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“REAL LIFE”, by ANDREA DUARTE SILVA Extract of an article published in “IB WORLD” Nº 8, 1995 Andrea was an IB student at the Escola Americana in Río de Janeiro who attended the one-week short course IB Andes in April 1994. ... Right from the first words in the meeting place in Santiago I could feel what the week’s atmosphere would be. Everyone had been waiting for me for a couple of hours since I was the last one to arrive. I was ready with excuses which weren’t necessary as the welcome was so cheerful. On our way towards Lagunillas talk was nonstop, and when we actually got to the Bothy – our cabin - the group wasn’t a mixture of Brazilians, Chileans, Argentines and Uruguayans. We already looked like classmates going on a field trip. Up there in the mountains, we looked deeper into the letters CAS. Our creativity worked to come up with solutions to community problems. We first tried to see the problems from different angles before attacking them. We used our minds to detach ourselves from the individualistic self and become just another part of nature. We would express our impressions of the world as seagulls, flames, grains of pollen, a wind current, a water droplet, a wild horse, a spiny seed. We also needed ideas for coming up with games for our visitors (service), choosing the best path to follow on our hikes, inventing tasty meals with the few materials that we had. The action changed drastically. It wasn’t only directed to some community service. We went hiking, climbing and camping. We spent most of the day below the blazing sun, following arduous paths up mountains, or actually inside rivers, getting ourselves dirty with mud, earth, dust or whatever came our way, like the “nasty-sticky” spines that got stuck to our clothes. During our trips we were constantly watching out not only for ourselves but also for our friends and for nature. How many times did I escape from falling downhill thanks to a helping hand? Or when someone would stand in the freezing waters of the river to help others go through without getting too wet? And what about all the trash we collected and the extra kilos they weighed on some of our backpacks? If you can’t see this as action, I’ll let you argue with the blisters on my feet ... Service came in two packages. The first was in a transparent wrapper, the second in a more opaque one. On the third day of our experiment, a group of five young needy people from Santiago visited us. We organized games, had some hikes, cooked meals together, told stories by the fire and had long talks. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to get to know them too well because of our language barrier. They spoke Spanish – which I don’t manage too well – and were blind, so not even my gestures would help. Nevertheless, we were able to communicate, with lots of patience and a translator sometimes. The second service package might not have been noticed by everyone, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t service. In the morning, after breakfast, we divided ourselves into cleaning groups. Two would do the dishes, four would sweep bedrooms, two would collect the garbage, two would do the bathrooms, and so on. Everyone worked (even the most ‘macho’ guys), but each was doing a service for the ‘family’. I never thought I could enjoy doing the dishes! But since there was always someone with me, the work went fast and it was fun. The same happened when we camped. Usually two would cook while the other four would do the dishes. Each person carried a part of the group’s food in their backpacks. There wasn’t such a thing as: that’s MY water. Everything was shared, from sunscreen to underwear. We acquired a sense of community as a big family. We all became brothers and sisters. This new view of CAS stirred something deep inside my heart. It showed me how modern culture makes us be self-centered and how wrong we are! It showed me we’re not individuals but single cells in a great organism, and that we depend on each other. It showed me we belong to this world and depend on it for surviving. It showed how little of the ‘basic needs’ we really need in order to live happily. We also worked on TOK ideals during discussions which usually happened at night around a fire. Opinions on varied subject ranged from opposite extremes, but we all had productive arguments, and by the time we left our minds functioned in harmony with the nature around us. And though only some people expressed these new methods of thought – Brazilians a little too much, I have to accept - all of us certainly learned to think differently. All the TOK, ecology, and folklore showed us how much we have in common. Our individualism changed from ‘I’m from Río’ to ‘I’m just another citizen of the world’. The new way of thought changed tremendously our way of acting. We treated every place we stepped on as our home. There were no candy wrappers left around, no killed bugs or plants. Rivalries, like Argentina and Chile, or Río and Sao Paulo, didn’t seem to exist. I consider myself a hardcore carioca, while Fabio has always lived in Sao Paulo, and even so we became best friends. Guadalupe and Cecilia sounded like sisters; the only difference was in the pronunciation of mira and even then we only joked about the different accents. We learned to listen again, to look for small, generally imperceptible details, to feel the air, the ground, the water and the heat from the fire. The week spent up in the Andes Mountains taught me so much; some of it I could realize only now, back in my routine. For instance, I found that I only need music because the sound of the city is so disagreeable. I miss the silence immensely! I miss so much! The Bothy was my home. Earth was my mother, Sun my father. I had brothers and sisters with me – people who really cared about me and loved me for what I am, not for how beneficial my friendship can be. I had simple yet delicious food that I wouldn’t trade for the most sophisticated. I had water to quench my thirst and to bathe my tired limbs. I had the light from the moon and the stars to guide me at night, which was more than enough. I had the heat from the fire and my friends’ embraces. I had music from the wind, the river, the leaves, the bees ... what else could I want? The mountains brought me back to my origins and showed me my true self. I just wish it wasn’t over. Student Impressions of an IB ANDES Course, 2003: Part of an ongoing international student program begun in 1986, the IB ANDES is an international, 7-day mountain experience for 16-18 year old students. It combines principles of leadership, negotiation and community service practised by the UWC (United World College) movement with 2 features of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program – TOK (Theory of Knowledge) and CAS (Creativity, Action and Service). Here are some final student impressions, written on a windswept 9,000ft summit at sunset on the final evening: … an unforgettable journey into the breathtaking Andes, standing up to challenges and overcoming them … extremely exciting, I have done things I will never be able to forget … also learned how to give myself some time … where we could experience together some of the real meanings of life … a very different experience, fun and adventurous … a fulfilling, worthwhile challenge where our minds were just as active as our bodies … a time where society’s ideals and expectations that bind us are taken away, so that we can find our own ones … a chance to see the world, experience things outside our personal limitations … a fun,invaluable learning experience, in a unique manner and environment … the teaching of “being” with the beautiful atmosphere of the still mountains … the more you live, the more you become connected … How the course affected me: … it enabled us to disconnect from our artificial life and open space for a new source of living and survival … it made me realize the importance of nature and appreciate nature as the greatest art piece ever seen before … it was through the IB Andes that we gained enough time to realize this connection … it taught me how to stay peaceful with myself and just “be”, a time to see how the world really is, and how city life is an illusion created by ambition that corrupted mankind, making them forget the essence of the world – to live in harmony … somehow I could realize that the secret is in me. The whole experience has allowed me to reflect more and see how it is necessary to be eclectic. To find happiness all you need is interior peace. Time away from our day to day life gives us a whole new series of values … I have learned a lot which can’t be learned any other way besides experience … it helped me see how wonderful life is … It helped me to realize and emphasize the real meanings of life, being around this nature which brings me happiness … friends that I have made here will always be remembered … I will always appreciate what I have gone through … it taught me that if you push away your fear and strive towards your dream in spite of it, you will be rewarded … maybe if I look beyond my fear I will achieve my goal … I am capable to do challenging things! It showed me that the things I thought I couldn’t do, I CAN DO!!! … NOTES ON THE Theory of Knowledge (TOK) ELEMENT IN THE COURSE The key question in TOK is, How do we get to know what we know? One answer emerged as “I do not know how to explain it in words, but I know” We found a consensus on 3 points: A specific theory of knowledge is a personal, individual phenomenon. TOK includes feelings, both sides of the brain … the complete person. Real knowing, while informed by outside sources, comes from inside the person. And a question intrigued us: What’s the relationship between knowledge and wisdom? Most real knowledge comes from personal experience (see notes below). SOME THINGS WE LEARNED HOW WE LEARNED THEM The importance of simply being, oneself Arriving, and moments just sitting How important simple things can be Being with the blind children To cooperate rapidly with new people The river exercise, the blind children’s visit That language doesn’t really matter Communicating with the blind children The value of trusting myself Overcoming challenges on the gorge walk How fortunate I am with what I have The example of the blind children To reflect more on the cycles of life Contact with nature, the outstanding views TOK is largely linked to nature Talking freely about TOK, under the tree My limits are wider than I thought Waterfall climb, my patience with blind children To appreciate a different style of living The thrill of rappel, living conditions in general TOK is something very individual Seeing how each person has his own opinions Each is affected by his view of the world My experience with the blind children … About myself … we are born with wisdom Experience, words, feelings Nature is more important than anything “ “ “ It’s better to take different paths “ “ “ TOK is much more productive in the open air I was at ease, and it was fun TOK is better with people you don’t know well It generates more interesting ideas Courage is not the absence of fear, but the process of dealing with the fear itself When I did the Rappel To each his own … knowledge is a personal thing, which comes from within a person TOK session SO, THEN …. If knowledge comes from experience, where does it lead us? Towards wisdom, perhaps? Chief Seattle shows wisdom from his experience of the earth (How can you buy or sell the sky?) and asks, What are the white man’s dreams? In other words, where is his knowledge leading him? Our collective answer was, towards money, power, status … more and more material things. The Hindu sage says the purpose of knowledge is love (self-realization, to benefit all beings). And one example of a major world experience that produced “new” knowledge was 11-9- 2001. In an open letter, the Dalai Lama explained the choices that knowledge opened up … between two paths, the path of fear (retaliation) and the path of love (understanding causes and effects). He ended his message by saying, “Ma réligión, c’est la bonté.”

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