We saw and did so much in just two weeks in Nicaragua, that it took a while for me to digest everything from this trip (even though I planned nearly every second of it). Weeks after returning, many different moments still stand out: bushwhacking in Matagalpa, yoga classes facing the Pacific Ocean, horseback riding, attempting to surf, standing beside an active volcano, talking with Sandinistas, making chocolate, hearing Carlos Mejia Godoy, following our great guides, playing at kids' club, meeting the stone carver, and working at our service projects. I can't help but wonder, however, what does it all add up to? Is this list of fun and sometimes challenging activities all there is? What meaning has been captured from those two weeks of experiencing a totally different land and culture?
I know we were all, at one point or another, pushed out of our personal comfort zones during this trip. For some, it was about eating different foods, for others it was about handling an extreme climate, or struggling with how to function in a foreign language. For me it was seeing up close the paralysis of poverty in a country with so much potential.
What do we seek when we travel and intentionally take ourselves out of our comfortable lives? Do we expect comfort wherever we go? Are we able to rise to the new challenges before us? Can we appreciate a different culture and take it in as another possibility for living in this world? Do we hone our foreign language skills and interact with people beyond the tourist industry? Do we seize the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom? Do we take the time to learn about ourselves and reflect on the assumptions with which we live? Do we even come to appreciate the privilege of being able to choose to adventure beyond the familiar?
Ever since I arrived at Elmira College in 2008, Term III courses off campus have been a dream come true ---a way to combine the classroom with the world beyond academia, a way for students to hopefully grapple with the questions I just posed, and a way for me to share some of my most meaningful experiences immersed in foreign culture. I don't disparage the classroom, it is sacred ground for me. But I am grateful for the opportunity to be with students actively exploring new places, as they open to new perspectives, new understandings, new ways of speaking, and new ways of being. May this trip last beyond the blog, photos, and list of sites so that the experiences of the journey impact positively on each traveler's life purpose. Gracias.
July 11, 2016