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Photo by Tom Pablo, Andes & Amazon Semester.

A Balance of Two Countries and a Spectrum of Emotions

Here I am in Peru, trying to move forward with a new independent study, watching the news in Bolivia and realizing that my own country had something to do with the political crisis in Bolivia.

We were in La Paz after the presidential elections. Evo won again (after being president for 15 years) but the election seemed suspicious. I was sitting in a restaurant when floods of people came down the street in protest, unaware that these protests would last for 18 days.

We made it to the Cochabamba district in a town called Tiquipaya. During this time I connected instantly with my host family and was taking Global Citizenship, learning about neo-liberalism.

The protests continued, but Tiquipaya continued to be peaceful while we were there.

Things seemed to be clearing up and I got an email from my Independent Study mentor (who works in a circus in the middle of Cochabamba) that she wanted to meet with me. I was excited to meet up, but it didn’t seem to be working out. That same day, the mayor got kidnapped by a motorcycle gang, got publicly humiliated and was forced to sign resignation papers. In addition, thousands of indigenous women supporting Evo marched into Cochabamba, were met by the same motorcycle gang, and were subject to violence.

We were notified that we needed to evacuate. I was sad and angry for a lot of reasons, but especially didn’t want to leave when it appeared that things were clearing up. Evo had resigned and Tiquipaya was celebrating. Kendall and I were buying chocolate in a store and outside, people were setting off fireworks and marching with Bolivian flags.  It seemed as though things were clearing up and I didn’t want to leave.

The next morning, we left early with little trouble. Hours later, the country broke into even more chaos, letting corrupt leaders out of jail, Evo supporters flooded La Paz with clubs and the craziness continues to unravel. Now people against Evo are burning indigenous flags.

Then news has been coming out about the suspicion of the Trump administration being involved with Evo resigning. Evo was against neo-liberalism and the Trump administration is for it. The suspicion is that the U.S funded the military coup that convinced Evo to resign. As a U.S citizen, this was really weird, not surprising, and fascinating to hear. To witness how my own country is affecting another is a powerful thing.

My heart hurts for the family I had in Bolivia, for the circus I was going to teach in, for the burning of indigenous flags throughout the country, and Luis and his family who are currently in Bolivia.

On the other hand, I am grateful for the experiences I got to have there, for my amazing family, and every moment I spent. I’m grateful that I made connections so deep that it was hard to say goodbye. I’m grateful for my privilege of being safe here in Cuzco, and for the perfect timing of our evacuation. And although letting go of the circus project for my ISP was and still is heart breaking, I’m finding myself grateful to have the opportunity to start over and explore other subjects I hadn’t thought of before. Doing my ISP in Peru is challenging me in ways that I would not have been challenged with the circus.

So yes this situation is complicated. It feels as though I am holding sadness in one hand and the need to move forward/ gratitude in the other, along with Bolivia in one and Peru in the other.