Sunday, June 15, 2008


I said goodbye to Juan Carlos yesterday. Nearly one and a half years after he first arrived (on a freezing cold Minnesota day) to work as an intern at Adams Elementary School, a Spanish immersion school in St. Paul, he is returning home to Bolivia.

It’s obvious his presence will be missed by the Adams School community; he acquired a pretty loyal fan club during his teaching tenure. And for good reason: he has been an amazing ambassador and educator! With pleasure and pride, he shared his culture, languages (Spanish and Aymara), dances, music, food, etc., with children and adults alike. Through his stories and pictures, we all received the amazing gift of knowing not just someone from another country, but knowing Juan Carlos--a kind, humble, and wise friend.

I can’t say enough good things about the support and love Juan Carlos has received from Adams School families. I have been, and continue to be, humbled by the overwhelming hospitality and generosity they have extended to him. They opened up their homes to him and shared their families with him. They offered him odd jobs and the opportunity to earn extra money to send home to his family. They coordinated transportation for him to make sure he could attend evening English classes. They took him along on family vacations and outings. And, perhaps most notably, they eagerly welcomed and encouraged Juan Carlos to share himself with them.

As the first UAC-CP student to participate in the Adams intern program, Juan Carlos has set the bar high for all future interns who come from the College and follow in his footsteps. Visas pending, two more UAC-CP education majors will arrive in August to work at Adams. I’m thrilled that they will be able to meet some of the same wonderful people who embraced Juan Carlos. And, like him, they will be able to share themselves and their culture with people who are excited to learn about Bolivia and its people.

While I know Juan Carlos really misses his family and friends in Los Yungas and he is anxious to return to Bolivia, I don't think this will be an easy goodbye for him. In fact, when I picked him up for our farewell breakfast, he confessed that he will miss the people he has met here. He recognizes it was an amazing cultural exchange. “Sarita, I will have so many wonderful memories of this experience…for the rest of my life.”

This Fall, Juan Carlos will begin his final semester at the UAC-CP, start work on his thesis project for graduation, and gear up for the next adventure in his life.

Chau, JC! Q' te vayas bien.

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