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Photo by Anna Hiltner

I’m reminiscing a little

I want to go back on two things: a moment during our first day of trekking and our ride back from Calientes

After we arrived at our cabin, Don Felix suggested to anyone that was up for it that we go on a short hike. Fully prepared for a nice little stroll, I was in no way ready for the extent to which I would not be able to breathe during this said “stroll”. Granted while I and a few others struggled with every step, Don Felix, on the other hand, truly was going for a leisurely walk. As we neared the top of the little hill, in the distance (not a very far distance geographically speaking but a large distance in terms of physical capacity) Don Felix picked up a stick and casually chucked it off the cliff. In a split second my mind went from “wow he’s really chilling up here” to “what?”. Because in that split second the stick Don Felix threw sliced through the air and rung.

Upon our collective shock, Don Felix glances at us with a glint in his eye and throws another stick. This one too makes a sound. As people start catching up to where Don Felix is standing, he shows us how he throws the sticks to achieve this sought after sound. Liv and I arriving last, sit down to watch the others attempt and succeed in making the sticks sing, for that’s what it was: singing.

To get a stick to sing you have to know first that it’s in fact not a stick but a rock, a cold, matte black, often sharp on the edges, slender rock that’s easy to hold in your hand. Considering we were at such high altitude that not a single tree was in sight, I feel like I could’ve known this object’s true nature to begin with but I’ll attribute this overlook to fatigue. When you’ve selected your rock, you hold it balanced in the center of your palm. As you throw it, you do so as if it were a frisbee. Once in the air, this rock will descend as silently as if you had thrown nothing at all. This is because it’s your first rock and your rock won’t sing if it knows you’re new at it (or at least that’s what I told myself for the first 30 rocks when I finally tried for myself). In reality, as you throw the rock, it has to roll off your fingertips. So in that way its more like a yo-yo (although I’ve never successfully spun a yo-yo so I’m not sure).

As far as I know I had absolutely no change in technique from my silent rocks to my singing rocks. The only difference was one suddenly rang as it went down. The ring didn’t last very long but its faint sound carried clearly from my rock and I knew I had gotten it.

I threw one after another and while not all of them sang, I, along with everyone else, began to get the hang of it. We realized that different sizes make different sounds (smaller rocks made higher pitches) and the better the roll the long the rock sang. The best part though was watching Don Felix’s throws. Along with their sustained note, sometimes the rocks looked as if they were defying basic laws of gravity and being carried through the air. They rolled out past the cliff as if rolling on slopes. All the while, Don Felix kept a same strolling air about him and a face of light amusement.  Eventually, Don Felix moved along a path only he knew and we all followed a little later.



The day we left Calientes we woke up early to catch the bus that would pass through the town. Marching up the hill we arrived beautifully on time at the road where we were told the bus passes through. We sat to the side, among our bags, and waited. Trucks passed as well as motorcycles and for each motor rumbling in the distance we listened and watched in anticipation, hoping it would be our bus. Despite this feeling of anticipation, I was in no rush. Once we arrived in Tiquipaya we would meet our homestay families for the first time and according to the past Bridge Year participants, the relations we would build with our homestay families would be among our most valuable experiences in our year abroad. In other words, this was THE big moment we had all been waiting for but at the same time, I personally didn’t mind waiting just a little while longer.

However, our instructors had a schedule to keep and were therefore not so tranquil. About an hour into waiting, a logger truck came down the mountain in the same direction we would go. We had seen a few pass in both directions already, with the occasional heads popping up over the truck bed walls to peer out below. Our instructors had a quick chat with this truck driver and before I realized what was going on we were all piling into the bed. Greeting the few people already in the back of the truck, we made ourselves comfortable among our backpacks and the few remaining pieces of lumber.

Coming from a city suburb where people barely owned pickup trucks, this was the absolute countryside dream. This was the kind of thing my dad and his friends would describe in stories about their childhood and “young years”. So, exhausted, cold, and a little sick, this was the best lucid dream I could ask.

The truck started off and from where we were, we could see all the tops of the mountains and the open sky and if we looked over to the back of the truck, everything faded behind the thick cloud of dust that rose from the laboring wheels. At some point though, the wind either picked up or changed directions because this stream of dust that followed neatly behind us started curling up and forward and into the bottom of the truck bed where all of us sat. Looking back the dust was sort of miserable but in the moment I could not care less because I was bouncing along in the open-air, living the dream.

A little while in a few of us chose to stand up as we’d seen others do in other trucks. Holding the truck wall with one hand and the crossbeam overhead with the other, you could perfectly secure yourself to look out over the landscape, the llamas, and the occasional house. We could see perfectly circular stone enclosures that people had built and at one point a calf ran alongside our truck as we passed, exactly how a dog would.

I’m not exactly sure how long we spent on that truck but at some point we stopped so that the other people with us could get lunch (contrary to our single hour we spent riding in the bed, they had been driving through the entire night). During this pause the bus we were supposed to take came rumbling along and parked in front of us. Again, our instructors had a quick conversation with the bus driver and before I knew it, we unloaded from our truck bed and reloaded ourselves onto the bus. And that was the end of our truck adventure.

As for updates, we’ve been with our homestay families for two weeks now and I’ve accumulated many hours of talking about everything with my homestay mom and watching every show on cartoon network with my homestay sister. Yesterday we met up with the semester Dragons group to play soccer and revel in the opportunity to wear shorts in the secret garden that is La Granja Polen. Shorts aren’t necessarily inappropriate, it’s more so that people pretty much never wear them but I love them and they more than anything made me feel at home.

Bonus update, a list of items I’ve encountered in my homestay’s bathroom sink:

  • a hot chocolate powder bag (empty)
  • a full toilet paper roll (dry)
  • A metal straw (upon further inspection this straw is not used for drinking)
  • a cropped fury vest (my sister’s, but I’m still not ready to assume she’s the one putting these things in the sink)