Don’t Let Our Smiles Fool You

group shot of students on a reed boat.

Honors Passport students board a reed boat for a tour of Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake. Photo by Kendall Curlee.

With bright textiles and chicha morada in abundance, the Honors Passport: Peru intersession course was a whirlwind of cultural riches. Don’t think that means that it was lacking in rigor. Dr. Laurence Hare, who led the course along with Dr. Shawn Austin, reports on the hefty reading load, on-site presentations and journal entries that were taking place behind the scenes.

During two weeks traversing southern Peru for the Honors Passport course, we have enjoyed some truly memorable experiences. From seeing a spectacular water show in Lima to rowing across Lake Titicaca in reed boats to climbing the terraces of the famed Machu Picchu, our students have had lots of fun. You can see it in the smiles that grace snapshots posted to Facebook and Instagram and in the clever posts in the Honors blog. I confess that I, too, have taken more than one selfie of my sunburned, yet still beaming visage as a way to capture these special moments.

Professor visits with group of students.

Dr. Laurence Hare leads a discussion on the readings in Arequipa. Photo by Kendall Curlee.

In fact, we have had so much fun along the way that we tend to diminish the tremendous amount of work that students have put into this course. Cultural experiences matter a great deal, of course, but I see Honors Passport first and foremost as an academic experience meant to challenge some particularly high-ability students. It is an extension of three semesters worth of investigation into world art, architecture, history, and literature. Don’t let the casual smiles of our selfies fool you. This course is rigorous. 

Continue reading

Posted in History, Honors College Study Abroad Grant, Honors Courses, Honors Passport/Peru, J.William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, Peru, Study Abroad, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A New Take on Tourism


Honors psychology/pre-med major Katie Gerth researched and presented on tourism’s impact on Peru, and learned some unexpected lessons on that subject while visiting the islands of Taquile and  Amantaní. 

As our Honors Passport trip to Peru comes to a close, I am so thankful for the opportunity to come here and learn about the people and spaces that we have been seeing, and enhancing my knowledge of these things after a semester of preparation during the third semester of H2P. I got closer with my colleagues and professors and got to learn about a culture that I otherwise really would not have known much about. However, I was expecting these things. What I was not expecting was how much of an obstacle the language barrier would be and how difficult this would be for me to deal with personally.

I have been abroad several times before, to other places that do not speak English as a first language. However, they are quick to jump to English when communicating with you and because of these experiences I was expecting this for the majority of Peru. I was very wrong. Many people know a handful of English words, but unless they are involved in the tourist industry they cannot carry on a conversation in it. Many times, our professor Dr. Austin had to translate for people which was surprising to me. I was very excited to come to Peru and go beyond the typical tourist mold and really interact with the people and learn about them. However, my Spanish knowledge was very minimal. Although I took 3 years of it in middle school and high school, I found myself struggling to communicate with the locals, even ordering food and understanding what the waiter said was sometimes a struggle.

Amantaní Island

These small interactions were not the only thing affected by the language barrier. When we went to the islands of Amantaní and Taquile, I was really looking forward to talking to the inhabitants and learning about their customs and daily life, especially because I did my research on them.  However, it was very difficult to communicate with them, and because of tourism, they are used to limited interaction with tourists anyway,  leaving that to the guide. Many of our experiences there were created by our guide and all I wanted was just to communicate with the locals to truly understand their lives, to get a more authentic experience. Not knowing Spanish was frustrating to deal with at times – I am usually a very talkative person but being nervous and just not knowing how to translate my thoughts or understand what others were saying sometimes kept me from trying to start a conversation, resulting in a less meaningful experience.

Views from the top of Taquile Island

Despite all of this though, I think this obstacle had taught me a couple of things:

  1. The first was that it is impossible to learn a language in a day but that should not stop you from trying to use the little you do know, learn from others around you, and ask questions (I asked “come se dice” a lot since it was usually only one or two words keeping me from answering someone or asking a question).
  2. The second thing I learned was that as tourists, we often adopt a mindset that everything should be tailored to us. I have learned that not only does this alter authenticity, as locals will enhance or leave out things in order to make an experience more enjoyable, but also that I shouldn’t be expecting everything to be catered to me. In order to make the most out of an international experience I think that it requires more of a give and take; for example, you should come more prepared to speak their language, understand their traditions, and know the history a little more. After all, we are guests in these peoples’ nation and the least we can do is reach out to them a little and make things easier for them as they are often trying to make things easier and more enjoyable for us.

Katie (far right) and other Honors Passport students at Machu Picchu.

This trip has not only encouraged me to become more fluent in other languages but has also given me new perspectives on tourism and international travel. With this in mind I will strive to be more conscious of diversity and actively try to interact with the environment, instead of imposing my expectations on a group of people or experience and waiting for them to serve me.

Posted in Honors College Study Abroad Grant, Honors Courses, Honors Passport/Peru, Peru, Study Abroad | Leave a comment

A Day in the Life of a Vicuña

 

close up shot of vicunas

In response to a call to do “something different” for the Peru blog, Honors College Fellow and psych major Summer Webers channeled a vicuña. Everything you read below is completely true.

It was a perfectly overcast day. We were grazing in our field beneath the Andes mountains when we heard the first sounds of a bus approaching. We lifted our long necks to watch the bus pass by. The bus came closer and closer, with a load of Americanos staring wide-eyed at us. Oh no. Americanos. College students. We needed to get moving.

I signaled my hurd to cross the road to the other side of the field when I heard the tires of the bus come to a screeching halt. I spun my head around and saw a mass of college students and two crazy cameramen spill out of the bus. We were losing precious time.

Click. Click. Click. Their cameras captured our every movement as we drifted farther from the pack of Americanos. Then, they began to approach us. We inched back with every step they took forward.

“Take deep breaths,” I told myself as they began to pick up the pace. These Americanos weren’t acclimated to the altitude, so surely they wouldn’t be able to move very fast without getting light-headed.

I was wrong. A couple of girls began stampeding our herd as the rest stood back and watched the scene unfold. As the girls were running toward us at full speed, hair flying and hands waving, we turned on our heels and fled into the hills.

After we covered a considerable distance, we whipped our heads around to see how much progress the girls had made, which wasn’t much. They had paused; the altitude was making them light-headed and short of breath. The other Americanos were making their way slowly back to the bus, cameras and defeat in hand. We put our heads down and continued grazing.

Victory, once again. Vicunas: 1. Americanos: 0.

Posted in Fellowships & Scholarships, Honors College Study Abroad Grant, Honors Courses, Honors Passport/Peru, J.William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, Psychology | Leave a comment

Angels with Guns

The students participating in Honors Passport: Peru were introduced to the Cusco School of painters in H2P3, the third and final course in the Honors Humanities Program (H2P) sequence.  The Cusco School, one of the most important painting movements in the Americas, grew out of the Spanish conquerers’ efforts to convert the Incas to Catholicism. The students have seen many fine examples of this sometimes unusual marriage of themes and motifs in churches and museums throughout Peru. Honors College Fellow and English major Dylan DeLay reports.

The most striking and shocking depictions at the Cusco School for me were the Archangels with arquebuses. Everything else was pretty tame and expected, but angels with guns definitely got my attention. European artists tend to paint angels with more mystical powers, but these angels are depicted with the most physical of weapons. This shows how the painters of the Cusco School see power. The Spanish came in and took over using their guns, something completely foreign, and likely quite mystical to the indigenous people of the time. These angels mixed the dominative powers of the Spanish with the religion of the Spanish because the Spanish had conquered them so completely.

I think likening the angels to the Spanish could indicate two things: A) that they still possessed the view that the Spanish were almost godlike, or B) that they are humanizing and characterizing the angels as enemies, as they would have characterized the Spanish when they were being conquered. We have seen in other instances where they depict the Virgin Mary but syncretize her with Pachamama [Earth Mother venerated by the indigenous people of the Andes], so I am compelled to believe the latter of the two, if maybe less drastic than enemies. Continue reading

Posted in Art History, Art History, English, Honors College Study Abroad Grant, Honors Courses, Honors Passport/Peru, J.William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences | Leave a comment

An Inside Look at a Cloistered Life

Passage adjacent to the Claustro los Naranjos (Orange Tree Cloister), a magical space within the convent where the nuns re-enact the Passion of Christ on Good Friday every year.

Founded in 1580 by Doña María de Guzmán, a wealthy widow who became a nun, Arequipa’s Monastery of Santa Catalina takes up an entire city block. The quiet spaces and rich colors of the convent struck a chord with honors art history major Elanor Jones.  Elanor is one of 16 honors students participating in the new Honors Passport:Peru intercession course.

The sheer scale of the convent is almost definitely the most impressive part of the convent we saw today. With the sunny weather gracing us, the expansive system of bright walls and floral accents was sensory overload in the best way, each turned corner revealing a new visual delight or architecture and color. I loved the well-preserved displays that showed the way the convent once functioned, sandwiched within the currently operating convent that had to have been scaled down, allowing this set up.

Pots of geraniums bloom along a narrow cobblestone street.

One of the flower-lined labyrinthine streets inside the Santa Catalina monastery.

Walking through the courtyards it was easy to imagine a life of sitting in the sun quietly reading. This convent within a convent highlights the massive layout that held these nuns, truly making the visitor aware how it was understood as a city within a city. Considering the relatively small size of Arequipa, the city surrounding the convent, it is surprising that it was able to support such an extensive operation. Of course, the convent was not incredibly dependent on the public. Rather, the nuns supported the general population with charity services, depending on families to sponsor their daughters. It is impressive to me that sending a daughter to live this life was the more affordable option in comparison to a marriage dowry, as it was explained to us how much it cost to sponsor a daughter as a nun and the amount (if I remember correctly) was in the tens of thousands of dollars, a sizable amount by any standards.

Between the red and blue walls were bedrooms and kitchens and courtyards that suggested a life not of few possessions and solitude but one that was extravagant and fairly social for being somewhat shut off from the outside world. Servants and slaves would bring the nuns news (gossip) from the town outside and the nuns possessed fine china to put on display. As a whole the convent was an experience that exceeded expectations mostly because of the life that was still able to be felt in a dying institution, a dichotomy that projects a sense of limbo that is almost magical.

Posted in Art History, Honors College Study Abroad Grant, Honors Courses, Honors Passport/Peru, J.William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences | Leave a comment

A New World Take on the Baroque

Colorfully painted dome

This beautiful dome crowns a jewel box chapel painted with flowers, birds, and patterns borrowed from Andean textiles.

The Spanish built their churches on the massive stone foundations of the Inca they conquered, but craftsmen took care to blend Andean and Incan themes into the usual Christian symbols. In this excerpt from her Peru journal, honors biology major Rashi Ghosh reflects on an especially beautiful example in Arequipa.

panoramic shot of church courtyard.
It was only the third day of the Peru study abroad trip, yet we were already on our second city—Arequipa. We had only landed in the beautiful white city just that afternoon, and the exploration of indigenous and colonial duality had already begun. After riding the bus into town, we stepped off and walked for a bit through the busy streets until we reached our first stop in Arequipa—La Compañía, a Jesuit complex. La Compañía presented a wide array of examples of the hybrid Baroque architectural style, with the integration of Andean style into Christian iconography contributing greatly to this fusion. Continue reading

Posted in Art History, Art History, Biology, Honors College Study Abroad Grant, Honors Courses, Honors Passport/Peru, J.William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences | Leave a comment

Window Seat on a Night Flight

 

Photo of plane wing taken as sun sets

On her way to Peru, honors biology major Kaitlyn Akel looks out the airplane window and finds unexpected visions in the city lights stretching out below. Kaitlyn is one of 16 honors students taking part in Honors Passport: Peru, a new study-at-home-and-abroad experience offered by the Honors College.

When I fly, I always, always hope for a window seat, if it’s not guaranteed. Luckily, when booking the flights to Peru, the agent asked my preference and without hesitation, I said “window.”

And I understand those who prefer the aisle seats, as they are more accessible. You can get out and amble around the cabin without tripping over the potentially complete stranger next to you, thus avoiding an awkward interaction. It’s easier when there’s a friend next to you though.

But as I sit here in my cramped, but completely wanted corner, I’ve never felt so confident in my stance on airplane seats. In fact, I’d argue that in a window seat, your world is much, much wider, and therefore infinitely better.

 This is my first night flight in a while, and when I’m on one, I like to play this game where I make shapes out of the city lights below. Tonight, the more I shove my face against that window, the more I feel as though I’m floating through space. If I forget where I am and just take what is below me at face value, the small towns and cities become star clusters and galaxies that swirl through the sea of black, each of its own individual shape and luminous intensity.

I passed a city that looked exactly like a nerve cell, with a dark circular center as the nucleus, and I wondered what that spot could have been in reality. Some hill, maybe, or a park? The lights continued to stretch out of the cell body into sensory dendrites, and there was a linear trail of lights exiting the city that to me was the cell’s axon, but in reality, most likely a road system. Continue reading

Posted in Biology, Honors College Study Abroad Grant, Honors Courses, Honors Passport/Peru, J.William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, Peru, Study Abroad | Leave a comment

Setting Out: A Pre-Departure Reflection

Honors College Fellow and English major Brock DeMark is the first student to submit a blog for Honors Passport: Peru trip –– thanks Brock! Perhaps the biggest challenge at this point is packing for summertime in Lima and the rainy season in the highlands. You can follow Brock’s take on Peru in his blog, Intersession in the Land of the Inca: A Peruvian Travel Blog

Student packs small suitcase.

Packing. I plan to take just two small bags, which is proving to be a challenge considering all of the different climates we may be exposed to!

¡Hola y bienvenidos! Hello and welcome to my latest honors college study abroad blog!

In less than three days, I will be departing for Peru. The program I am participating in, which will travel to four major Peruvian cities over the course of thirteen days, is entitled: Honors Passport: Indigenous Ways in Peru from Colonial to Modern Times. Honors Passport is an “Honors Humanities Project,” a three-semester sequence of honors courses that I have been involved with since the inception of my University of Arkansas academic career.

I decided to participate in this program for two main reasons: it gives me a chance to apply the critical thinking skills I learned in Honors Passport in a real-world setting, and it also gives me an opportunity to engage with a small group of students, faculty and honors college staff that value learning as much as I do. As an added bonus, I will be able to practice my Spanish speaking ability in Peru – which is helpful considering that I may be adding a Spanish minor to my degree plan in the near future.

While in Peru, I will explore a variety of landscapes and ruins, participate in daily class discussions, read source documents relevant to the sites we will be seeing, and of course, blog about my experience on a semi-regular basis.

map of Peru

Map of Peru. The cities I will travel to include (in this order): Lima, Arequipa, Puno (and the island of Amantani on Lake Titicaca), Cusco, and Machu Picchu.

I will also be presenting a 10-15 minute on-site speech at the church and convent of San Francisco in Lima. My presentation will focus on the quincha architectural style – an indigenous building formula adopted by the Spanish conquistadors in attempt to make large structures earthquake resistant. I will also be examining the difficulties in deciphering architectural style elements based on existing historical records (more on this to come!).

In order to reach all of the cities and sites on our itinerary, we will be travelling by plane, boat, bus, and train. It’s going to be a fast-moving program, but I am confident after three-semesters of skill building in Honors Passport that I have the necessary tools to keep up with and adapt to the different environments we will be experiencing.

Perhaps the greatest day-to-day challenge will, in fact, be the environment. It’s summer time in Peru right now, but it is also the rainy season. Lima will be warm, but most of the other cities we travel to will likely be cool and wet due to their high elevation. We will be staying above 7,000 feet altitude for the majority of our journey, with two days being spent at 12,500 feet (Puno and Lake Titicaca). Layered clothing, rain gear, and hydration will be essential!

I hope you’ll join me on this journey by following along with my latest travel blog! I plan to post at least one time in each city (for a total of 4-6 posts over the course of two weeks), but I will of course have to work all of the details out once I’m on the ground in Peru – Wi-Fi availability and our travel schedule may vary.

This blog is intended to be both a catalog of my adventures as well as a critical analysis of the places and peoples I come into contact with. I will explore cultural confluence – be that between the Spanish and the Inca, or between myself and modern Peruvians – through personal encounters and observations in the classroom and on-site in Peru.

Thank you very much for reading and please stay tuned for more!

—Brock J. DeMark
30 Dec 2016

Posted in English, Honors Courses, Honors Passport/Peru, J.William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, Peru, Study Abroad | Leave a comment

Field Notes: Growing a Brighter Future

Honors horticulture student Olivia Caillouet traveled to Africa last summer to take part in Global Community Development in Mozambique. (Check out our video on the program.) This UA faculty-led service learning program  focuses on New Horizons, a poultry farm on a mission to change lives. Food insecurity is a day-to-day, gnawing reality for many families in Nampula. New Horizons has encouraged workers who raise chicks to supplement their income – and diet – by planting vegetables as cash crops. Olivia’s project looked at total cost of input, yield, and market price to determine which crop is the best bet for area farmers. She’s presenting her findings at the International People Plant Symposium hosted by the International Society of Horticultural Science in Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov. 9-13, 2016.

Student holds carrot.

1. This is the first carrot harvest of the season. This is a small carrot that says so much. A majority of the food consumed is corn and the ability to have other nutrients in the diet could improve the overall health of locals. Diversity is key to many issues regarding land, society, and economics.

Continue reading

Posted in Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food, and Life Sciences, Horticulture, Mozambique, Service Learning, Study Abroad | Leave a comment

What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been: “Tracking Trump & Hillary” Final Electoral College Predictions

 Can you believe it? It’s finally November 8. Election Day. Finally. Best case scenario? We know who our next President will be later this evening. Worst case? We head into December with all of us searching Wikipedia to figure out the what exactly happens if there’s a 4-4 vote in the Supreme Court on the issue of whether or not to extend a recount in the state of <fill in the blank>. For the collective sanity of our nation, let’s cheer for the former.

As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, the focus of our “Tracking Trump & Hillary” class was to figure out which candidate is helping or hurting his/her chances of winning 270 votes in the Electoral College. The campaign has certainly had its ebbs and flows, which we have “tracked” every step of the way since the conventions. In preparation for the first Tuesday following the first Monday of November 2016 (big shoutout to the U.S. for still maintaining a political tradition that dates back to the agrarian society of the 1800s) each student in “Tracking Trump & Hillary” was asked to make a series of predictions, which included the production of an Electoral College map. I was also asked to put my political acumen on the line and do the same. Here’s what we’re thinking will happen: Continue reading

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