Altiplano: Birds, Bunnies with attitude, and other creatures

While the Vicuñas, Llamas and Alpacas tend to show up on most tourist photos, there is actually a large amount of other creatures living in the Altiplano.

Most of the birds are found in the wetlands.  There are two types of wetlands: Hydric and Mesic:

  • Hydric – has water permanently
  • Mesic – has water sporadically and salinity can be observed

The smallish birds that are most often seen are: buff-winged cinclodes, slender-beaked finch,  black-hooded sierra finch and Puna ground-tyrant.

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I think these two are moor-hens


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Taking off


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Flamingo in the Altiplano Wetlands


I managed to spot a small group of 4 or so of these large ostrich-like birds on the side of the road.  Had to use my zoom lens to capture this photo.  They are very skittish and we had to be super quiet.

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What do you call a group of flightless birds?  Still a Flock?


Vizchacha = Bunny Rabbits with attitude.

They eat vegetation mainly from the wetlands.  We found a huge amount of Vizchacha in the “Las Cueves / Chañacaca” area which is made up of a collection of several overhanging rock caves located in the middle of a wetland area.

In this area, people have found evidence of occupation of small groups of humans from 9000 to 1000  years ago.    Evidence such as stone, wooden, and bone tools.  This may have been a resting place for people traveling to/from the coast.

They have a comical facial expression as if to say “I am sitting here and I don’t care who knows it”


Our bird guide:

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Smallish Birds:

This guy visited us at one of the rest stops, but I am not sure on the species.

These two were busy making a nest – maybe Moor-hens?

Another bird-spotting:

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I did see a bumble bee on this flower, but didn’t get my camera out in time so you can just take my word for it.  The bee was huge (width of my thumb).

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Didn’t see any condors this time – another good reason to return some day in the future.


#IBMCSC Chile #CSCChile8




Altiplano; llamas and their cousins

It took a lot of planning and confirmation before we were able to confirm our trip to the Altiplano, mostly because of the danger of visiting high altitudes, but we finally made it.

We spent the first day driving (very slowly) up to Putre, with lots of stops in-between.  The stops enabled us to acclimatize more slowly, but also gave amazing opportunities for photography.

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At first we were calling every 4-legged animal a llama, but we quickly learned the difference.


They are beautiful graceful creatures.

They look like deer – and have a much smaller head.  These ones are not tamed and are much harder to get closer too than the llamas and alpacas.

I sat at the front of the bus, as I often get car-sick, and so I had the opportunity to spot groups of creatures as we traveled (sometimes even before our driver and our guide spotted them).

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People have been taming and farming llamas in South America for over 6000 years. Baby llamas are especially cute.  The llamas are larger than the alpacas, have longer necks, and also have ears shaped like a banana.


These ones are smaller than llamas and have a big fuzzy head, and a much shorter neck.  They often hang-out with the llamas and have been known to inter-breed.  There were three too-friendly alpacas at one stop that have been eating people food from tourists for years.  I didn’t give them anything as I know how harmful processed food can be for animals at home.

The llamas and alpaca sometimes have colourful earrings which are used to tell one farmer’s animal from another.

IBM Design Thinking with JUNAEB

To better understand the needs of our users (JUNAEB staff), we have performed two IBM Design Thinking workshops with JUNAEB.  On the first one we focused on the problem statement, personas, and empathy map.

Design an effective way to gather data and view trends on obesity in the student population to better understand the impacts of the Contrapeso and other programs combating obesity in the schools.

Diseñar una manera efectiva de recopilar información y ver las tendencias de obesidad que se presentan en la población estudiantil para comprender mejor el impacto del programa Contrapeso y otros relacionados a la lucha contra la obesidad en los colegios.

The staff at JUNAEB really seemed to enjoy the process.  It was slow at first, especially with the need to translate each instruction and post-it note, but once we got going it was very successful.  We learned a lot about our target persona, the supervisors of the school feeding program, and some of the pain points they experience as they try to help.

We held the second workshop earlier this week where we focused on ideation and prioritization.  We got a really wide spread of ideas.  We had left the circular voting stickers at the hotel, so had to improvize with some ripped up post-it note pieces instead.  It still worked, but the photos of the post-its were not as pretty.

Overall we were very pleased with the results and are busy working away at designing the solution with JUNAEB.

#CSCChile8 #IBMCSC Chile

Learning Aricaños Spanish

Our host client today complimented us on our improving Spanish.  He says we are saying “Buenos Dias” more like the way the locals say it, which pleased us.

We had shared that we were not used to the hugging and the kissing as part of the greetings and goodbyes, and they responded with “we noticed”  🙂

Duolingo is great, and really helped us understand a base layer of Spanish, but we are noticing multiple local differences which Duolingo did not cover.  For example, “permiso” is used for “excuse me”, while “disculpe” is not used very often.

I also love when Chileans answer the phone with “digame” which means “talk-to-me”.  I remember my sister Katy and I finding that strange when we traveled together to Ecuador many years ago.

Some important phrases:

  • Hola = hello (along with a hug and a kiss)
  • Buenos Dias = good day  (but only in the morning) – (along with a hug and a kiss)
  • Agua sin gas = water without carbonation
  • Mas lento por favor = slow down please
  • Tiene ….. =  do you have …
  • Es Claro?   = is it clear?
  • Chao = good bye
  • Cuanto cuesta? = how much does it cost?
  • La cuenta por favor = restaurant bill please


#IBMCSC Chile #CSCChile8


Going back to school for a day

As part of our IBM Corporate Service Corps assignment we visited two schools in the Arica y Parinacota region to better understand the education program and specifically JUNAEB’s school feeding program.

It was very informative, but also a lot of fun.

In order to enter the kitchen we needed to wear: sneakers, long-pants, a lab-coat and a hair net.  So we were quite decked-out for our visit.

We saw how the food was prepared and handed out to the children at snack-time and at lunch-time.  We were shown where the food was stored, both the packaged food and the fresh vegetables.  Each school also has a canteen where kids can purchase their own foods.  We were glad to see fruit as an option at one of the schools.

We talked with a lot of the kids at recess – most of it was a pretty basic conversation as they spoke no English and we spoke very little Spanish.  I would say “Me Llamo Jen” (my name is Jen) and “Yo Soy de Canada” (I am from Canada).  I would also ask them about their favourite sports.

The kids were fascinated with Helen from China and asked her a huge number of questions about China through our translator Gabriela.

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We were also invited into a couple classrooms where we introduced ourselves, and asked about favourite sports, favourite foods, favourite healthy foods and then we encouraged them to ask questions.   Then asked even more questions about China.  How do you eat with chopsticks?  How do you say hello in Chinese?  What are toys like in China?

The visit really helped us better understand the school system in Chile, and specifically how the school feeding program works.

#IBMCSC Chile  #CSCChile8