Monday, July 7, 2008
Our program is in its final days, which in Bolivia means despedidas. The despedida, or goodbye party, is an institution here, and as an anthropologist who has come and gone many times, I have participated in many of them. For our students, these despedidas are wonderful, heart-wrenching experiences. People here are so grateful for the contributions our students have made to their lives and communities, and our students have established so many close personal relationships in the short time that we have been here, that saying goodbye is very difficult. There have been a lot of tears ("Bring on the waterworks," as Alana puts it), hugs, and, this being Bolivia, food and speeches. Personally, I find it very touching and rewarding to see how deeply attached our students have become to people here, and to see how much they have learned and accomplished during our time in Cochabamba. The students' tears, to me, are not a bad thing at all, but rather an indication of the success of our program, and the depth of their feeling and the intensity of their experience. I doubt any of them will ever forget their time here, and expect that many of them will return and continue to work with the Bolivian people and communities they have come to know.