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Photo by Tom Pablo, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Endings and Beginnings

Dear Family and Friends,

Our program officially comes to a close today and all of the emotions are present. It’s been a busy week! Our students returned from their Independent Study Projects last Thursday. It was wonderful to hear stories of their highs and lows, the people they met, the things they learned. It was clear that this period was especially impactful for our students. They were able to put into practice all of the skills and knowledge they’ve been building over the past few months to arrange their own lodging, meals and transport, set up interviews and ethnographic observations, write down fields notes and transform them into a 12-15 page paper and a 20-40 minute oral presentation. Our students had 4 days to organize their thoughts and a craft a narrative that they could share about their experience. On Monday, they showed the fruits of their labor and we are so proud of them and all they have learned about themselves and about the Spirit of the Andes during our 15 weeks together.

On Tuesday we moved to Pisac to continue our transference process. We are staying together in a beautiful eco-lodge next to the Vilcanota river, nestled in the valley between the tall mountains and the silhouettes of Inca ruins. We came here to start processing our experience over the last 15 weeks, to reflect on the things we are proud of, the challenges we faced, the learning that stuck, and the fond memories we shared. We came to say thank you, to each other, to the earth, and to all of our Peruvian and Bolivian friends and families who welcomed us and shaped our journey. Our dear brother, Miguel Inti, who guided us at Ausangate, blessed our journey to Bolivia, and welcomed us back to Peru, came to facilitate our closing ceremony. We sent words of gratitude and hopes for the future through leaves of coca and burned them with an offering to pachamama in the fire. We hugged, we cried, we celebrated, and we are preparing to say goodbye for now. It is the end of one leg of the life journey and the beginning of the next.

Naomi, Kendall, and Chandra are not the same women we met 15 weeks ago. They allowed themselves to be transformed by this experience. To be broken down and built back up, to be held, to be re-educated, to be confused, to be surprised, to be vulnerable, to be filled with awe, to love and be loved by strangers that became family, to be angry, to be disappointed, to be moved, to be connected, and so much more. Their openness and willingness to take on the full breadth of this experience, all of the beauty and all of the challenge, is the gift they will bring with them wherever their journey leads next. We believe strongly that their capacity has grown immensely and that they are ready to take on whatever lies ahead. We wish them well!

With deep gratitude for your support on this journey,

Kaela