Thursday, May 15, 2014

long journey home

UAC-CP students always have a way of putting things into perspective for me.  The other day, for instance, I was a bit homesick; I was feeling particularly far away from my Minnesota/South Dakota friends and family. Then, I chatted with Soledad.

Twenty-three-year-old UAC-CP Education student Soledad Carcasi is from a community named San Fermin in the province of Apolo located in northern Bolivia near the border with Peru. When she travels home to visit her family during summer and winter breaks, the two day trip home takes her through the capital city of La Paz, over Bolivia's high plain, across part of Lake Titicaca, and past the border into Peru. One of the final legs of her journey home takes Soledad across a river back into Bolivia on a balsa boat.  From there, she walks even farther before reaching her family's home.

That sound's exhausting, I think, and insist that there must be another way that doesn't require travel through another country. "There is another route," she admits, "but transportation isn't frequent." After a 17 hour ride on a bus from La Paz to the town of Apolo, this way home requires that she walk for 4 -5 days through the jungle.  I ask if she's ever walked it and she admits that she has "various times."

Like many UAC-CP students, her home community of San Fermín offers no educational opportunities past the eighth grade. Determined that she graduate from high school, Soledad's parents took her and her sister to the "nearby" town of Apolo.  There, the two girls shared a room and were looked after by a friend of their parents.

"During vacation [from high school], I was supposed to stay in Apolo," Soledad explained. "But I was only 14 or 15 -years-old and I always wanted to go home. So I would make the 4-5 day journey on foot--along with 2 or 3 other friends, including my sister."

Knowing what I know of rural Bolivia, I try to imagine the logistics of young teens making this trek.  I ask where they would sleep at night.  "En el monte," she tells me laughing. Essentially, they would just lay down in the middle of nowhere in the jungle and sleep until the sun came up. "Then, we'd get up and start walking for another day."

This August, Soledad will yet again travel across international borders to arrive at a place she will call "home." As one of two young women chosen from the UAC-CP Education Department to participate in a 10-month long teaching exchange program through Amity Institute, the UAC-CP student body president will travel from the College in Carmen Pampa to Adams Spanish Immersion School in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Though obviously thousands of miles farther away, it will take less than half the amount of time for Soledad to be greeted by her host family at the MSP airport than it does for her to visit her family in San Fermín.

Considering, I'm sure Soledad won't mind the things that cause most of us to complain: security checks, cramped seats, and airline food.  I wonder if she'll find it curious that in a journey of more than 1,000 miles, the only signifant amount of walking she will probably do will be on moving walkways between gates in Miami.

Always welcoming a new perspective, I'm excited to hear about her journey.

1 comment:

eaward47 said...

Best of luck to Soledad, she, and Bolivia, and the college, will benefit.....and her host parents, and the program, too!