A Voice In Nature's Choir

The following is an essay I composed for the Youth International Essay Competition. The prompt asked: “What can we learn from nature?”

My essay was distinguished as an honorable mention, one of only 64 essays to place or receive mention, including one of only two American compositions chosen in the contest. The competition received over 15,000 submissions from over 150 countries.

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Hunting For Tradition: Life With The Shuar

Francisco is a handsome man. His build is slender, skin unblemished and hair neatly combed to his left side. His unsuspecting blue jeans and “Venice Beach” t-shirt conceal the fact that he is the leader of his Shuar community, an indigenous people local to the Ecuadorian rainforest.

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Creating Space Between Emotions and Response

How do we stay calm when things around us aren’t?

You can have anger without acting angry. You can feel anger yet not be angry.

Anger is an internal state; it can be physiologically felt and cognitively observed.

When anger arises, a sense of tension is present in our bodies. Our breathing quickens and shallows, our temperature may elevate, or we may perspire. There are also notable mental effects. We may become cognitively impatient and negatively biased, as displayed by the cynicism of our accompanying thoughts.

This is anger; anger is internal.

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The Great Divide

It’s the little moments that fascinate me: the walk with your head down, take a sip of water, blink-and-you’ll-miss-em type moments. Compound this perceptivity with a tremendous curiosity towards the social aspects of life and you become fascinated with human interaction and the human psyche. And that’s where this story is going - a seemingly minuscule moment, potentially missed by many, yet defining nonetheless.

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Unexpected Connections in Kuala Lumpur

From a social standpoint the monorails of Kuala Lumpur are like the subways of New York. They are strictly a transport mechanism, rarely do people talk to one another.

Not following the implicit societal standards, I made a comment to a stranger "that's a cool shirt". This simple comment led to a friendship I couldn't have imagined.

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Privilege of The Privileged

If you have eyes to read, the mind to comprehend, you are fortunate with good health. If you live in the socioeconomic circumstance and have the ability to chose your own path (as I have), you are privileged. And of course to embark on this fellowship I am beyond privileged.

But here, I want to delve deeper into a more implicit layer of privilege.

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The Jungles of Sumatra - Leopards, Locals, and Learning, Bonderman Fellowship, Week 4

While I stick to my sentiments that there is no such thing as a utopia, outside yourself, Bukit Lewang comes close. It's that harmonious, quaint jungle village, which you only hear about in a children's book. (Of course the village isn't perfect, it comes with its own set of unique problems - over commercialization, aggressive locals to name a few.)

The harmony is not in the objects we typically associate with harmony - rainbows, butterflies and people holding hands in a circle - but rather more subtle devices. It lies in the fluid and playful interactions between locals. It lies in the kids swimming in the river, playing without a care or a screen to distract them from their environment. It's in the incessant sharing amongst locals, which isn't a question but an unspoken principal. Indicative of these constructs is the fact that they all look incredibly young. They smile and laugh often, and I haven’t heard the words “worry”, “stress”, or “anxiety”.

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Family & Adventure in Jogjakarta, Indonesia, Bonderman Fellowship Week 3

Hello Friends!

I have just returned from the jungles of Sumatra, and am going too play some catch up from last week.

This week brought:

Being treated like a celebrity at a raging mall concert in the busy shopping district of Malioboro. A serendipitous run in to another Michigander, in a place where there is aren’t many tourists! Beautiful mountains, surrounding exquisite temples. Teaching English to an eager 15 year old atop said mountains. Encountering new challenges in less westernized places ( it isn't all bliss over here). A solo waterfall journey ( which due it being "dry season" was hardly as exciting as it sounds), slack lining(!!), meeting with a Fulbright scholar who speaks near fluent Indonesian, and a temple tour straight out of an Alan Watts lecture.

Here I'll highlight my ride back from Borobudor, the biggest Buddhist temple in the world! The temple quite the sight, but I think it is the ride back that has made a deeper mark in my memories.

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Familiarity

Peering over my right shoulder, at a crowded traffic stop , I see a Balinese women sitting on her bike. At first glance, there appears to be nothing distinct about her. She wears a black helmet,  a mask covers her airways, headphones are lodged in her ears, and aviator sunglasses to complete the aesthetic. Of course I do not and probably never will know her.

Yet, I know her. Better yet, I can feel what she's experiencing. She is bobbing her head, chaotically back and forth, and strumming her fingers, in what seems to be an arbitrary pattern on the odometer below her. I know those movements. I know that feeling. I feel it on a daily basis.

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Circumstance

It is one thing to hear it in lectures, read it in books, or see it in a documentary. It is another to feel and experience it. When I see the concave bellies of children, the sediment filled fluid people call drinking water, the rooms which house an entire family, I am brought to tears, I feel outraged, overwhelmed, and filled with helplessness,

Whether we know it or not, we are all both victims and benefactors of circumstance. We've been born into this world with an inherent set of rules and opportunities. And for many of my friends reading this, you are with me, we are on the fortunate side of circumstance. No matter what difficulties we may be going through, we still have security of food and water, a roof that shelters from rain, and a chance to seek for a path that both fulfills and supports us. These are amenities that some of the locals I've met don't have.

While socioeconomic disparity is an issue, there are more studied scholars who can speak better to the topic. Instead, I want to talk about a different aspect of the issue: not realizing that our situation, our good fortune, is due in part to circumstance. It's like my good friend Lonnie, who sells papers by espresso Royale in Ann Arbor told me, " so many of us were born on third base but think we hit a triple."

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Universal Language

How would I communicate without any knowledge of the local language?

It didn't take long to tap into it. It's in the conscientious eye contact, the dynamic tone of voice and the perpetual expression of body language. There is no code, no rules, and no prepared learning. Rather it's a situational, on-the-fly, real life game of charades.

For me, it has taken intuition, openness to my emotional expression, a willingness to continually dive into uncertainty, but most of all a commitment to patience.

A Universal Language

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Letting Go

I knew it would be difficult, but I didn't know it would be the hardest part. Letting go. Letting go of the people you connect with and the places you fall for. It's a vicious cycle that goes something like this: move to a new city, meet new people, connect, get in a comfortable groove, then it's time to move and start all over again

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Bonderman Fellowship, Week 1

Family, friends and kindred spirits,

There is so much to share in terms of day to day stories. I've felt like I've lived an entire year in the past week. It has been filled with contentment, connection and understanding. I've been journaling multiple times per day and originally planned to fully transcribe my journal, unfiltered, to the blog. I still have bold ambitions to one day take on this task, but for now I'll spare you guys and myself. If you want more details shoot me a message, happy to expand.

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Reflections on Ubud

A strong motivation for me wanting to embark on this journey was to break out of the cultural paradigm I have been embedded within. Our culture tells us about things we must do, how we should live to be successful. For many that story, is no longer a narrative being imposed on them, but rather an absolute truth; it just is how things are and how they should be.

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Pre- Journey Contemplation, Before Embarking On The Bonderman Fellowship

With the few minutes I have at the gate, I sit watching people walk by. Each with their own destinations and unique stories. My initial destination is a layover in LA, eventually to my first stop in Bali, Indonesia, but my story goes beyond that. Today commences a minimum of 8 months of spontaneity, freedom, and instinctual living with no plan. The good fortune I feel to be embarking on this journey is indescribable. It's incredible to think I've been given $20,000 to travel the world. To just be.

Though it is just starting, it really began three years ago. I remember the moment I dreamt of backpacking the world spontaneously and alone. After meeting a girl from Amsterdam, I came to the realization I had never met someone quite like her. I needed to see more. To feel more. To experience more.

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