365 days in 365 words

23 August 2006
5:00 AM


In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” Polonius said brevity is the soul of wit. I suspect probably also of keeping your readers. With that in mind, here is a manageable account of my past year in South America at the rate of one word per day. Just like the days, some words are more interesting than others: word 32, ‘Cochabamba,’ versus word 167, ‘the.’ If you want more words, an alternate version has links. And regarding the 365 words: this introduction doesn’t count.

After signing up with Holy Cross Associates, I left the U.S. one year ago. I visited Chile for a week with my fellow associates Caitlin, Emily, and Roy, before arriving in Cochabamba, Bolivia for language school. I made lots of mistakes learning Spanish, though my host family was understanding. Three months later, I could speak with some people sometimes. Meanwhile, I found that Bolivia isn’t in good shape. I also experienced the Day of the Dead, visited the Jesuit Missions in Chiquitania, saw llamas, and descended into Potosi’s working mines—truly hellish.

I left Bolivia in mid-December, the day that Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous president, was elected. In Chile, I moved into my house in the countryside where men bike down the street with their cows. Christmas was my first away from home. During January and February I did summer projects. I went on a missions trip to Osorno. I played with children at CEVA, a week-long summer camp. We took the kids to the zoo, which many had never seen. I spent a week with Habitat for Humanity. Construction is not in my future unless I get a gym membership.

When the summer ended, work in Chile began again and I started my daily jobs. I split my time between various places: the parish soup kitchen, a girls’ foster home, helping with high school English classes, and a nursing home. Each brings its own challenges. At the girls’ home, the day is a success if I can help a girl through six math problems; at the nursing home, I am learning how to exit gracefully during a resident’s forty-five minute monologue—they give me plenty of opportunities to practice.

I have soaked up some of Chile. Its sights: southern Puerto Montt, colorful Valparaiso, colonial La Serena, the vibrant Elqui Valley, thousand-year-old palm trees. Its food: empanadas, cazuela, pisco, pastel de choclo. Its music: Inti-Illimani, Victor Jara, Los Jaivas. Even its history: first female president Michelle Bachelet’s inauguration party. And its daily life: hand washing clothes, using a calefon, going to the market.

I miss people and things from home, and I look forward to going there eventually. For now, this is home.


Amen brother. Its been one crazy ride - unforgettable and life changing - but truly CRAZY. Can you imagine what the next year will bring?


Dearest Ryan, I’ve missed you terribly this past year and look forward to the day you are back to this home. You’ve made your time of being away remarkable…for yourself and others. Thanks so very, very much for sharing with us all. I love you! Kathy

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