Last week, geography educators from across the nation traveled to Puerto Rico for the National Council for Geographic Education Conference in San Juan (of course, no need to remind our geo-savvy audience–unlike some other friends who will remain nameless– that Puerto Rico is within the political territory of the United States). After attending two previous fall-season conferences in Oklahoma City and Dearborn, Michigan, the tropical climes of the Caribbean were a welcome change of pace. Luckily, we avoided any September hurricanes and enjoyed a relaxing, yet productive, trip. My five favorite Puerto Rico experiences:
1. Mo’ mofongo, please I’ve had many a plantain (a fruit similar to a banana but more tart in taste) in my life, but I’d never heard of “mofongo” prior to my trip to Puerto Rico. Mofongo is made from under-ripe plantains that are mashed, fried, and served in a mound, often with meat or seafood. It’s a pretty distinct-tasting dish–some people love it, others aren’t so keen. Luckily, I was in the first category. I had mofongo no less than 3 times during my trip to PR. Have you ever tried mofongo? You can also find it, sometimes called “fufu,” on the nearby Caribbean islands of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and in parts of Africa, where it is believed to have originated.
2. My rainforest-castle on a cloud On one day we took a trip to explore a different feature of Puerto Rico’s physical geography: El Yunque National Forest, located in the northeastern part of Puerto Rico. It was quite a drive away from the coast along winding roads, through small towns and tropical fruit plantations. We climbed up a few thousand feet into a cloud forest, where we were treated to cool, fresh air and vistas of waterfalls–a nice transition from the hot, humid air at sea level! Did you know that El Yunque is the only tropical rain forest in the United States’ National Forest System?
It seems crazy that it has already been two months since I arrived in D.C. As I’ve lived here, I’ve come to love both the city and the Society that I have become a part of. When this blog entry is published, I’ll already be back in Vermont, but I wanted to share with you all the ways that I’ve been inspired–it’s impossible not to be–while interning here this summer in my final 5 for Friday:
1. To Travel For those of us with wanderlust, National Geographic is the place to be. As I walked these halls, I would constantly see pictures from unknown places or magazine covers taken somewhere that I could only imagine going. Writing for My Wonderful World and working on the Geography Awareness Week committee have allowed me to explore countries and cultures that I was only vaguely familiar with. I’m leaving National Geographic with the desire to become more traveled, to explore the world and to see places in new ways. My list of places to visit is no longer confined to Europe and traditional trips. I want adventures (or eco-adventures) in places like Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Argentina.
2. To Learn Despite my obsession with maps and cultures, I came to National Geographic knowing basically nothing about geography, short of country locations. Although a spring class on environmental sustainability taught me some basics, I regret to say that I do not get along with GIS. This society has inspired me to learn about the world and has given me the resources to do so. While I still can’t use GPS or GIS, I now understand the purpose of these tools and why it is important to understand climate and physical traits of the land. Geography literally shapes the world and how we look at it. And while I’ll probably stick to my road map when I travel (so much more fun!), maybe I’ll get someone to teach me GIS.
The couple answered questions from incredulous listeners and shared tips for parents and families to “seg”–as Maya kept saying–from “old school to bold school.” But don’t take my word for it: Check out Maya’s website for the “Top 10 Reasons” to read The New Global Student. You’ll also find bios and blogs from a selection of some of the more than 20 students featured in the book.
I’ve excerpted reasons 6-10 below for today’s Five for Friday (In my top 10: New Global Student has the same acronym as National Geographic Society. Coincidence? I think not).
#10 It’s time for a change and I’m looking for inspiring stories and practical tips to help me get fired up in order to make bolder (and more personal) life choices.
I’m frequently asked, often with a tinge of skepticism, what National Geographic (MWW’s parent organization) is doing to “go green.” As an organization with a 100+ year history of “increasing and diffusing geographic knowledge” and a sexy mission statement of “inspiring people to care about the planet”–it’s undoubtedly a fair question.
First, the boring disclaimer: As a non-partisan, non-profit/media organization, the National Geographic Society (NG) generally avoids pure-form advocacy. Rather than taking hard-line stances, we aim for objective reporting.
However, to the extent that a general consensus exists over the need to conserve the world’s resources, we’re on board! And there are a number of things we’re doing as an organization to that end. So, to round out what we’re calling “Earth Week,” this Five for Friday I’m describing–you guessed it–five of those initiatives.
1. Go Green. About two years ago, Nat Geo launched the “Go Green” initiative to define and reduce the Society’s environmental impact. Seven subcommittees were formed to tackle issues relating to corporate practices and facilities worldwide: buildings, cafeteria, carbon, employee practices, internal communication & education, purchasing, products & packaging, and travel.
2. LEED Certification. Following careful renovations and retrofitting, NG headquarters in Washington, D.C. became the first existing facility in the country to receive prestigious LEED certification, as well as Energy Star certification.
One of the biggest ‘bummers’ for me is dealing with long winters- – and I feel like this last one was one of the longest. The cold winds, wet drizzle and grey skies just don’t appeal to me. Luckily, it seems to have come to an end at last. For the past two to three weeks, I’ve been sleeping with my windows open, and it feels great. In fact, today, I wore shorts and sunglasses to work. Hooray for ‘casual Fridays.’
But why is it getting warmer? A common misconception is that the earth is actually closer to the Sun during the spring and summer, causing the weather to warm up… but, that is a misconception.
From Wikipedia: “In spring, the axis of the Earth is increasing its tilt toward the Sun and the length of daylight rapidly increases for the relevant hemisphere. The hemisphere begins to warm significantly causing new plant growth to “spring forth,” giving the season its name.”
2. I can’t breathe
With the nice weather comes higher pollen counts, and for me that means that my sinuses go haywire. Fortunately, I can track the pollen forecast on this website, which will tell me how I won’t be able to breathe that day. Of course, pollen counts really depend on the weather (temperature, precipitation, and regular seasonal trends), and the weather depends on where you are geographically located. My buddies in Texas have been “sportin’ shorts” for about a month now.