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It’s Jorge Appreciation Day!

The morning air of Valdivia struck a bit cooler than days past, and a slight nostalgia washed over the group as we realized our South American trip was coming to a close. The past week has been an amazing, albeit quick, tour of Chilean culture and biodiversity, and to think that we’ll be home in snowy New York in just a few days weighed heavily on our minds.

But, then we got on the bus.

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The bus has become a staple in our journey across Chilean latitudes; the bonds established on the bus, even if they emerge from the insanity of a five hour drive to Valdivia, have established a group camaraderie and trust that has been invaluable as we discover new foods, new words, and new worlds. That trust, however, would not have been established without the freedom of the road and our trust in one man: Jorge Francisco Araya (aka: our bus driver).

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We’ve collectively declared today “Jorge Appreciation Day,” in hopes that we might pay homage to the person responsible for our safe travels. Jorge is a native of Santiago, Chile and has been driving since he was 18 years old. In a brief written interview (thanks to Google translate and knowledgable Spanish speakers in the group), we learned that he values his family above all else, loves a good cazuela, and hopes to one day visit the US or Mexico. When asked his thoughts on Chilean agriculture, he responded that there should be more agricultural education so that people “learn to love the land and not destroy the fields.”

Despite our crazy bus antics and occasional outburst into song, Jorge seems to like the group: “In the short time we have known each other, I think you are all good people who display humility.” Knowing we have an experienced, trustworthy individual at the wheel (literally) makes us feel safe. Further, knowing that he appreciates our goal of understanding and promoting biodiversity just adds to the ambiance of camaraderie. He also happens to be super good at ping pong, so that’s a plus.

Here’s to you Jorge – Happy Jorge Appreciation Day! Thanks for keeping us safe and I the path to learning more about Chilean biodiversity!

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