Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 In Perspective

"I'm Starting With The Man In The Mirror,
I'm Asking Him To Change His Ways,
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer,
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place,
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change"
--M.J.  *RIP*

“Make no difference, make no difference who's to blame
cause the only thing left that's constant is a change”

For a year with so many changes that have occurred, it’s kind of funny to realize the one constant linking me with last year is South America. Exactly one year ago, I stood with my brother on the beach in Valparaiso, Chile, shouting and singing and reveling amid a spectacular fireworks show to bring in the new year. Shortly thereafter, we crossed the Atacama Desert in a hulking old Chevy into the Tatooine-like landscape of Southern Peru. Three weeks in the South was just barely enough to take it all in: seeing gigantic condors swoop through Colca Canyon, spending a night with an indigenous Quechua family on Lake Titicaca, riding mountain bikes between massive Incan ruins in the Sacred Valley, having the cojones to take a rickety 4-person plane to view the ancient Nazca lines from above. And of course, the glory of all that is Machu Picchu, which I continue to say is the single most amazing ancient site I have visited.

The band situation with Art of Chaos hadn’t changed much when I had returned. In October of 2008, we played what none of us realized was our last show at The Troubadour in West LA (a fitting place for a last gig). I remember coming to pick up my stuff from the practice space in December thinking “what if this is it?” after going almost two months without having a practice. The “break up” call between band members is something I’ve been through before and since most of us were on the same page, it ended quite gracefully. The overall concensus was that after all of the time, money and effort that we had given, nobody wanted to continue coming to practice to argue instead of play music. Though I should add, our singer Brian has picked up the ball and continues to make music for Art of Chaos which you can check out here.

Coming back to reality at Grad school was a slight shock; definitely my most aloof semester at USC. Aside from reinforcing my decision to give up my LA Rockstar ambitions, the taste of South America got me thinking of what I could do to ensure that I would be living there by the end of the year. Graduating and getting the hell out of L.A. was the first step. And while I do miss my SoCal friends nearly every day, I will not miss the superficiality, the traffic, the summer fires, the jerks, the exorbitant price of everything and self-destructiveness inherent in so many L.A. lifestyles.

Packing all of my life into a trailer and heading North on I-5 with Poindexter really felt like the things were beginning to change. The summer in Seattle was indeed one for the books: Bike rides with Jeremiah all over the city, grilling salmon with Dad up on the deck, climbing mountain peaks in both WA and WY, relaxing with Betty down at the pool, jam sessions in the Husted basement and concerts at the Ampitheatre are just few snippets of one of my most enjoyable summers to date. The hardest part was realizing that as fun as this was, it was only temporary in preparation for eking out the next chapter of my life abroad.

Once again, I hit the road with a trailer in tow, though this time it was South on the 5 to move my brother into The Monterrey Institute. Ironically we were switching places, as one Knowles brother goes to grad school, the other lives in South America, prompting me to wonder if the world can really handle both of us in the same place for more than a month.

In August, I arrived in Mexico City in with my friends from the Mexican Consulate, Mariana and Karla. We were fortunate enough to be able to stay in the house of the neighbor of our mutual friend/city guide, Elisa. Having Elisa, Mariana and Karla to navigate Mexico City was the key to my amazing experience as they knew every great place to go, the right street food to eat and introduced me to some incredibly interesting people. After brief visits to Cuernavaca and the ruins of Teotihuacan, the girls and I parted ways as I continued my journey South. I passed the rest of my time in Ciudad Oaxaca and its surrounding villages before traveling to La Plata to begin my life as an Argentine.

In September I started with Fundación Biosfera, an Environmental NGO in La Plata. Working and researching in Spanish was at first a challenge, but I managed to work on some great projects, including a climate change event with (that made it into a national paper), restoring comedors and designing a strategy guide for social marketing and entertainment-education. Through my proposals failed to get funding while I was there, I realized that in place of spending every week in the office, it will be more advantageous to act as an external advisor to NGOs in the future, which I continue to do with Biosfera as of now. A quick visit to Uruguay showed me the beauty and tranquility of the Atlantic Coast before moving North to Rosario for Spanish lessons.

My life plan has changed a great deal since the beginning of the year. The year to come offers many different paths to choose from, in fact, more than I’ve ever had presented to me in my life. The only thing I’m certain of is being in Colombia until March and continuing to work with NGOs when I have the opportunity. All I can do now is reflect upon all of the amazing people I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with this year the and the profound impact they have had on my development. I feel as if 2010 presents the ultimate opportunity for me to continue to grow, evolve and find my niche in this world while discovering new places, learning new things and meeting new people along the way. Happy New Year to all y Feliz año a todos! Nos vemos en el año que viene.

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