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Photo by Grace Powell, South America Semester.

A few kudos

Dear students,

As we pass the midpoint of our course, Mr. Yarsawich and I want to offer a few personal notes (kudos) to each of you. We’ve enjoyed spending the last week with you and look forward to these last days in Tiquipaya and our time ahead in La Paz. So, in the spirit of our trip, here are a few words from Teacher Chris and Teacher Erik (thanks, Itza!)

Arin: you are super mature, but you’ve always been that way. You take advantage of every opportunity, whether it’s a few moments to embellish a watercolor of the scenery at Aritumayu to gift our hosts, annotate a reading on the Condor bus out of Sucre, chat with a peer or try a new food. You can be running on no sleep on a long travel day, but you remain consistently buoyant and cheerful. Thank you for that!

Eric: you have redefined what “tough” means for all of us. You have tackled a very physical, rugged trip with focus, determination, and an iron will. And, we have really enjoyed getting to see your sense of humor come out—you’re a very funny guy! Here’s to knock off “Black Power” sandwich cookies. We’re never going to look at Oreos the same way again!

Andrew: we love how open you came into this course; you didn’t want to impose expectations on the trip. We’ve seen how the natural beauty of the course has surpassed all of your expectations; what’s more, your recognition of this beauty has helped us all see the beauty of this place. Thank you for being such a deliberate thinker—for challenging Rafo Puente with sharp questions about Bolivia’s history with extractive industries—for supporting your peers on trek, for being genuinely curious about the new and the different.

Robert: you’re just goofy and fun! We love how much you’ve thrown yourself into the linguistic challenge of the course, especially the homestay in Tiquipaya. You’ve tacked every opportunity to learn and practice Spanish with gusto and (seemingly) had fun doing it!

Rebekah: it’s been good to see you relax, let loose and laugh a little bit more; we can tell that you’ve really enjoyed some of the small parts of this experience; we are happy to be celebrating your 16th birthday with you!

Regan: you’ve been such an enthusiast for the trip! You’ve been 100% in for every experience. Thank you especially for the music at Novecento in Cocha and during the wind pipe ISP at the program house; it’s also clear that you’ve relished your homestay, Dona Leti and your siblings especially—even talking to them in German!

Logan: You. Are. Resilient. And so determined to interpret everything in the best light and maintain an open mind; when faced with some challenging situations you’ve maintained self-awareness and tried to keep that open mind so as not to impose American standards on this experience. That is good and hard and so very important to model for your peers. We know that doesn’t come easy. Thank you!

Iris: how tough you’ve been, too. It’s been so fun to watch you open up to the experiences that this trip has offered—to see you laugh and to push yourself in quiet ways. We see you rising to the challenges—physical, mental, emotional, material. Still waters run deep. (Double cappuccino on us when we get back to Atlanta).

Rachel: we notice how you are already thinking about how you will carry your experiences forward. With the trek, for example, in Potolo during our discussion of Walking you observed that for all of us, whatever challenges we face in the future, we need to tackle them one step at a time and be confident that we can do anything. This is wisdom!

Sully: you, too, have opened up a bit, laughing, smiling, cracking jokes—showing a lighter side of your personality. We appreciate you helping the group stay open to the rugged, outdoors-nature of the course (and not just on trek). It’s clear that you are comfortable in nature, crave it even—that you really enjoy being out and in the real world of sites, smells and landscapes.

Gaby: you are bright and funny and the lighthouse—the helium for our balloons! You’re so positive—it’s been a delight to be around you and to have you in this setting. You reflexively see the beauty and the fun in things. This is an admirable quality. (Though, perhaps next time, a warmer sleeping bag for those Potolo nights spent sleeping under the stars!)

Mary Evelyn: Comedian, thespian, aspiring culinary magician, thank you for the best, most quote-wall-worthy comments of the trip! “SURPRISE, everyone! This is the night bus!” en route to Maragua after a day-long trek; and “I think I just had an out of body experience” … after ice cream? Thank you for keeping us laughing—and for translating for Gaby in homestay!

Caroline: thank you for sticking through the altitude sickness. We are so happy that you are starting to enjoy yourself and to make positive memories from the trip. It was so good to see you laughing (and dancing!) in the kitchen today while helping to make cunapes and achochas rellenas during our mini ISPs. #basketballneverends!

Maggie: you haven’t met a meal that you haven’t loved (well, maybe the churrascaria  😉 Thank you for setting the tone for this trip in that way! Also, we are so proud of your for tackling your fears on the trek. To push yourself in a new experience — well beyond the occasional hike and walks with Scout (AND WE KNOW YOU MISS HIM TERRIBLY) — took strength and courage. You have both!