Being in León was a spectacular way to carry out the final moments of Semana Santa. Liveliness fills the streets, and one can sense the national Nicaraguan pride that shines in the grin of many. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to participate in a near century year old tradition with the family of my best friend, Isidro. His family lives on “La Calle de las Alfombras”, where each year several families sweep the streets, sell sweets, and, most of all, make beautiful murals made out of sawdust called alfombras, or rugs. In the evening, thousands of people come to gaze at the various murals created, all with their own special touch. The process can be long and brutal in the hot sun, but it was quite a surprise to see how simple it is, with such magnificent pieces of art as the final product. I am no artist, but the fellow neighbors who have been doing this art since youth were more than willing to teach me the proper techniques.
“A tía isn’t just someone that’s related to you. They’re someone who watches out for you and takes care of you.” I remember walking towards the city center with my host brother when he told me this. We had just passed his aunt’s house, and I wanted to know how exactly it was that she was related to him. He quickly laughed and revealed that she wasn’t actually a member of the family, but rather a friend of his parents. Nevertheless, being that he’d grown up with her love and support his entire life, in many ways she really was like an aunt.
At my work, La Asociación de Las Tías, the students refer to staff members as either tía or tío (the latter meaning uncle). When I first arrived, I was super excited about the fact that I’d get to come in and be a tío to so many kids. There was just one problem, however — I wasn’t. Unlike staff members, volunteers at Las Tías are referred to be their first name.
After eight or nine months of a year that are spent doing social impact work, Tufts 1+4 fellows hope to be able to continue similar work throughout their college careers. The motivated and inspiring collection of students that are now or soon to be 1+4 alumni are doing just that. This bridge year experience allows students to make life-long connections to their host communities and the many people who work to make an experience like 1+4 possible. This summer many of our Tufts 1+4 alumni have exciting internships and jobs that have resulted from connections they have made through 1+4. From internships in New York City to a fellowship in Rwanda to research in Japan, the 1+4 alumni are embracing their ability to make a difference both domestically and around the world.
I think one of the most prominent principles I have learned and am still learning everyday is how to define success. Success can be looked at as a friendship, as it is constantly up for reevaluation. A friend can be someone who you wave to every morning, exchanging a small set of words and going on your way, or it can be someone with whom you share every waking moment of your life with. Like experiences, success can be remembered, but eventually if you greet someone every time you walk in their office you will also make a long lasting impression on them. Thus, what may initially go unnoticed can be one of the most successful things that you accomplish.