Isabella Gonzalez Potter
2015 Privett Global Scholars Participant
Outside of Cochabamba, Bolivia at the Parque Ecoturistico Pairumani outside of Cochabamba the mountains bore a tremendous resemblance to the Catalinas and reminded me of the landscape of Tucson, Arizona where I was born and raised. It is ironic to travel thousands of miles to find yourself in a place that feels remarkably like home, yet foreign at the same time.
As someone who is a double major in Environmental Science and Latin American Studies I have a strong sense of belonging here, because I am blessed to have the opportunity to study my two passions in the field. As the child of two immigrants the chance to study in Latin America is a homecoming. My father immigrated to the United States at the age of 16 from Altotonilco El Alto, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico to work for Ford. My mother is an American who was born in Lima, Peru and was raised throughout South America because my grandfather was an accountant for the United Fruit Company. Thus the creation of my last names, Gonzalez Potter, and myself always an interesting experience to explain.
Through my participation at USF this past year I have been able to travel near and far. I have been on countless adventures throughout the Bay Area, I have seen the Galapagos Islands where Darwin came up with the theory of Evolution and Guayaquil, Ecuador (through the Biology Department), I have experienced snow in Chicago (I attended the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, USHLI, with Latinas Unidas), I have been to Washington, D.C. and stood at the steps of the white house (during DIAS an annual conference for my sorority, Lambda Theta Nu), and now I am in Cochabamba, Bolivia. But what this past year meant most of all, is that I rediscovered happiness through myself.
The first night with my new host family I was treated like the daughter they had always had. After waking up from a short nap after a week of not sleeping, the mom, Leny asked if I was ready to go to the youngest son Ivan’s kinder performance. After a quick rubbing of my eyes I smiled and agreed. We hopped into a trufi, Bolivia’s version of a taxi, and rode a few miles until we arrived at the school.
I was overwhelmed by the quantity of people – hundreds of children accompanied by mothers and fathers who were dressed in everything from traditional aymara and quechua clothes of the Andes, to young parents adorned in the latest Hollister and Aeropostale that was de moda. The show eventually began and the first group of kindergarteners descended upon the audience fully dressed in indigenous Bolivian clothing. They were paired boy to girl and they began to dance in sync with the music. Sparklers were joined by young girls who came out in outfits that remained me of carnival and danced behind a group of kids who couldn’t have been older than four.
As the night continued on I found myself looking into the sky. I couldn’t help but think of how we all look at the same moon, no matter where we are on the planet, there is only one. I thought about all of my loved ones back home and wondered if any of them were looking at it too. The mountains in the distance reminded me of Arizona and the Catalinas I would stare at every day when I drove to high school, or rode my bike, or went for a walk, or took a weekend trip with my family. All of those rides when I would just look out into some place that was both so close, yet seemed so far. For whatever reason I feel that I am in the right place at the right time, it is all meant to be.
Throwing up my sorority’s “L” in a foreign country where I am continuing to learn about myself and the world around me, exemplifies where I am currently at. My only hope for the future is that I allow myself to be fully open to whatever comes my way.
Live. Learn. Serve.