By Jorge Rivero Gonzalez
The trip from Cobija to Pando was tough. More than six hours to the San Lorenzo district. We even had to cross the Madre de Dios River with a Ponton, a floating platform that Bolivians use to transport cars across the water when there are no bridges. After that, we had one hour more of travel. The twilight was approaching and our van, like a comet, was leaving a dusty trail as we moved towards our particular Sun: the Unidad Educativa San Lorenzo.
We arrived late in the afternoon and the children were already waiting for us. After a warm welcome by the local authorities, we started with our opening talk, where Mayte introduced the rest of the traveling team and invited the children to take part in a fun journey through the Universe with us. This activity always helps us break the ice and test the children’s knowledge about the Universe.
Then, we organised a night of observations in a dark field nearby. There were three telescopes where children waited in long queues for their chance to observe Mars and Saturn that were glowing brightly near the zenith that night. Children grouped together around us while we were explaining how to spot the different celestial objects visible on the sky.
We were exhausted at that point. It was a long day. Time to rest! In San Lorenzo there is only electricity from 6 p.m. till midnight so we had to prepare all the material before that time. Suddenly, all lights from the village went off and the sky was shining like a million diamonds hanging above our heads. No one of us wanted to go to sleep!
We woke up right after sunrise and got ready for our second day of activities in San Lorenzo. Between the school and our lodging we had to cross a road that was also used for the landing of planes. It was always crowded with horses and cows. The locals told us that the pilots had to fly low first to scare them so they go away and the road could be empty for the planes to safely land there.
In the morning we performed a workshop for the teachers. We spent the afternoon working with children. We were detectives trying to discover the way planets orbit around the Sun, we investigated what happened if the Earth were the size of a peppercorn and we concentrated the whole Universe in a balloon to find out why the galaxies were moving away from each other more and more every second. We had a great time!
We wrapped up the day mingling with teachers and children, talking with them about our activities but also playing football and volleyball. We gave away some postcards with astronomical images and promised to come back someday.
I hope it could be soon enough!
By Sandra Benítez Herrera
First day of our adventure in the Amazon region. We are traveling from Cobija (capital of the Pando Department) to the San Lorenzo community. Smiling and joking around in the car (the movilidad, as Bolivians say), we feel a bit nervous and excited, but mostly happy, very happy to be on the road again! The landscape is magical and full of life. The sky shines blue above the tall trees and the sun fills everything with its warm light.
After a few hours, Placido, our driver, tells us to look outside the window by the road at a little pond covered with vegetation. Upon a closer look though, we realise this is not vegetation at all. These are hundreds of “borboletas” (butterflies, as they are called in Brazil) resting on the water. Immediately we leave the car and go see them but they get scared and start flying all around us. We cannot believe our eyes! Hundeds of borboletas, of all colors, green, yellow, white, blue, dancing around us beautifully, playfully. We extend our hands to catch them but they fly higher, covering the road, the car, the forest and the sky with colors. Like little dreams they fly away and we go back to the car with sparks in our eyes: A sign of good luck for the beginning of our amazing trip.
by Jorge Rivero González
Two days before the kick-off of the BraBo Expedition, GalileoMobile shared a lovely afternoon with ASTROPANDO, an amateur astronomy group from Cobija. In the past years ASTROPANDO has been doing some wonderful work in the wider area of Cobija, encouraging children and young people to learn more about the wonders of the Universe.
We met with about 25 children and shared a delightful afternoon, in which we introduced our project and engaged in a fruitful conversation about several astronomical topics. They showered us with questions, ranging from the origin of black holes to the formation of the Solar System. Some even wanted information on how to become a professional astronomer!
We wrapped up the afternoon with a star-party in the schoolyard. Manuel de la Torre, our longtime Bolivian collaborator who is also accompanying us during the first weeks of this expedition, had brought his own telescope to the school, so we were able to observe α and β Centauri, the planets Mars and Saturn and the “Eyes of the Lama”, an ancient Andean constellation.
The observations were very exciting for us, since we are not all familiar with the wonders of the Southern sky; so this time it was the children who were teaching us how to find the celestial objects and constellations. Just like GalileoMobile’s motto says, on that evening we learned together, under the same sky.