I’ve been home from Bolivia for about 3 weeks now and while it’s been incredible to be back with my family in my favorite city in the world, there are some major things I miss already about my Global Fellows experience.
One of the biggest takeaways from my trip is something of a selfish one — I’ve taken the slow pace that I enjoyed so much in Cochabamba home with me, and tried to be more mindful of how I spend my time and how I can make it more valuable. This has certainly altered the way that I’m strategizing for the upcoming year at Santa Clara — I’m setting goals differently to make my day-to-day life more deliberate and meaningful, and taking more time to communicate meaningfully with people I care about and learn organically about things that interest me.
My Spanish improved exponentially while I was in Cochabamba; I quickly refreshed my 3 years of high school classes and reinforced them with daily classes from an excellent teacher (shout out to Elisabeth). I’m actually grateful that very few locals spoke English, because it pushed me into the deep end and forced me to practice in every daily interaction, even when I felt unsure. When I got back to the USA, the biggest adjustment was seeing everything in English and speaking English with everyone. I almost ordered in Spanish reflexively the first time I ate out in Portland.
ONNO HO! Thank you so much for being the best partner I could have asked for. Your easygoing and down-for-anything attitude (which I envied at times) made for many adventures in and out of the city. You’re one of the most effortlessly friendly and amiable people I have ever met, and you created such a dynamic and fun group of Bolivian friends without whom our time in Cochabamba would have been a lot less fun. I’ll miss our little Casa Beatriz dearly (but I won’t miss 30 seconds of hot water).
Finally, and most importantly, the work that I did in Bolivia with the kids participating in Bolivia 4WARD was immensely meaningful and taught me so much. I left feeling a little uneasy about my sheer impermanence — granted, I went and served and did fulfilling work, but I’m only temporary. Having to leave all those kids, especially the ones that don’t have a constant network of people that care about them, didn’t feel totally right. Nevertheless, it was great to see kids improve their math skills right before our very eyes and know that they will be better off in school because of the program that we ran.
Being a Global Fellow was challenging, rewarding, and stimulating, sometimes all at once, and I wouldn’t trade my time in Bolivia for anything.