This Oughta Be Interesting…

Hello All! My name is Caleb Ray, I was born in Greenville, MS, spent the majority of my life in Wesson, MS, then I moved Madison, MS where I graduated from Madison Central High School. I’ll begin my Sophomore year at Ole Miss in the fall with Croft, focusing on Arabic and the Middle East. Yes, you read that correctly. I am constantly asked why I enrolled in a study abroad program that has essentially nothing to do with Arabic or the Middle East; I decided to take advantage of this opportunity for a several reasons. I first became interested in the program because I found myself fascinated by the material I was exposed to in Dr. Kate’s Honors Anth 101 class. Through the class I was finally able to see that my fascination with understanding and learning from cultures different from my own could be acted upon through field work such as this. While Arabic is my language for Croft, for as long as I can remember I have been very interested in Latin American culture and history, and I have always told myself that I would one day go and experience it for myself. With Arabic I will be traveling to Jordan in my Junior year, and I felt that being able to experience both Bolivian and Latin American Culture as well as Jordanian and Middle Eastern culture during my time at Ole Miss will help me get the most out of my experience and could also prove useful with comparative research I may one day conduct.

During my time in Bolivia I hope to learn as much as I can about why the people who we will meet view the world with the perspectives that they do. How does the region’s history play into the ideologies present there today? I am also excited to get a grasp of what makes people there “tick,” for us here in the States it could be following professional sports, becoming more involved with one’s faith, or any number of things. I want to how the passions of people in Bolivia are different from those of people at home. I also want to try to get some insight into the education system in La Paz, because the varying impacts that distinct education systems have are amazing to me. I’m eager to get to know other young people in La Paz, and to get a taste of how the night life is done in Bolivia. And of course, I hope to do as much sight seeing as I can while abroad. Bolivia has some truly beautiful (although a bit outlandish, I think) places and things I want to see, especially the salt flats and the moon valley.

My lack of Spanish skills has become a pretty humorous topic between myself and my friends who are also headed to La Paz, but all jokes aside I am very worried about it. I am preparing myself to the best of my ability, but still I wander to what degree my experience will be hurt because of it. Perhaps it could even put me in physical danger if I am not careful enough. I’ll just have to make it a point to always stay close to my classmates who are all undoubtedly better with Spanish than I am. I also hope that I am able to steer clear of aggravating any sensitivities present in Bolivian culture that I am not aware of. Other than these worries, not many others come to mind now, but I am sure plenty will come about when we arrive in country. Regardless of what happens though, I have no doubt that this will be quite an experience, and I cannot wait to see it through.

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One thought on “This Oughta Be Interesting…

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  1. I completely understand being nervous! But you should be fine. La Paz is a very cosmopolitan city (lots of embassy and NGO personnel running around, along with tourists) that you’ll be able to manage. You may miss some of the talks in Spanish, but we’ve had students who had other languages (French) and they did OK.

    I do think you’ll get a lot out of this trip. Bolivia is still part of the “the West,” so it might be a place that’s different but not so different as a transition between the US and Jordan. But it’s also “foreign” enough that you can use it to practice the kind of ethnographic observations that Dr. Kate will focus on. You also may notice some of the Arab/Middle Eastern influences in Bolivia, and global/Western culture more broadly once you see them in a non-Arab context.

    Liked by 1 person

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