could not comfort me. It is like when people are walking on the glass bridge over a canyon; scientifically, we all know that the glass can support thousands of pounds, but we still imagine “what if it breaks?”

Anyway, I freaked out, making giant water splashes everywhere, and I felt even more insecure and out of control. Unfortunately, I got the saltwater into my eyes; and yes, it was so painful. I miraculously swam to the shallow seabed immediately and sprinted to my towel on the beach to wipe the salty tears pouring out of my eyes.

For the rest of the afternoon, I played in the shallow water, sunbathing on my back, while having one arm touching the ground. Even though I did not get to enjoy the magic of the Dead Sea like everyone else, it was definitely a once in a lifetime experience.

Disclaimer: please don’t be scared by my story, because I am a terrible swimmer!

It won’t be complete without a group photo at the sunset by the Dead Sea 🙂 


Camellia Travels the World: Children and Youth First

December 5, 2019

On one of our last days in Nepal, we went to a very special school on the outskirts of Lalitpur. This school is called Life Vision Academy (LVA). As someone who is passionate about children’s education and quality of education, I found this place to be a safe haven for children.

LVA is a private boarding school for underprivileged children in Nepal. Some kids are from marginalized groups and lower castes, some are from remote areas that have no access to education, some have parents with economic challenges that cannot afford sending children to school. LVA caters to these families and offers them an opportunity for quality education.

Currently, there are 86 students in total, from pre-school to 10th grade (in Nepal, 10th grade is the end of secondary education). Each grade is about 8 to 10 students, though in 10th grade, there are only 4 students. Thanks to the small class sizes, all kids get the best care and attention from teachers. The children live in dorms with 6 didi (“elder sisters” in Nepali), have balanced diet plans, and most importantly, receive an excellent quality of education.

The Life Vision Academy in Lalitpur, Nepal. It is situated at the foot of a mountain. Thus, children often go on excursions to learn about the beauty of nature and get inspiration from nature. For example, they will look at caterpillars and learn that modern train structures is based on these tiny insects.

As we were walking into the school, many young children ran to meet us. “Hello!” I waved at a little boy in the Grade-1 classroom. “Hello,” he put down his toy and gave me a big smile, “nice to meet you!” Seeing his innocent face, I felt pure happiness from the bottom of my heart.

Radha came to guide us. She is one of the first graduates from LVA and has stayed to educate younger ones. Radha led us walking around the campus, visiting classrooms, dorms, the dining room, and patiently answered our endless questions. The classrooms were all set up differently and decorated creatively. Colorful posters were hanging on the walls, introducing different religions in the world. Radha introduced that every week, they have a competition of classroom decoration among all grades; this week’s theme was world religion. These children are from different religious backgrounds: Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, etc. Thus, they learned from each other about different values and traditions in different religions.

On the pathway to dorms, there were some little squares of gardens. “These are gardens for different classes,” she explained, “we teach our kids how to care for plants.” At the back of the school building, we also found a small farm. The school has been growing vegetables itself to be more self-sustainable. All these aspects of learning beyond the traditional curriculum expand the horizon of school education.

Meet the school mascot – TIGON.

Finally, Haushala finished another busy day and came to meet us. She is the founder-director of Children & Youth First (CYF), an NGO that has been support LVA for over 10 years. We sat in the dining room, and she started recounting the story behind the foundation of CYF and its connection with LVA.

In 2008, Haushala and her friend were volunteering at an orphanage in Kathmandu. After working with the children for a couple months, they brought gifts for the kids, such as stationery, blankets, toys, etc. However, when they went back to visit the children, these gifts were nowhere to be found. The children told the two girls that the workers took away everything and said that it was all kept in closets. The girls realized that this orphanage is just another corrupt and exploitative institution. Immersed in fury, they contacted the local government to shut it down overnight and rescued all 14 young children. Suddenly, two 21-year-old young women with 14 homeless children, what should they do next?

They looked for schools that would be able to take the kids in, yet it seemed that everywhere was a dead end until they found LVA, a school founded in 1997 for underprivileged children. The founder Prema Zimba accepted the kids with open arms, under only one condition: Haushala has to provide food for the children. Thus, she founded Children & Youth First (CYF) and committed to fundraising for these children and others alike.

I quietly sat there listening to her incredible story, and then, I started reflecting on myself: as a 21-year-old young adult, would I ever have the courage to do what Haushala had done? I fantasize that I could be a hero like her; yet, the real answer is I don’t know. It is such great responsibility and dedication that even Haushala joked that as a 31-year-old woman now, she would probably have second thoughts in that situation. Well, the point of the story is not to hunt down abusive institutions or burn the system down, but to see how individuals and grassroots organizations can bring wonderful changes to people’s lives.

Throughout my program, I have been learning about and contemplating “Human Rights vs human rights”. And to be bluntly honest, I used to dream for a job at the United Nations, researching and making proposals to states to promote and protect Human Rights. In my mind, those giant international organizations were the ultimate resolutions for the world’s problems. Yet, after learning about many grassroots organizations like CYF, I started to see the ignored contribution from the bottom-up. CYF believes that every child has the right to quality education, thus, the organization dedicates itself to sustain and prosper LVA and directly works with young children. What if, I keep pondering, social change is more effective from the bottom-up? What if the people are the resolution instead? Or maybe, the institution and the people can work together to tackle human rights issues. Well, that is the question.

(To learn more about CYF, please check out: http://cyfnepal.org/ )


Camellia Travels the World: Mid-Semester Break!

November 22, 2019

After two months of learning, we finally had a break! We were so lucky to enjoy our mid-semester break in Nepal. Some students decided to stay in Pokhara and relax with serenity; some took an adventure, going trekking and reveling in beautiful scenery; I, on the other hand, invited my parents to Nepal and explored the country with them.

As you may know, Nepal is a very diverse country. It has 126 ethnicities and more than 100 indigenous languages. It is the origin of Buddhism and predominated by Hinduism. Nepal is situated between China and India, and its geographic diversity is also a main reason to attract world travelers. Because of our limited time, we planed to visit three major places: Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Chitwan.

Kathmandu

In Nepal, especially in Kathmandu, you can find “a temple every 5 steps and a stupa every 10 steps”. Kathmandu, as the capital of Nepal, has such a rich history and culture. There are numerous places to visit in Kathmandu, and some top attractions are Boudhanath Stupa, Pashupatinath Temple, Monkey Temple, and Kathmandu Durbar Square. Besides visiting these sites, I find it also fun to wander in neighborhoods, observing people’s routine rituals, appreciating community worshipping temples, and enjoying exclusive street art.

Family photo at the Kathmandu Durbar Square. Unfortunately, a large portion of buildings was damaged by the 2015 earthquake, but reparation work is in active process. I sincerely hope to see the Durbar Square in its original beauty soon!

 

Street art in Patan. Graffiti is such a beautiful way to express opinions and appreciate cultures. In Kathmandu, one can find incredible artworks on walls anywhere. Stop and look at them!

 

Pokhara

Another popular destination is Pokhara, for its magnificent view of the Himalayas and the natural beauty of mountains and lakes. On Saturday morning, we went kayaking in Fewa Lake, which used to be a part of the royal summer palace. In the midst of the lake, there is a Hindu temple on a tiny isle, where villagers row boats to the temple and perform rituals. We went to the island without knowing about Saturday practice, and we are so fortunate to see many believers come to the temple to worship.

My mom and I in the middle of Fewa Lake.

In addition to the landscape in Pokhara, one can also visit the Shanti Stupa on Anadu Hill. Shanti is a Sanskrit word meaning peace, and thus, the stupa is also known as the World Peace Pagoda in Nepal. It is a symbol of collaboration among Nepal, Japan, Thailand, and Myanmar. When one enters the space, one can find a sign requesting to keep silent and enjoy the tranquility. I walked in, taking off my shoes and going up to the second tier. The white pagoda has two tiers for tourists and religious visitors to circumambulate (a little tip: when circumambulating a stupa, walk clockwise). As I was strolling down, I stopped here and there to examine statues given from all parts of the world as well as the Annapurna mountain line across from the pagoda. Standing still in the midst of everything, I felt the ultimate peace and transcendent grace of nature and humanity.

Chitwan

On the India-Nepal border, there is a preserved area for wildlife. Chitwan National Park is famous for its biodiversity, for rare mammals like Bengal tigers and one-horned rhinos. I especially enjoyed the options of ecotourism. We went canoeing in the river and walking in the jungle. When the guides were preparing us for the jungle walk, they taught us techniques to protect ourselves from rhinos. (They really got me nervous for a moment 😂😂) Following the guides, we started meandering in grasslands. Slowly, we approached a small pool, where a mommy rhino and her baby were chilling. They looked at us for a few seconds and then turned their heads away, and we took some photos silently and continued our journey. The route was not so exciting for a long while, and suddenly, a giant rhino was right in front of us chewing (actually devouring) grass. This was a truly intense moment; the guides whispered to us to freeze, and they held the bamboo sticks tightly. The rhino spotted us yet did not move at all. After a minute or two, we quietly rushed behind his back and left. One little regret was that we only found tigers’ footprints; nevertheless, it was such an extraordinary adventure.

Another choice of touring is to take a jeep safari ride. The National Park is massive, and thus, this is a popular choice for exploration.

We spent a whole week touring in Nepal, yet, I still felt that I have seen too little. Luckily, Nepal is a neighbor of China, and I will definitely find a chance to return and experience more. I hope this blog can pique your interest in visiting this treasure of a place. And if you do, I wish you the best of luck to spot a Bengal tiger 😉


Camellia Travels the World: I Wish You All the Happiness

November 6, 2019

Time flies so fast! We already departed Chile and came to our third destination, Nepal. We come, again, at the best time for celebration. Navratri is a ten-day celebration in the autumn for harvest after the monsoon season. Dashain is the tenth day and the biggest day of the festival.

On the ninth night, there is a mask dance. Only selected community members can perform this. Once they put on masks, it is believed that they are possessed by gods. They start dancing from streets, going around neighborhoods, until they reach the Durbar Square in the center of the town.

We were lucky to catch the tail end of the festival and spend time with our host family. After an exhausting day of celebration with other family members, our host parents came home early and performed the whole ritual for us. As they were preparing, I snuck in to watch the process. One crucial element in Hinduism is Tika. Elders put tika on the forehead of younger relatives to bless them with abundance in the upcoming years. The red also symbolizes the blood that ties the family together. Each family has its own “recipe;” generally, one would mix rice, yogurt, and red coloring from roses to make tika.

Me getting tika from our host father.

After everything was set, we went in pairs, kneeling on the mats in front of our host parents. Our host dad put tika onto our foreheads to give us blessings and a black mark to protect us from evil. Then, he said a prayer in Nepali, which could roughly be translated as: “I wish you all the happiness, health, luck, and all good things happen upon you.” At the end, he also patted our heads. Then, our host mom gave us a handful of things: new paper money, a new coin, a fruit, and some sweets. These symbolize good harvest and wealth.

Family Photo. In the front are our host parents, and in the back are our host siblings .

Having this cultural experience was already incredibly amazing; yet, something even more miraculous happened: the Kumari (living goddess in Hinduism) came to our neighborhood to give blessings.

To be named a Kumari, a young girl has to pass dozens of tests to prove her righteous deity. For example, she should have never shed any blood (got any scar) or lost any teeth. She should not be afraid of evil. To test her bravery against evil, the candidate will be put into a dark room with masked men dancing around and heads of animals illuminated with candles. If she expresses any fear, she will be ruled out. Once a girl becomes a Kumari, she will stay in Kumari Ghar, a palace in the center of the city, and perform rituals for the disciples.

Kumari rarely comes out of the palace, but only for special occasions. In the past, Kumari would go to the king’s palace to perform rituals for royalty. After the abolishment of monarchy, she has been paying visits to the neighborhood of the descendants. Four families in our neighborhood are connected with the king, including my host family. Thus, she came to our neighborhood and stayed in the house of the senior member in the community.

Patan Durbar Square at night.

At nine o’clock at night, she was carried into the community by her father. Many children ran to meet the Kumari. They worshiped her by touching her feet, and some put her feet onto their heads, getting blessings. Then, she was brought into the house and closed the door. My host brother said that the Kumari had to perform a series of rituals secretly. After a moment, her father came to re-open the door to the line of people waiting to receive blessings.

It is a mental juggling practice for me to comprehend the role of the Kumari. From a western point of view, the role of Kumari is so radically against individual’s rights: she has no freedom of movement as she cannot walk; she cannot talk to anyone other than her family; she used to not receive any education (now there will be a private tutor for her); and she “retires” once she receives her first period. Yet, for Nepalis, the Kumari is the manifestation of the divine female energy. She is the living vessel of Goddess, as she embodies innocence, courage, and spirit. So, should we appreciate the role of Kumari as a cultural and religious tradition or critique it with our western “civilized” ideologies?

Anyway, this was a once in a lifetime experience, and I truly appreciate being able to participate in this celebration.

Another important element of the festival is gambling family members will gather and play cards together. By the way, I won enough money for a meal!


Camellia Travels the World: “Defending the Land is Defending Our Mother”

October 29, 2019

Mari Mari, my friends! (Hello in Mapudungun, the native language of the Mapuche people).

After weeks of crazy busy city life in Santiago, we escaped to the south of Chile. No, it is not Patagonia, but a lovely town called Curarrehue. On the border of Argentina, Curarrehue is home to the Mapuche people, an indigenous community that inhabit south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina. We stayed with community members while learning about their ideologies and struggles through talks and site visits.

My host mom Ida. She is the kindest person I have ever met in my life. She makes the best Chappi (hot pepper sauce) and sopaipillas!

 

Ida is an amazing artisan. She makes beautiful hand crafts to decorate her home. She also gave me a small handmade basket as a gift.

The Mapuche community has a strong connection with nature; to be more accurate, they are considered to be a part of nature. “Defending the land is defending our mother,” they repeated many times. Thus, they are willing to do anything to protect mother nature, against the biggest perpetrators – the Chilean state and private companies. Because of their geographical location and potential resources, many mining companies come into their space, using hydro-powered machines to extract minerals. The Chilean state, even though declares water as common goods, sells the use of the river to private companies. The Mapuche people know that they don’t have power to resist companies from coming, thus they turn to nature and pray for rivers to protect themselves. The people believe in the spirits of nature and share their lives with these spirits.

I honestly did not quite grasp their belief in spirits of nature until I sat by the river and watched the flow. All I could see was the beautiful view of the mountains, and all I could hear was the harmonious sound of water. At that moment, I finally started to comprehend the worship of water and worship of nature. This scene also took me back to my freshman spring semester, when I took a class called Geographic Dimensions and Human Development. I read an article about Fiji indigenous people’s struggle with the Fiji Water industry. Again, I had some sympathy for them at the time, yet I did not quite understand their difficulty. This serene moment by the river finally made me comprehend the issue for the Mapuche and for Fiji Islanders. Water, as a natural resource and an essential need, should not and never be a privatized source for profit. It is such a capitalist idea to take water away from human lives for money; this is a serious violation of human rights.

The river at Regiolil near Curarrehue.

Forests also play a significant role in the Mapuche culture. The people go into the mountains for months, dancing and singing by the woods, giving trees love and company. In their philosophy, one should always ask for permission from nature when entering an unfamiliar place. And to show their gratitude, they also bring some offerings to nature as well.

On the weekend, we went hiking near Volcano Lanin. Before we started, we came by a river at the foot of the mountain. Our guides told us that if we ask for permission from nature sincerely, then mother nature will protect us in the wilderness. Thus, I closed my eyes and prayed in my mind, “thank you for letting us into your space. I promise I will take good care of all my actions in your place.” After praying, one guide took out a bag of flour, grabbed a handful, and placed it in the river. “This is a gesture to thank mother nature,” another guide explained.

After the ritual, everyone felt refreshing and well-protected; thus, we started hiking. For the first few minutes, it was just like other hikes in the woods. However, after a moment, there appeared patches of snow. Then, without knowing, we were stepping into several feet of snow. Two years of life in Virginia did not prepare me well to walk on snowy land. I slipped several times and fell into the snow twice with snow up to my thigh. Luckily, there were many friends well experienced and managed to pull me out of my plight (literally and figuratively).

Our group picture in front of Volcano Lanin.

 

My roomie and me presenting Volcano Lanin.

The whole hiking trip was about five hours. We stopped here and there to appreciate nature and views, and we also learned about special species of trees and seeds in the woods. One guide recounted that he used to come into the woods with his family, helping to find good spots to plant seeds. Yet, the trees’ rate of growth was much slower than the humans’ speed of cutting. “Those Europeans love turning woods into furniture,” he joked.

It was a very short and joyful hiking tour, and I had a taste of the Mapuche’s intimate connection and affection of mother nature. For a people that have been living there for thousands of years, nature runs in their blood. The Mapuche people faced Spanish invasion and Chilean oppression, yet they are staying strong to defend themselves and defend their mother nature. This is a spirit that I shall carry forever.

A meeting cabin for leaders. On the left, you can find two flags. The one on the left is the flag of Chilean Mapuche, and the one on the right is the ancestral flag.


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