A few weeks ago I returned from an exciting visit to Patagonia to seek out possible student exchange possibilities as part of our E.E. Ford Spanish Language Program. I traveled there with my son Calvin and my old friend Charlie Anastas. Charlie hired me to be his assistant principal in Aspen, Colorado thirteen years ago and volunteered to help me with his many connections in Argentina. This was the first time I have been able to bring Calvin with me on one of my foreign trips and he turned out to be a huge help in our efforts to connect with schools in Patagonia. I was first introduced to Patagonia by a Dublin alumnus named Jaime Said, who is helping to develop a cultural and recreational center in Frutillar, Chile. After first traveling there four years ago I was determined to establish a connection for our students. With its stunning scenery, interesting combination of European and Latin American culture, and amazing people, Patagonia speaks to so many of the things that we value at Dublin School.
Charlie, Calvin and I started the trip with a visit to Frutillar and were generously hosted by Jaime and his wonderful wife Anna Maria at their home on the shores of the magnificent Lake Llanquihue. From their property one can see eight different volcanoes with Volcano Osorno seemingly floating over the water to the west. The volcano is best viewed from the Teatro Del Llago, a beautiful venue created in large part by the vision of Nicola Schiess. After lunch with Ms. Schiess we were treated to a behind the scenes tour of the theater by the friendly and knowledgeable theater staff. From there Jaime took us to visit a local independent school created by Ms. Schiess, the Kopernicus School. We loved the school and look forward to its expansion into a high school in the near future. We are considering an arts related trip to Frutillar to take advantage of its impressive performing arts academies and theater spaces. We concluded our trip with a tour of Jaime’s development there, Patagonia Virgin. From a Jack Nicklaus golf course to its sailing marina to its gardens and apartments it is a truly impressive accomplishment! (click on gallery below)
From Frutillar we headed over a snowy pass into Bariloche, Argentina. Charlie and I know of Bariloche through its sister cities relationship with Aspen and this turned out to be Charlie’s third trip to the city on the lake in the heart of the Andes. Calvin and I had never seen anything like it, with the snowy peaks rising out of the enormous lakes below. We rented a great and affordable home for four nights and went to work meeting with schools and the local ski club. We were thrilled with the reception we received and excited about the opportunities that materialized as we met with one generous group after another. Our trip started with visits with three local schools, Woodville School, Colegio San Patricio, and Instituto Primo Capraro. All three schools work closely together and by the end of our meetings we were all determined to create exchange opportunities for our students. Calvin spent a day visiting school and felt like he had a community of friends after only a few short hours with them. (click on gallery below)
Our visits to Bariloche and Frutillar turned out to be a wonderful confirmation of our decision to pursue learning one language as a school. As Nordic skiers in Bariloche we found that we were welcomed into an existing family and community. They were as excited to learn from us as we were to learn from them. Now, as a school, we can send our dance groups, sports team, science researchers to these towns and they will have an instant and authentic connection with them. We will learn Spanish and gain an appreciation and understanding of their culture, while at the same time we will be doing the things we might otherwise do in our country. In my own experience I have found that when I am traveling to another country with a team the experience is much richer than it might be if I am just going as a tourist or as someone who is there to provide a service. I want our students to forge meaningful connections, use their Spanish, learn about foreign cultures, and make lifelong friends.
I look forward to rolling out our travel opportunities for our students later this summer.