Ms Fuller prepares to leave Cleveland

By Sophie Weir, Reporter

As the school year winds to a close, so does Kathleen Fuller’s time at Cleveland. Fuller, an environmental science and biology teacher, booked a one-way ticket to Ecuador, where she’ll begin her half-year trek across South America with her boyfriend. From there, they’ll shoulder their packs and continue on to destinations such as Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile. It’s a long list, but certainly not the limit to the possibilities. “I’m open for anything,” said Fuller.

The trip isn’t as spontaneous as it appears, though. She’s been planning on leaving Portland for a few years now, and has been saving up for the down payment on a new house. However, since she’s not ready to pick a place to live, she’s decided to spend that money on traveling the world. She says it’s possible she’ll fall in love with a city along the way and choose to move there.

Teaching environmental science has also inspired her to travel. According to Fuller, many of the topics she covers in her class are prevalent in South America, such as deforestation, drought, and pollution. One of the biggest issues she wants to learn about during her travels is the Bolivian water crisis. Bolivia is currently suffering from its worst drought in 25 years as a result of global warming. The glaciers that La Paz’s citizens depend on for drinking water are rapidly disappearing, which has resulted in a state of national emergency and tight water rations. The Amazon Rainforest is also on her list of places to visit. The Amazonian basin houses 10 percent of known species and represents 60 percent of the world’s rainforests. Today, this biological hub is the site of severe deforestation. Said Fuller, “I feel weird teaching about these things and never having experienced them. I want to go learn more about the world so I can become a better environmentalist and a better teacher.” In this way, she can get to know the people impacted directly and volunteer with them, building a better understanding of the concepts she teaches every day.

Her biggest fear in diving into this new culture is dealing with the “machismo” norms often seen in South America. This term refers to strong and aggressive male pride, and often affects the way society allows men to treat women. “I’m a little bit worried about that attitude because I’ve had some experience with it when I was in Turkey. The way men interact with women is just so different, it was a huge cultural shock for me,” said Fuller.

If she does return to Cleveland, it’ll be in the fall of 2018. Though there’s no way of knowing whether or not she’ll return, she will always have a place in Cleveland’s heart.