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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

On to X-Phase!!

Within our first week in Bolivia, Zack jokingly (?) revealed that, although Dragons may have advertised this trip as three months of once-in-a-lifetime adventures and cultural immersion, it’s mostly an extended lesson in group dynamics. While to some degree we could have predicted the last ten weeks of jaw dropping landscapes, unforgettable homestays, and fascinating “charlas,” we could not have foreseen just how important learning to communicate and collaborate with one another would be. The quickly approaching X-Phase portion of our trip has proven to be the ultimate test of our ability to work well together and organize plans smoothly.

It hasn’t always been easy. Undoubtedly in a group of twelve people, not everyone is always on the same page or interested in the same activity. We’ve experienced our fair share of not-so-agreeable discussions, verging on arguments. But all for the better! The planning of X-Phase has forced us to puzzle out the inevitable faults and strengths of our group. With the support of our instructors, we’ve determined how best to coordinate ourselves so that each student excels and improves the way we circulate information within the team. Taking responsibility for our experience, we’ve become more independent and capable as a unit and, I think, as individuals. Many have risen to the occasion during this challenging time, seizing initiative and leading us to success.

So after an admittedly stressful but altogether productive few weeks, we’ve devised a working plan for X-Phase. In just two short days, we’ll leave Potosi for La Paz, where we’ll spend one day of trek-prep before embarking on the four-day El Chorro Trek. El Chorro begins high in the Andes, dropping into the beautiful Yungas of Coroico. Famous for its scenic transition from mountains to jungles, the hike almost guarantees 42 miles worth of diverse landscapes and flora/fauna. Following the trek, we’ll spend one night in Coroico and then travel to Tocaña, an Afro-Bolivian community forty-five minutes outside of the city. For the next three days, we’ll live and work with Tocaña families, hike and swim in the area, and dive into a unique musical and vibrant cultural experience. Finally, we’ll board a night bus back to La Paz and, in the morning, head to Tiwanaku ruins near Lake Titicaca for an ancient historical and educational opportunity.

That’s the nuts and bolts! We’ll enjoy ten days that, if all goes as expected, we’ll proudly remember as the time we became competent travelers abroad. We’ll look back and reflect not only on El Chorro or Tocaña but also on how we learned to divvy up roles and research, call contacts in Spanish, and capitalize on available resources. Of course, it’ll probably be most difficult to forget the powerful way we’ve grown together as teammates and great friends. By Transference, I bet that our recent bonding experience in X-Phase makes saying goodbye that much harder.