Thursday, January 27, 2011

Announcing the Trip

Math and Motorcycles

On June 14, 2011 I leave for Ollantaytambo, Peru. The plan is to work and volunteer in Peru for 6 months, then travel home on my Suzuki DR650 motorcycle. As long as I make it back by March 2012 for 3rd trimester, I get my job back teaching math at Grand Haven High School.

I will travel to Galveston, Texas in June to drop off the motorcycle to be shipped to Lima. I will then fly from Houston and work leading service trips for high school students in the Sacred Valley until August. After my time working, I am going to tutor math at a small dormitory in Ollantaytambo. In the summer of 2009, several staff working for Rustic Pathways were leading similar trips and became very close with the indigenous families. Upon being asked what they would like most, several young girls from the villages said, “I want to go to school.” See, most villages have primary schools that go to 5th grade. After that, the nearest secondary school can be a two to six hour walk. So for most girls in outlying villages, it is just too difficult and dangerous to attend. The staff members decided to do something about it. They raised money, and opened a dormitory in the city with the secondary school. Over 20 girls applied, but there is room for only 6. These six girls did an amazing job their first year. Every Sunday afternoon they walk to town, go to school all week, and return home on Friday afternoon. There is a house mother that cooks for and takes care of the girls. There are also volunteers that hold evening classes and help the girls with their homework. The hope is to add six more girls every year, so in five years there are 30 girls in the dorm, 6 in each grade of secondary school. The city supports this project and has donated an empty primary school to house the girls. All that is needed is money to pay for the staff and food. I would like to support this project and raise awareness and funds.

My primary reason for going is that volunteers are more difficult to find in the fall months. Most college students return to the states for classes during that time. I hope that by being there for the end of the school year I can really help support the students’ learning. I also want to build a connection between my community here and the one in Ollantaytambo. I want my service club students to meet the girls over the internet, and have both groups see what life is like on another continent.

I also want to build connections and relationships with different people in Central and South America. By traveling home on a motorcycle, I will be forced to interact with and depend on total strangers. By nature I am somewhat of an introvert. My goal is to volunteer at several other places throughout the trip home and create future opportunities for my students and friends. I am often asked, “John, where can I volunteer?” With more experience volunteering throughout these places, I hope to have a very good answer to that question.

Finally, I want to continue to live what I preach. I have told many, “If you are nervous, it is probably the right choice.” I am definitely nervous. Traveling across two continents on a motorcycle is beyond anything I have ever done before. But if I can make it, or at least go down trying, I feel like I would be able to do anything. I also want to inspire my friends, family, and students. I want the people I know to understand that anything is possible. I want them to know that parts of the world may be dark, horrible places, but it is also full of beautiful people who care about making it better. The world is not that scary of a place.

And honestly, I’m tired. I’m tired of reading books about amazing people who have dedicated their lives to changing the world. There are individuals in this world who have created powerful, drastic change to improve the lives of many. Why don’t I do this? Why do I sit in safe Grand Haven and do nothing for those in other parts of the world who don’t have food, water, education, or medical services. I want to do my part in shining light into those dark places, and continuing to believe that the good in this world is worth fighting for.