Monday, March 29, 2010

Going off the grid for spring break

Photo by Spencer Ramsey

From Emory Report:

“I want them to deal with the flies. I want them to understand the beginnings of medicine. I want them to experience an authentic Amazonian, shamanistic culture,” says Oxford College sociologist Mike McQuaide, explaining why he takes students into a remote village in Ecuador every spring break.

Students in his course Social Change in Developing Societies study sociology, psychology and anthropology in the classroom before heading to the field – the village of Rio Blanco, situated in the upper Amazon basin. The group flies to Quito, then travels by bus to Napo province, where they switch to small boats on the Napo River. The final leg of the journey is a three-hour hike through jungle.

In the village, the students stay with the local people, who are known as Quichua. The students sleep on the same rough-hewn beds, eat the same foods and see the daily life of the locals.

Photo by Michael Dale

“In Rio Blanco, they’re off the grid,” McQuaide says. “Most of them have never experienced that.”

No Internet. No electricity. No phones – although that’s starting to change during the years that McQuaide has been visiting the region.

Watch a video interview with McQuaide on cell phones and globalization:

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