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Steamboat Mountain School students immerse themselves in foreign culture

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For so young a group, freshmen from the Steamboat Mountain School enchanted an audience Thursday night with the students’ clear vision of how their trip to India affected their outlook on life.

The upperclassmen didn’t do a bad job either, each describing stunning trips to Colombia and Morocco as part of the school’s Global Immersion Studies program. The presentation was held at Bud Werner Memorial Library in Stemaboat Springs.

Students from Steamboat Mountain School explored India as part of their Global Immersion Studies program. From left, are Luna Casey, Toby Morse, George Moede, Mac Panzarella, Jackson Beal, Kali Killion, teacher Brick Root, teacher Kaiti Kinshella and Brady Fowler.

Brady Fowler, a student from Steamboat, painted a vision of his homestay and Indian study in the city of Gangtok. He talked of a beautiful land tainted by filth in some places and the hard lives led by many in India.

“Some (people) lived on blankets in the streets where cars and trucks passed them, only missing them by centimeters,” Fowler said.

He described staying in a typical small home where there was one room for cooking and eating and another room for sleeping.

As a serious meat eater, he couldn’t believe the vegetarian lunch he had one day.

“The spice covered up the flavor of the vegetables and rice so well, it tasted like chicken tikka masala,” Fowler said. “Everything in the states tastes so bland right now.”

Fowler and his six classmates witnessed firsthand India’s harsh working conditions for common laborers.

“They worked on concrete floors all day for a small amount of money, but in the end, they created some of the prettiest art and textiles I’ve ever seen,” Fowler said.

Jackson Beal, a student from Denver, talked of school visits where young students spoke “fearlessly” about themselves, even as they attended class in shabby buildings.

“I became inspired by the students,” he said.

Freshman Kali Killion, of Sarasota, Florida, then spoke of the monasteries visited by the students and one high-ranking monk who touched her spirit.

“I felt a strong connection with him, almost as if he was protecting my aura and dancing with my spirit,” Killion said. “I was very emotional, and I began to tear up uncontrollably.”

While Killion felt her spirit dancing, the students visiting the North African country of Morocco actually did a lot of dancing.

Junior Althea Ort used a soundtrack to take the audience through exotic Morocco.

As the audience viewed photos of markets, people and the culture, the sounds of Morocco life echoed through the library hall — tantalizing music, the call to prayer, the sizzle of food, drumming, the shouts of vendors, the braying of donkeys and the clucking of chickens.

And best of all, said Ort, silence, as she took in the beauty of the countryside.

Junior Estelle Janin loved the way tea was such a part of Moroccan culture, but it was Lilly Patterson that won a “tea-pouring contest” and actually demonstrated how tea was properly poured in Morocco.

Patterson also managed to capture the essence of the Moroccan trip through a small video project shown to the audience of the students’ everyday experiences: one girl describing how a camel burger tasted as she stuffed her face, another taking hold of a snake in a market and the Steamboat Mountain School students in Moroccan garb dancing joyfully with locals.

Eric Phalen and Nate Swindle told stories of their connections with two local men who welcomed them into their culture, even visiting a bathhouse.

“In Islam it’s very important to be clean,” Swindle said.

Another group of students spoke of their trip to Colombia and the stunning mountain climbing they were forced to do in El Cocuy National Park.

Chase Weynand amused listeners with his newfound knowledge of what he learned “without using Wikipedia.” He talked of the thick wet fog that coats everything, and the constant fight with mud that’s hidden underneath vegetation.

Lucas Colville, of Australia, explained how daunting the hike seemed as they made their way to ancient glaciers above 15,000 feet.

“It might have been the air, which gets really thin around 14,000 feet, but I really did enjoy myself,” he joked to the audience.

Another Steamboat Mountain student from Germany, Nico Hoppe, spoke of the infamous Pablo Escobar and the influence of drug cartels on the Columbian population but how they are trying to escape that notorious reputation.

Ending the Colombian trip stories, Shepard McClellan told of meeting with an indigenous group, the Kogi, and how they live the way they did hundreds of years ago to limit their impact on the environment.

“They refer to us as little brothers because of our disregard for Mother Earth,” McClellan said.

Inspired by how simply and happy the Kogi lived, McClellan wrote a poem about a Kogi Shaman as he looks out at the encroaching civilization. The poem ended with a thought that seemed to move his audience.

“If only they can see past themselves.

Do they even love their children?

Poor little brothers so feeble-minded.

One day they might understand

after it has all crashed down,

how simple it is to be happy.”

The Steamboat Mountain School, formerly known as The Lowell Whiteman School, has been sending its boarding and day students abroad to study since 1958. Students usually choose from three trips that last a month.


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