Tuesday, September 26, 2006


FALL - 2006
After our four days in Puerto Madryn, the Valdes Peninsula and the Patagonia steppe, we flew from Trelew to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost city on the continent. There was a marked difference between a semi-arid region of Patagonia to a mountains, lakes and channels region of Patogonia. The first picture is the view from our window at the Los Cauquenes hotel, overlooking the Beagle Channel toward the southern peaks of the Andes.
Our first day was a Lagos Off Road excursion, into the mountains, through the woods and along the shore of one of the many large lakes in Tierra del Fuego. We had an asado at an outpost near the lake, and as we stood around the campfire, we had a visitor! He was very edgy but also very interested in some lunch. Some of the other activities included exploring the downtown area of Ushuaia, a boat cruise on the Beagle Channel, and a day of skiing at Cerro Castor

Friday, September 22, 2006


FALL - 2006
Our week-long field trip began on Wednesday the 13th, and as you can see, the crew was very excited to head out. We flew from Buenos Aires to the Trelew Airport and traveled by bus to the town of Puerto Madryn in the province of Chubut.

The Territorio hotel at sunrise. http://www.hotelterritorio.com.ar/

We boarded our buses and headed for the Peninsula village of Puerto Piramides for whale watching on the Golfo Nuevo and then on to Caleta Valdes to see elephant seals. The Valdes Peninsula is a geological extension of the semi-arid Patagonia steppe, and is a World Heritage Reserve with controlled access. There are only a few hundred residents on the peninsula, in a couple of small villages and on several large estancias. I have many pictures, none of which can do justice to the amazing things that we saw and experienced. There will be some spectacular pictures posted on the Pepperdine Buenos Aires website, and I will give the link to that when it is ready. I chose this particular picture because a Southern Wright/Right whale and her young one surfaced right next to our boat. We saw many breaches and wonderful flukes, as literally dozens of whales were within a 1000 yard radius of the boat.

It is the mating and birthing season for most wildlife in this region, and the elephant seals were just beginning to have their pups. Below is the coastline where the orcas come onshore to hunt the seals, and a large male, smaller female and black pup are shown. We had a presentation by the naturalist who has lived among the orcas on the Peninsula, and learned that there are only a handful of orcas that hunt in this fashion, that this behavior is taught to the young members of the clan, and that only a few of the orcas in the clan are the teachers.

At Punta Tombo we had the amazing opportunity to walk among the penguins! These adults are rather small, about 2 feet, and are obviously used to us human-folks. However, if one should happen to get a bit too close, they will quickly let you know that you have crossed the line and are fair game for a powerful peck. I was fortunate to get a short video of one walking in front of us - they have the right of way - and as you can imagine, it is a riot. During the peak of the mating season, which is soon, the population of this penguin colony will be close to 500,000.

Because the steppe is semi arid, there is not a great diversity of animals or plants. There are many guanacos, armadillos, rheas, maras and several rodent species, and a handfull of bird and reptile species. There are about 280 species of plants. However, the gulfs surrounding the Peninsula and the Peninsula shoreline make Valdes a very hospitable habitat for the creatures shown above.

Monday, September 11, 2006


It is interesting that the Casa is located on 11 de Septiembre. Naturally folks in the USA think of our September 11, but the Argentine September 11 is to commemorate the passing of nineteenth century President Domingo Sarmiento who was known for his support of education. I am sure that the US media is filled with various perspectives on the day and on the five years since the attacks. What I would like to share is some of the commentary from the Buenos Aires Herald. The Editorial entitiled "9/11" first chided the Argentines and the government for their tepid response to the attacks, but closed with the following paragraph:

"Yet five years later the international response to 9/11 does not look much better - Washington in particular is guilty not so much of oversimplifying the issue (but rather of) the error of confusing conventional warfare against perceived rogue nation-states with effective action against an unconventional and global terrorist challenge. Big Brother methods are also a terrorist victory - rather than fighting fire with fire, the civilized world should retain its faith that the open society and globalization which the terrorists turned to their advantage can also be used against them."
There was also a more detailed op-ed piece entitled "9/11: Five Years On - US Foreign Policy in the Shadow of September 11" from which I have lifted the following quotes that reflect the tenor of the article:
"If anniversaries are good for anything it is as an opportunity for sober reflection and analysis. . .(the attacks gave) a sense of direction and purpose to a Bush administration that previously had defined its foreign policy agenda in largely negative, anti-Clintonian terms. According to the campaign rhetoric of 2000, a Bush-Cheney administration would avoid half-baked humanitarian interventions of the Kosovo and Somalia type and focus instead on rigorous defense of US interests. By September 2001 it remained uncertain what these interests were and what their defense would amount to in practical terms. The rhetoric of democracy promotion and security projection represented a merger of the two dominant schools of post-Cold War US foreign policy thinking. . . In place of Communism, Islamic extremism was now installed as the monolithic, global threat against which the US foreign policy and military apparatus must be aligned. . . Although a fascinating intellectual exercise, the Bush Doctrine has been a mitigated disaster in application. . . Although the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns have been failures if judged in terms of democracy promotion and security projection, the gradual withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan even as the country regresses back into chaos suggests that these were never the real priorities of the US invasion. . . The idealistic sounding elements of the Bush doctrine were always secondary to the 'realist' preoccupation of attacking perceived threats to US security. (For example) in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the Bush administration has cooperated with and sought to protect compliant autocratic regimes. . . Having turned democracy promotion into such a central rhetorical theme, however, the Bush administration is no longer able to admit publicly that democracy is acceptable only if its outcomes fall within certain proscribed boundaries. . One of the major lessons learned from the September 11 attacks and their aftermath is that democracy cannot be spread around the world at the point of a gun. For this reason, the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions are likely to represent a bloody and regrettable historical tangent rather than a sign of things to come."
Of course, every newspaper has its bias, and my initial impression is that the Herald is influenced by the New York Times, e.g. they publish Times pieces such as Thomas Friedman's recent analysis of Iraq. Some of you may know that Chile also has its 9/11, commemorating the 1973 bloody military coup of Augusto Pinochet toppling elected President Salvador Allende. Pinochet remains secluded and under indictment for human rights abuses and tax evasion.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Well, the halcyon days at the Casa are over - our 51 ninos arrived on Tuesday morning. The students had the same flights that we had from LA, and thus arrived in Buenos Aires at about 7:30 in the morning. Considering that they had flown all night, and changed planes in Lima, most of them were fairly chipper. The morning air was brisk, which seemed to come as a shock to some - hey, it's winter here! After Luz, Maria and Rafa greeted everyone and checked them in, we boarded two buses for the trip to the Casa. Similar to the busy first day that we had, the students' day was filled with paperwork, orientation, and of course an asado. The real highlight of the day began at 5:00 when the homestay parents started to arrive to pick up their students. It was interesting to watch the level of anxiety rise as the time drew near, and I believe without exception, each student was feeling some apprehension. Many of the students had gone to a nearby vendor to get flowers as a welcome gesture for their new mommas and papas. And, without exception, all anxiousness disappeared as one by one, a host would be brought to the doorway, a student would be called forth, hugs exchanged, suitcases gathered, and the new family would head home. It really was exceptional, and exciting, for us to watch the beginning of what will no doubt be an unforgettable learning experience for each student.

One of the first things that the students have to adjust to is the daily routine of the Argentine families, e.g. dinner at 9:00 pm. The host families provide breakfast and dinner, and the classes are scheduled between 9 am and 6:00 pm. However, our classes do not begin until September 22. Until then, our time will be filled with an orientation tour of the city and our neighborhood, lectures on the history and culture of Argentina, and language 'boot camp' which is intended to get everyone beginning to think and speak Spanish, and to get accustomed to hearing the "zh_" pronunciation for the 'y' and 'll' words - cinco de Mazho (Mayo), Ozheros (Olleros), zho (yo), como se zhama - you get the idea. Thursday and Friday were filled with culture and language classes, and then the weekend - well, you can probably guess where most of the students spent some of their time on the weekend. Buenos Aires is rather noted for the club scene, and I think that most of the kids got introduced to the night life - a different type of culture and language experience! Monday and Tuesday will again be culture and language classes, and then we leave for our fall semester educational field trip to Ushuaia and the Valdez Peninsula.

Rhonda and Doug's weekend time was much more sedate - a run in the park, cafe y postres, riding the subte to different parts of the city to explore the shops, cafes, and mercados pulgas. We were told of a large antique market in San Telmo on Sundays, so we made our way there via subte and foot. We did not know exactly where we were going, but that usually does not stop us - and we indeed found it close to where we thought it would be! It was an impressive experience. It's Sunday evening now, and some of the kids are going to Rey de Reyes for worship, and we will gather here at the Casa with others who wish to spend some time in singing, reflection and prayer.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006



Casco Estancia Los Patos
As a bon voyage or buen viaje gift, our wonderful colleagues and friends in the Natural Science Division gave us a weekend at an estancia. Among their suggestions was La Estancia Los Patos, so that is where we spent two days. The estancia is about 150 kilometers outside of Buenos Aires, in la pampa or flat land - and indeed it is very flat for hundreds of miles.

Sra. Lili y Sr. Angel M. de Estrada
Angel and Lili were our most gracious hosts for the weekend. Since this is neither duck hunting season nor vacation time, we were the only guests at the ranch. Los Patos is a working ranch of approximately 700 acres with several hundred head of cattle, a few sheep and dozens of horses, and two full time gauchos. Guests may work with the cattle and horses, hunt, ride horses, or play polo. We enjoyed wonderful meals including an asado, went horseback riding, read by the fireplace, and went walking at the estancia and in the nearby village of Monte.

Monte de Alamos
On our ride, we covered much of the ranch and saw many young calves and a fair number of very-expectant mamas. We also rode through a large stand of poplars that Angel had very meticulously planted in a matrix like the Amish plant corn. Virtually all of the trees in las pampas have been planted. And, as the name of the estancia conveys, we saw hundreds if not thousands of ducks of various types.
Rhonda y Chueco
Those of you who know Rhonda no doubt remember that she has an affinity for dogs - an understatement! So, the dog-of-the-ranch and Rhonda hit it off right away. The owners call him chueco which we learned means pigeon toed. And Cheuco certainly is - Angel said that he was even more so when he was a little pup. You may read more about the estancia at:

Monday, September 04, 2006


Here are two pictures of our apartment at Casa Holden - looking into the apartment from the hallway, into the sitting room which leads to the bedroom and bath. The sitting room ceiling is a very high dome with a lovely skylight. There is a balcony off of the sitting room, and the second picture is looking out to the balcony.

And, as I had previously mentioned, directly across the street from the Casa is Maru Botana!!