More than Water

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Taking time away from life on the beach, our group spent the last few days in the Maroto valley, inside the Tahiti Nui caldera. Deep in the heart of the island lies a very sacred place called Fare Hape, a place that holds great significance for the Tahitian people and culture. Our group spent three days and two nights exploring the site, hiking the valley, swimming in the fresh water pools, and learning from community elders about the history and cultural significance of the place where we were staying.

While the majority of our time was spent together, on the recommendation of our teachers, we each sought time alone as well to process and reflect on all that we had seen and experienced thus far; to listen to what the valley had to say, and to talk back if we wanted.

Sitting quietly by the river the last morning before we left, I watched the water flow down from a dozen different directions, joining the main stream before turning downhill towards the ocean. I wondered where each drop had been, the journey it had taken and the things it had seen on its way to meet me there in that quiet place. How small each drop must feel… and yet, each drop is crucial to the movement of the larger river.

The words of our Tahitian language instructor, Mana, came back to my mind: “You cannot be somebody if you don’t know where you come from.” Each member of our group has their own unique story; they have travelled their own path to get here, bringing with them their culture, prejudices, and hopes. I am learning more and more how the family that supports me, the culture that informs my perspective, the faith and hope that guide me, and all that I have experienced work together to shape who I am today. How can I know where I am going if I don’t know where I come from? How can any of us? This past week in the valley, sitting at the convergence of countless streams in the center of an ancient volcano, I felt my smallness. I felt like a single drop in a ranging river. But I am also part of a group, and perhaps our collective experiences and perspectives form something more significant. We’re going somewhere together, this crazy bunch of UW students… I’m not sure where, but that’s what makes it an adventure, right?

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