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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

The Short Story of My Stuff

After watching the story of stuff, my first reaction was to think of the HUGE packing list for this trip. I started to think about how many things I had bought specifically just to take with me to South America, with the full intention of never using them again (cough) Steripen (cough).

For a trip and organization that seems so focused on the health of the earth, I wondered how we all could have contributed to an atmosphere of buying So Much Stuff. (For reference, the packing list for this semester was about 3 pages long)

Then I thought to myself, maybe it was just me. Maybe most people already had the things they brought, but when I started talking to others, so many people seemed to identify with the feelings I was having. As I only have this experience and this group, I cannot say whether other courses or other groups feel the same accumulation of short term stuff, but I would like to make a proposal for Andes and Amazon Semester courses:

1. Set up designated ´stuff´ points. Maybe the program house in Tiquipaya, maybe a landing spot in Cusco.

2. When students pass through, or at the end of their course, make an active effort to collect clothing or gear they will no longer use. Create a space for people to consider all of the stuff they used on this trip, and how they will or won´t use it in their everyday lives. Maybe they´ll plan on using all of it, and that´s great! Maybe though, someone knows their zero degree bag will sit unused in their attic for two years before being given to goodwill.

3. Store the stuff and have a running inventory of what gear, clothing, sizes, etc. are available.

4. Share the stuff! If a student for next semester mentions they don´t have a sleeping bag and don´t know how they´re going to aquire one (or doesn´t want to drop $200 on a bag they don´t plan on using again), say, “Hey! No need! We can lend you one when you land!” The general inconvenience of logistically coordinating shared stuff must be less than the inconvenience to the planet of continuously taking its resources (not to mention the inconvenience to geese of continuously taking their down).

The Short Story of My Stuff is that I have too much, and I will not continue to put to use all of my stuff from this trip. I would like to create a productive use for my stuff that could help others avoid this problem in the future.