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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.


I write this the day everyone but me leaves for the airport to go home. I haven’t slept for two days, am waking up at 5 tomorrow morning to get to my flight and would not give up bringing my group to the airport at 11 tonight for anything. We took 14 strangers, 12 students, 2 instructors and a third rotating instructor to make our group 15 and made a family. Like any family we drove eachother crazy, wanted to kill each other at times, and talked about one another incessantly. Like any family we had so much love and support for each other. No matter how much you argued with people at the end of the day they were there for you. In a time where for two months the longest we stayed in one place way 5 nights and we were all living out of backpacks some that were larger than the people carrying them (myself included) we made a home. Now our home and family is falling apart. We are all going to different places knowing that the possibility of never seeing one another again (or for a very long time) is very real. The group leaves La Paz tonight knowing that this experience and group of people can never be recreated how it is now. We are going back different. Seeing our friends and families back home will be amazing. The home we have created tonight also falls apart, everyone is so excited to not be living out of a backpack with the same 3 outfits. Tonight the home and family I have had for the past 3 months leaves and I stay and watch them leave without me. I instead head back to a hostal to share a room with 5 strangers instead of 8 of (as I described them to my parents) ‘mi gente’. In this room I will have personal space, be able to see the floor, and not trip over anyone or their things and that as lovely as that seems it feels empty.

As a group we took night busses, flights, crammed into tiny busses that only fit 12, sat in the heat for hours waiting for construction to end. We took narrow, bumpy, winding roads up and down mountains and got motion sickness. We treked for hours multiple hours a day to be rewarded with tents and cold.

We also got the most incredible views and stars. We found a strength and power within ourselves in the group to get things done. Carrying the med kit in very different ways, falling down mountains, losing our stuff, running around like crazy people trying to get a huge group organized and fed and from place to place it was crazy. We learned to rely on our family, on every member doing their part. We learned each others strengths and weaknesses to help one another. We made it work. We stuck together when it was hardest.

Between everyone getting sick a minimum of 30 times each, clinic visits and sometimes even hospital stays, people fighting, things not getting done and scratching bug bites open it sometimes feels like our family and home is hanging together by the bits of duct tape left on water bottles. It might be. I also know that if something happens or needs to happen we come together in ways I haven’t seen before in other groups I’ve been in. Our ups and downs made us a family.

So tonight I watch my family and home and leave me. Them all together and me now alone for the first time in 3 months needing to start over making a home and family needing to live with it for a month before I can go back. I will have everything this AAB family taught me, all the love they gave me with me. I now know that I can build a family and home wherever I go, we all can. And for the rest of our lives we will be doing that. Just because I have to start doing that first without them doesn’t mean they and this experience isn’t with me.

This trip has been crazy in a million different ways and I would not give up a single of even the hardest moments. Goodbye AAB and thank you for helping to make me the person I will be going home as.