On the eve of returning…

Our days on this trip have been filled with seeing, listening, sharing, and walking. There has been a considerable amount of pushing and unlearning, asking and re-asking. It has been a constant practice of movement and I catch myself wondering, “is this real?’ and “how did I get here?” I believe it is worth noting that I have not reflected back much during this trip. Perhaps it’s the 27,000 steps we are averaging per day or the persistent motion of the trains and lateral-ity of the landscape, but I have not been compelled to look back but rather to push forward. The privilege of this amazing experience is etched into the mornings I have spent looking out at landscapes I had never imagined before. I am not sure when I will see them again, but I hope to weave them into my pedagogy and research. The commonalities of participants on this trip—the common languages of learning, walking, food, laughter, music—have juxtaposed beautifully against the differences I have seen emerge both between members of our group and the comparison of the collective experiences between different universities and cultures. Much of my academic and activist work has been exploring the difficulty of reflecting on and critically engaging with the place one is from; the politics of unseeing, positioning and seeking hope in familiar places. Now, after traveling (really, for the first time in my life) my perspective has shifted. These past few days I have been struck by the difficulties and possibilities of unfixing what place is in order to work towards goals and see the full potentiality of the educational system and project. I have been pushed to know who I am, who I am working for, and why… regardless of where I find myself. Many (many) years ago I started my educational process as through the most meaningful, powerful force I could find; poetry. I was awed by the place-based, theoretically infused work of Charles Olson and his use of the space on the page in collaboration with lived experience spoke deeply to me. This morning I have returned to his work and a particular passage by John Stilgoe, on the importance of Charles Olson’s work:

The local environment is the prism through which anyone’s experience of the cosmos is filtered. What I think Olson did that was spectacularly successful was twist the prism in his hands all the time, and look through it toward an outer world from a vantage point in the local—the ward, the precinct, the corner of the street, his front steps, and perhaps above all, the window in his home that looked out over what many people would say was very ordinary and uninteresting, but for him was the threshold to the world. (http://www.popmatters.com/review/72586-polis-is-this-charles-olson-and-the-persistence-of-place/)

I’m going to go for a walk on this next to the last day in Switzerland to get coffee. I’m going to walk through spaces as a stranger and a learner and see what I can learn –not just about this place, but about the world– through the process. And where IS this place: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riva_San_Vitale

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