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Photo by Ryan Kost, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift – that is why it is called the present. _ Master Ooguay

For a place where everybody’s internal clocks seem to work in perfect harmony despite an all around lack of consistent scheduling, the last two weeks here in Tiquipaya have felt timeless. Perhaps the liminality of these specific circumstances has attributed to my feeling as though I’ve been in and out of a wonderfully bizarre dream that seems to shift just as I’m about to grasp its meaning. That being said, the more I try to understand or take something away from my experiences the further away I get from being present with them. In order to appreciate the many things I got to be a part of and learn from, I had to let go of my preconceived ideas and expectations.

For my independent study project I wanted to learn how to play the Charango, a Bolivian instrument somewhat similar in form to a Ukulele. I thought having prior experience with string instruments would help but instead it made learning even the simplest tune feel like deconstructing and reconstructing my entire understanding of how music should sound. Similarly with beginning Spanish classes at square one, it was difficult to acknowledge my progress. I struggled with applying the massive amount of material I learned to connecting in my home with my family where I thought it mattered most. In both cases, I had to take a step back to see the true value of the experience.

My Charango teacher, Ramiro, was intelligent and kind and showed me a glimpse into a world of music unlike any other. Even if I can barely play a drunk mans melody, I know I will use the unique inspiration to fuel my passion as an artist. As far as my Spanish goes, my family couldn’t have cared less if I used the wrong pronoun or mispronounced three verbs in a row. They enjoyed hearing me talk about life back home and laughed with me when I completely obliterated whatever I was trying to say. I am excited to continue my education and maybe return one day to express my full gratitude for their care and hospitality in Spanish instead of Spanglish.

I guess my point is that, for someone with admittedly high expectations and a future-oriented mind, I sure as hell accomplished a lot in terms of letting go and leaning into the present and I couldn’t have done it without all the amazing people I had the privilege of connecting with. With love and gratitude, I bid thee well Tiqui! And for all of my people back home, I can’t wait to tell you more stories from my time in this wonderfully weird little city when I get back.