Where Even Am I?

Leonardo Ruiz-Sanchez - Brazil


May 14, 2018

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When I first arrived to Campeche beach, I was left amazed with the outstanding beauty of Florianopolis, considered the island of magic. Now, months later, when I go on a morning run, I pass the beach and I am used to seeing the ocean with its waves and the few people that have awoken early to enjoy them. It is wild that this is sometimes part of my daily routine when a couple months back I had never experienced the salty waters or the sand that never seems to leave even after leaving the beach. It seems almost normal and I feel the urge to make myself aware of everything, so it can be appreciated. I keep asking myself, “Where even am I?” 

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This can be a simple or tricky question depending on how it is approached. It’s always easy to state the obvious: I am in Brazil. I am waiting for a bus. I am going to my apprenticeship. Although this is the truth, it is not the whole truth. There are so many other sides of my experience here that are so difficult to convey. They are what truly make it all unique. 

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I am in Campeche, Brazil, where it takes seven minutes to walk to the beach. In the mornings, the beach and its quiet cool winds and the low crunching sounds of my shoes on the sand create a safe space for me. Much of my reflection occurs with the sounds of waves crashing in the background. Even though the ocean took my favorite pair of eyeglasses, I still fell in love with it. I am unsure how I will feel when I am forced to leave behind a very crucial part of my bridge year experience behind.

An incredible thing about traveling and taking a bridge year is meeting people and creating those relationships and connections that can last a lifetime. Throughout my bridge year, I was astonished at how many people I‘ve  met, not just Brazilians but people from all over the world. It is through these friendships and the insight they shared that one can gain a glimpse of another. My worldview has been enhanced with new perspectives otherwise never seen without this bridge year. The many stories that even complete strangers are willing to tell are something that wholly shocked me.  It was very new to me; these were the first times I stepped out of my comfort zone and initiated conversation. I must be honest, “Curiosity before judgement” (sounds very GCY) is a statement that at the beginning of the year I didn’t really understand. As time went by and my quick-to-judge attitude changed into a more inquisitive approach, I found that I learned more—that I gained more from an experience. 
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Analise, part of GCY staff, at Carnaval. On this day, we learned about the history of Carnaval and the traditions that this small town in Sao Paulo is striving to preserve.

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This girl is from Sao Paulo. She lives in one of the smallest towns I have seen here in Brazil. Everyone knew each other, and everyone knew her. Soon after this picture was taken, you could hear her fearlessly screaming bloco songs into the microphone during Carnaval festivities.

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I have also gained an incredible number of friends through the Tufts 1+4 program as well as Global Citizen year. Although we all have separate and unique experiences, it is these people that I can most relate to because we know that a bridge year is not always beach days and sunshine. We all know that we have each other to lean on. These fellow fellows hold a place in my heart.

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Even with a great support system, the biggest and most important things I’ve learned through this bridge year are things about myself. To live in a whole other country, where everything around is foreign takes a little independence. I can see my independence strengthen as time progresses. There are many times during the year that I have looked back to see how far I have come. Every time, I am surprised, and I feel a sense of accomplishment.


Leonardo Ruiz-Sanchez