Thursday, February 4, 2010

highlight of the week

Last night at our communal Volunteer House meeting we each shared a high point and a low point of the week--a pretty hectic week that marked the beginning of the 2010 academic year at the UAC-CP.

My high point, I said, came after a full day of running work and household errands in La Paz. I was pretty exhausted when arrived to Turbus Totai (the minibus company we use for transport to the Nor Yungas) in the late afternoon. The small office was experiencing mild chaos as -UAC-CP students, faculty, and staff, frantically tried to secure tickets for their trip direct to Carmen Pampa. While Monday afternoons are often busy days, this past Monday was particularly so as everyone had their bags and boxes of belongings needed to start the new semester.

With bags and boxes and bodies everywhere, there was no place to sit inside the office, so I stood outside on the sidewalk leaning up against the building, happily watching everyone greet one another with the traditional handshake and kiss on the cheek. "It felt like I was part of a family reunion," I told the other volunteers last night.

Victor Choquehuanca finished his coursework in Education at the UAC-CP.

Former UAC-CP Education student Victor Choquehuanca (who I hadn't seen since 2005 when he was a member of the College's student food cooperative program) stood with me as I waited for my bus to arrive. Initially, we kept each other company by commenting on all the young faces ("You wouldn't recognize anyone at the College these days!" I assured him). But after reminiscing about days at the UAC-CP, Victor brought me up to speed on his life. He's been busy, he explained, working in his home community in the Province of Inquisivi--where he's planning to make a run for mayor in April. Currently, he's employed by PyMES--a group of micro-enterprises. Specifically, he works in the area of mango production--working with farmers to help increase yield and find markets.

"Sometimes I wonder if I studied the wrong major," Victor told me. "Maybe I should've studied Agronomy." But he also agreed that his background in education is what helps him work effectively with farmers--facilitating workshops. And agriculture technical training that he's received in Bolivia and Peru have not only provided him with important tools and knowledge, but it has animated him to pursue post-graduate studies in Agriculture. But first, he admitted, he has to graduate from the UAC-CP.

Victor is one of many students who, though he has finished all his required classwork at the College, he is yet to be counted among the number of graduates because he hasn't defended his thesis--the final graduation requirement. I literally pulled his ear and told him to get on that. "I know," he admitted. "It's just hard to find the time...but I will."

Just as Victor and I exchanged email addresses and phone numbers, I was swarmed by a group of UAC-CP students who wanted to make sure I knew my bus had arrived. Flanked on either side by a new generation of UAC-CP jovenes carrying my purchases to be loaded onto the bus, Victor bid me farewell--I promised that I'd visit him and his work project and he promised that he'd make some headway on his thesis.

And then, crowded into a packed 15-passenger minivan, our bus full of UAC-CP students and professors made our way caravan-style through the gorgeous Yungas mountains all the way Carmen Pampa.

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