|Flying over the Andes into Mendoza|
|Intercultural Language School|
For the next three days we had an intense Spanish immersion course at the Intercultural Institute. We were split into two groups based on Spanish proficiency. Both groups worked on conversation, vocabulary, and grammar, and also studied aspects of Argentine culture such as safety and geography. We were then treated to a welcome asado or BBQ with all of the traditional elements: wine or Coke to drink, salad with fresh tomatoes, and of course lots of beef and sausage. It was very tasty. We ended the day with music and mate. Mate is a traditional tea-like drink. It is crushed herbs (yerba) put into a special cup called a mate. Hot water is then added to the yerba. Everyone shares the same cup which, when passed to you, requires you to drink the whole cup through a specially designed straw (bombilla) which sieves out the loose herbs. The mate is passed through the whole group and is a very popular activity to do with friends and family during the afternoons.
|Marcelo teaching us about the original peoples of South America|
Amidst the Spanish immersion classes, we took a break to learn about the history and culture of indigenous peoples in South America. As a part of the course we left the city of Mendoza and ventured to the community of La Asunción in the desert province of La Valle. The first day we toured of community, set up our camp site, and had a home-cooked traditional meal with some of the community members.
|Kelsey trying some traditional tea|
|Dinner with the community members of|
|Juaquin serenading us after dinner|
|Cecil and her apple treat|
The following day we hiked 10-13 km through the desert and were privileged to meet a family who lived on a post. The dad was 36 and the mom was 25. They had 5 children whom we shared apples and Oreos with. Their curiosity about us really encapsulated what this program is all about: learning, sharing, and simply being a part of the communities we visit. We learned that their primary livelihood is herding goats. It was a very humbling experience for all of us. Our hike ended in the spectacular Altos Limpios dunes.
|Dominga and her 2 month old son|
|The group seeing Altos Limpios dunes for the first time|
The third day we toured a small museum about the Huarpe culture in Las Lagunas del Rosario. There we also met the community members to discuss problems that they have faced with in recent years. When we returned to our base camp in La Asunción we broke into groups to experience how the artisans who work with wool, leather, and adobe work every day. It was a great way to become closer with the family members on a more personable level. Everyone agreed that it was one of his or her highlights of the trip.
The next day we traveled to the community of San Jose and were able to witness the making of adobe bricks. Some of us even got our hands dirty and jumped right in to help. We were also able to see how the buildings and houses were constructed with the bricks. Overall it was a great experience and, as a result, one of the projects that we will be working on is an informational website describing the history and culture of the Huarpes, complete with pictures. Our hope is that this website will generate interest in the problems faced by the Huarpe people and promote learning tourism, in which groups such as ourselves can experience the Huarpe culture firsthand.
|Talking with the community members|
|Community Skit Night with the Huarpe!|