Fall 2016

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Fall 2016


A honeybee collects crocus pollen as it buzzes from flower to flower (Photo by Michael O’Hara) Cover: The sun peaks through the clouds, illuminating the snowy ridge on Goat Mountain, AK (Photo by Michael O’Hara)


GEOGRAPHIC Fall Edition 2016



Wandering in the Wild Colorado etc. By Elias Van Sickle

Africa Mud and Cement Azrou, Morocco By Naomi Eisenberg



In Pursuit of Glaciers Alaska By Michael O’Hara

Hammam Rabat, Morocco By Krista Karlson




Layla Vermont By Christian Johansen


The Sights Are What You See Tuscany By Wendy Walcoff

To Catch a Grizzly Montana By Scott Waller

Soul Searching, or Something: Spain and Portugal Spain and Portugal By Isabella Epstein

South America


Debajo de las Tres Marías: Research and Adventure in Peru Peru By Jackson Yang



Pachamama: Mother Earth Ecuadorian Amazon By Munya Munyati

Zanskar: A Himalayan Enclave Beyond the Reach of Roads Zanskar, Northern India 86 By Noah Stone Me, Myself, and I Philippines, Senegal, Mexico By Izzy Fleming


Remembering Thailand’s Beloved King Bhumibol 100 Thailand By Anthea Viragh Finding Payar in Hpa An Burma By Pyone Aye Photo by Maddie Hoar




A Leap of Faith: Three Middlebury Students’ Quest to Bring Surfboards to Cuba 48 Cuba By David Fuchs An Ode to Chile Chile By Georgia Grace Edwards



Hanoi, Vietnam (Photo by Amelia Howard)

From the Editors: Middlebury Geographic is designed to capture and celebrate the scholarly work, independent research, and worldwide adventures of the Middlebury College student body. In this, our twelfth edition, we hope to communicate our commitment to the important work of narrative. Each feature article and photo essay is infused with personality, perspective, and an emphasis on what is shared. Wherever you are, join us: shred the elusive waves of Havana, Cuba; wander the winding streets of Hammam, Morocco; traverse the austere ridgelines of Ladakh, India; stand, awestruck, before great walls of ice in Alaska’s Prince William Sound; and dance with Grizzlies and Red-Tails. The pages that follow reflect Middlebury students’ commitment to experiencing worlds beyond their own and their shared desire to foster meaningful connection with both places and people in the vast world on the other side of the white board, past the computer screen, around corners both known and yet undiscovered. “Those to whom emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, are as good as dead.” We are proud to say that Middlebury Students are indeed alive. We hope you enjoy, Anthea and Christian 4

Anthea Viragh ‘16.5

Anthea grew up taking photos with her mom and sister around the world. Originally from Vienna, Austria, Anthea has lived in Bangkok, Thailand for the past ten years. At Middlebury she studies International & Global Studies with a focus in East Asia and Chinese. She hopes that one day she can combine her passion for photography and social change.

Christian Johansen ‘16.5

Christian is a northeast baby, born and bread in the highlands of New Hampshire. He is a very small part Norwegian, is occasionally late, and loves the relationship between Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake. A Feb, he majors in Environmental Studies with a focus in Geography. "For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are 'it might have been'."

Our Contributors Michael O’Hara ’17

Izzy Fleming ’16

Michael worked a seasonal gig with the USFS in Alaska. He and his camera spent most of that time camping on the beach, looking (unsuccessfully) for bears, and doing bureaucracy.

Izzy is a senior International and Global Studies major that grew up across the U.S. She was only 6 months old when she boarded her first international plane and hasn’t stopped travelling since. The next stop on her bucket list is Tokyo, Japan or Britney Spear’s show in Las Vegas.

Munya Munyati ’20

Jackson Yang ’16

Krista Karlson ’17.5

Wendy Walcoff ’16.5

Georgia Grace Edwards ’18

Elias Van Sickle ’17

Naomi Eisenberg ’18

Isabelle Epstein ’20

Scott Waller ’17.5

David Fuchs ’17.5

Scott is a Conservation Biology major, hailing from his family’s farm in Kalispell, Montana. Thanks to Middlebury, he is now a man of both the West and East, finding commonality in the pursuit of elk and the crew team’s pursuit of fat ergos.

David is a senior geography major and journalism junkie hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area. When he’s not working on a story, you’ll likely find him honking on the sax, bobbing in the waves or tracking down the perfect burrito.

Noah Stone ’16.5

Pyone Aye ’18

Munya has been, and still is lost in the world. His impulsive sense of adventure and discovery have seen him make his way across the globe, most recently in the Ecuadorian Amazon, and he hopes to travel to all 7 continents soon.

Krista is a senior Environmental Policy major who follows her curiosity wherever it leads, whether it be to faraway places or just across campus. She enjoys the art of storytelling, especially when it opens peoples’ minds to new ideas.

Georgia is a junior IP&E major hailing from the Appalachian Mountains of Western Maryland. Since coming to Middlebury, she has started speed dating on campus, appeared in an Ethiopian beer commercial with a Middlebury professor, and placed in a Vermont primitive biathlon. Naomi is a sophomore majoring in Economics and minoring in Hebrew from Newton, MA. She is interested in social justice through an economic lens, specifically through social entrepreneurship. This past summer, Naomi worked in rural Morocco with a women’s social enterprise.

Noah is a super-senior feb geology major from the coast of Maine. When he’s not hanging out with rocks, he likes to play music, ferment things, cook, tramp around the Himalaya, and take pictures the old-fashioned way.

Jackson hails from Westport, Connecticut and is a senior Computer Science major/Math minor at Middlebury. Aside from playing for the Men’s Rugby club, Jackson hosts his own radio show and enjoys poetry and talking with people.

Wendy is a super-senior that febbed herself after taking off her junior fall. She hails from Little Compton, Rhode Island, and loves listening to the same song on repeat, jumping in cold water, and eating beets and chocolate, (though not typically together.) Elias was born and raised at the end of Long Island. The outdoors have always been a central element in his life. He is half German, a lover of language, a bit of a foodie, and always up for an adventure.

Passionate about life, food, photography, sleep, dancing, long talks, singing, adventure. Infected by wanderlust and dreams of traveling the world. If Isabella wasn’t at Middlebury, she’d be off exploring the world, turning strangers in to friends.

Pyone’s a culturally-confused Burmese-kiwi, who’s never lived in one place for more than 3 years. She has a passion for chasing after new experiences and indulging in different cultures. At Middlebury, Pyone is an Economics and Architectural Studies double major.


Wandering in the Wild By Elias Van Sickle



inally I’m dry. I lay in my sleeping bag under a green tarp looking up at the pitter-patter of the rain. Neck sock MIA! Unsuccessful search for neck sock… will look again tomorrow morning. Haven’t looked in the mirror or taken a shower for quite a while. Good and grimy but still in one piece. As we start to climb one slow and steady step at a time, the view gets better and better. Snow capped mountains off in the distance while close by, jagged peaks shoot out of the flat ground like beasts. We reach the top of the steep incline, have lunch, and then…


WHO HAS THE TROWL AND SOAP?? Then back down the 400ft slope we had just climbed, through the valley and over talus. After crossing through dense trees we came to a halt when we spot a dangling Adam’s apple, fat snout and a towering rack of antlers. We face off with the moose. The days are long without the world of distractions. 5:45am. I never quite feel like I should be waking up before sunrise, the blackness of the sky oppressive and limiting; however, as soon as the orange glow starts creeping towards the horizon my sentiment is completely reversed. But today I struggle getting out of my cozy sleeping bag knowing that the wind, which is whipping through the basin and making our tent chatter and shake, is about to batter my exposed face and attempt to find its way through

Down to the final stretch of my 81 day Outward Bound course. I wake from my tent and see the majestic Volcan Cotopaxi in the distance. Davicho, one of our mountain guides, stands in the foreground and takes in the surroundings. Climbing Cotopaxi is our final challenge of the course. This photo was taken from basecamp at Volcan Antisana, our training ground.

that is perceptible no matter how far or wide one wanders. Day I don’t know what. Sitting there and eating a Fig Newton, I thought, I could be sitting in a college lecture… Periodic fear, my heart pumping, and my focus intense. I haven’t felt those in a while. No step is on sure footing. The rocks could crumble and I could tumble. We are briefed on how to splay one’s limbs like a starfish in case we fell to prevent our heavy packs from causing us to roll… very reassuring. With risk averse, sedimentary lifestyles becoming the norm, I rarely feel this heightened awareness and connection with my body. It is when the limits are pushed and boundaries are tested that I feel truly present and alive. No thoughts about the past or future, just the next step.


every nook and cranny in my many layers of clothing. The cooks of the day huddle over whisper-light camp stoves. The altitude and brisk air make the water stubborn; while waiting for it to boil I take care of business with the trowel far from camp, fill up my two Nalgene’s with water from the creek and add a couple drops of iodine. Upon my return from necessary morning duties, I grimace at the thin crest of pasta sauce from last night’s dinner that still lines my bowl, but then proceed to throw the granola in. Carefully, I dump some powdered milk on top, stir, and mix with hot water. Night again. The only thing between me and the unforgiving outside is some small plastic cover and a sleeping bag. My being is fragile. Unlike cities and their completely novel sights unique to each one, the wilderness possesses a unity, a “sameness”

At first glance I think, “What the hell, there are zero hand or footholds on that flat slab of rock.” I am not completely wrong, but slab climbing is made easier by “smearing,” or trusting the very grippy rubber soles of my climbing shoes to do their job, and do it well. More climbing lingo!! Sand bagging, elvis legging, dirtbags. The list goes on. Jumped in the FREEZING Colorado River!! Today qualifies “Out here with no noise from as one of the most awesome days ever. It the road or the sight of any is business time from of the hideous, permanent the crack of dawn to human constructions that we the top of the spire. call supermarkets, stores, and We drive back up the Colorado River houses, purity is returned.” the same way we had originally entered Moab, until we reach the Fisher Towers. In the parking lot, Ben, one of our rock camp instructors says, “look, we’ll be up there,” but I don’t really register how “up there” we’d truly be. We take off on our approach at a break neck pace… the instructors want to make sure we aren’t becoming soft from many days of easy approaches. We prepare efficiently while standing at the base: flake ropes, harness check, helmets, bags etc. The climb is four pitches. The first pitch is practically a scramble compared to some days prior, when my forearms were so tight with lactic acid they bulged. George climbs first and unclips his rope from the carabineers; I follow soon thereafter, cleaning the gear. The second pitch is also a cruiser. The third is a tall chimney. The name of the game was definitely not to make it look pretty. Sandy rock and overhangs make for shimmying and flying rocks. Once at the top, we reach a ledge- that’s where the fun begins. A short initial climb and I reach it, the beginning of a balance beam. Although my mind is able to logically confirm the safety of the apparatuses set up to arrest one’s fall, there is no shortage of butterflies. Each step is placed with the utmost 7

precision. Making it to the top of the spire and tenderly rising to stand tall is breathtaking. All around there is nothing but blue abyss. Simplicity. Although living out of a tent in a dirt lot might be pretty damn simple compared to most modern lifestyles, it still seemed impure. Out here with no noise from the road or the sight of any of the hideous, permanent human constructions that we call supermarkets, stores, and houses, purity is returned. When living out of a backpack, one realizes that “needs” aren’t often actual needs, but desires brought on by ego or competition. Nature is a big equalizer. It’s a force that draws back the veil of bullshit. Simply put, living simply feels great.

we have to shimmy our way down between two rock walls

and plunge into freezing cold, mucky brown water. The

whooping and hollering is plentiful. 4am. Stein: “Elias, it’s raining!” We are sleeping under the stars; it hasn’t rained for weeks. I shoot up out of my slumber and declare, “alright, lets jam!” I am all action. The howling wind had ripped out our tent while we had been on our day hike; I have no interest in standing around trying to set up another one, so I quickly resort to a big orange plastic carpenter bag. I slip it over my sleeping bag, but it only comes up to mid-chest level. Rain whips my face. I get into a tight ball and scrunch most of my body into the carpenter bag and wait for sleep. Better than nothing…

SOLO Relishing inactivity. In my sleeping bag, I look at the

Only one way out. Canyonlands of Utah.

III Lush vegetation and the resulting vibrant colors are refreshing against the desert sand. Life is attracted to life. Desolation may inspire awe, but it feels cold rather than comforting. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Canyoneering is semi-miserable yet exhilarating. After getting through one extremely narrow slot the rock opens up a bit, however not for long, ahead 8

sky and fade in and out of sleep. After watching the shadows created by the morning sun ebb and flow, the sun peaks its way around the canyon wall, which has been blanketing me in shade. The temperature change is drastic and pleasantly so. I go from sleeping bag, puffy pants and jacket to underwear in no time. Welcome to the desert. Most of my body has only seen bits and spurts of sunlight over the last 50 days. Taking off my grimy layers is like crawling out of my skin and letting new energy course through me. Then and now: There are some obvious changes since the start of course. My hair is longer and more ragged. I am taking on the brownish color of desert rock “I perceive that some peo- and have dirt under evple who live in the outdoors ery fingernail. There are for a long period of time be- also more subtle changes that I have noticed. come “anti-society” types, Writing regularly in my constantly self-justifying journal now feels natuand degrading those who ral and words flow more smoothly. My strength embrace society and who and stamina have also are successful in society’s increased markedly. On eyes. Instead, I aspire to the first day of Outward reenter society with a more Bound, I remember picking up my backpack observant eye and main- and thinking, “no way tain a healthy perspective.” in hell am I going to be able to carry this thing for mile and miles.” Now, weight is more of an afterthought. Walking until dark used to be exhausting and relatively miserable; however, over this past week we have walked from morning until night repeatedly and it feels completely comfortable. I am no longer stressed about getting into camp, and go with the flow more easily. Although I don’t think I used to live with much of a veil

or guise covering up my true, uninhibited self, I plan to “reenter” the world as someone who does not get sucked in by the world’s phoniness. In the end, image, status, and power are all frivolous. Spending one’s livelihood aiming to one up someone, or trying to fit into a certain group seem like never ending and unfulfilling pursuits. I want to be hygienic, wear presentable clothes and make money, but not to support an image addiction. I perceive that some people who live in the outdoors for a long period of time become “anti-society” types, constantly self-justifying and degrading those who embrace society and who are successful in society’s eyes. Instead, I aspire to reenter society with a more observant eye and maintain a healthy perspective. As Ishmael highlights in the beginning of Moby Dick, the comfort of feeling warmth under thick blankets in the winter is only truly appreciated with the contrast of a cold nip of night air on the face; he who only ever experiences warmth without the contrast of cold, no longer knows true warmth. The same is true for most everything. The rich man who only ever lounges on his couch no longer appreciates the comfort of the soft pillows on which he reposes. But the poor man, or any man, for that matter, who has lived in the wilderness, shit in the woods, and slept on the hard ground, truly feels the comfort of a soft couch.


Random Solo Ideas Jot

Elusive Happiness. Too often this stems from only the big sources of happiness or excitement that we seek. Sustained, true happiness is derived from recognizing the small details in life that are too often overlooked.

2 3

The Ephemeral. Life draws its uniqueness and beauty from its ephemeral nature.

Time. The incredibly slow pace at which time moves out here is a testament to the insane amount of distractions to which I expose myself on a daily basis.

Ancient Art. Moab, Utah. Photo George Shoemaker

IV Gulp. Damn, sea level air is thick as molasses.

We woke at midnight and started to climb. The weather is calmer and more predictable during those hours. Just after the sun crested the horizon, our rope team made it to the top of Volcan Cotopaxi in Ecuador. The air is thin at 19,347’.



100 miles off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia are the Mentawai Islands, home to some of the world’s best waves. Surf guide, Matthew Burke, duck dives under the turbulence of a breaking wave. Always good to have experts to show you the ropes. (Photo by John Barton)


V I’m in Ecuador!! Standing outside the Quito Airport, seeing Michael Dammer, one of our incredibly BAD ASS mountain guides, and part of the wildly inspirational and loving family we will be staying with in Palugo, escuchando un poco español por fin, and smelling the lush air- I know the adventure has only just begun. I help load the truck full of luggage until it is bursting at the seams and hop in for the short ride to the farm. I feel the familiar giddy feeling that hits me every time I enter a new country. We drive down a long bumpy driveway in the 4Å~4 truck and park right outside a big barn. The bottom of the it is brimming with gear for the expedition into the mountains. The next morning, I eat another blissful meal and then tour the farm. I am in awe. Around every bend is new beauty and inspiration. The houses stand out the most. The three brothers that grew up on the farm had all built their houses by hand; quaint, simple, and perfect. One brother, who is in the midst of finishing his house, is temporarily living in a large yurt. His baby daughter greets our group with a high itched “hola.” She is slightly feverish at the moment and is bundled in a knitted alpaca sweater. After three days on the farm I am glad that today we will get moving again. It is a chilly at 5:50am in the morning, but I decide to make the most of my last opportunity to shower for a while. I go outside, into the small shower room and turn on the water. I hop up and down a couple times, counted to three and put my head under the not so warm, (freezing as hell) water. It had been almost 10 days out of the “field” and when we get moving down the driveway I know the days ahead will be long and hard, but I am content to get back into the primal rhythm of waking early and walking all day that I had come to cherish. The Mentawai Islands, off the coast of Indonesia, are very sparsely populated. Local languages are still spoken and aside from a few thatch roof structures and small local villages, the dense forest reigns. Coconuts abound on these tropical islands. Photo by John Barton


The Paramo. Ecuador’s cloud forest. In San Francisco, in a small town on a hill, a dog comes up to us as we take water break. Little did we know he would become an integral part of the pack and follow us all the way to Antisana, the Volcano that is our end destination. We named him Stevie. Finally, we make it to Paramo. The grasslands stretched endlessly in all directions. Cows graze and stand still, looking nonchalantly at what must have been a very uncommon sight. Up in the foggy distance lays a dense, low clump of stout forest. We push ahead. The trees provided some wind protection and we decide to set up camp. Around the forest are mossy lumps that sink when stepped on, they look otherworldly, and made for childish fun. Tents up and… we need… WATER. It is around 4pm and the water hole we aimed for on the map turns out to be a muddy swamp with a bunch of cows sipping out of it. The only drinkable water is about 1000ft down and about half way back the way we came. Great… Most of the group feels totally spent, so myself, Stein, Spencer and Davicho embark on the trek. By this point fog has rolled in- it was called the cloud forest after all. Davicho means business. He seems to glide town the precipitous incline at breakneck pace while I stumble and slip on my ass like a bumbling fool, half running

down the mountain trying to keep up. My camp shoes have zero grip and are no match for the dew laden, tall grass. We get to the trench in a remarkable 25 minutes. Fill up fast, fast, fast. Put everyone’s water bottles and drams in our daypacks and start back up. With Davicho’s lead, what took the group more than 3 hours to get up, takes us 48 minutes flat. Kick ass. The moist thick air feels good in my lungs as my heart pumps hard to feed my quads. We make it back to camp just in time. The sky releases all its pent up rage and dumps buckets on us all night. We eat dinner in our tents and snuggled in our sleeping bags as the monsoon pelts the tent’s rain fly.

VI Slowing down and dropping out so completely is hard. I tell myself that nine more days is a good amount of time. Time I need to get in shape for Indonesia, time to read, and time to gain insight into the yogic lifestyle. Nine more days also seems

In high school I watched the documentary 180 Degrees South. The film depicted a surfer and vagabond making his way from the US to the tip of South America as Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, once did in a beat up VW bus. Along the way, a stop is made at a surf break called Punta De

long. Culture shock. Stepping into a life that is different from any I have ever known. Look at any culture, and music will be a significant part of it. Music creates strong bonds between people, lifts the spirit and quiets the mind. The meaning behind the words is not important. Rather, the power comes from the sound and the vibration. Forget about chairs. Learn to sit again. It’s surprisingly difficult. When you practice silence you realize most of the noise is within yourself. Embrace current emotions. Sit with them on a purely physical level. Feel where you have a sensation in your body and focus on that sensation. Be aware of emotion and realize your power to determine your emotional state. Ride the wave. Experiencing one emotion all the time is unrealistic. This has been the most amazing experience. I feel high.

Lobos in Pichilemu, Chile. The wave that I saw in that movie remained etched in my mind. It stretched on for ever and ever and ever. I made my dream of surfing that very same wave a reality a few years later. This picture shows the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean at Punta de Lobos on a placid day.


The fins of a surfboard and a hand cut through the surface not far from the reef below. A rare glimpse of harmony with nature and the magic of the underwater world. Mentawai Islands, Indonesia. (Photo by John Barton) 14






Harvard Glacier, the second largest tidewater glacier in the Chugach National Forest, towers hundreds of feet above the waters of College Fjord.

I spent the summer on, above, under, and in close proximity with glaciers. I witnessed tidewater glaciers, piedmont glaciers, hanging glaciers, and even tropical glaciers–each more impressive than the last. The majority of the tidewater glaciers are receding in the Prince William Sound of the Chugach National Forest in Alaska. Viewed up close and in person, their sheer mass and magnitude would have one think them everlasting—but when they begin to boom and fracture, shearing off immense ice cubes, their delicate nature is revealed. Similarly, the tropical glaciers of the Peruvian Andes, even at 15,000 feet of elevation and above, are at risk. The construction of dams at certain high-altitude lakes has been undergone in a prophylactic attempt to reduce and prevent the damage that might be caused by the flooding of the rivers that flow through small towns and cities like Huaråz, a popular tourist destination for trekkers and mountaineers. Here, I have attempted to compile the photographs I took in order to share the beauty of these magnificent and threatened monoliths.


Palqarahu, an impressive, ice-laden, Andean peak, is illuminated by early evening light over Laguna Palcachoca, Peru. Rahu is a Quechua word that translates loosely to “glacier.� 18


Calving events at the Bryn Mawr Glacier--formerly a tidewater glacier, now receded some 100m from the sea--are much less exciting than those of the large tidewater glaciers so popular with tour boats, but the exposed blue ice is just as beautiful.

Aerial photo of one of the many awe-inspiring glaciers within the Chugach National Forest.




Joël, our local trekking guide from Huaráz, Peru, leads the way up to Laguna Palcachoca along the starkly man-made “road” of penstocks used to control the flow and prevent flooding downstream of the lake.

Unnamed glacier in Blackstone Bay, Prince William Sound.


The view of Harvard Glacier from several miles down the fjord at Coghill, a historic Native American seal hunting camp.

Hanging glaciers at Grandview in the Chugach National Forest. Riding the Glacier Discovery passenger train, visitors will be able to hike to this viewpoint. However, today the trail is still a work in progress.


The Milky Way shines bright above the snowcapped ridges of the Andes, the ice aglow with urban light from thousands of feet below. 23


Mount Rainier protrudes from the Cascade Range, the glaciers that adorn its slopes make it appear all the more prominent. An airplane provides a vantage point from which both Rainer and Mount Saint Helens are visible.





Christian Johansen

Tarim Kennedy ‘17 is a general falconer. Layla is a 9 month old Red-Tail hawk.


Layla is handled by a human for the first time. Needless to say, she is freightened by these pink, squishy giants.

Tarim sits with Layla on his arm, all night, as she slowly becomes accustomed to him.


To catch a Red-Tail. Tarim explais to Chiara Lawrence ‘16 how she will help in the capture. Timmy Macrae ‘16 keeps his eyes on the sky.


Fancy leather shoes. Tarim crafts anklets and jesses from kangaroo leather. The bells afixed to the anklet helps the falconer locate his companion. Below: Jesses, the final product.


As the sky opens, Layla decides she is unimpressed by the water. Above: Layla and Emily Vicks ‘16.5 meet for the first time.



The queen of Quarry Road.



To Catch a


164.095. “beep… … … beep … … … beep … … …” Nothing. I punched in the next frequency. 165.175. “beep… … … beep … … …” I only needed to hear two beeps to know this one was also slow. I bent over my receiver again. 165.322. “beep … beep … beep …” The musical tones were faint, but I could still hear the faster pulse chiming in at 65 beats per minute. My own heart quickened as I looked over at Erik in the driver’s seat. “Sounds fast to me,” he affirmed, and we radioed the other technician, Milan. Soon both our trucks were roaring down the gravel road, still wet from the morning’s light rain. As we came to the trap site, Erik and I peered through the lodgepole pine, shifting in our seats while our eyes strained for any furry movement. Erik rolled down the window and yelled out, his deep gravelly shout carrying through the air. We held our breath, but heard nothing. Erik narrowed his eyes and told me seriously, “We might have a TFC on our hands.” I nodded with equal seriousness, pretending that I understood. Only later I would learn this official lingo means “tiny forest creature.” It was June of 2015 up the North Fork of the Flathead River, during my first week of trapping grizzly bears as a wildlife technician for Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. I now was part of the trapping team of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) trend monitoring program, created in 2004 to monitor the survival and reproductive rates of grizzly bears by radio-collaring a representative sample of female bears. While this demographic data feeds into complex statistics programs and algorithms, my job was to help get the data started in the first place. Before fitting a radio collar around the neck of a grizzly, we have to first immobilize and anesthetize them. And before that we have to trap the bear, usually with an Aldrich-style foot snare or a culvert trap. While culverts are safer, foot snares allow us to cover a wider area. They are cheap, easy to make, transportable, and effective. All we need is the snare, a spring, a FM transmitter, and bait. Convincing a bear to either walk into a culvert or step into a foot snare is no easy task. Grizzly bears have an unbelievable sense of smell, so we use a combination of bait, typically road kill, and “splooge,” a lure created by mixing rotten fish and cow blood, to draw them to the trap site. The bait is put at the Two cubs of the year stay close as their mother is fitted with a radio collar. (Photo by MTFWP) 35

A male and female investigate a culvert trap. (Photo by MTFWP) base of the anchor tree such that it lies on the far side of the snare from the bear. Snares are also most often set in a cubby, a v-shaped pile of logs, sticks and brush that ideally funnel the bear’s approach. Hopefully, the bear will walk into the cubby to snag the bait, only to step into the snare. Different trappers have their own techniques for setting a snare, but there are some basic steps everyone follows. The snare is anchored to a large tree from which the loop end extends. The trapper then digs a pan into the ground, sets the spring, and lays small sticks across the spring’s treadle. Either broad, flat leaves or thin moss are placed on top of the sticks before the snare loop itself is laid carefully on top of the covered hole. Next, the trapper tucks the FM transmitter to the side of the snare, looping the magnet around the spring and placing it on top of the transmitter. Each transmitter has a unique frequency; the numbers I punched into the receiver above were the frequencies for transmitters at different sites. If the magnet comes off the transmitter, its pulse will quicken. By entering the frequency into a receiver, the trapper can determine by the pulse whether something has hit the site. Only a few touches remain. The snare is covered with light duff, fir boughs are placed strategically to both shape the cubby

and cover any visible instruments, and a curved stick is placed flush with the snare to encourage correct foot placement. If done well, the snare should be indiscernible and the cubby inviting. After this, all the trapper can do is hope a bear comes by and gets itself caught. This doesn’t happen as often as we’d like. We may end up catching a black bear instead, or a TFC might trip the transmitter’s magnet during its curious investigation. Or, a grizzly bear might visit the site, take one look, then proceed to annihilate all of our efforts. Too often I have come to a trap site, hoping to have caught a grizzly, only to learn that all of my careful work, all of my artful placements and calculations, have been reduced to a chaotic pile of crushed brush and chewedup logs. While I’m bent over digging through the debris to find the transmitter, I can picture the bear laughing at my futile efforts. Yet sometimes the work pays off. All of this effort, the hours spent in preparation, culminates in the moment when the grizzly reveals herself. I will never forget one day in the Swan Range when Milan, my boss, Lori, and I were checking a trap site on fast. We hollered and yelled, but heard nothing. Perplexed, we approached the site with extreme caution. The bear could have been keeping quiet, and there is always the

“I stood dumbstruck. No matter how many bears I catch, that first moment with the bear seizes my soul, and the world stands still.”


risk that other bears are nearby. The forest was thick, but still I could see nothing. Just as I was about to call out to Lori, a huge shape rose in front of me. The grizzly bear’s head lifted slowly and deliberately, massive in the afternoon sun as she moved back and forth, slightly, scenting us in the air. I stood dumbstruck. No matter how many bears I catch, that first moment with the bear seizes my soul, and the world stands still. She was so beautiful and regal, containing within her a spirit that humankind can never capture. I have now worked for two summers on the Trend Project and hope to work a third. The more I learn about grizzly bears, the more I appreciate the mystery of wildlife, and my passion for conservation grows. I hope that one day I might inspire others to share in this appreciation.

Along with the job comes spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains. (Photo by MTFWP)

A subadult snacks on some serviceberries. (Photo by MTFWP)



Research and Ad

Nun Kun (23,217 ft), seen from Pensi-La, a 15,000 ft pass that must be crossed to reach the valley. 38


dventure in Peru by


The center of Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu sits atop the mountain in the background. 39

Sometimes our surveying would involve longer walks between neighborhoods in communities. This one wasn't so bad, though. From left to right: Janet, our Spanish-Quechua interpreter, Aaron Ebner, one of the founders of the AASD, and Eugene, a MIIS student.



roll over and turn off my blaring alarm at 4:30 a.m. Leaning out the window to catch some crisp, fresh air, I observe the dark skies and mountains surrounding Calca, Peru, a town of roughly 10,000 people, an hour outside of Cusco. It is quiet, still illuminated by streetlights as a few people begin to start their days. Compared to the towering guardians of this valley, it makes sense why the mountains back at Middlebury are sometimes referred to simply as hills. I head downstairs for coca tea and to pack food for the day, all laid out by our host parents, Lucho and Maritza. This has become the normal routine for myself and the eight other students all under the same roof. Due to the nature of our research, surveying farmers in much more rural communities in the Sacred Valley, we must wake early to catch them before they go out to their fields. I, along with another Middlebury student named Steven, was fortunate enough to be granted the opportunity to spend J-term doing research alongside students from the Monterey Institute for International Studies (MIIS). We are shortly joined by their professor from Monterey as well as several members of the Andean Alliance for Sustainable De-

velopment (AASD), a local NGO that was started by two MIIS grads. The AASD works with many communities in the valley, providing assistance in ways such as constructing greenhouses and teaching organic farming practices. They regularly conduct surveys in order to better understand the needs and perspectives of the local communities so as to provide more concentrated, steady support. Many NGOs come in and blindly give out money and supplies without really striving to make a change. The AASD is not one of those organizations. In addition to providing help, they focus on maintaining relationships with the communities and learning as much as possible from the ingenuity and innovation of farmers and families living in extremely rural areas of the valley. We all gather outside and get in the van, accompanied by Julio, Rubin, and Janet, our primary Spanish-Quechua translators. While Spanish is primarily spoken in the cities and surrounding areas of Peru, we were travelling to much more rural areas where some people only speak an indigenous language, primarily Quechua. Before the sun rises, we are on our way to a new community, seeking understanding and a new perspective that will allow us to make a positive impact here. This research trip focused on surveying farmers about climate change, specifically addressing the problems they were facing and how they were dealing with them. It quickly became apparent just how much climate change has affected these people, many of whom don’t even understand why things are changing. No matter what part of the valley we went to, people

of all ages were quick to describe the severe weather, plagues (or papacuro in Quechua), and irregular seasons that were significantly impacting their farming and wellbeing. As Peru is a very Catholic country, it wasn’t entirely surprising that several people believed it to be “El fin de los dias”, or the end of days, as described in la biblia. At the end of our surveying, our student groups developed and presented deliverables on what form of assistance would have the most positive impact, with my group focusing on irrigation systems for the communities. I learned more from this insightful and absolutely amazing experience than any ordinary J-term class could possibly have taught me. It was fascinating to explore these rural communities and meet with people who have very little connection to the modern world. Their perspective and lifestyle opened my eyes to the simple yet fulfilling ways that many people live, within a familiar world and society that just carries on. I gained a greater sense of self awareness seeing the struggles these people were dealing with in the face of climate change. Never before was I able to so clearly see how our actions and lifestyles in a larger, more globally dominant country affect smaller communities around the world. After three weeks working with the AASD, our research program ended, and I spent the remainder of my time in Peru mainly on a trek to Machu Picchu. Known as the Salkantay Trek, a five day hike traversing a distinct variety of environments was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. As a result of the massive tourist industry and amazing destinations, people come from all over

the world, and our trekking group definitely exemplified this. Aside from myself and Steven, there were two Brazilians, two Italians, a Frenchman, a Swiss, another American, and our native Peruvian guide. Conversing with people coming from so many different cultures and perspectives made the walk that much more amazing. The trek started with an early morning van ride from our hostel in Cusco. We first stopped to camp just below Lake Huamantay, before hiking through glaciers the next day. Each morning we were woken up with hot coca tea and breakfast, prepared by the two chefs that came with us. While the hiking was physically demanding, there were definitely some luxurious parts to the trek that are included when you go with a tour group. Eventually our feet took us through the jungle and along miles of train tracks towards Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu where all visitors stay. Along the way, our guide Juan had plenty to say about the native flora and fauna, with interesting and friendly commentary whether we were up in the mountains or strolling through the green wilderness of la selva. Five days of hiking definitely wore down our bodies, but we were not discouraged from waking up and making the final trek up to Machu Picchu to catch the sunrise. Pictures, unfortunately, will never truly encapsulate the experience. The emotional outpouring and satisfaction I felt as I watched the sun rise over the ancient structures lifted the weariness straight out of my body. I could write for days trying to capture that exact moment, but at the end of the day, I think it’s best to simply encourage you to embark on your own trip, and find your own adventure within the Sacred Valley.


Our research took us to some beautiful, rural parts of the Sacred Valley. The curious cow is a natural part of the environment, as is the glacier in the background.

A street off of the main square in Calca. I think the pollería and the old VW Beetle both capture a lot of the town’s character.


In the Temple of the Condor at Machu Picchu. As our guide Ogro joked, the Chinchillas have taken over and are the new rulers of Machu Picchu.

Choquecancha, Peru. A much more rural village where we did some of our first surveys. Pictured here are wives of the men we worked in the fields with, preparing a delicious lunch.



Machu Picchu, seen here from Huayna Picchu. The extra hike up Huayna was exhausting, but absolutely worth it.


Choquecancha, Peru. Pictured here is the father of our translator for that day, who we surveyed as part of our research. I'm not the most talented photographer, but I think this picture truly captures his personality.






FAITH “Are you bringing your board?”


t was January and I was in California, packing up my car to drive to Vermont when I read that text from my friend and fellow wildman Christian Johansen. What? Was I bringing my surfboard to Vermont, a landlocked state, in the middle of winter? Was he out of his mind? I resisted. He insisted. And sure enough, a month later, we were at the tip of Long Island clad head-to-toe in neoprene, marching across the snow to the Atlantic with surfboards in hand. I had always known Christian, a native New Hampshirite and senior Feb at Middlebury College, to be a bit of a dreamer, but it was out there — bobbing in the chop with 20-degree gusts of wind whipping across my back and an ear-to-ear smile stretched involuntarily across my face — that I became a believer. By my spoiled West Coast standards, this was crazy… and I loved it. So, I guess it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise when, just seven weeks later, Christian caught me in passing and suggested in half a sentence that our newly founded Middlebury College Surf Club lead a surf-service trip to Cuba. What? “We’ll talk later,” he said and rushed off to class. I got a text that night telling me he had booked his ticket. I tried to call, but his phone was dead… so I took a deep breath and a leap of faith, and booked mine.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF SURFING IN CUBA On the map, Cuba doesn’t fit the mold of a surfer’s paradise. At the edge of the Caribbean, protected from the Atlantic by the Bahamas, Haiti and Jamaica, it doesn’t look like a 48

Three Middlebury Students’ Quest to Bring Surfboards to Cuba

Yojany “Mamerto” Pérez, one of Havana’s top surfers, expertly maneuvers through hardened coral to exit with the surf with flare.


Calle 70 local Lester Pino (left) helps David Fuchs ’17 (right) clamber onto “la plancha” with minimal injuries.

wave-magnet like Hawaii, which is surrounded by open ocean and picks up swell from virtually every direction. If it weren’t for the personal testimony of a mutual friend, a New York Times article from 2013 and a dated website entitled “Havana Surfers,” we wouldn’t have had much reason to believe that there was much surf in Cuba at all—and, due to shortage of surf supplies in the country, even less reason to believe that there’d be surfers. In part, those challenges tie back to policy. As the Cuban government does not recognize surfing as an official sport and has a general suspicion of any form of watercraft, it has been and still is impossible to buy a surfboard or any materials one could use to make one on the island. Despite these obstacles, a small, underground community of Cuban surfers has prevailed, drawing on every resource possible to make it into the waves. From the early days of scavenging board-shaping materials like foam from the lining of old refrigerators, resin from the national plastic factory and plywood tabletops from the dump, the Cuban surf scene has come a long way, managing to stockpile a small supply of gear. Still, every board has either been carried in by family members abroad or donated by foreigners. Groups like Havana Surfers and Royal 70 are committed to nurturing the Cuban surf community by attracting equipment donations from abroad. They manage their supply as equitably as possible — distributing the newest and highest-performance boards to the island’s best surfers who then, in turn, give their 50

old boards to younger or newer surfers. Every time new gear come in, a re-shuffling occurs and the new equipment is appropriately absorbed into the Cuban surfboard eco-system.

A MAD DASH We planned to add to that supply with the goal of eventually establishing a triangular surfboard distribution network between New England, Middlebury College and Cuba. But with only two and half weeks until departure, we needed to act fast. We roped in Asher Brown, a freshman Feb and additional New Hampshirite surf fanatic, and began cold-calling every surf shop between Montreal and New Jersey in search of donations. After two weeks of hustling, we were on the road to Montreal to catch our flight with six surfboards strapped to the roof—thanks to the generosity of Pioneers Board Shop and Cinnamon Rainbows of Hampton, New Hampshire and Burlington’s Wind & Waves.

TOUCH DOWN The airplane door opened and we descended the staircase to the tarmac in the 85-degree and humid evening weather, a far cry from the snow we had left behind in Middlebury.

We slipped through customs without a problem and soon were waiting at the baggage carousel, brimming with excitement as we slowly came to terms with the fact that we had actually made it to Cuba. The bags trickled out at glacial pace — like one bag every five minutes slow. We joked, trading guesses about what was happening behind the scenes. “It’s like there’s only one guy back there and every few minutes, he walks to the plane, grabs a bag, and then takes break,” one of us mused. Spirits were high, but as 30 minutes stretched to an hour and the first hour gave way to a second, nervousness crept in. We noticed a baggage handler walking in from a side-door and asked him if he had noticed two 10-foot-long bags lying around. He hadn’t. “Just wait,” he said. “They’ll come.” Soon, it was midnight and there was still no sign of the bags. With an airport staff antsy to get home and rapidly depleting pool of taxis at the airport entrance, we filled out a missing baggage report and left, dejected, with nothing more than a phone number that we could call to check on the status of the bags.

A SCRAPPY START Over breakfast the next morning, we borrowed our hostel owner’s phone to connect with the airport. Unfortunately, no

With numb fingers, Christoph Niederhauser ’16 (left), David Fuchs ‘17 (center) and Christian Johansen ’16.5 (right) load up the last round of donated surfboards in Burlington.

new information had materialized over night and we were told to call back the next morning. Combined with the fact that we hadn’t actually managed to get in touch with a single Cuban surfer before leaving the United States, the prospects of our project were looking grim. The only information we had to go off came from the “Q&A” section of the Havana Surfers website. “Q: want to meet Havana surfers? A: Go to the bottom of Calle 70, behind the Russian Embassy, next to the Panorama Hotel and ask for Yuniel Valderrama.” So, that’s exactly what we did.

CALLE 70 While it features some of the best waves in Havana, Calle 70, or 70 Street, is not what most people envision when they imagine a Caribbean surf destination. Waves break over a dangerous reef in the shadow of the towering Russian Embassy. Instead of sand, surfers traverse a treacherous minefield of razor-sharp coral-rock to arrive at “La Plancha,” a concrete slab filled with holes, which leads to the shoreline. Once there, surfers wait carefully before jumping belly-first on their boards, landing on the back of the receding aftermath of a wave and paddling quickly to evade any oncoming sets, which carry the risk throwing them back onto the rocks. Well, at least, that’s the case from December though Feb-


ruary when there are the waves. In late March, we discovered, the ocean next to Havana is flat as a lake. And unfortunately, no waves meant no surfers. Short on alternatives, we pressed on, asking every person we encountered on the walkway next to coast if they knew a man named “Yuniel” or, realistically, anybody who surfed. For days, this was our cycle: Wake up. Call the airport. No one would pick up. Grab a taxi to Calle 70. Ask for Cuban surfers. Go home. Rinse. Repeat. And eventually, it paid off.

A TURNING POINT A young man named Alexis turned out to be the key. If we met him at the beach the next morning, he would bring us to meet his friend Lester, a common figure in the Calle 70 surf scene, he said. Alexis kept his word, meeting us by the water the next morning. He brought us to Lester’s and then to his art school where met a photographer named Linda, a Cuban journalism student who created a book on the Calle 70 surfers. Once we got a hold of one thread, we just kept pulling. Turns out, Linda knew Yuniel and quickly put us in touch. Both of them knew Yojani, Arnán and Frank — some of the island’s best surfers — the same ones we had seen in the photos of the New York Times article years before. Yojani was friends with Januel who invited us to a party at Havana’s only skate park that afternoon. Once there, we were invited to a party at Frank’s house where we met Yaya, the head of Royal 70 and the country’s most prominent female surfer. In five days, somehow, we had gone from completely in the dark to completely in the loop. Even though there was still no sign of the boards, we at least had plan for what to do with them once — or, at this point, if — they arrived.

ICING ON THE CAKE On the day of Christian and Asher’s departure (I was staying on a couple days longer), we caught a cab to the airport. If the boards were ever going to arrive, this was our last shot at picking them up while one us would be on the island to deliver them. As the New England boys waited to check in, I tracked down the airline office to figure out where in the Americas our boards had ended up. After a brief yet nearly impossible to believe conversation with the airline representative, I raced downstairs to update the guys before they passed through security. Evidently, the airline workers had forgotten to unload the bags off our initial flight, sending them back and forth several times between Montreal and Havana. But now, finally, they were here and, because of their size, had been waiting outside the lost and found luggage area. A few hours later, in a state of euphoria, I left the boards in 52

the hands of one of our Cuban compadres. When I came back the next day to meet the crew who would be riding them, a chill had set in across the coast. A cold front had come in across the Gulf of Mexico, they explained, meaning that — if luck were on our side — we’d have a chance at snagging some off-season waves. So, we suited up, waxed up the boards and optimistically headed down to the shore. As we got closer, we could make out the spray blasting off the shore and onto the street, eliciting a chorus of excited shouts from the crowd. Our relaxed walk increased to a jog and then to a full-on ecstatic sprint. Swept up in the stoke, we made it to the rocks, picked our way to “La Plancha” and leapt it into the surf. I paddled out fast — plunging my hands into the warm Gulf waters, pulling it down my sides and sending it past the tail of my board. Still, it wasn’t enough to keep up with the locals who slipped unscathed beneath the oncoming waves as I got knocked around in the froth. The Cubans in the water — many of whom I had met over the past week — welcomed me to the line-up with smiles and fist bumps. As we traded waves, their skill was undeniable. They dropped in fast, carving aggressive, graceful lines up and down the faces and sending up plumes of mist every time they hit the top. Between rides, I chatted with the surfer floating next to me, who was examining his new board from Vermont with contagious enthusiasm. At a pause, my gaze shifted back to shore, where all of Havana stretched out along the coast, and that same involuntary smile spread across my face. This was crazy… and I loved it.

Left: A stoked and salty David Fuchs ’17 (left) and Alexi Moro (right) pose with the successfully transported boards.

David Fuchs ‘17 searches for surfers in Havana’s “Playa” neighborhood. One of the island’s best surfers was rumored to live inside.


Cara Vazquez (‘16.5) rides horseback into a canyon near San Pedro de Atacama as the 18 unrelenting sun beats down. 54

An Ode To Chile By Georgia Grace Edwards I take in the quiet and the overarching trees, dropping their yellow pollen bundles to the sidewalks near mi casa on Avenue Miguel Claro, where una nana sweeps them up in el sol, her purple apron fluttering in the breeze. Before boarding el metro, so full with bustling business bodies, packed tight as the tuna mi madre, Cremi, loads onto my buttered toast, and tops with tomato. I’m here studying as part of an internship -- una pasantía -about public health in Santiago, and my senses are on overload with the sights and sounds and smells of las personas in this crowded clínica. Yet I think it’s possible I’ve learned even más From the conversations I’ve had with my Chilean sister over cervezas (beers), From the arguments I’ve had with my taxi driver, Patrício, about which toppings are best on completos (Chilean hot dogs), From the goodnight besos (kisses) that mi madre, Cremi, plants on my forehead every noche. Only dos days more, until I must wave adiós to Chile, But not to las memorias: Sandboarding through la playa, Watching the sun sink into the Valley of La Luna, Sipping pisco sours as terremotos shake the earth, Riding caballos through canyons, Trading smiles for upside down empanadas, Climbing las montañas above the smog levels, Staring at the fireworks that ignite the sky of the Nuevo Year, Laughing at mi padre’s obsession with Westerns on the television, Swimming in hot springs with agua so blue, Sitting on the painted steps, where a man grabbed mi teléfono, Gazing at las estrellas with a cup of the world’s best hot cocoa, Dancing to the música that fills the streets at night… These are the places I’ll return to in mis sueños, The places that make me say “gracias.”



Sunset over the driest place on earth -- Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) -- which sits in the middle of the Atacama Desert, Chile.



Mother Earth By Munya Munyati


I lived in the Ecuadorian Amazon for 8 months. However, it was only after I learned that I was nothing but a single living organism among billions sharing the rainforest, that it felt like home. Only after the incessant buzz of the insects in the trees became the music that calmed me as I lay in bed at night. Only after I realized that unknown creatures landing on me were (usually) not a reason to panic. Only after the alternating rain and sun throughout the day became as expected as the alternating sun and moon. This hub of bustling diversity taught me to appreciate the natural world I inhabited. Only then did I realize the opportunity for discovery. Only then did I call the Ecuadorian Amazon home.

Rapids through the Amazon 59

Pink fields reflecting the vibrance of life in the Amazon

A local Tibetan Buddhist monk from Tangze. 60


Life exists in all shapes and sizes, you just have to look hard enough


Life shines amongst the grey

Top of Pichincha 63

Mud & Cement by Naomi Eisenberg


he taxi to Ait Hamza from Azrou is hot and sweaty and stuffed, seven of us in a car barely meant to seat five. First at the taxi stand, a fight occurs between the drivers and a man who thought he had a spot in the cab. Finally we leave, the wind barely seeping into the baking car. In the backseat is the young woman, probably my age, and her baby. Kenza, whose mud home I would be living with, offers to fill the baby’s bottle with cool water instead of the warm water that was already in it. When the baby starts crying, the taxi stops so the mother can get her food. When the mother tastes the yogurt and seems to think it has gone bad, all five other passengers of the tiny taxi inspect the label before agreeing that it is spoiled. The taxi then stops again and the driver runs out to buy the baby yogurt. I sit listening to everyone breathing heavily down each other’s necks as Kenza and the driver talk about the Quran. Ait Hamza sits in the cradle of the Middle Atlas Mountains – low houses set against dramatic hillsides, fields of greenish brown and roaming dark dogs. In Kenza’s mud and cement house, I am welcomed by a curly haired little girl in a red dress, eager to become my friend. Her family says hello by kissing my cheeks (I still have not gotten the cheek kissing pattern down yet). It is Sunday afternoon and her mother, two brothers and two of her four sisters sit lounging against the long Moroccan couches, clicking at the TV’s bad reception signal. In Ait Hamza, the children learn English in primary 64

school, so Kenza’s brothers are able to speak to me with their handful of vocabulary. Her youngest brother works at a microfinance bank in the nearest town. I try explaining how I study economics and would love to hear more about what he does. He nods, I think understanding more than he was able to conjure up in words. This morning, I am awakened by a very angry cow who is screeching against the side of the mud and cement. In the kitchen, Kenza bakes bread on the floor, kneading the dough in a drumming pattern. We cannot meet with the women of the cooperative because no one seems to be around, so I watch everything. I read with the little girl sitting on my lap still, listening to her speak to me in jumbled Berber, content with the fact that most things here sound confusing and strange and new to us both. I imagine that this is what living in a shtetl felt like. There are clothes to wash and hang, cows to milk, dough to knead, dust to sweep, children to bathe, prayers to pray. I would say that the largest difference between Ait Hamza and a shtetl is the predominant religion, but I do not think that is it. The largest difference is that there is 3G Wi-Fi here. When the call to prayer goes off, sometimes I cannot tell if the women are whispering to each other or praying to themselves, or both. Yesterday, as I walked along the outskirts of the village as the sun set over the Ait Hamza valley, which comprises of five or so small villages, the call to prayer began. I stood in the center of the valley amidst the villages, hear-

Kenza baking bread in the morning, as she did every day. Left: An older Berber weaver watching our workshop. She is one of the few women alive with facial tattoos in the village

ing at least a dozen Moadins begin the call to prayer. Not a me why they would interpret it if the word of god was already single one sounded clear to me, and not a single one was not there. Because I believe that Judaism is based on the asking of heard. The prayers messed into a cacophony as they swirled in difficult questions, I answered with, Why not? My discomfort the cradle of the mountains, intermingling with one another. dissipated as his face reshaped into a curious smile. He then I imagine that as each sound wave of prayer passes another, asked me if I believed in the story of Moses, of the exodus, with it whispers in its ear, maybe a secret or a hope, and carries on the implication of his belief of the holy stories as fact. through the valley. I believe that there is truth in the story, but I do not believe Two nights ago, Mohammad, one of Kenza’s brothers, and that the story is wholly true, I answered. I had a conversation about religion. It was messy, especially givThe conversation was cut short by the need to clean and en that he has not spoken English in fifteen years. For the first prepare for dinner, the kids to kiss and the tea to seep. time since I had been in Morocco, yet only for a moment, I felt Last night we talked about names, and he asked me to tension about my reliwrite my name in Hegion. The conversation “I imagine that as each soundwave of prayer passes another, brew. I wrote, shmi started when he asked it whispers in its ear, maybe a secret or a hope, and carries Naomi, in Hebrew letme what languages I ters, left to right. In through the valley.” spoke and I told him Arabic it would be, ismi that I spoke Hebrew. Naima, almost identical We talked about prophets and rabbis, him fixated on two facts; in sound. In shock he gazed at the letters, so similar to Arabic, Moses was the ultimate prophet of the Jewish people and rab- asking me if I was sure that Hebrew was written left to right. bis have changed the Torah. I tried to explain that the Tanach They are the same!!! He exclamation was filled with so much joy. was comprised of Torah, Neviim and Katuvim, and that there We spent the rest of the evening talking about Hebrew and were many, many prophets. I also tried to explain that the Rab- Arabic letters and sounds and similar words. bis have not changed the Torah, but rather interpreted it, asked Shmi Naomi, Ismi Naima. They are the same. I fall asleep content on the concrete and mud, the dogs bequestions, argued with the words and the phrases, with each other, and sometimes even with god. ginning to circle the houses and the curly haired girls cuddled I only felt uncomfortable for the moment when he asked up in their grandmother’s arms. 65

The view of a village in the high Atlas Mountains. Bottom: Rural Moroccan woman carrying a harvest across the field.


Weavers in Souk El Had carrying their rugs back up to their workshop. Top: Kenza explains how to use her phone to access a website to a group of weavers 67 in Errachidia.

The utility of the roof as a living space is fully realized in Morocco.




he room is long with a high arched ceiling, like an ancient subway tunnel. The chipped floor seems unable to support the weight of the plastic water buckets that dot the room. The air is a warm, wet hug on my dehydrated skin. This is the hammam, the public bathhouse which is one of four staples in every Moroccan neighborhood along with the mosque, the bakery, and the market. It is not just any bath: it is a multi-hour endeavor of vigorous skin scrubbing, scalp massaging and self-communion that leaves the body feeling energized and the soul refreshed. Walking into the dressing room, we are greeted by a joyful woman dressed in nothing but her underwear. She summons us to take off our clothes. Eyes darting around the room, we feel self-conscious as we expose our pale, dry skin. The woman gives us a bucket, into which we shyly put our shampoo and special hammam soap given to us by our host family for the occasion. Bucket in hand, pride left at the door, we duck into the tunnel-like chamber. Almost instantly, I feel the muscles in my face and neck relaxing. I didn’t realize I had been straining them. We sit cross-


legged on the wet tile and the joyful woman pushes large purple buckets of warm water towards us. The water sloshes happily, as if jumping to greet us. We scoop water onto our bodies, giggling because we have no idea how this works. We look around: there are perhaps twenty women sitting leisurely, taking great care to scrub away the week’s dead skin. Most are elderly, their skin sagging with age and their middles plump from a lifetime of khobz (bread). One woman scrubs the hunched back of her friend, pausing often to share laughter. Across the room, a beautiful woman perhaps my age sits alone, quietly combing her hair. This is the beauty of the hammam: it is an intimate communal space for silence or relationship, whichever you find yourself needing today. In a room of complete strangers, almost naked and unable to speak Derija (the Moroccan Arabic dialect), I feel comforted. I feel surprisingly safe and relaxed, given the vulnerability that nudity and language barriers tend to create. Perhaps it is comforting to finally sit still and to be surrounded by people who won’t ask me about capitalism or colonialism or environmental justice. But even more than that, it is comforting to

exist quietly and communally in a space where self-care is the only thing on the day’s agenda. There is no speed, no urgency, no stress-- just me, paying some long overdue attention to my body and my heart. The joyful woman lathers us with hammam soap (a green-brown paste whose plain exterior does little justice to its cleaning powers), dons a sock-loofa on her hand, and starts scrubbing my skin. And boy, does she scrub. Never in my life have I seen so much dead skin. The woman scrubs my sad dry body so vigorously that my stomach and chest protest by turning bright red. I wince as thousands of tendrils of dead skin pile

“It is comforting to exist quietly and communally in a space where self-care is the only thing on the day’s agenda.” up here, there, everywhere. She giggles at my amazement that my body can produce so much dead skin, and that I have been drowning in all this filth for twenty-one years. It’s a good thing that dead skin is translucent, and that the tile floor is white, because by the end I swear I’m swimming in the stuff. After a bucket rinse, the woman tells Sophie and I to switch places so that she can wash my hair. We do, and now we are each sitting in a puddle of the other’s dead skin. We joke about the bacteria that must be bred and transmitted here, but it doesn’t seem to matter because we are reveling in how impossibly clean we feel. It is as though we’ve never bathed, as though showers were invented to give the illusion of cleanliness to people who are too busy to really engage in self-care. When we leave the hammam, we do so reluctantly. The sunlight seems too aggressive for the calmness that we feel. As we walk home along the market street, the stench of live chickens and fish makes us want to turn around and go straight back to the hammam. But we don’t; we walk in a daze of soft skin, finally understanding the Moroccans’ incredulity at our ten-minute showers.

Wandering the streets of Chefchaouen, the Blue City. 69


Sights along the blue streets of Chefchaouen. 71




Piles of tiles sitting among the mountains.



n the high hills of Garfagnana, Toscana overlaying at the bottom. Next, you place the arc-side facing (Tuscany), I am walking on a wooded up over the edge of the other tile, with the wide end facing path that it seems could be just about down, but overlaying it the same way. If it is difficult to bring anywhere. Colm, a middle-aged Irish- a picture of the process to mind, it is equally challenging to do man and my host for the next three it correctly on the slope of the old roof; but you find a rhythm, weeks, leads the way over roots and and soon enough with five sets of hands, it feels like the roof small streams up to the cottage we’ll may be tiling itself. On the roof now, I look down to see Melabe working on that day. “Stephen’s a nia, tired, sitting down in the middle of the path; she wipes the lad from New Zealand,” he tells me. sweat from her short black hair and pulls the thin black strap “I think he’s a bit lonely up here, and of her tank top back on her shoulder. Colm comes barreling he sure knows little about fixing up through with tiles stacked high in his arms. “Like everything, cottages so,” Colm pauses, putting his Mel, you get used to it,” he shrugs, smiling as he hikes upward. hands on his hips and looking back at My arms are sore, too, and I mirror Melania in taking a me, “figured he could use as much help breath, dangling my legs off the edge of the roof. The expanse as we can give.” I nod, and look to Andy and Melania, my of green trees and hilltop villages engulf me; even though I am co-workers, from England and Barcelona, respectively. We had high amidst the tiles, I am ever aware of my smallness against already driven 40 minutes from the small town up a wind- the mountains and the people around me, all living their own ing dirt road, and had spent half an hour climbing upwards significant stories. Andy nudges Mel to move forward below towards overarching mounme––this trip for them is a tains. Melania sighs, wipside stop before the museing her brow. “This is a long “The expanse of green trees and hilltop ums, and her feet are dragwalk, no?” Andy looks to villages engulf me; even though I am ging, evidently. I look up, her in dismissal of her exsee the light between the high amidst the tiles, I am ever aware leaves, glistening alongside asperation, eyebrows raised as if to say, What, you’ve of my smallness against the mountains the sweat and dust of a hard never hiked a mountain to day’s work. Everything is and the people around me, all living beautiful if you look for tile a Tuscan roof before? The green September what is there, and not what their own significant stories.” brush opens slightly, and you think should be, I’ll Stephen’s cottage comes into write down later that evening. view. Backed by the rugged outline of the Apuani Alps, the On a tea break, we sit roof-side; Colm smokes and I split a roof sticks out just above the leaves, and a sense of place comes pear with Laura. The different accents blend together in coninto the clearing. The grey walls are pale against the red clay on versation. The roll of the hills is vast around us, with years the roof, and the New Zealander sits on top, his arms resting and years collected in its paths. “There’s an old monastery way on his knees. What seems like hundreds of the ancient tiles sit up there,” Colm points to the cylinder on a hilltop in the disin heaps in a cluster of trees adjacent to the home. He waves tance. Stephen nods. Having been there once, he notes it down to us. Colm looks up to his friend, squinting. “Ah, he’s was worth the trip, but a heck of a trek even more so than his a crazy Kiwi,” he mutters. Inside is dusty, lined with blue tarp own cottage. He turns to me, “So, what are you doing here, and tools waiting to be put to work. Stephen tells us that prog- anyways?” I look around; I’m isolated, working and traveling ress is slow with his two hands; he’s beginning to wonder if his with no one I know, just trying to help where help is needdream of the cottage is crumbling, like its walls. His partner, ed. Holding my hot cup of tea alongside a Brit, a Spaniard, Laura, comes up and visits on occasion, but not often enough; a Scott, an Irishman and a Kiwi, I have few words to explain she’s here now, leaning against the cottage in work boots and why here is more important than there. I stumble through a loose shirt. Her white blonde hair is wispy, and she is play- my explanation of seeking a different pace and perspective, ing with a bit of plastic she claims is an archaeological find. broad thoughts that seem intangible beside red clay. “I get We carry 30 pound piles a few hundred yards up to the it,” he says, after taking a sip and breathing out the steam, roof; we each take at least five trips, balancing on rickety boards “You’re not going to see the sights, the sights are what you see.” up the slope. The tiles in my hands were made decades ago When we leave, the roof is practically complete. Stefrom the mold of women’s legs; I close my eyes to see them phen, in awe, thanks us each with a kiss on the cheek. “This soaking their thighs in the stream below, red clay trickling would’ve taken me years,” he says, “I truly can’t thank you down their bare legs and into the valley. After they are molded enough.” Colm gives him an extra pat on the back, invites and dried, they need no other adhesive, but to be puzzle pieced him over for dinner later that week. I take one more sip of together on the rooftop. First, you lay the tile belly up, creating lukewarm Earl Grey tea, and leave my cup aside the outvertical rows with the wide end facing up and the smaller end er wall of the cottage before heading back down the trail. 74

Tiling a Tuscan roof


Soul Searching, or Something:

Spain and Portugal by ISABELLA EPSTEIN


A view overlooking Praia Dona Ana in Lagos, Portugal illustrates the cliffs and the liveliness characteristic of Lagos’ beaches.

Church bells ring in Lisbon, Portugal, notifying the world that it’s time to eat, pray, or do both.



’ve always wondered what turns I took that lead me to the path on which I walk. Laying awake at night, I stared at the ceiling, counted stars that no longer exist, questioned my purpose in this universe, and implored the little voices in my head to leave me alone, just for once. But they never stopped talking, those damned little voices, and the more they talked, the crazier I became. I couldn’t help but stay awake at night and wonder. It’s partly impossible not to, and it’s partly human nature. The further I traveled along the path I walked, the farther I had to look back in attempt to understand the steps I was taking. And as I did so, I realized that I didn’t know where I was or even where I was going. When you don’t know the answers to these questions, I guess it’s fair to say that you’re lost. And when you’re lost, you pack a bag and take yourself somewhere to be found. So I did just that. I packed my bag and ran. Ran as far away from the little voices in my head as possible, as far away from reality as I could. Some people call it soul searching, or something like that. I know I’m only eighteen years young but somehow, I’ve found, I’ve already managed to lose myself. There’s something about wandering aimlessly, falling in love, and being lost in a foreign country that helps you to find yourself. Within me lies a fierce desire to see the world, a craving so intense, I cannot resist. Adventure is what feeds my soul, what circulates the blood through my veins. Wanderlust is an epidemic, infecting my body and jabbing at my heart. The only remedy is to wander, get lost, and find myself in the beautiful unknown.

“Wanderlust is an epidemic, infecting my body and jabbing at my heart.” On my journey to self-discovery, I traversed the Atlantic, trekked through the south of Spain and up along the coast, and flew spontaneously to her neighboring country Portugal. For two months, I laughed louder than I ever had before, danced through the streets of different cities, swam deep beneath the surface of the ocean, spent honest hours late night talking, and crossed paths with people who made me feel alive. I traveled alone, but I was never lonely. Strangers became friends, who became my family. Removed from my reality, I was another person, a woman unrecognizable. I escaped from the world I knew and entered one of beauty and endless opportunity. Every waking moment was worthwhile; every breath I took was exhilarating. Walking through the winding, cobblestone streets of Spain and laying on the beach beneath the blazing Portugal sun, I reestablished a sense of self and found the woman I had lost amidst the chaos that is life. Sometimes, all you need is an escape. Sometimes, you just need to pack a bag and run. Adventure is out there. And so are you. 78

The difference between friend and brother is none as two boys enjoy a drink and a smoke along a river in Sevilla.


Siblings stick together as they face a world where everyone is against them.

A young, indigenous Colombian child looks over the horizon and imagines a world he will never know.


An every day affair: young tribal children finding happiness and pleasure in the simplicity of nature.

The future of the Tribe.


A woman observes the world below her from atop the Castle of the Moors in Sintra, Portugal.


One of Lisbon’s many winding, whimsical cobblestone streets.

Strangers who became sisters. 83

Three companions contemplate life as they overlook the Balearic sea. The sun sets behind them, while prospects for the future rise in front of them.

On a rooftop bar in Lagos, Portugal, man and wife bask in the summer sun, observing the the blank pages that lie ahead as represented by the white architecture of the city.


The eyes of a young Arhuaco girl beg for the future she will be denied.


Nun Kun (23,217 ft), seen from Pensi-La, a 15,000 ft pass that must be crossed to reach the valley.



86 86


I spent this past summer working for an NGO in Ladakh, India, a Himalayan region which shares many cultural and religious similarities to Tibet. Part of my work involved traveling to remote regions to conduct research on traditional Tibetan Buddhist artwork in ancient monasteries. One such trip to the Zanskar valley lasted for just over two weeks, and was spent almost entirely on foot or horseback. This essay displays some film photos I took during that journey.


Jamyang, a local horseman.

The village of Tangze, one of the larger settlements of inner Zanskar.


A boy from Tangze.

Phuktal Gompa, a 15th century Tibetan Buddhist monastery built inside a massive limestone cave that has been inhabited for the last 2,500 years. It is an 8 day walk from the nearest road. 21


Phuktal monastery is a member of the Dalai Lama’s Geluk, or Yellow-Hat, sect of Tibetan Buddhism. 90

A local Tibetan Buddhist monk from Tangze. 91


A bridge woven of wild roses crosses the Zanskar river.


Meals at the monastery are taken outside, high above the river.


The entrance to the lha-khang, the main temple of Phuktal Gompa. 95

The older married women are served food first during a wedding in Dakar, Senegal.

Me, Myself, and I BY IZZY FLEMING



here is an inevitable moment when you find yourself surrounded by something beautiful – a moment that pushes you to turn to the one closest to you and say,

“This is beautiful.”

You look for reassurance that what you see is truly as remarkable as you think. That the one standing next to you is seeing the same thing as you. You ask for a pinch. “Is this real?” A moment of hesitation passes before you seek a companion. Your opinion becomes a team effort. “What do you think?” You scurry to build a safety net, find someone who will provide a backbone for future reminiscence. You need to be able to turn to that person one day to say, “Remember how beautiful that was?” We’ve forgotten what to do with memories we create alone. People are built to communicate, share, exchange. The contrary is lonely, heartbreaking. As thoughts materialize, we look

for an output, a place to dispense them – often unconsciously. Our parents have to remind us, “Think before you speak.” It’s as if when someone dies, you lose a future and the past. All the shared memories suddenly feel lost, worthless. How would anyone else understand? “I guess you had to be there...” Yet our tendency to avoid solitude is often a result of a miscalculated desire to cling onto company. To indulge in a moment with just yourself and the world is arguably the most powerful; at times, too powerful. Consequently, this is when you release part of the burden on the ones around you. “Your problems are my problems.” On the other hand, when you take on a situation alone, what lies ahead is free of outside influence. Finally, a moment for yourself. Instead of giving to others, you can selfishly take all of the beauty for yourself. The thing is, a moment’s beauty often comes from everything that makes it singular. It isn’t about the objectivity of the moment, the obvious beauty that has been captured by

Tricycle drivers wait for their next customers in Manila, Phillipines. 97

Many hours were spent in the TV Room during a village stay in St. Louis, Senegal. • A boy peeks in his neighbor’s window in Taclobam 98 Phillipines. • Tea-time in St. Louis, Senegal to end the day. • A tricycle on route in Manila, Phillipines. • A stray cat in Manila, Phillipines.

Instagram time and time again. It’s the fact that the world in of twenty-one million. that minute, in that place, from that position will never again I prefer to do (and not do) everything (and anything) be the same. That unique image is yours forever; a belonging alone. that no one else will feel. Don’t get me wrong, “we” is my most used pronoun and There is something to be said of a memory held secret. In “the more the merrier” is a personal anthem. Like most people, knowing that a moment that impacted you will never touch I don’t tend to approve or promote solidarity. Rather, I expect anyone else. The energized intensity of these moments prove companionship. I’ve outgrown holding my parent’s hand, have how truly rare they are. become attached at the hip with my newest BFF, and one day Remember, the world is a wonI will vow to stay with my partner der. You will find places that make the death do us part. “Moments with myself have untilHence, streets of Vienna look like the endearmoments with myself becone a rarity, an unfamiliar ing work of a three-year-old and his have become a rarity, an unfamiliar coloring book. You will find people confrontation with the cluster- confrontation with the Clusterfuck that put the emotion of your recent known as my mind. I’m not talking fuck known as my mind... ” breakup to shame. about the times I escape to my bed And you will have times when you and a closed door. But when I have want to scream “Am I seriously the only found myself alone in the middle person seeing this right now?” Remember, these moments de- of something sensational- the epicenter of a witchcraft assemserve the biggest celebration of all. bly; front row for an African popstar; naked in the Croatian sea; at the moment of a stranger’s “I do”; on the peak of a desou see, I’ve recently become obsessed with hanging olate desert mountain; homeless below a million stars. These out with myself. moments are the greatest trigger for thrill. My senses catch fire. First, I fled to the Philippines, sinking into soli- My body reaches overload. I feel alive, aware, full. tude by hopping from one vacant island to the next. So, correction: I am not obsessed with hanging out with Then, I fled to Senegal, a region off the grid, equipped with myself, but obsessed with the moments when I have no choice an excuse to disconnect from the rest. but to take in the unpredictable, limitless, absolutely breathAfter, I was in Mexico City, a metropolis where I was one taking world in front of me.


21 An evening wedding in the streets of Dakar, Senegal. 99


A black and white postcard photo of King Bhumibol and his immediate family is wedged into an amulet mender’s stall at an amulet market on the outskirts of Bangkok.



A calendar with King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit’s portrait hangs above a noodle vendor in Bangkok, just months before his passing.


A famous portrait of King Bhumibol conducting agricultural research in rural Thailand hangs prominently in an amulet market in Bangkok.



King Bhumibol 100 baht notes hang in an artful fashion amongst flowers, Buddhist prayer flags, and amulets.


A portrait of King Bhumibol is covered by a jasmine garland on a front door in a Thai slum located in central Bangkok.

An image of King Bhumibol is pasted onto a pink guava and green mango scale in an open vegetable and fruit market in Bangkok. 106

A calendar of King Bhumibol hangs high in a dimly lit home in the midst of one of the poorest slums in Bangkok. 107

An image of King Bhumibol hangs amongst a mechanic’s tools.

Beneath a calendar of King Bhumibol, a boy plays on a mobile phone in a slum in Bangkok. 108

An elderly shopkeeper in Bangkok sits below a brightly lit portrait, which hangs in the center of her shop.

A small sticker of King Bhumibol and other members of the royal family is pasted below an electricity socket in a market in Bangkok.



A Krungsri Bank advertisement of a youthful King Bhumibol is arranged on the wall of a small restaurant in a Bangkok slum.




Kawgun Cave

At Buddhist sites, some areas are reserved for men only


Thousands of buddhist icons adorn the reclining rock cliffs


Snack-time for the local family of monkeys

Outside of Kaw Ka Taung Cave

Line of standing worshippers 115

A Buddhist monk worships

Kaw Ka Taung Cave


Buddhisr statues face Mount Zwegabin

Prayers inside Sadan Cave


A local Tibetan Buddhist monk from Tangze. 118

Flooded pathway to Bayin Nyi Cave


Auschwitz Birkenau, Poland (Photo by Jake Clapp)



Anthea Viragh Christian Johansen

Senior Editor

Pyone Aye

Editors & Designers

Alanna Brannam April Qian Bryce Belanger Claiborne Beary Elisa Gan Jean Chuong Yvette Shi

Julia Beck Kate Criscitiello Liam Fowler Maya London-Southern Scott Waller Selena Ling

Photo & Art Contributors

Amelia Howard Asher Brown Greta Hulleberg Jake Clapp

Maddie Hoar Maya London-Southern Michael O’Hara


Jeff Howarth

JOIN THE ADVENTURE If you are interested in submitting travel essays and photographs to MIDDLEBURY GEOGRAPHIC or in being part of the magazine’s editing and design team, please contact us at mg@middlebury.edu Every issue of Middlebury Geographic is available at www.issuu.com/middgeog

Bea Kuijpers ‘19 bikes through the Dutch countryside outside of Amsterdam (Photo by Asher Brown)





bh, I know nothing… And I’m starting to realize that’s not a bad thing. Recently, I came to the realization that I have fulfilled all the academic requirements (but the senior seminar) to garner my degree a little over a year from now. That’s scary. It seems like just yesterday I stumbled into an introductory international politics class on a whim. A wide eyed, awkward, and uncertain Freshman. Yet, suddenly I am (apparently) effectively prepared to graduate from Middlebury with a degree in Political Science and Geography. It’s not that I don’t feel like I’ve learned enough. People named Dry, Stanger, and Williams made certain of that. It is very easy to simply ingest and regurgitate information, especially when it is fed you in quantities that often disable your ability to digest it all. During my time at Middlebury, my academic experience has been largely theoretical and historical. There has been little need to develop what any of it means in the physical context. Blinded by academic, athletic, and social commitments, the collective and controlled chaos that is Middlebury College is conducive toward driving its students to adopt a standard of excellence characterized by


organization, friendly competitiveness, and perseverance. To what end is all of this? I suppose I know an incredible amount about the dynamics of the Cold War and how a change in interest rates affects the behavior of international trade. Every single class I have taken at Midd has been incredibly valuable in a traditional academic sense. Yet I am just realizing that all this has solely pushed me deeper into the greater paradox of learning: The more you learn, the less you know. I know about a lot. I know nothing. This summer, when I wasn’t working at my (rather unrewarding) internship at non-profit, I worked just across the street at an upscale Burger joint as a line cook. Although the CCI deemed this occupation as a superfluous and irrelevant to my résumé, grinding out long days behind a massive flattop grill in downtown Denver taught me a lot more about the world than any international politics class or marketing internship ever could. I quickly learned that an education from a selective liberal arts institution meant nothing in this environment. My two supervisors included the Kenyan born son of a Norwegian diplomat and Kenyan mother who had come to Colorado seven years earlier on a soccer scholarship, and a Marine vet who had lost four of his fingers and earned two purple hearts in Iraq ten years ago. On the line, my team consisted of a six-foot-six-inch former convict who had been released from a four-year sentence in jail three months prior and enjoyed calling me “baby face” and “college boy”, a girl less than one year my elder who had just given birth to her second child, and a heavily tattooed and fiery thirty-something woman who worked on average seventy hour weeks so that she and her fiancé could pay for their wedding and a honeymoon in September because her father didn’t support gay marriage and refused to help pay for anything. In this environment, I was reduced to a lost boy. A “well read” lost boy – sure. But lost nonetheless. Growing up as a competitive alpine skier in a small ski resort town in rural Colorado attracted me to Middlebury. It was a natural transition. Upon arrival, I fully embraced and immersed myself in the prototypical culture of the Middlebury student-athlete. My hectic and often ambitious schedule became the source of my pride. I was comforted by the countless hours in the gym, up at the Snow Bowl, and in the library. It became a way to identify myself and I ignorantly reveled in that. Within a few weeks of working at the burger joint, I learned that all of that meant nothing. The paradox of the culture on campus is that we are so often entrenched in trying to understand where we fit in a particular moment—all the while constantly stressing the significance of where we’re going—that we often overlook the importance of not only our individual pasts, but the backgrounds of those around us as well. I don’t think this is something that any of us intentionally do, but I feel we so often are caught up not only in the Middlebury bubble, but the bubble of our lives. This is not any of our faults. This is not something that we can

necessarily reverse. But, collectively we can change it. The significance of a liberal arts education is that it not only allows, but encourages, us to learn about an immensely diverse array of social, cultural, economic, etcetera ideologies from around the world. However, it does not play into the very fabric of our education. Ultimately, the majority of us are striving toward highlighting our transcript. For me, going to Monterey (MIIS) to take classes in the Non-Proliferation and Terrorism Studies school seemed like a way to explore something I was interested in while also bolstering my academic transcript. However, taking classes in the field of terrorism ultimately overwhelmed me with a sense of ignorant privilege that I had never found while at Middlebury. No longer was I engaging in theoretical conversations about whether or not containment was a logical policy against the Soviets with like-minded liberal western students in the comforts of Middlebury College, an environment where the greatest source of tension is from students trying to outdo one another in intellectual rhetoric (anyone who has ever been in a 300 level PoliSci discussion knows what I mean). Suddenly, I found myself getting into a debate about the morality of Pakistani state-sponsored terrorism against Indian occupation of Kashmir with a forty year old Pakistani woman who systematically turned my argument upside down as she began to tell her personal plight of Indian oppression, passionately lecturing me about the inequality and methods of terrorism that had been imposed on Muslims in Indian society and how she had lost five innocent relatives to Indian militancy in Kashmir. As I sat across from her at the seminar table, I found it difficult to respond with anything of substance despite the hundreds of pages of reading I had done on the subject to prepare for my argument. I was just a boy from Colorado whose most exotic exposure to foreign culture thus far was when I went skiing for five weeks in New Zealand. I simply sat silently waiting, unsuccessfully, for any of my classmates to say anything. The professor proceeded to change the subject of debate as my formerly amicable Pakistani classmate forced back a scowl from across the table. I knew about a lot. Ultimately, I knew nothing. What I have learned during my time at Middlebury is that our curriculum is designed to make us uncomfortable in the most comfortable manner. My curriculum as a PoliSci major and Geography minor often fails to contextualize itself and materialize as anything more than another Foreign Affairs journal article. I am often left feeling a great sense of accomplishment thinking about all that I have learned, yet am careless to what it all means. Our tuition is certainly costly. However, our education has been fueled by greater and greater costs. These articles and case studies do not exist in a vacuum, but come at the cost of others around the world. The most profound part of my learning has not come from readings, writings, or problem sets, but from simply thinking about why and how something came to be. The more I have learned, the more I have realized how little I know. As daunting of a theory as that may be,

it has ultimately ignited my education beyond the traditional academic realm of Middlebury. I retired/quit/stepped away/however you want to frame it from the sport of alpine ski racing almost two months ago after a long series of injuries and the ultimate realization that my career as a skiier would not determine the path of my life. Although I remain an active member on the team (in a non-athletic capacity), it has opened up my schedule massively and allowed me to engage with aspects of this campus that I never before had time to acknowledge. I have learned so much more about life and the world simply through conversations with my peers than I have in a classroom setting. We close ourselves up to honest conversation when we immerse ourselves in a classroom setting. It seems in this environment things can only be contextualized in the strictest of forms and rarely are we able to truly understand the realities of this world because we are too caught up in the formalities. Face to face conversation shatters this and allows us to engage and better understand what we deem as uncomfortable. Talk with your suitemates. Talk with your teammates. Talk with your parents. Talk with that one kid you met that one time and seems like a cool kid. Talk about your thoughts beyond what you have read, written, or spoken in class. The world is a very massive and very complicated place. I cannot even pretend to know a fraction about it. The best we can do is share one another’s thoughts and most importantly, our experiences with one another in order to better visualize the world. The most significant thing we all can do to augment our wisdom is to admit our own sense of ignorance. The more that we learn, the more we realize how little we know. Ultimately, that is a good thing if you see it in the right way. Our lives are a blank Google doc and I’d like to invite everyone to edit mine. Tell me a story. I’ll tell you one in return. 123

Titans of ‘Scotia (Photo by Christian Johansen) Back cover: A yucca plant is lit by streetlights and the Milky Way, clearly defined in the night sky high in the Andes Mountains, even within the city limits of Huaraz, Peru (Photo by Michael O’Hara) 124


In loving memory of Murphy Roberts ’17 126