Chau, Bolivia . . .

. . . for a little while. I’m writing this from the steamy, tropical city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, in eastern Bolivia, where I’m visiting for a couple of days before flying home to the snowy Midwest. I realize it’s been almost two months since I last updated this blog; life got full, which is not a bad thing. Months ago, one of my friends asked me “if you think you’ll reach the crossover point of reporting to people there instead of being away there and reporting to people here.” It seems to have happened, and now I can’t believe the last several weeks have gone by so fast.

I’ll be coming home to the U.S. for four weeks, to celebrate the holidays and spend time with family and friends, and practice re-entering my life there. Then I’ll return to Carmen Pampa for the next semester, when I’ll serve as the interim language program coordinator (since our dear colleague Hye-Jung Park has returned to the U.S.!) and teach a new group of students, probably in one of the majors other than tourism. I’m looking forward to seeing many of the people I love at home, and I’m also glad that I’ll be returning to the community here for another few months, to continue learning and growing and developing relationships here.

Too much has happened in the last couple of months to describe in detail, but here are some photos from some of my favorite moments from the time I’ve spent in Carmen Pampa and Bolivia:

Women dancing at a festival in Carmen Pampa

Women dancing at a festival in Carmen Pampa

Sun rising over Lake Titicaca

Sun rising over Lake Titicaca

Students present their work at a campus-wide English project fair

Students present their work at a campus-wide English project fair

Dancing with the groom at a wedding where I was the godmother of cakes

Dancing with the groom at a wedding where I was the godmother of cakes

leading a workshop for high school English teachers in Coroico

leading a workshop for high school English teachers in Coroico

At the summit of Uchumachi, our mountain

At the summit of Uchumachi, our mountain

Dancing onstage at the Intercarreras celebration in October

Dancing onstage at the Intercarreras celebration in October

200 cinnamon rolls for the nursing students' graduation celebration

200 cinnamon rolls baked for the nursing students’ graduation celebration

Thanksgiving dinner shared with friends

Thanksgiving dinner shared with friends

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Dancing with Mujeres Valientes, a women’s leadership group that my colleagues and I facilitated, at a campus-wide event

Dancing the moceñada during Intercarreras

Dancing the moceñada during Intercarreras

Crossing a 15,000 foot mountain pass on the Condoriri Trek

Crossing a 15,000 foot mountain pass on the Condoriri Trek

Household altar for Todos Santos

Household altar for Todos Santos

Community member playing music for Todos Santos, bread in his bag

Community member playing music for Todos Santos, bread in his bag

Hiking the Eco Via trail through the mountains of the Yungas with my students

Hiking the Eco Via trail through the mountains of the Yungas with my students

Multicultural dance night at the UAC

Multicultural dance night at the UAC

Beautiful and delicious food in Cochabamba

Beautiful and delicious food in Cochabamba

Gingerbread birthday house!

Gingerbread birthday house!

27th birthday: Cake, candles, and friends

27th birthday: Cake, candles, and friends

Being the godmother for the baptism of my student's daughter

Godmother for the baptism of my student’s daughter

Visiting the Salar de Uyuni

Visiting the Salar de Uyuni

Teaching my summer class

Teaching my summer class

The six months that I’ve spent here have been full of lots of moments, moments of surprising beauty, moments of learning and growth, moments of confusion and exclusion and foreign-ness, and many ordinary, mundane moments of love and relationship. Exactly a year ago, in the midst of much angst and painstaking deliberation over some life decisions (one of which was whether or not to come to Bolivia – I’m so glad I did!), I wrote in my journal, “What do I want? I want to be spiritually grounded. I want to be connected to movements for social justice. I want to teach well. I want to be a part of a healthy community, at work and in life. I want to be fully myself; I want to feel whole.” Just before coming here, reflecting on the end of the last school year and the upcoming transitions in my life, I wrote, “I hope: to continue learning and growing, to seek out relationships and connection, to sit with discomfort and ambiguity, to be present, to be nurtured and loved, to be challenged, and to continue becoming friends with myself.”

Reflecting on the last six months, I’m amazed and grateful to see the ways that all of those hopes and desires have been met, abundantly and in ways I never could have expected. I’ve been challenged professionally and personally, my heart has been tugged open in many different directions, and I’ve been blessed with so much love and connection to others and myself. As I think about the rambling, twisty road that has brought me here, and that I hope to continue following, I’m reminded of this quote from Carlos Castaneda:

Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself alone, one question . . . Does this path have a heart?

I hope you have a wonderful, heart-full Christmas/solstice/winter break, and that the new year brings you much love and joy. If you’re in Minnesota or Wisconsin, let’s get together soon!

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