Day 70 – Returning Home – Reflections…

Day 70 – Returning Home – Reflections…

It is 6:57am, August 26, 2015. In 48 hours we will be heading home. Still meeting with counterparts, presenting findings, making new contacts, it’s a scramble more than a reflection. Then dealing with a technology slow down; no laptop, no wifi, limited Internet, it becomes a moment of isolation too, suspended between two worlds, the up close and personal everyday interactions here, hugs, shared transportation, face to face meetings, hours of down time, planned schedules that take on an unplanned life of their own and work out in their own way, completely unplugged versus the jazzy, slick, fast paced, immediacy of my USA world.

I think to the immediately busy world I will be returning to; kids start school in 2 days, a joint paper to be written and presented in DC in 2 weeks, explaining the human development side of the quinoa story, and the HR Departments I need to visit for my adjunct contracts, U Mass fora special issues in economics senior seminar, Mount Holyoke College (MHC) where I am teaching and developing social business programs, and the School for International Training (SIT) needs my syllabus for the Service Learning and Management marketing course I will be teaching.

My nine UMass students will be learning how to do an in depth analysis of Bolivia quinoa as a case study and then doing their own analysis of an industry or phenomenon that interests them. Maybe we will collaborate on an economic paper about Bolivian quinoa, they are senior economic majors, it will be a good item for their portfolio/resume to have co-authored a paper.

I am looking for Fair Trade, organic quinoa products made in Bolivia and being sold in the U.S. For my MHC students to do a market study and feasibility analysis on how to access US markets with quinoa products. this ties in with the recommendations from my report that calls for a diversification of Bolivian quinoa markets, with emphasis being put on product transformation for both export and local market development. I still am seeking out counterparts and products in this, part of the last minute scramble.

For my SIT graduate students, we will be learning social marketing through a partnership with the Brattleboro Winter Farmers Market. This ties in with my work in Social Solidarity Economy (SSE) which is so new in the U.S. But common here in Bolivia, though in the U.S. There are pockets of folks in places such as Brattleboro, VT, Keene, NH, Amherst, MA and many places in between where SSE is functioning and thriving in much more creative ways than in Bolivia.

Part of my “next steps” will be unifying the two worlds a bit more. Bringing more of the Bolivian participatory governance, the system of Dirigentes Orginarios, Mallkus and Markas to my small town of Brattleboro and more of the ideas of Time Banks, Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA), partnerships with university students, and social business development to Bolivia.

And another part is to take time off for nothing. Not to be working day and night like a “loco” and keep, make time for and value a network of interested folks, neighbors and collaborators, both locally and online to contribute to, facilitate and support exchanges. To paint, run, enjoy my family and community. To have a balance, relax, and know that all is functioning just as it should. In Bolivia it is so easy for me to wait an hour or so for a late counterpart, meeting, transportation though in the U.S. A 15 minute wait is excruciating, as I think of everything else I could be doing in that time instead.

I will focus on not thinking so much of the doing, but of the being, reflecting in my day, contacts, valuing others around me more and appreciating who they are instead of just what they are doing. In the U.S. I have a hard time remembering names and tend to have more superficial relationships with many people, while in Bolivia I feel I know and remember the people interact with much more. Things have to be slow and personal in Bolivia, otherwise people will not work with you. There has to be a personal exchange before work is discussed; a conversation about local events, family and a feeling of knowing who each other is. Talk is slow and calm. Key phases are repeated often. Explanations are clear and logical, there is no assumed knowledge. When new ideas are presented the presenter will ask “por que?” (Why) and reply with “porque” (because) and the explain the concept. This captures people’s attention and is a key phase indicating that something important is being presented. I will use this in my US teaching.

I have conducted workshops with Catholic University (UCB) students and practitioners in La Paz, high school seniors in Quillacas and Anzaldo, agronomy students and ago-engineer doctoral students at San Simon University (UMSS) in Cochabamba. There are many small lessons learned her. I notice how different my lessons are when spoken in Spanish as opposed to English. Spanish is more expressive and indirect, I speak it more slowly and clearly, repeating key information more and putting more vocal emphasis on key terms. I used to do this more in the U.S. When working with international students and corporate employees (as a corporate trainer) but then sped things up over time, assuming students were already familiar with the materials I was so familiar with. Though sometimes they are not. I will remember to slow down and be more clear again.

So this moment of reflection is coming to a close as time passes and I need to get the children and myself relay to travel from Oruro, where we arrived yesterday from Cochabamba, to La Paz in preparation for the final part of our trip…back to the U.S.!