Self

Coming to Bolivia has pulled all of us out of our comfort zone and has affected our perceptions of our identities. Just being in another country and a developing country, we have all realized how much we have back at home. Every week we interact with children who do not have and probably will not have the same opportunities that we have had. The boys we work with do not have families; we do. They also may not have the opportunity to receive a college education; we are receiving that education now.

Our dilemmas with our identities do not primarily come from our service work. Our identities become an issue during the times when we interact with people around the city such as when getting a taxi. This simple act has provided us numerous moments for thoughts about our identities. We all have different experiences with taxis. Taxi drivers seem to be able to tell that Mark is from the United States, and because of that, he has to be tough when negotiating prices for taxi rides. These experiences have made him realize that he is a minority that is associated with being rich in Cochabamba, and this is a new way of thinking for him. Steven and Mikhael, on the other hand, have different interactions taxi drivers. They first think that the two of them are Brazilian and are surprised to find out that they are actually from the United States. There are many Brazilian students here, so the first assumption is generally that a foreigner is most likely Brazilian. Quilla has had a unique experience too. She was born in Bolivia and looks Bolivian, but has grown up in the US with a family that is not Bolivian. When she speaks Spanish with taxi drivers, though, it becomes evident that she did not grow up here. It has been an eye-opening experience when people make a wrong judgment about you and voice that incorrect judgment too.

Despite our unique experiences, in the end we are foreigners here. Being foreigners and being judged by others based on that has made us take a moment to think about the times that we have judged other people, especially foreigners in the US. We have learned that we should be more careful when making assessments about other people. What other people think of us may not be true, and what we think of them may not be true either.

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