Bolivia = Joy!
What is joy? For me, joy is in making something that was once a vision, a reality. Bolivia was that kind of joy. Completing the trip, I don’t feel like I have accomplished something big or great. I didn’t feel proud of myself. But, I felt joyful. Joyful for the fact that I have learned everything that I expected myself to learn and accomplished everything I expected myself to accomplish.
I learned about kindness. From receiving free dinners when we were stranded without definite lodging to getting help from the community when our truck got stuck in a ditch, I realized that kindness comes in all shapes and sizes. I learned about the importance of being positive. From getting good vibes from our driver, Juan, even in the most stressful of situations, to the hospitality of the EIA’s office staff and interns, I realized that being positive is not only important for international developmental works, it is also an essential life skill. I learned how to ignore/confront people. From getting laughed at for doing/saying something different to receiving negative vibes from people, I realized that the more and more it happens, the easier I can ignore/confront them.
Even before the trip, I knew I had to prepare myself for the worst. And the things that we encountered during the trip are not that far from this benchmark. Sometimes it is very hard to find positivity in these events. But, I did try my best. Positivity was what allowed me to truly enjoy the immersion experience. I could list all of the scientific tasks that we did, but those are not the most memorable things. Neither is the view. As awesome as the view was, the more you see it, the more ordinary it gets. When we were here in Norman, we were always so excited to talk about it. But, when I was in country, I started to overlook it. Instead, I believe that the memories of the people and the events that happened are what will stick in my head forever.
I realized, in the end, that people are just people. They laugh, they cry, they get annoyed. Some will be mean to you. Others will treat you with kindness. They are not just human figures that you can only contemplate on postcards and not be able to connect. Because, honestly, they are just people. So, if you go out there, don’t go for the view. Go for the experience. Don’t be afraid to talk to people (even if you only know a few words in their language). Don’t be afraid to let them know you. Be positive. Because it doesn’t matter where you’ll end up, stuff will always happen. So, be positive!
– Tien Nguyen