May ’19 Update
My past four months in Latin America have been wonderful. I have come to feel so at home in Medellín and within progressive latinx culture more generally, and will miss it dearly. As i transition to moving back to the US, to NYC in August, i hope to carry with me the same perspective and energy i’ve learned in Latin America these past two and a half years, and continue to stay plugged into latinx culture while in the Big Apple.
A consistent thread throughout February, March, and April was researching, exploring, and determining the law school at which i will matriculate. Late March and Early April i had the opportunity to make two trips to the States to participate in the Admitted Student Programs at Berkeley, Columbia, NYU, and the University of Chicago (pretty sweet, in that these schools covered the majority of my travel expenses). These programs invited all folk who were admitted to the law schools to come and visit for a few days, and each did their best to sell us prospective students on why they were the ideal fit, the best option. The days of each program consisted of tours, meet and greets with current students and faculty, opportunities to attend classes, and other informational sessions, before wining and dining us each night, providing further opportunities to connect with current and other admitted students in less formal settings (i.e. in bars around town).
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at each program, in particular the opportunity to connect with such a diverse and interesting group of folk. While i know i would be happy at any of the four schools i visited, from the moment i arrived to UC Berkeley it became apparent that it was going to be the best fit; and when Berkeley agreed to match my highest scholarship offers from the others schools, it became a done deal.
However, there was a slight change of plans along the way… I originally applied to a dual degree program at NYU, pairing law with an M.A. in Animal Studies. However, while Berkeley Law feels like a better fit for a variety of reasons, i feel the NYU M.A. program is an immensely valuable accompaniment in terms of the direction i would like to direct a JD degree. As such, i decided to defer law school for a year, and will be completing an M.A. at NYU this fall. That said, any friends/family in the New York area, i would LOVE to connect with you in person this next year.
View from the roof of Berkeley’s Stadium, taken midway through falling for the program.
NYU left, University of Chicago top, and Columbia University bottom.
Apart from my short trips to the States to visit law schools, i spent February, March, and April living and working at the same yoga studio in Medellín that i worked at last year. There is no city i would have rather spent these seven months in, and i am so grateful to have had the opportunity. Medellín and its people will always have a special place in my heart.
My days generally centered around yoga, including the classes i taught, the conversations i had with yoga students/trainees practicing/living in the studio, as well as my personal daily practice. As i’ve said in past updates, living immersed within a yoga community has been such a wonderful fit.
Outside of the studio, i spent the majority of my time community organizing around animal rights/liberation. Most of my best friends in Medellín worked within this circle as well, and i found immense satisfaction working alongside these other like-minded and passionate folk. Generally every week we would have Cube of Truths on Fridays and more disruptive actions with DxE at restaurants and public spaces on the weekends (photos from one of our actions can be viewed here). Once a month we would hold a vigil outside of slaughterhouses for the animals that were entering, honoring their individuality and desire for life (you can view a FB live video i shot here, and a more professional edit here). From time to time, we would also plan other creative actions like Humano Asado, a skit we held in a public square where we inverted the roles, with farmed animals eating faux human flesh, to help challenge perceptions about the inherent violence embodied within eating another being’s body (a live video of the action can be viewed here, and another short edit here).
The final week of goodbyes was tough; i’ve made so many wonderful friends in Medellín throughout my seven months there, and hope i will be able to return soon.
Early May i left Colombia for Nicaragua. I’ve yearned to return to Nicaragua since the day i was emergency evacuated a year ago. Being forced to leave so abruptly without the opportunity to say goodbye to anyone was devastating, and it has been even more painful seeing the challenges and suffering Nicaraguans have endured this past year from afar, powerless.
After a year of waiting i finally had the opportunity to return. Walking into the home of my host family, seeing the decorations and food they prepared for me, i was overcome with gratitude, with happiness. It was so special being able to spend time with loved ones, as well as spending hours walking up and down the town’s two streets, greeting and chatting with all the folk i used to pass by on a daily basis. It meant the world to me, being able to go back and give the goodbye i was never able to give, and that sentiment was clearly reciprocated within the community.
As much as it filled my heart being back in San Juan del Rio Coco, it was also painful and heart-wrenching to see how much this community, how much all Nicaraguans, have suffered this past year (and continue to suffer). While i was able to flee the physical and economic violence, these folk have been mired within it. Nicaragua today is a very different place than the Nicaragua i moved to February 2017. The political turmoil has had devastating economic consequences, and for Nicaragua, what was already the world’s poorest (economically speaking) Spanish speaking country, the economic fallout has been truly devastating. Unfortunately it is hard to see a solution materializing in the near future. The Nicaraguan people, no people, deserve to live in such hardship. Although never forgotten, being back helped to stir up the sentiments of injustice within which i so often stewed throughout my service in Nicaragua; an important reminder of the tremendous personal privilege i was born into as a US citizen, and this understanding’s central role in reifying my deep personal convictions and aspirations for what i seek to dedicate this life to.
From Nicaragua i flew to Tabasco, one of México’s southernmost states, to visit a high school friend completing his Fulbright. I spent a view days visiting my buddy in Oxolotán, Tabasco’s southernmost town near the border of Chiapas, where he lives, and exploring the area around there before heading to Villahermosa, the state’s capital.
It was a nice opportunity to catch up with him. We share interests in the intersection of moral philosophy, religion, and values more generally, and it was lovely being able to dig deep into these conversations together in person. Moreover, i thoroughly enjoyed exploring the cultural dimensions of the area, particularly the deep indigenous undercurrents, and noting its (dis)similarities with Guatemala.
Before heading back to the US i made a short stopover in México City, which was lovely; just a taste that definitely left me wanting for more.
I arrived back in Colorado earlier this week, and will be here on and off the next few months before moving to New York City in August. It is nice to be with my parents at their home for a bit as i transition into this next stage. I’m eager to begin studies again, and can’t wait to get started this fall.
As i close every update, i sincerely would love to hear back from each of you. If you like, please do shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, a WhatsApp at +505.8338.5597, or a Facebook message.