Mid Course Memories

by Tsering, Civic Semester Staff

Today, we marked our first day of midcourse activities here in Urubamba. It is hard to believe that we are almost halfway through our Tufts Civic Semester here. Keeping with the themes of Review, Reflect and Gratitude, we started the morning off with a Metta meditation-giving loving kindness to self and others. We then went down memory lane reviewing our journey from the moment we landed in Urubamba to this moment, over freshly made chai. From our first awkward encounters with each other, to navigating the narrow streets of Urubamba, to cooking for our first meal, to our first tuk tuk rides, to the cold hail of Paru Paru, to BBQ dinners over the bonfire and asking what leadership means, and how does one fulfill one’s civic duties, the activity ended in loud laughter of good memories underlined by personal growth and development. How far we have come indeed! Reflecting back on our course so far, students connected with the words of Robert Frost’s poem ‘The road not taken’ and sat with the lines in reflection, “ Two roads diverged in the wood and I- Took the one less travelled by. And that has made all the difference.” The students re-read the letter they had written to self, reviewed how far they had come, reflected on how they want this journey to impact their lives in the future, and realigned their personal goals with a new letter to self that will be read again at the end of the course.

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The Power of Norma

by Sahana, Civic Semester Participant

When visiting Paru Paru, we were constantly surrounded by kids. They became our source of joy while facing the cold and illnesses. We would braid hair, dance together, and play football. But what was most memorable, was scrolling through everyone’s camera rolls. Norma and Andrea, two sisters aged 11 and 8, would avidly look through our photos and ask questions about the people and locations they were seeing. When I explained some photos of Malta (where the country was and its culture), their father came closer and started looking at the photos too. In that moment, I realised that Norma’s, Andrea’s, and their family’s way of seeing the world, was dependent on the visitors staying in Paru Paru. They learned about our experiences and knowledge, just as we learned about their culture. Even small things, like writing 1-10 in our various languages was valuable.

I was reminded of a quote from The Shape Of Water: “Time is but a river flowing from our past” and our world is but an amalgamation of our experiences.

Our languages, families, cultures, friends are all so different, but they shape the individual. We often go through experiences, gain knowledge from them, and then apply it, but the impact those experiences have on our perspectives and realities can sometimes be lost. It’s easy to forget that each and every one of our memories have an impact. Be it rainy afternoons, lazy Sundays, or disastrous boat rides (boys, that one’s for you). Everything we’ve done, whether it’s forgotten or not, is a piece in the puzzle of what makes us, us.

The way the girls viewed our photos and lives, made those experiences more meaningful. To see the impact that our everyday life could have on someone else’s perspective of the world was something all of us had never encountered. Looking at images with Norma and Andrea allowed me to see my camera roll in a different light. Instead of it being a collection of 4,000 photos, most of which is spam, it’s 4,000 experiences that took me across the globe and created the person I am today. Now, these photos are not only mine, they are a part of Norma’s and Andrea’s view of the world. Their curiosity was both profound and humbling and definitely something I’m still wrapping my head around. So, to Norma and Andrea, if you ever read this, know that I am incredibly grateful for the time we had together. And to anyone headed to Peru in need of adorable hair stylists, there are two wise, little prodigies in the mountains of Paru Paru.

Originally posted here

Made in Tikka

by Fatima, Civic Semester Participant

I don’t think anyone knew what to expect for our first organization visit, but when the van pulled over at a small door with women waiting for us with altitude tea and wool spoolies, we knew that we were working with some serious talent. We spent nearly 5 hours speaking with Guadalupe about her craft, seeing the process of natural dye and making pulseras, all while playing with the guinea pigs, the llama, Coco the lamb and the two cats. We learned that this co-op was not just made by women, but for women. It is a way for Lupe to embrace her culture and identity, and an opportunity for her to showcase all that was passed down through her family for generations. She told us her fears about her traditions dying out and the dangers that the new airport being built nearby could bring. But she also told us her aspirations, how she believes that she can give her daughter the life that she couldn’t live and how she is proud to be able to expand what was once a small family-run affair, into a thriving business. Between taking care of her daughter, working on her trade and dealing with the financial hit from Covid, Lupe also managed to teach us how all that is in Tikka was made. Here, the phrase “made with a mother’s hands” takes on a new meaning, as these women put much more than just their love and passion into it, it also carries their pride. So, if you ever happen to see Tsering’s new laptop bag or Yazan’s poncho, or the one he bought for his father, just know, it was made in Tikka.

Originally posted here

Day 2 at Borderlands Restoration Network

by Biani, Civic Semester Participant

From Tuesday the 9th till Friday the 12th we did an organization visit with Borderlands Restoration Network (BRN) in Patagonia, Arizona. BRN is a non-profit made up of smaller organizations, like the Deep Dirt Institute and the Native Plant Nursery, that we had the privilege of working with and learning from this week. During our stay in Patagonia, we camped at the Deep Dirt Institute campus. Deep Dirt Institute was founded by Kate Tirion, an all-round inspiring human being that is dedicated to understanding how best we can utilize native materials and believes in the enthusiastic energy of youths, like ourselves, to make these ideas come to life. I will be writing about the day that we spent at the Native Plant Nursery and Borderland Wildlife Reserve (BWR).

It was a sleepless night for the group followed by a chilly morning that made the mood a little somber. But, our spirits were quickly lifted by the cheery aura of Francesca, the director of the Nursery. Francesca took us on a tour of the property, showing us all the greenhouses and pointing out her favorite plants. She shared with us some of her germination recipes, such as chilling the seeds, pouring boiling water on them and squeezing lime on their outsides. We also got to learn a lot about agaves like how they take decades to grow, are mostly pollinated by bats and used to make tequila. Her love for the native plants was infectious and got us excited for the work that we would be doing with agaves later in the day. We got to transfer agaves into larger pots so they had more space to grow, while dancing to Ariana Grande in the background. By the end of the visit, Francesca got us appreciating how sexy plants are and the importance of staying motivated when trying to garden.

After taking a break for class, we got to meet with Cholla who is the Lead Technician and Safety Coordinator for the Borderland Wildlife Reserve. She shared with us the history of the reserve and what it means for land to be a wildlife sanctuary: no hunting takes place as the land is protected and can only be used for light recreational use. We got to learn that the topography of the land (specifically the Sky Islands) is what makes it so special and a biodiversity hotspot. Over 7000 species of plants and animals can be found in the reserve (which I think is pretty cool)! Later Cholla taught us what equipment is necessary to identify the animals that can be found on the reserve, which are wildlife trail cameras and sound scaling equipment. Cholla talked more about the wildlife cameras and showed us pictures of bobcats, bears, barn owls, and silver foxes that had been caught on camera. We ended our meeting by driving down to see one of the camera traps that had been set up by Cholla in the reserve.

The visits that we did on our second day were truly eye-opening and I learnt so much from Francesca and Cholla. I am just so grateful that they were able to take the time to speak to us so that we could learn from them and expand our understanding of wildlife in the borderlands. Will be updating you soon on the other fun visits that we have!

Originally posted here.

Day 1 at Borderlands Restoration Network

by Loey, Civic Semester Participant

This past week we visited Borderlands Restoration Network (BRN) which is an organization based in Patagonia, Arizona. From November 9th to 12th, we worked with various programs and branches of BRN which all focused around preserving and restoring close to 1800 acres of land across the U.S.-Mexico border with a strong foundation of permaculture and sustainability. Throughout our time in the Patagonia region, we camped within land owned by the organization called Deep Dirt Institute.

When we arrived at our campsite in the afternoon, we were greeted by a woman named Juliette who is the education director at Borderlands Restoration Network. We began our time at the organization with an informal tour, where we learned about the history of the Deep Dirt Institute and what BRN does. Where we had the privilege of camping was a project 25 years in the making by a woman named Kate and her husband. While there was no electricity, there was a make-shift kitchen where we could cook, tables where we ate and played cards, and a composting toilet. This system was a great learning opportunity for a lot of us. From traditional urbanite flooring sourced from local projects to plants growing within scattered bathtubs within the boundaries, this place was a beautiful and magical culmination of what Juliette explained to be permaculture. In short, permaculture is a method of cultivating and managing land using whole systems thinking that tries to intertwine all aspects of nature’s being. Examples that Juliette talked about were the way that they source their water from a well, the use of solar energy, regenerative agriculture, and water shed restoration. A water shed is a geographical place where water is collected from different areas to a common outlet, and their protection helps save endangered native species and natural habitats. Continuing, the emphasis on permaculture also had to do with the unbelievable diversity of the land. BRN is home to 350 different species of bees alone, and there is even more population diversity that is just as astonishing. Juliette explained to us that geologically there are at least five different ecosystems converging in this one area. The Borderlands are a migratory pathway in many ways, not only for humans. This land was historically a crossroads for a plethora of different species, human or otherwise, and the impact of the border has been felt negatively by the entire ecosystem. Staying on the land that we were learning from made us feel all the more connected to the people and this experience.

After speaking with Juliette and receiving a wealth of background and information, we met with a woman named Tess who manages the water restoration branch of BRN. She taught us about just a fraction of some of the harm that humans have done to this planet, including mining and the overgrazing of land due to cattle. What I enjoyed most from Tess was that she approached nature and conservancy through ideas of reciprocity and mutual respect. For the rest of the day, we worked on building rock structures incrementally through streams in order to prevent erosion. At this site we met Eduardo, Zach, and Nicole, who taught us the intricate work of creating these structures. We were shown how pivotal these erosion control structures are to the water shed’s preservation, and how closely these engineering projects can work and intertwine with human-made art within natural habitats.

Originally posted here.