My Dirty, White T-shirt of a Flag

Yeah, about that “return in full force come May” thing…

Well, inspiration just never quite hit. I returned home and attempted to digest all that I’d experienced and chew on the simultaneous stagnancy and rapid change that I returned to and spit it all out just to take another bite, and it seemed that it was all the same stuff. No one wants to read someone else’s confused detritus over and over again. And that’s fine, because the beauty of the blog is that there are no rules.

And so, in the interest of cohesiveness, here’s a quick update: after a wonderful three weeks in New York City with my grandma working on a piece about perfectionism for an organization called Ma’yan, my time in South America with Where There Be Dragons was incredible. I fell in love with the Andes, was injected with a healthy dose of respect for the Amazon and the people that live in it, learned a lot about myself and work I need to do, read a lot of good books, wrote in my journal regularly, and underwent countless other experiences, some of which you can read about more presently and in depth in my travel blog. As expected, it was hard, because life is hard. And even while I was tucked away in a bubble of privilege to have that opportunity, with guidance and exempt from the full responsibilities of traveling alone, there was still the reality of navigating new and challenging situations, traveling with twelve other American teenagers who I’d never met before and attempting to negotiate group dynamics, leaving home for the longest I ever had, and the indelible truth that I will likely always be on a journey of finding inner peace. In short, it was exactly what a 16-year-old high school graduate who thinks too much needed.

But now I’m 17, and times have changed. (Just kidding.)

Upon homecoming, my head was still spinning from watching my 98-year-old host grandmother (see below) cry when I said goodbye, visiting El Tío with the star (Basilio) of the PBS documentary The Devil’s Miner (which I highly recommend), and our recurrent conversations on service and its detriments, among other things.

Maria (or Flora), my 98-year-old Quechua host grandmother who chases chickens and chops alfalfa and is a general all-around badass

Maria (or Flora), my 98-year-old Quechua host grandmother who chases chickens and chops alfalfa and is a general all-around badass

 

El Tío (The Uncle), god of the mines and a simultaneous force of evil and protection. He has a long history in relation to forced labor of indigenous miners, and is at once a companion in the long hours and dark depths of the mines as well as a source of fear and trepidation. Miners offer coca, pure alcohol, and other gifts. El Tío is said to be married to Pachamama, Mother Earth, and if women work in the mines Pachamama will get jealous and cause misfortune. Women can enter but not work in the mines. Idols like this can be found throughout the mines in Potosí.

El Tío (The Uncle), god of the mines and a simultaneous force of evil and protection. He has a long history in relation to forced labor of indigenous miners, and is at once a companion in the long hours and dark depths of the mines as well as a source of fear and trepidation. Miners offer coca, pure alcohol, and other gifts. El Tío is said to be married to Pachamama, Mother Earth, and if women work in the mines Pachamama will get jealous and cause misfortune. Women can enter but not work in the mines. Idols like this can be found throughout the mines in Potosí.

Life at home had kept moving while I was gone, of course, and also felt exactly the same. There was slight reverse culture shock while I tried to reconcile the two realities and attempted to resist falling back into the same patterns that I’d left. What I realized, though, was that there are no two separate realities, existing in different universes at different times where I am different people. While it is essential to recognize those enormous differences — not doing so is delusional and a recipe for misunderstanding and disappointment — that incredible and vibrant portion of my life is another fold, an additional step bringing with it new ideas and perceptions of the world.

I am constantly dumbfounded by my luck and privilege to be born into a circumstance where I can explore and learn from countless people in Bolivia and Peru at 16 years old and continually discover how much more there is to learn. And yet…

I move through every single day undulating between forty-seven different states of existence, often loitering in a default of despair that I wish I could climb out of but now I see there’s no other path than to embrace it. To settle in. How do I position myself as an effective ally for and active participant in the meaningful and imperative issues of social justice and collective healing — America’s abhorrent and vibrant racism; pervasive devaluing, controlling, and shaming of bodies (women’s in particular); honed and entrenched sexism; consequences of colonialism; the often-callous destruction of our environment, etc. — that I truly care about when I am still holding out hope that whatever is wrong with me will someday be righted?

I am tired of that burden. There is nothing wrong with me. The longer I believe there is, the less I have to offer to the dismantling of those injustices and the system that enables them — from which I often greatly benefit — and the less gratitude I can feel for my very actuality in which I can sleep in a stone hut high in a remote Andean village and then return home to a memory foam-lined mattress. The longer I believe there is something wrong with me the more damaging a family member I am, the less tolerant and less spontaneous a friend, the less soft caresses I can muster to bestow upon my survivor of a belly.

And so I will continue to wonder, to move and progress because I have no choice, to continually and constantly remind myself that I am a ping pong ball and I better learn to get served. When 6 months have passed without writing and I’m still deciphering what I’m trying to say I will give in, I will give up. Surrender is the only noble option.

 

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5 thoughts on “My Dirty, White T-shirt of a Flag

  1. Barae, If I had your kind of insight and gift for language when I was seventeen, I’d be somewhere way cooler than Cheyenne, Wyoming right now. Where will you be when you’re 31? Somewhere super cool, I’m sure. And still pondering the mysteries of humanity, but with a whole lot more experience to give your ponderings even more depth than they already have. Keep it up. You’re amazing. love, Libby

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  2. Beautiful pics… I love your writing and am confident you’ll figure it all out! You’re going to have a much more interesting perspective than a lot of famous authors by the time you’re their age… I would definitely buy stock in you if I could! Sarah Warnock 530.304.4621sarahewarnock@yahoo.com

    From: Barae Hirsch To: sarahewarnock@yahoo.com Sent: Tuesday, August 9, 2016 12:39 PM Subject: [New post] My Dirty, White T-shirt of a Flag #yiv5578153890 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv5578153890 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv5578153890 a.yiv5578153890primaryactionlink:link, #yiv5578153890 a.yiv5578153890primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv5578153890 a.yiv5578153890primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv5578153890 a.yiv5578153890primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv5578153890 WordPress.com | baraehirsch posted: “Yeah, about that “return in full force come May” thing… Well, inspiration just never quite hit. I returned home and attempted to digest all that I’d experienced and chew on the simultaneous stagnancy and rapid change that I returned to and spit it all” | |

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