Starting with a quick update on where I’ve been, I left Cusco in a hurry to get going again. Like a racehorse straight out of the gate, I’ve been (and will continue to be) nonstop. I haven’t spent more than 2 nights in one place yet, and that’s the way I like it.
We headed straight for Bolivia, stopping first in beautiful Copacabana on Lake Titicaca, where we hiked the Isla del Sol, ate “chicken nachos” which turned out to be Doritos covered in tomato sauce, and tried to adjust to the altitude. I then continued to La Paz, the highest capital city in the world, and on to Uyuni for a tour of the world’s largest salt flats. This was a bucket list item for me, and it did not disappoint. Even when I suffered altitude sickness at 16,000 feet and spent the day with an unreasonably high fever and being a miserable bitch to my new friends who were trapped in the car with me all day.
We ended our tour in San Pedro de Atacama, in Chile. It was the most interesting border crossing I’ve ever had, as in typical South American fashion, border control was on strike and refused to address the line of busses and trucks trying to enter the country until they were damn well ready to. This is where we spent Election Day, in a bar with an Australian and a Swiss, and I drank Pisco Sours and tried not to cry.
In all seriousness, I’ve done my fair share of development work, interacting with other cultures, and making friends who were very different from me. The kids I’ve worked with, the young girls who became like sisters to me, and the people I’ve met along the way – taxi drivers and shop owners – all look to the United States as a beacon of hope. To them, we are the greatest nation in the world. When I tell them – adults and children alike – where I am from, their eyes grow wide with amazement. We are inspiration, almost like a fantasy. Some people dream of visiting our country the way we dream of visiting outerspace. I can’t help but be ashamed and terrified of what this means for these kids who look up to us, as the example we are setting for them is not a good one.
Throughout my travels this year, I’ve interracted with a lot of people from different nationalities. I have not met a single person who supports, understands, or agrees with our new president. In fact, more often than not, I am looked at with pity, and people (many of whom are living in extreme poverty and facing various hardships we will never understand) apologize to me for my own country. I woke up at 4am this morning in the top bunk of a dorm bed, where I read the news and swallowed the lump in my throat. Friends and family reached out to each other, and we all asked each other the same question: “how are you holding up?” I haven’t been able to form a proper response yet.
This has been one of the most disappointing days of my life. As an LGBTQ woman, and as a decent human being, I refuse to acknowledge Donald Trump as my president. America is not my country under his presidency. People are afraid today for their lives. Minorities today are in fear the way we were all in fear the day after 9/11 – unsafe, unstable, and with nowhere to turn. I have been half-joking (mostly serious) about moving abroad again for his term, but I also know that that comes from a place of privilege. I have the ability to up and move away from him, but many Americans, specifically ones who could really be harmed by his, cannot.
Today more than ever, I wanted to be home, near my loved ones, near people who were suffering and going through what I am currently going through. Instead, I write this on a 9-hour bus journey, where I have nothing to distract me from the horrors going on in my home. I don’t know what will happen next, with the US or with my own future, but I do know that this is time for a revolution. We cannot let this man go through with his plans. We must make his term as difficult as his supporters did for Obama.
Next on my agenda are the beaches of northern Chile, Santiago, and into Argentina. In less than 2 weeks I will be stateside again, and the thought of it makes my stomach turn. I can only hope we come together from here.