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Photo by Ryan Kost, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Introduction: Southern Roots with a Worldly Flare

Hi, all! My name is Peter Taylor, and I hail from Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville may be in some ways a core city of the South, and there is a great deal of Southern culture and heritage present, but it’s also one of the fastest growing cities in the US. While the extra traffic is not the most enjoyable, I’ve really enjoyed growing up here because of what I see as a good balance between Southern cultural tradition and a more progressive outlook on social/political issues and our changing world.

In my free time, I tend to divide myself in three main areas: books, music, and friends. When it comes to books, I read anything that I can get my hands on, particularly older fiction and poetry. This summer I’ve been reading a lot of the old Russian masters (Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn) but I like anything that has a great story, lyrical writing, and/or touches on themes that strike me. I also love to write. At this point in my life I gravitate towards poetry, but ultimately I want to write short stories and novels. Literature is a true passion of mine, and my favorite extracurricular activities in high school generally related to it in some way (newspaper, literary magazine, theater, working in a bookstore). Music is more of a hobby for me (I’m no composing or playing prodigy), but I love jamming with friends or working on something by myself. I play mainly guitar, but I’ve been working on my singing over the past few years to get my voice into decent shape- nothing operatic but nothing tuneless. The biggest service project I did in high school was a benefit concert called Cellophony, where each year my friends and I put on some incredible music to raise money for the W.O. Smith Music School in downtown Nashville. Listening to music is definitely one of the great joys of my life, contributing more regularly to my emotional sanity and stability than even literature.

I love to consider and ponder the effects and circumstances as well as relationships surrounding all art forms. How different works of art interact and compare with one another (comparing Keats and Shelley, for example), the development of trends across time (the rise of the Modernist novel with the development of stream-of-consciousness etc.), the merits of different ways that different media connect with a person (the differences between, say, music and visual art), and most importantly, how learning from, loving, and creating art can help inform our relationships with those around us and change how we look at the world, ourselves, and each other. This is my passion; this is what I love.

That being said, I don’t think any of these reflections are any good unless you share them with others. That’s part of the reason I love to spend time with my friends: the great stuff we talk about it. Even if we’re not necessarily debating a particularly abstruse matter, exchanging thoughts with other people always enlivens me. That being said, I love just to hang out or goof off as well. Even just getting some fast food with my friends can be a very special experience if it’s with people I care about.

Speaking of food, I’m really excited to try salteñas. They look like the meat pies of Bolivia, and I can imagine they’ll be delicious.

Regarding preparation, I was lucky this summer to meet some of my girlfriend’s cousins who actually live in Bolivia while they were in Nashville for a few days. Though their home is in La Paz, they’ve given me a lot of great information and guidance (including a few chats just to calm my nerves), so they’ve been a great resource for me in my preparations. I hope that I’ll be able to catch up with them while I’m there when we’re in La Paz or if they can make it to Cochabama.

To end, I’d like to share a quotation from a novel a read this summer, George Eliot’s Middlemarch. In it, Dorothea Casaubon asks, “What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other?” I hope that we all can learn to be not just a support network for one another, but a group of friends enjoying this wonderfully unique journey together.