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Published: November 15th 2007
Classes in the Kitchen
The only warm room in the school - the kitchen. The stove in the corner also warmed the water for the mate.
Wed 14th Nov:
It´s been three days since I´ve been on the blog, I´m having withdrawal symptoms!
Monday was a quiet day..laundry and some supermarket shopping. I realised I hadn´t eaten any fruit for over a week so was in need of some. ´Had a walk down by the river bank and took the ferry across to Carmen de Patagones again; this time I found the tourist office open but they had nothing to offer other than what I´d seen previously. There is a catamaran trip along the Rio Negro but it doesn´t start until December. I just had a walk around and took a siesta. Here most take a siesta in the afternoon and the city comes to life about 5:00pm. Because of the siesta people generally stay up very late. In the hotels the beds are remade in the late afternoon.
Tuesday started with rain again and it was cold. I managed to make contact with the concierge (Jorge) to the Bishop of the diocese, who is a friend of Alicia and Jose. My Spanish is still not good enough to sustain a long conversation so he got a friend of his (Marie-Laura) to help with translation. She
Jorge and Monica (the school Principal) look at old photgraphs when there were more students at the school. Past students still drop in and there is lots of volunteer help.
was a local lawyer and coincidentally knew the lawyer I met the other day. We had a drive around the suburbs of Viedma and Patagones and looked at the local irrigation project and parts of the city I hadn´t seen. After lunch Marie-Laura had to leave but Alberto, a journalist, stepped in and took over. We travelled about 50Km into the countryside and visited the smallest rural school I´d ever seen; it had just three students, all from the same family. It used to have ten but families moved out of the area into the city - mainly economic reasons. Although it is the only school for miles it is likely to close next year because the oldest of the three will be moving to secondary school. However there is local pressure to keep it open. Out here in the countryside there was a strong, biting wind - the chill factor brought the temperature down to less than 6C. The children were being taught in the kitchen of the school - the only warm room. The classroom has an open fire and the school is supplied with wood (fuel) by the state, but only for the winter months (see photo).
Time to Go
Monica rings the school bell as we leave.
As it is now officially spring, no fuel!
The Principal, Monica, was very informative and helpful; she obviously had put a lot of effort into developing the school. However the awesome gap between Argentinian salaries and resources in education and those in the UK was evident. We chatted for some time about education generally while we shared mate.
Eventually we said our goodbyes and travelled another 20 Km before turning off the main road and going a further 15Km down an unmade track into the middle of nowhere; Alberto did a great job of opening and closing the gates, until we finally reached a little railway hamlet (five wooden houses and a school) called O´Connor. Apart from these buildings, as far as the eye could see there was just wilderness. The railway station was abandoned but the houses were mainly for the people who worked on the railway. The school was really interesting and unique. Thirteen students attended the school, most with social or learning problems. It once was a local rural school. However the population of the area dwindled and to continue its viability students with problems were sent there. Some went back to their families at the
Solar Panels at O´Connor School
These solar panels provide all the power for their electiricity. In the background you can just make out the old derelict railway carriages.
end of th school day but the rest were residential; the latter join their families every 20 days. By the time we got there the school day had finished and the teachers andsome students had gone. THe auxiliary teacher there gave us a guided tour of the place. Their power comes from solar panels at the back of the school and their water comes in a tanker by train. Any water in the soil contains too much acid to use domestically or for growing plants. Needless to say they use water carefully and gather whatever rainwater they can for growing the great range of vegetables and fruit they have. They were very proud of their vegetable plots and their greenhouse (without glass). Over some tea and homemade bread I was told that they have no telephone (no signal for mobiles)and they use only a raidio transmitter to get someone in an emergency. The school building was funded 50/50 by the state and railway company. Railway sleepers were used in the building of it. There was very much a family atmosphere about the school - lots of love and pastoral care. They didn´t want us to leave but time was moving
They are nearly self-sufficient in the school, with the students and staff growing a wide range of vegetables and fruit.
on and it was a long slow journey back. The unmade roads here are very rough on cars- no wonder I hear so many with faulty exhausts!
I had a meal out with Jorge and a few hours sleep at the Bishop´s residence before getting a taxi to the coach station to catch the 3:00am coach to Puerto Madryn.
Three o´clock came but no coach; I tried to find out what wa happening but was told it is sometime a little late. When it got to 4:30 I was worried that it was not going to turn up at all, and I wasn´t getting any sense from the office there. It did eventually arrive at 4:50 .. no reasonable explanation! Although the coach was comfortable (Cama), the service was poor.
We eventually arrived in Puerto Madryn at 10:45. I checked into the hostel there and also booked accommodation on the Valdes Peninsula for tomorrow night. I plan to get a local bus to the peninsula and spend some time whale, seal and penguin watching. I hired a bicycle for the rest of the day and toured around the city.
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