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Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014


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¨Hey, Gina, do you wanna maybe go walk around town or something, talk about life?¨ / ¨Yeah, Alan, let´s go.¨ A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to explore the city of Potosi with my co-instructor. We took a few moments away from the group to breathe for a bit, to explore without having to teach. Alan is from the Potosi area and knows more about the region than I do. I was as excited as our students to learn more about this part of the world that had once been so rich with mineral wealth that it had financed that whole of the Spanish empire, and even (according to one historian we met) instigated the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. ¨Do you know there used to be this line, and that lined showed where the slaves could not enter? Yeah, you can still see it. Let´s go there. I´ll show you. It´s crazy.¨ And so we navigated through the narrow streets. Alan led me through empty alleys and past stores selling cheap DVD copies until we eventually came upon a simple, unobtrusive archway. Looking though it, I could see that it perfectly frames Cerro Potosí. ¨This is it,¨ he said. ¨You can still see how different houses are on side versus the other.¨ Cars drove past as we stared up. We took a few photos and sat for some moments with our own private thoughts. As we got ready to leave and restart our work as Dragons instructors, Alan looked back. ¨God, that mountain looks so tired to me.¨ I looked back as well and thought about how empty the mountain must be now, about the miles of tunnels within it, the lives lost over the past 500 years through the quest for wealth, about the people unseen still pushing loads of rock to be crushed by hand. I thought about how people say that the mountain is a bit shorter than it used to be; about how it currently sags. ¨Yeah,¨ I said quietly. ¨The mountain is probably really tired.¨ -- Why do we trek? Ask 16 different people this question and you can get 16 different answers. ¨I personally really like trekking because I feel like it`s a time where I can talk to anyone,¨ Kirra wrote in her yak, ¨and walk by them and get lost looking at your surroundings and talking about life.¨ ¨You can’t really understand cultures until you see the environment in which they developed,¨ wrote Michael. We even got a few, ¨I don´t really know.¨ Is there a right answer? A few days after leaving Potosí, half of the group left for trek among the beautiful, purple hills of the Frailes mountains outside of Sucre. Even with the bus ride between the two cities, Potosí and Sucre, I could feel how the beauty of the countryside was washing away my emotive memories of the mines. When looking at hills not ravaged and gutted with tunnels, not left to sit in pools of the waste of its own insides, I felt how I could breathe more easily. During our trek, our group swam in cold rivers, carried our backpacks over rocks set down by people unknown to us, and saw cave paintings thousands of years old. Alan, Michael, and Rory made sandcastles like happy 6 year olds. Emma realized how comfortable it is to sit in fossicilized dinosaur prints. Isabella and Molly examined locals weavings with the knowing eyes of one who had weaved her own chuspa. Will borrowed my umbrella when the sun became too much. Max got dehydrated and then became the one to call water breaks from there on out. Gaelen forgave Max for breaking the girls´tent pole (¨Its not really broken,¨ he claimed). The group spent nights laughing around fires and trying to see shooting stars. Some of us got sunburned. Our guide, Rogelio, played the charango and sang about having two girlfriends Before our trip to the mines in Potosí, Cindy, Danielle, and Martina led a lesson. They talked about the history of the area, had us watch a movie about a child worker in the mine, and asked us the question, ¨Should we even go?¨ It is a stange thing to be a tourist in a mine. We watch as men work, not really knowing what to feel or what to say. ¨How do we enter with intention?¨ Its dark in there and you often have to stoop lower than your want to to pass through. ¨What is it that we want to learn?¨ You walk past pools of water that slosh upon your borrowed galoshes; it gets hot quickly and you wonder what it must feel like lower down. ¨I dunno,¨ Isabella challenged. ¨I mean, is my experience enough? Is it enough for me to go and to feel, ´Wow this is terrible´ or something like that? Does that change anything?¨ ¨I go so that I can teach,¨ Daniel claimed. ¨I go so that I can go home and say, ´Hey, do you know where those materials come from?´¨ ¨But we don´t have to go to mines in Bolivia,¨ Will reminded us. ¨I mean, there are mines in Virginia.¨ ¨What would it feel like,¨ Martina wondered, ¨to be a miner and have tourists walk past you and take pictures as your work?¨ The group debated and discussed, the conversation rose to a crescendo, was pacified, ebbed and flowed, there were sighs and raised voices, the room got too hot. [The process of tuning a charango, Cindy learned in a museum in La Paz, is a process of equalization, to create harmony and balance.] I thought about all of this that day with Alan at the archway, standing at the line that once divided the world of the slaves (those who worked inside the mine) from the world of those able to enjoy the wealth that the mine created (those who worked outside the mine.) I sat thinking of beautiful memories I have from other mountain moments I have had, and wondered how this mountain was so different. Had gold and silver not been discovered there, would it be a desolate peak still? A popular hike for foreign tourists? What makes this mountain so different from other mountains I have known, why do I not want to climb its peak, why doesn´t it make me happy? If this is a part of the truth of mountains, why do we trek? I thought about this still through our trip to the Frailes and I finally came to the answer--all of the above. We trek to make friends, to learn the land, to learn about culture, to learn about our own weaknesses and strengths. We trek for the times it is truly awesome, when the condor soars and the peaks glow and your groupmates wake up early to make you oatmeal, and we trek for the times when it is truly horrible, for the times that the rain falls and your jacket sucks and the tent is still soggy from the night before. We trek to know how far a mile truly is, we trek to know what it feels like to be at 14,000 feet. We trek to know what our feet feel like after a day´s walking, we trek because sometimes that is the only way to reach the destination we want to reach. We trek to stretch our lungs and to learn how truly vast and enormous the world truly is. In a world of smart phones and planes that bring us to the Andes from the Amazon in a half hour, it can often feel as if the world is getting smaller. Walk for three days under the Chiquisaca sun carrying your own water and one begins to feel ones place in the grand scheme of things again. With shooting stars instead of movie stars for an evening´s entertainment, one begins to regain a sense of mystery and awe. Yes, the way we walk through the backcountry in culturally contrived. As we sit around and talk about why we trek, our arrieros (mule guides) sit around in their rubber sandles and calloused feet, chewing coca, watching their animals, and probably wondering what we´re talking about and why we walk with so much stuff. We don´t escape ourselves when we trek. Rather, we find ourselves, whatever part of ourself that comes out when we enter space. ¨Its kinda like,¨ Emma said in a conversation once, ¨we all see the world differently, and we can´t escape that, but we´re all a part of it.¨ We trek to know that the world gives us everything, all that is good, all that is bad, and that all that the world gives us we carry within us. There is an ultimate source, an ultimate inspiration, and we are both creator and product. ¨We trek to humble our souls before mountains, glaciers, water, wind, fine and all of the powerful forces that move us along the journey towards eternity,¨ wrote Matt. A part of us knows that we are somehow connected to that nameless miner chewing coca and squinting in the dim light of the hot mine, a part of us knows that though are lives are so completely different, we fundamentally connected by the very fact that we are both magically, ununderstandably alive. Molly began her lesson on weaving through stringing multicolored strands of yarn above the room she was staying in in Copacabana. ¨I wanted to make string fun,¨ she laughed. We looked above and saw crackers hanging from the ceiling in eager anticipation of our eating them. ¨But you can´t use your hands,¨ she said. In weaving, in art, we show our culture, our world view, she taught us. ¨Which styles are you drawn to?¨ On our last night, she asked us, and we discussed, ¨What is community?¨ We trek because it is fun, we trek because it is hard, we trek because in moving through so much space, space with more colors and emotions and shapes and sizes than we can ever take in, we receive answers to questions we didn´t even know that we had. We trek to know how large the world truly is. And where there is space, there are always, always options. Molly, Cindy, Michael, Will, Emma, Isabella, Kirra, Gaelen, Rory, Max, Daniel, Martina, Danielle: Thank you for everything you have given this semester. Thank you for your questions and your struggles, your humor and your moments of grace. As you go home today, know that you will forever ever be connected to the places we traveled through together, just as you were before you even came here. You just might not have known it. 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Why We Trek–A Final Yak

Gina,Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014

Description

¨Hey, Gina, do you wanna maybe go walk around town or something, talk about life?¨ / ¨Yeah, Alan, let´s go.¨ A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to explore the city of Potosi with my co-instructor. We took a few moments away from the group to breathe for a bit, to explore without […]

Posted On

05/12/14

Author

Gina

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    [post_content] => Gina, Alan and I walked out of the El Alto international airport this morning at 7:00am into the chilly, thin mountain air of 13,000+ feet above sea level. We were blurry-eyed and tired after having woken up at 4:00am to see our group of 13 students off to their homes and families.

The last three months have been an incredible learning journey. We have traveled to remote Andean communities, drifted lazily down the Beni river, seen the moon rise full over craggy mountains, lived with a new family in Tiquipaya, enjoyed Bolivian cuisine such as salteñas, sandwich de chorizo and pique macho and so many other adventures, almost too many to count.

Personally I hold on to the memories of my experiences through the incredible and diverse people I meet along the way. As we walked out of the airport and the white, conical peak of Huayna Potosi was emerging from the early morning fog and the sun's rays touched my face, I felt grateful. First grateful to this place and the energy of the Apus that reigns here. I was also grateful to all of the people in Peru and Bolivia who crossed our path during this journey and infused it with profound meaning and significance. They would be too many to thank and recognize individually.

Then my thoughts turned to our group of Dragones; a group of 16 people (3 instructors and 13 students) that did not know one another 93 days ago. This morning the students departed, some with tears in their eyes and all of us with a sense of connection to this unlikely group of 16 people, all from such different backgrounds. So I would like to recognize and celebrate our group of 16 Dragones, starting with my two amazing co-instructors.

Gina thank you for your boundless energy and constant intentionality, I have learned so much from you this semester.

Alan thank you for teaching so much about your home country and being a super tranquilo co-instructor

Max thank you for your smile and good vibes

Danielle thank you for loving your homestay and getting so much out of this experience

Molly thank you for your always positive attitude and being able to see beauty everywhere we went

Rory thank you for your love and respect for the mighty Apus

Cindy thank you for your beautiful charango music and respecting this place so much

Martina thank you for your insightfulness and constant spirit of curiosity

Isabella thank you for your ability to always make people laugh

Kirra thank you for always being sweet and easygoing

Daniel thank you for your hugs, I appreciated them

Emma thank you for your passion for food and loving your homestay families and their cows

William thank you for your opinions and constant participation in group discussions

Michael thank you for your strength of character and respect for everyone

Gaelen thank you for being so strong and being able to take care of this group

So as we disperse across the world, I will carry with me all that I have learned and been grateful for in this group of 16 people who came together as an adopted family for a few months to make and shape an incredible experience together.
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Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014

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Parting Ways

Matt Lynn,Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014

Description

Gina, Alan and I walked out of the El Alto international airport this morning at 7:00am into the chilly, thin mountain air of 13,000+ feet above sea level. We were blurry-eyed and tired after having woken up at 4:00am to see our group of 13 students off to their homes and families. The last three […]

Posted On

05/12/14

Author

Matt Lynn

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    [post_content] => Hello families and friends,

 

This morning we woke up very early and drove through the foggy streets of La Paz to the El Alto International Airport. It seems like just yesterday we were here in this very spot saying "Bienvenidos a Bolivia!" Time has flown by and we've had an amazing three month journey with your children. They are all in the air now and in a few hours (or more for some of them), you'll be able to hug them and tell them how much you've missed them. Enjoy your time with them as they tell you of all they have learned and seen during these three months exploring the Andes and Amazon.

Chau from the instructors, we will miss all of the students and hope to stay in touch,

Un abrazo,

Gina, Alan, Matt
    [post_title] => Going Home
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Going Home

Gina, Alan, Matt,Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014

Description

Hello families and friends,   This morning we woke up very early and drove through the foggy streets of La Paz to the El Alto International Airport. It seems like just yesterday we were here in this very spot saying “Bienvenidos a Bolivia!” Time has flown by and we’ve had an amazing three month journey […]

Posted On

05/12/14

Author

Gina, Alan, Matt

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    [post_content] => here are a few questions given to me to wrap up my thoughts on this wonderful journey i´ve been on for the past three months.

how do we tell stories?

maybe it´s just my generation, but i think we tell stories the way we want them to be understood, even if it               doesn´t necessarly portray the reality of what actually happened. who knows what caused this, maybe it´s because life got a heck of a lot more boring after all this technology came through and made the every-day difficult task able to be done with the touch of a button, who really knows. i think it´s important for us to think about this factor here in the present, especially as we go home and begin to share the past three months of our lives with those we care about the most.

how do we listen slash respond to others stories?

On this note, i think we take peoples stories very seriously, because they´re sharing an experience, or passing a message along through others. it´s hard to say how the general population reacts to story telling, but at least for me, i think other people´s stories hold a certain part of their own personalities within them, and it´s important to take that into considerdation when coming to conclusions on what you just heard.

how do we ask open questions?

i believe open questions are tough, cause they automatically tell what it is you want to hear from the other person, even if it takes a little extra thought or looking into. i suppose it´s important to make questions as vague as possible to really allow the responder to feel they can truly express their thoughts on the matter.

how do we relate to people who have struggled in different ways then we have?

i think, although pain and suffering come in all different forms, we all have experienced one form of the two. i think all humans have. i believe when it comes to emotions and feelings, all humans have experienced one form of each of them in their own way, so i think by recognizing that we´ve all had similar feelings, and they just come in different forms at different times, we can widen our ability to find common ground with others.
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Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014

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a closing yak

isabella weems,Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014

Description

here are a few questions given to me to wrap up my thoughts on this wonderful journey i´ve been on for the past three months. how do we tell stories? maybe it´s just my generation, but i think we tell stories the way we want them to be understood, even if it       […]

Posted On

05/10/14

Author

isabella weems

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    [post_content] => I'm not going to lie. I'm already kind of dreading the barrage of questions I'm going to receive when I get home. Yes, I'll enjoy the first thorough recap of my trip with my parents. I'll even like going over the highlights with my best friends when they get back from college. But it's all the rest of the conversations that I'm not looking forward to. The casual acquaintances. The ex-teachers. The friends of my parents.

¨Oh, how was your gap year? You were just in Bolivia, right?¨

I know it's well intentioned. But how in the world am I meant to sum up a year in the socially acceptable time allotment of a response? Even just trying to discuss Bolivia would be difficult. Three months may not be that much time in the grander scheme of things, but so much happened! It seems impossible to casually respond without doing injustice to all the people who shared their time with us and all the beautiful places that we were lucky enough to visit.

Describing my host sister's love for dance, or Fabian's amazing ability to play the flute while trekking, or the majesty of a campfire on the banks of the Rio Beni, or anything about the wonderful students and instructors who came on this trip with me, would take a sizeable chunk of time. And, to be honest, I feel like the casual conversationalist doesn't really care that much. There's no way that my experiences will mean a fraction to my listener that they will to me. So that cuts out the long-winded, in depth, rich recounting of my time here. But the other option, the half-assed ¨it was great!¨also seems incredibly unsatisfying.

It's a bit of a lose-lose situation. And if I'm going to lose anyway, I'll probably end up going with the second option, out of sheer laziness. It's a bit of a frustrating challenge. I want to share my experiences, but how can I make someone who hasn't been to Bolivia get a hint of what my visit was like?

My friends will come back with crazy stories from college, stories so different from mine that it will seem like a world away. And I know they'll feel the same about my stories. Each will be equally exotic to the other. But maybe, somehow, through the story telling we can find connections. Or maybe not. Maybe they'll look at my facebook photos and get a sense for my journey. Or maybe they'll just scroll on by without really taking notice.

The stories we choose to tell say a lot about our experiences. But often it's difficult to know how to start, what to say, or how to say it.  It's something I'll continue to struggle with as I return home, but hopefully I'll find someway to share the richness of meaning of these last three months, and my gap year in general.
    [post_title] => The Stories We Tell
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Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014

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The Stories We Tell

Danielle Strasburger,Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014

Description

I’m not going to lie. I’m already kind of dreading the barrage of questions I’m going to receive when I get home. Yes, I’ll enjoy the first thorough recap of my trip with my parents. I’ll even like going over the highlights with my best friends when they get back from college. But it’s all […]

Posted On

05/10/14

Author

Danielle Strasburger

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    [post_content] => I think storytelling is one of the most fundemental way humans connect to one another. Here in Bolivia storytelling has taken on new elements and dimensions as something trancendent of language and culture. I´ve been reflecting that storytelling can be expressed in many forms. I have become conscious of how much I lean on storytelling to express myself and relate to others, I think this has become obvious as I have struggled to express myself in my minimal spanish, or sat at a loss attempting to connect to host parents in Quechua. Art, whether that be music, weaving, or sketches in my notebook,  I have found to be trancendent of language. Studing weaving there is an incredible amount of embedded cultural expression, tradition and individual inforamation to tap.

On another note, thinking about re-entering my life at home I have been contemplating that these past 3 months of incredible, ineffible experiences, incredible people, and magical places will somehow have to be translated into some form of storytelling. At the moment this feels overwhelming, but also exciting, to make those places and people real to the people I love and care for at home.
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Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014

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storytelling

Molly Brown,Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014

Description

I think storytelling is one of the most fundemental way humans connect to one another. Here in Bolivia storytelling has taken on new elements and dimensions as something trancendent of language and culture. I´ve been reflecting that storytelling can be expressed in many forms. I have become conscious of how much I lean on storytelling […]

Posted On

05/10/14

Author

Molly Brown

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    [post_date] => 2014-05-10 21:35:40
    [post_date_gmt] => 2014-05-11 03:35:40
    [post_content] => As my course closes a feeling of melancholy has set in. For the past three months everyday has felt precious. I have been able to experience new culture, new people, and an incredible new landscape. Now I am faced with returning home and that has me down slightly. Don't miss understand me, I can't wait to see my family again and go to my favorite BBQ joint. But right now I have the same feeling that you get at the end of vacation when you have to return to your desk job. The adventure is over and it is time to return to the real world. So in these last couple of days I have been contemplating my trip and writing down all of the perfect moments I've had that I don't want to forget.

Because when I think back on these three months  I want to remember the time when I woke up at 5am to make oatmeal and the sky was filled with shooting stars. I want to remember the time that I cleaned a fresh sheep pelt in the freezing cold river. Or the time that I tried eat a slice of cake from every bakery in Cusco and ended up in a fancy restaurant eating fried guina pig.

I leave Bolivia with multitde of little moments like these. So even though vacation is over I am comforted by the fact that I know it wasn't wasted. I learned lots, laughed lots, and I will remember all the good times forever.
    [post_title] => The Good Times
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Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014

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The Good Times

Michael Bryce,Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014

Description

As my course closes a feeling of melancholy has set in. For the past three months everyday has felt precious. I have been able to experience new culture, new people, and an incredible new landscape. Now I am faced with returning home and that has me down slightly. Don’t miss understand me, I can’t wait […]

Posted On

05/10/14

Author

Michael Bryce

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    [post_date] => 2014-05-10 21:34:44
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    [post_content] => In the past three months I´ve been fortunate enough to meet a lot people who come from very different places than my own. However, since these people are so different from me there is the obvious question of how do I  can possibly relate to them since we have such different experiences.  How do I get past pleasantries and actually get to know them? The answer I´ve found is that, at a fundamental level, we all want the same things. We all want to be warm and dry and well-fed--at least most of the time. We all want to find a community where we feel welcomed and  have a purpose. I honestly cant feel the backpain from carrying a 40-pound bucket of water two hours every day. But I can share in the experience of beautiful sunshine or mountains or clouds. We can smile as we warm up by a fire and sip some hot soup. And ultimately, that is what matters.
    [post_title] => Relating to Different People
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Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014

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Relating to Different People

William Kuhn,Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014

Description

In the past three months I´ve been fortunate enough to meet a lot people who come from very different places than my own. However, since these people are so different from me there is the obvious question of how do I  can possibly relate to them since we have such different experiences.  How do I […]

Posted On

05/10/14

Author

William Kuhn

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    [post_date] => 2014-05-10 21:33:58
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    [post_content] => When I go home, there will be many conversations about my past 3 months in Peru and Bolivia. I can already imagine some of the questions:

"How was South America?" "What did you do there?" "What did you learn?"

And I will tell them how incredible of an experience it was: how we hiked in the Andes mountains and stayed with indigenous Quechua families, and how we then stayed in Cochabamaba for a month, where I learned most of the Spanish I now know and learned how to play traditional Bolivian instruments like the charango and zampoña (panflute). I will tell them about our beautiful boat trip in the Amazon, our village stay with the kind and tenacious people of Asuncíon, and our group Expedition in the cities of Sucre of Potosí. I will tell them about the beauty of the Andean cosmovision, what I've learned about the indigenous movements in Bolivia, the influence and effects of foreign aid in Bolivia, the processes people employ to fight for their rights, and how much the country has changed in the past decade. There will be breathtaking and heartwarming pictures of mountains, rivers, sunsets and the people I have met along the way, but sadly, most of these stories and pictures will not be able to capture the complete essence of my experiences here.

My family and friends will hear about my music-loving homestay family in Cochabamba, but it will be hard to convey the joy of dancing in a circle with Oscar and Boris, my homestay brothers, while playing on the bombo (a Bolivian drum) and dueting zampoñas. In our darkened living room, over a concrete floor, we danced in a circle until we were so dizzy we couldn't walk straight anymore, or until I could no longer blow into the zampoña because I was laughing so hard at my brothers' dance moves. How can I accurately express the feeling of release and freedom I felt in that moment, as if I could be anyone I wanted to be, without barriers and limits? How can I recreate that feeling of wholesomeness I felt when my charango teacher accompanied Michael and me on the guitar, and our rhythms fit together perfectly? How can I relive the smile that came to my face when I read in a museum that the process of tuning a charango is a process of equalization, to create harmony and balance?

I will tell my family and friends how I learned that in the Andes mountains, rain is seen as a purifier that will wash our sins away: from our heads out through our feet, and into the Pachamama (Mother Earth). But they will not have felt the mountain streams sliding over my hiking boots on our solo walk in Nacíon Q'eros, how blissful it was to see water clean away the dirt that had accumulated on them, and my quiet realization that just as water naturally runs downhill, there is no point in fighting the nature of who I am. There is no need to chase other people or worry about others catching up to me, because I need to be who I want to be, and not who I think others want me to be. I will talk about my homestay family's weekend excursion to a nearby waterfall, but how will I explain the importance of throwing confetti into a little stream, so that the water could wash away my one-and-a-half year old host cousin's sickness? In that moment, I saw water as I'd never seen it before: as something magical; something to believe in.

I will tell the story of how my homestay family and I made papa rellenos (fried potato balls with meat and vegetable stuffing) and how I spent 40 minutes trying to keep a fire going, being laughed at once in a while because I would start crying from the smoke. What will be hard to describe is the overwhelming feeling of sadness and serenity that overcame me in that moment, as the fire reminded me of our homestays in Nacíon Q'eros: how I would wake up in the bitter cold to the same sounds of oxygen being blown through a metal tube, to the same sound of wood crackling in the fire, to the hushed whispers between my homestay mamas and siblings in Quechua, and their coughs and quiet sniffles from the cold. In Q'eros, I spoke no Spanish or Quechua; in Cochabamaba, I had a host dad who spent an entire afternoon and evening making a zampoña for me, and a host sister who stayed up with me late into the night to talk about who she would pick as her novio (boyfriend) from the Dragons group. (Jokingly, of course.) How can I convey my extreme gratitude for such a loving family, and the warmness I had in my heart when my host dad joked that I was never going back to China; that I was staying in Bolivia forever?

Every Andes and Amazon Spring 2014 student will have a different story to tell. We will each pick the moments that made our hearts flutter the most, moments that made us miss home the most, or moments when we doubled over with pain, either from sickness or laughter. But our stories will always be somewhat incomplete, because just like it is hard to capture water in our hands, the magic and beauty of many moments is their elusiveness. We will never be surrounded by the exact same people, laugh the exact same laugh, or shed the exact same tears. And I'm okay with that--for all that this experience has given me, it feels appropriate to leave a part of me behind, in those incredible, non-replicable moments, here in Peru and Bolivia.

Cindy Liu
    [post_title] => Music. Water. Fire.
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Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014

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Music. Water. Fire.

Cindy Liu,Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014

Description

When I go home, there will be many conversations about my past 3 months in Peru and Bolivia. I can already imagine some of the questions: “How was South America?” “What did you do there?” “What did you learn?” And I will tell them how incredible of an experience it was: how we hiked in […]

Posted On

05/10/14

Author

Cindy Liu

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    [post_author] => 26
    [post_date] => 2014-05-10 21:32:16
    [post_date_gmt] => 2014-05-11 03:32:16
    [post_content] => We're finally here. At the end of what started out as the longest three months of our lives. Well, perhaps I shouldn't speak for everyone. But I know for me personally, when I got off the plane in El Alto, I was immediately ovewherlmed by the realization that it was day one of ninety-three. Ninety three days in a foreign country I knew close to nothing about. Ninety three days away from my family, my friends, away from all the comforts and normalcies of home. Ninety three days to take these fears and use them to push myself out into the unknown. It is now day ninety, and I am equally overwhelmed by the realization that I have only three days left in this beautifully confusing country.

My journey to South America was much longer than the 8 hour flight. It has taken me years to work up the courage and conviction to leave school, leave Colorado and embark on a journey that I both feared and yearned for. After my three months in Bolivia and Peru, I still feel uncertain and unsettled. I left the states with high expectations, dreams of proufound and wild revelations about life and myself and what I wanted for my future. Instead, my time has been more subtle. I am not the rebirthed version of myself I percived I would become. I still have the same struggles, worries and reservations about the future. But I see this future and feel these struggles and worries with a greater sense of clarity and purpose. I no longer fear not knowing who I am or what I want. I have learned to accept and embrace uncertainty.

Uncertainty has been a common theme these past three months. I came to Bolivia uncertain of what to expect. Uncertain I would make connects with my group members. Uncertain I would learn to speak Spanish. Uncertain I would be able to keep up, phsyically, on treks. Uncertain I would be able to adjust to the diet, the culture, the vast differences between South America and my home. Now I am uncertain if I am ready to say goodbye.

I feel a quiet and growing connection to Bolivia, to this experience I have been grateful enough to share with such a unique and diverse group of students and instuctors. These past ninety three days did not live up to my expectations, but they have affected me in ways I am still only just beginning to realize. I know the time will come, a week from now, a month, maybe even a year, where I will once again, be overwhelmed, but by a new realization. I will be reminded by something, perhaps the sent of eucalyptus in the breeze, the tart but sweet taste of maracuya, or the creased and wrinkled face of a passer by, that I once traveled accross the untammed and rivetting landscape of the heart of South America, a journey that taught me about the world and myself in ways I will forever question, charish and be thankful for.
    [post_title] => 'Bonding Ceremonies'
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Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014

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‘Bonding Ceremonies’

Gaelen Calhoun,Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014

Description

We’re finally here. At the end of what started out as the longest three months of our lives. Well, perhaps I shouldn’t speak for everyone. But I know for me personally, when I got off the plane in El Alto, I was immediately ovewherlmed by the realization that it was day one of ninety-three. Ninety […]

Posted On

05/10/14

Author

Gaelen Calhoun

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