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

Final Thoughts From Our Group, Part II

From our students, to those who they love dearly: some thoughts on departing from our space here in Bolivia and re-integrating into an environment that may now seem foreign.

 

In South America, I…

In South America, I learned not only about the amazing diversity of places and people, but also about the diversity of places and people, but also about the diversity of things that add to my understanding of myself, who I am, and how I fit into the world around me.

In South America, I experience an extremely wide breadth of emotions, growth, and changes. I have seen the person I wish to become and now strive to be as I should have always been.

In South America, I changed who I am and who I am striving to be. I’ve become aware.

In South America, I have learned a lot from the cultures and people, while challenging myself in new situations.

In South America, I questioned everything I learned in school, my home country, and myself.

In South America, I spend a lot of time reflecting on my pace in relation to the world as a whole, as well as the systems that give me a disproportionate amount of privilege.

In South America, I had one of the greatest experiences of my life. I met wonderful people, learned about many cultures, climbed mountains, and immersed myself into uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations. I gained awareness and understanding for the world around us and grew as a person.

In South America, I found that experiencing new culture and new faces has allowed me to regain control of my happiness.

In South America, I chewed coca, climbed mountains, learned Spanish, learned about the desecrating force of neoliberalism, weeded and pruned vegetable beds, danced traditional Peruvian and Bolivian dances, became brave enough to walk city streets by myself and take public transport, escaped lightning, participated in a play about mining, made curry, empanadas, and papas a la Huancaina, got up over 17,000 feet, took numerous long-distance busses, saw so many new species, lived with and befriended strangers, drew landscapes, lived slowly while hardly staying in one place for more than a week, lived out of a backpack, stared at weavings for hours, ate lots of fried eggs and rice, learned how to work & live with 14 other people, questioned everything I knew about education, life in Latin America, environmentalism, and consumer culture; gained reverence for Pachamama, and generally felt more alive than I have in a while.

In South America, I learned how to listen without judgment.

 

As I leave South America, I want you to know…

As I leave South America, I want you to know that although I may look the same as or similar to my previous self, I have changed in many ways that I may not yet be able to communicate. Please be patient, for I shall try my best to be patient as well. Please be loving, for I have become much more loving. Please be happy, because I have become much happier.

As I leave South America, I want you to know that I have made mistakes, and learned from them. That now more than ever I’m in a mindset of growth and that from here, and back home, I will be falling up from what I’ve done.

As I leave South America, I want you to know that I have learned a lot and had a good time.

As I leave South America, I want you to know that I am different than I used to be. I might question more, and try to continue practicing what I’ve learned on this trip.

As I leave South America, I want you to know that I intend to search for ways through which I can use the privilege that I possess to advocate for people who may not hold the same kind of institutional privilege.

As I leave South America, I want you to know I will probably have difficulty coming back. My values no longer align with those of American mainstream culture and haven’t previously, but the difference is more marked than ever. I don’t want to contribute to and in fact want to halt the system we participate in everyday that perpetuate suffering of all beings and the environment, but don’t know how to both re-assimilate and reject & dismantle those systems. I want to continue to think and live in Spanish, and the world and worldviews associated with it. It will be harder for me to ignore ongoing colonization, oppression, and genocides and I will have to act to halt it. I will have less tolerance for toxic masculinity, emptiness/vapidity, and desensitizing addictions, and all their manifestations in my life and others, and again will fight to dispel it where I see it. to invite true loving connection and meaningful culture and a real addressing of underlying problems. I want you to know that I’d like your support and effort in ending suffering, promoting healthy cultures, and truly healing and love one another. I want to continue to travel and have my mind blown and feel alive in each moment, alongside you all.

As I leave South America, I want you to know that I am very happy and grateful for the experiences I had. I want to return in a few years and re-enjoy, re-experience and reconnect with the places and people, together with my friends and family. I want you to know that I am looking forward to come back home but sad to leave this fascinating place.

As I leave South America, I want you to know that beauty isn’t in landscape, animals, or the idea of a place only. The true beauty is in the people you encounter along the way.

As I leave South America, I want you to know how beautiful this place is—the love with which I have been received into others’ households, the caring I have been shown, and the huge gratitude I have for this place.

As I leave South America, I want you to know that I missed you all dearly and can’t wait to see you at home.