One thing that surprised me the most upon my trip to Guatemala was that many things I thought would be easy to me weren’t. I thought with my Spanish speaking background I would have a better chance at maintaining conversation and getting what I wanted to say out clearly. It turns out that wasn’t 100 percent true, 100 percent of the time. It was more than just a language barrier, it was a culture barrier. I think it in turn forced me to work harder to connect with people, and made every conversation and connection that more important.

I have grown so much in just those mere 2 weeks. When you are in a country with no one you know, you really learn who you are. You learn how you interact, what you can bring to the table, what you can change, and what you shouldn’t just for the benefit of others. There is a saying that you know a person by how they treat the people that have nothing to give them. I am now confident in my intentions and will forever be humbled.

This trip definitely made me consider what being a global citizen is, and what could happen if more people had been on the same trip as I had been. I am now, more than ever, interested in pursuing a career in travel journalism. Being in Guatemala further showed me that there is never one side to a story, and in that lies a story. I’m hoping this career will lead me to many experiences like the one I was lucky enough to have in Santa Clara, and forever give me the materials to share new ideas of different places to anyone who will listen. read more →

In the beginning of my project I had this very abstract idea, or thesis, that I thought was going to lead me to dramatic and intense findings. I thought my trip to Guatemala was going to be a Nicholas D. Kristof-esque type escapade of critical journalism.

That was not the case upon my arrival. After a long relaxing day of shopping and sightseeing in the beautiful place that is Antigua, it became more and more apparent to me that the amount of days that I would actually be spending with my host family would only be about eight. This was hardly enough time for the idea I had planned in mind. It also didn’t help that the answers to my questions never seemed to be answered “correctly”, or lacked specifics.

I knew that in order to have a presentable piece I needed to narrow down by a lot. So I did. I chose three things I wanted to learn about in the Santa Clara La Laguna community: religion, health, and crime. That was a major way my project developed or changed during my stay. The challenges I am facing now are more along the lines of organization and research. I feel unprepared with just my 20 minute interviews and I think it would be beneficial if I had more of a background in each area before I present it to a body of people that will only ever forge an idea about Santa Clara based on what I show, or fail to show. I especially wished that I got more information on the crime aspect, however, I don’t think the patrolling cop cared much for my greeting let alone two or three recorded questions. That is what I am hoping the research will cover. I am, however, really confident in the area of health and religion, so that is something I’m looking forward to.

 

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  • Patricia Hernandez

I’m going through all the photos I took while away, and realize that I am missing one type of photograph: portraits. Prior to the trip I had envisioned my project to contain portraits of Ecuadorians and Galapagos residents showing their emotions, and having descriptions that told their stories — kind of like the popular photo blog Humans of New York (http://www.humansofnewyork.com/). I got a few snaps of people at the end, but they were of people in Quito who I’ve never spoken to and don’t know their backgrounds. However, I plan on compensating for this by elaborating on the stories of those people that I did meet. One of these is Patricia Fernandez, our absolutely wonderful tour guide in Ecuador, who is pictured here with my friend Ethan and me. She used to be a school teacher before going into the tourism industry, and gave me some insight into the inevitable development in the Galapagos.

My project still remains the same: to look at the development in the Galapagos, and consequently, the loss of biodiversity, from the vantage point of the residents and to find out what locals think of it. I had the project in the back of my mind throughout the trip, and thanks to the efforts of my trip leaders who helped me translate, I was able to communicate with my homestay families. Armed with the many photos of uninhibited animals on the Islands, I have high hopes for my project as I begin to plan everything and put the pieces together with my mentor.

Until August 5, I will be away on a trip to Brazil with National Geographic, so you won’t hear from me until then! I’m very excited for the trip, because like the GLA trip to the Galapagos, it focuses on my three favorite fields: environmental science, ecology, and conservation biology.

Until then,

Kevin

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  • Cigarette smoke contains over 4000 toxins such as arsenic, carbon monoxide, cyanide, ammonia and more than 50 carcinogens. -Ministry of Public Health of Ecuador
  • The front of the packs show a pregnant woman smoking and says -Smoke poisons the baby, causing premature birth and death

When I was in Ecuador, something interesting I noticed was that on all the cigarette boxes, they have graphic images showing the harmful effects of smoking. They also explicitly say that the product is toxic. This is in stark contrast with the U.S., where right now there are just text warning labels. I did some research when I got home, and discovered that recent legislation in Ecuador required the size of health warnings on cigarette packs to be increased. Cigarette packs there now require images that occupy 60% of the front cover. Their efforts have been acknowledged, as Ecuador was placed in 8th place for good management of health advertisements, among the 198 member countries of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Ministry of Public Health has also imposed regulations prohibiting cigarette advertisements in mass media, and actively watched and demanded their completion. They have also persistently carried out communication campaigns (“Ecuador free of tobacco smoke” and “The damages to health by tobacco consumption”), the production of educational and promotional material, the declaration of spaces 100% free of tobacco smoke, the prohibition of advertising and sponsorship of tobacco products.

A study conducted in 2012 shows that graphic tobacco warning labels are more effective than text-only warnings at delivering anti-smoking messages. The researchers found that 50 percent of subjects remembered the text-only warning label, while 83 percent correctly recalled the label that contained a graphic image.

In 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act mandated the FDA to require graphic labels on cigarette packages. In June 2011, the FDA approved nine images it would require cigarette manufacturers to place on cigarette packs. While placing these images may seem like an excellent idea, there are certain groups not interested in consumer health, and rather place their profit first. Tobacco companies sued to block the requirement, and the cases are pending.

Do you think the U.S. will soon follow suit with Ecuador and other countries that are using repulsive images to dissuade consumers from purchasing cigarettes? Why or why not?

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  • Notice the human development: buildings, restaurants, hostels
    Puerto Villamil in Isabela Island

    Notice the human development: buildings, restaurants, hostels

  • Notice the human development: buildings, restaurants, hostels
    Puerto Villamil in Isabela Island

    Notice the human development: buildings, restaurants, hostels

  • Notice the human development: buildings, restaurants, hostels
    Puerto Villamil in Isabela Island

    Notice the human development: buildings, restaurants, hostels

  • These stray dogs kept on coming up to us as we were walking through the town!
    Stray dogs

    These stray dogs kept on coming up to us as we were walking through the town!

  • These stray dogs kept on coming up to us as we were walking through the town!
    Stray dogs

    These stray dogs kept on coming up to us as we were walking through the town!

Hey guys! I returned from Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands on June 29, and have gratefully had the last few days to get some much-needed rest (living at 10,000 feet in Quito is definitely exhausting!). I’ve also been able to reflect carefully on my trip and my documentation project. While in the Galapagos, something I noticed was development – or the lack thereof, on some islands.

While in Isabela, we stayed in the port village of Puerto Villamil, which is the third-largest human settlement of the Galapagos archipelago. On the car ride up to our hostel, I had noticed very few human settlements; it was mostly farmland. However, as we approached the hostel, there were significantly more houses, hostels, stores, and restaurants. As we approached the boardwalk of Puerto Villamil, there were even rental shops specifically targeted to tourists (all the signs were written in English!). This made me think: at what point does human development infringe upon the animals’ rights to the land? How has it already affected plants and animals?

I directed my concerns to Patricia, who was our local expert. She told me that the Galapagos is actively promoting sustainable development, and that they monitor who comes in and for what purposes. However, humans and tourists have brought in invasive animals and plants like animals and mora (blackberries) that outcompete with native species. It’s something that has been troubling residents of the Galapagos, but they do their best to not interrupt the natural environment around them.

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