By Danielle Mullings
This year I spent three months in Bolivia and Peru, on the Where There Be Dragons Gap Semester programme, living in the Andes mountains and the Amazon rainforest. Above all, I learned to live with people who may have different ways of living I might not agree with – but being peaceful with them all the same.
I was the only Jamaican, and so I think it was the first time that a lot of these persons had met a Jamaican person so that also made it special for me, and I assume for them as well!
We did a variety of home-stays in different communities, one such was a family I lived with in the Amazon. It takes a few days of sailing down Amazon tributaries such as Río Kaka to get to the Amazonian community, only accessible by boat.
On the journey to the community, we set up camp on the banks of the rivers. Upon reaching, each of us would live with a different family member in the community. I learned so much. Life felt so different. The pace of life felt slow, slower like each second meant more so much more.
At night we would go out with the community members on the large canoe again to go caiman hunting – not really hunting but just searching for them under the bright night sky. There were so many stars in the sky, I have never seen the night sky so bright, you could have a clear view of the Milky Way: Orion's Belt and other constellations.
We focused on identifying our privilege. This means just by virtue of where you are born and the family you are born into, you may have access to things many other people don’t have access to. We thought it important to be able to acknowledge this and keep it in mind when you are interacting with people from various backgrounds.
So it was just this idea of being inclusive of everyone around you in the community and trying not to leave anyone out.
Overall it was just very special, very new, very different and it took a lot of courage to go through the days because you literally did not know what would happen the next day or much less the next week. This all gave us a greater appreciation for time because even in the Amazon we would have spent three or four days with that community but it felt like so much longer.
It was like being a nomad and going back to our roots as humans - just exploring, having fun, learning about and most importantly appreciating the differences of other people. I would definitely recommend to other Jamaican youth that they try out this experience and seek out opportunities to expose yourself to new cultures, concepts and ways of life. You are capable of so much more than you have ever imagined.
Danielle is a member of the U-Report Youth Council, a diverse group of youth who bring a lot to our table. If you want to follow in her steps on and journey to South America, apply here. Meanwhile, A new Council will be appointed in 2020 when all U-Reporters will be invited to apply.