Monday, October 20, 2008

Final entries from the Argentina trip

October 17th, 2008

I already have mentioned some of the wonderful contacts we have made this week with top college administrators and educational leaders across Buenos Aires and Salta. Today, however, we learned something truly remarkable. It turns out that Carlos Rios (The Director of the Asociacion Argentina de Colegios Universitarios who has traveled with us for most of the week), was the Minister of Education for the entire province of Buenos Aires in the early 1970's!! After he told us this startling news, he related that he still has direct contact with most of the educational leaders across the country. Furthermore, he informed us that he had spoken again with all of the colleges with whom we have made contact (and a few more) and he said that they all are very interested in establishing exchanges with community colleges in the US. It would be difficult to imagine a contact with more influence than Carlos Rios. He should help us greatly as we further strengthen our relationships.

It has been fascinating to compare Buenos Aires with Salta. Buenos Aires has a population of more than 14 million and has been called the "Paris of South America" due to its many art galleries, museums, theater/film festivals, designer boutiques, etc. It offers everything one could want with big-city life. The city of Salta, however, has a population of about 600,000 which is big enough to offer top-flight cultural events (we toured a remarkable archeological museum) but also has a small-town flavor. It is located at the foothills of the Andes mountains, so one can drive just a bit north and actually be in the midst of the majestic Andes chain with truly breathtaking views.

October 18th, 2008

This morning we will begin our journey back to the United States. We will fly from Salta to Buenos Aires later this morning (about a two-hour flight) and then from Buenos Aires to Dallas overnight (an eleven-hour flight.) We should be back in the Nashville area around noon on Sunday. We have been very impressed with LAN, our airline for the Buenos Aires-Salta route. (This airline actually still serves a boxed snack at no charge along with drinks!)

We drank yerba mate yesterday for the first time. (See photo.) It is like a hot tea drink that is made from yerba (an herb). You drink it in a mate and sip it through a bombilla. I thought that it was quite tasty. It allegedly helps with digestion and is a very "sociable" drink. In fact, we were told that it is rude not to offer a taste of it to others if you make a cup of it.
We were able to make phone calls using Skype on our laptop computer throughout the week. (See photo of President Nichols making a Skype call.) It works very well and only costs a bit over two cents per minute to call a US landline or cell phone and is free if you make a call to someone else who is also set up to use Skype on their computer. We were delighted to learn that it is used commonly by the faculty, staff, and students at the colleges we visited. So, as we further enhance our relationships with several Argentine colleges, we can communicate with them for free! Clarence Dobbins deserves a hearty congratulations for all of his efforts to set up our laptop computer before we left. His efforts have allowed us to maintain quality contact with the States. He also was the first person to suggest that we try Skype.

We will be following up regularly with all of the contacts we made in Argentina. It was inspiring to learn that there was so much excitement and interest from the Argentine educational community about setting up possible faculty and/or student exchanges in the near future. Stay tuned for more information on what plan of action Vol State will be taking in the near future concerning our new-formed relationships with the Argentine educational community!

1 comment:

Loretta Calvert said...

I agree that our tech people and Clarence especially along with Mary Nunaley have been amazing in keeping our college ahead of the technology curve. How wonderful that you were able to use Skype.