Honesty and “Productivity” Didn’t Fit In My Backpack: The screams of the crows outside my window woke me up; I was a bit disoriented and my head felt as light as an air balloon. It was a Sunday morning and I was feeling the punishment from having too much fun the night before. My room was a warzone; a combination of clothes, readings and books covered the floor all the way from my bed to the door.
I don’t know how she does it alone. Silvia, the doctor I have the pleasure of working with this semester, is a 25-year-old native of Cochabamba, Bolivia who loves working with the children at Ceoli; her passion for her job is evident in her interactions with the children. Her weakness is she only has two hands. With nearly 200 children who are constantly sick or hurting themselves as well as in need of basic regular medical care she needs another set or two of hands.
Most secular study abroad programs do not have regular discussions about religion. Our group consists of diverse religious believers in a country where asking about religion often comes before learning someone else’s name.
Think about the absurdity of a lifeguard being afraid of water or a kid drinking a hot cup of coffee in the middle of a warm summer day as he plays with the sand in a crowded beach. The reaction that most of you would have if you actually encountered such paradoxical scenes should be a fair comparison to the feedback and reactions we got as we planned and prepared for our camping trip to a mountain two hours away from our guest house.
Two weeks ago, we – a group of 8 students from universities across the United States—arrived in Kampala, Uganda. Each of us carrieda different story of how we found ourselves half-way across the world. As we have moved to our new home in rural Tanzania, our stories have begun to weave together, and we continue to braid in the new strands of all the people we meet.
In response to the recent flood of YouTube videos poking fun and commenting on “Stuff ___ Say,” two recently returned Amizade students took the trend to the typical study abroad experience. This video is intended to poke fun at the embarrassing and sometimes ethnocentric statements many of us make while studying abroad. The students who created this video recognized that their experience with Amizade was a bit different.
Returning to Ghana for a second time with Amizade was one of the best decisions I made in 2011. I returned from the Community Development in Ghana Summer Service-Learning program like a woman on fire. I had found a like-minded group of individuals and an organization that I believed in. This program further solidified in my mind my passion for this region and my desire to work with community-driven development. Before I even stepped off of our returning flight, my mind was running a million miles an hour in an attempt to figure out how soon I could return to Jukwa, Ghana.
Less than 24 hours ago I was ambling from one plane to another connecting flight, through another security line, through customs, and then to baggage claim. Now, 5 minutes ago I finished my first day of class—my final semester of my undergraduate career. But, I’m not tired. I’m not exhausted. Oddly enough I’m not even too stressed, considering the situation. I am energized. I am refreshed. I am reinvigorated. I came back fully reassured that I want to continue studying Spanish; that I want to continue to foster a relationship with and support Amizade; and that Bolivia is Latin America’s best kept secret.
Our first post! We anticipated this coming much sooner, but they days always seem to get away from us. We landed safely on Jan 3rd, and were met by Mr. Brown, our onsite coordinator, at the airport. We loaded the bus and headed to Petersfield! The ride was quite the experience for our students, as the traffic and winding roads left some students at the edge of their seat. Once we arrived, we had an orientation to the program, met members of the local community, and were treated to our first Jamaican meal.
In early January, 2012, a group of university students from Keene State College in New Hampshire will travel to Petersfield, Jamaica to serve and learn with Amizade’s community partners in Jamaica. Follow along on their adventure on their blog, http://amizade.org/volunteer/keene-state.