Michael Christopher, a New York-based music producer, traveled through Patagonia with Peace Boat during the 81st global voyage. Michael was invited to join a ten-day tour through Argentina and Chile to raise awareness about the protection of Patagonia through a partnership with Parties4Peace, a non-profit event production and fundraising organization that hosts music and art events to support various global initiatives focused on education, sustainability, equality, and disaster relief. He participated in Peace Boat’s “Youth for a Sustainable Future” program, and helped gain support around developing innovative forms of renewable energy in Patagonia.
Peace Boat US caught up with Michael Christopher in New York to talk about his experience traveling through Patagonia aboard the Peace Boat.
Peace Boat: What activity did you enjoy most while traveling with Peace Boat?
Michael Christopher: The Japanese cultural exchange presentation towards the tail end of the trip was one of more unique experiences for me. The International Students got the chance to learn and participate in traditional culture and art, administered by Japanese who have been practicing for 40-50 years.
We got a personal Katana presentation which was amazing, were taught the three varying alphabets of calligraphy famously inspired by Zen practice, but the cooler part for me was my attempt to succeed in a simple game where you rotate a rod in hand to flip up and subsequently spin a plate on the end of the rod. There is actually an entire industry of professional performance troops who sell out stadiums with advanced iterations of this simple ‘game’.
There was a level of understanding on how to manipulate the inertia that was impossible without the correct grip and stance. My difficulties without this knowledge of form resulted in producing a small crowd of elderly Japanese standing around me, all clamoring to each other about how I was doing it incorrectly. It took a gentleman many, many years older than I to emerge from the group and take over my grip with his small but strong hands. I feel his kneecap knock my legs and feet into a similar position as his, as we commence a team effort to recover my dignity and master this simple art.
When I was able to finally do it on my own, I embarrassingly receive probably one of the cooler rounds of applause I have ever had.
Peace Boat: Can you describe what the “Youth for a Sustainable Future” program is about?
Michael Christopher: Simply, it’s about finding inspiring young people to build a platform of discussion for information sharing about the sustainable movement from the perspective of those on the ground in their own countries, inspiring change through environmental and local community preservation or restoration outreach efforts. Using technology, art and cultural study platforms, the participants I worked with amazed me with the success they are having within their own countries, so supporting, sharing and building upon those efforts are what the program is about.
Peace Boat: What impressed you most of the countries you visited through Peace Boat?
Michael Christopher: It’s hard to disregard the striking effect the glaciers had upon me as we sailed from Argentina, through the straight of Magellan, into Chile’s Patagonia region. Chile has every imaginable climate within one country, composed of several regions, each with unique Pre-Colombian indigenous communities and their history. That was very intriguing for me. Sadly, their are few living examples of these highly incubated cultures.
As well detailed through Jenia Jofre’s presentation on these tribes (Jenia was a Peace Boat guest speaker and environmentalist as part of the program), these communities were inspired by things we will never truly know about. They looked different than any other natives I knew from photos, growing up in a well-documented land of native North Americans near Plymouth, Massachusettes in the United States. There was something special going on in Chile before European influence, and it was really nice to get a snapshot into that history.
Michael Christopher: Of course, I would repeat my same leg in a heartbeat, but I have never been East of Europe, so…anywhere beyond sounds great to me.
Peace Boat: Would you be interested to host a Music Workshop onboard the Peace Boat on your next trip?
Michael Christopher: Of course, this is already in the works with some amazing professors, musicians and technology experts…stay tuned for the next Music & Art Peace Academy project!
Peace Boat: What (if anything) would you add to the program with Peace Boat based off your experience?
Michael Christopher: Optimally, I think live streaming of the programs and speakers would be a long term goal…maybe Peace Boat will have that technology one day, as present day satellite based internet on the open sea is quite limiting from a hardware cost and data use perspective. It would be great for viewers at home to log in and interact with the speakers and passengers in some way. A text based messaging platform might be easier and cheaper to do at first, though.
For more information on PeaceBoat’s journey through Patagonia and our campaign to make Aysen a UNESCO World Heritage site read this.