Thursday, October 05, 2006

a little thank you for the fellas!

By Collin Whelley

One of my closest friends recently told me over a g-mail conversation how she seldom hears the happy stories of Bolivia. Not that my writing is usually morbid, but I am serious in most of what I write. I guess when a person is separated for so long from their friends it is hard to make pictures of their life without much information to work with. I am not serious all the time, but I am much of the time. I think I am serious more than your average Collin Whelley, but there are just as many times when I am just as silly and goofy as most associate with my personality. My mood swings may be slower today than when I was a teenager, but they can be drastic. I do not believe this is a problem. As a volunteer in another country running their own service project I half expected it. Thanks to two individuals my transitions between extremes become manageable making life much more enjoyable.

Many things in life become old or routine; at times making us desensitized to life’s little and big wonders. It takes vigilance to stay as idealistic and inquisitive as we remember during the beginnings of our experiences. Everyday the fact that I can’t fix the world’s problems becomes easier to acknowledge and now that I think of it, this saddens me. I was addicted to the power and strength of my energy when I first set out with Mike to “save Bolivia from Indoor air pollution.” However with all that has become regular schedule programming here in Bolivia there are some things that seemingly never get old.

The mountains are just as imposing and impressive as ever. The Bus trips are always an adventure and true test of my ability to hold in the water I just drank. Meeting new people in Bolivia is effortless and never gets old. Likewise the friends that I meet and must bid farewell, for perhaps a lifetime, never stops being a challenge. For instance, giving my last goodbyes to the tripe of Los Bias. Though I may never have the privilege to return to see them all I don’t have to completely say good bye to this experience. Yes, I do have photos and more than enough words written down for everyone, but I also have two Great friends here in Bolivia that are walking with me through one more transition.

It is important that I do not take anything away from the significant experiences of Zach, Clayton and Sly, however, this latest trip to the Bias was much different. This was my third trip. It is simple and now that I think it is silly what makes this time different than the others. On arrival I was called out and greeted by name. “Collin” is not only difficult for them to say but I thought it was impossible for them to remember. What more, Marlena, a little girl that I connected with during my first stay, called out my name when she saw me. Tessa, our friend and ally on the war against indoor air pollution from Holland laughed in her Dutch accent “I think it is so great that even in the middle of the jungle where no one goes, you are known and have friends; that is really great.” She is so right; I am so lucky to have made friends and built trust with a community from a lost and disappearing world. Both Mike and Chris have also been accepted into the community. We are allowed to walk in some houses, great people while they cook meals and make crafts and play soccer and volleyball. I hope that this memory never gets old. I doubt that it will for any of us.

One additional phenomenon that is present here in Bolivia that has not faded is the reason for my words this time. It is the bond between Chris, Mike and I. Chris Phillips is a relatively new friend to me. We originally met each other through mutual friends. We met briefly during, a little wonder of the world, the Light House Retreat at the University of Dayton (with out a doubt the finest higher education establishment en el mundo!). Even our brief encounters at University did not spark a strong friendship. Bolivia has changed all of that. Today I can safely say that Chris is a closer friend than most. Chris is a person who is kind and very outwardly passionate, but most of all challenges me so very much. Week by week Chris dives into something dedicating himself to everything and anything that excites him. Spanish, school applications, reading a book, hiking, and walking every street in Cochabamba are just some of the things that Chris continually conquers. It is almost like he is worried that if he doesn’t hurry up and know everything about something he might never have the chance. He reminds me how much I love being proactive and work at that which I love.

Chris also knows himself better than most. He impresses me with statements like “I’m like this, I’m not that kind of person, or I have trouble when people act this way and I can’t deal or tolerate it.” But even the great Chris Phillips doesn’t give himself credit for all that he is. Chris doesn’t always think of himself as extraordinarily compassionate at understanding persons, but answer this question Chris? Does the average compassionate person push a Begging man in a wheel chair 10 blocks to the market and buy him a baby stroller for his new child? I’m sure Chris has not told many people about this, which is even more impressive. That’s just what Chris does! Challenges us all to get up and do something about those initiatives that run through our head. He is a great person and a wonderful friend for Mike and I.

There has never once been a problem or issue that there are three people. Even numbers often work better as groups because people can be paired up. There are different levels of friendship between us and this fact should not take anything away to the significant of our respective friendships. I don’t think about current friendship in terms of levels. History of friendships highlights closeness and distance. In addition Chris has never less than outwardly respected the strength of brotherhood established between Mike and my-self.

Michael Vehar and I met on Friday March 3rd 2004, yes, on that same Light House thing. Mike always forgets our anniversary hahahahaha. As fate would have it (though I don’t believe in that sort of thing…well most of the time), we were paired up as brothers on this little weekend getaway with two of the two most wonderful parents Liz and Maria (watch out gents they aren’t married yet!). Ever since we have been brothers and walked with each other through everything from Drama de las Chicas, future prospects and passions, good times, the bad, and now our Bolivian experiment. For clarification, when I refer to mike as my “brother” it is important to me that you all understand the significance of the word. I have one the world’s best brothers in Patrick Whelley. He was the greatest mentor and hero that a kid brother could dream of. (That’s right ladies I love my brother isn’t that cute!) So without undermining my love for my brother Pat, I continue to call Mike my brother.

We are two guys that decided during the crescendo of our college years that we were going to make a difference in the world and I am not hesitant to say that I am proud of what we have done and do. In turn we dug deep utilizing each one of our strengths and continue to fall back on our bond to keep going. I can comfortably confide in Mike. We actually have a tally going and it’s not really a race…but we are tied 4 to 4. Mike is going to kill me for writing this…but it is a tally of how many times we have cried in Bolivia. Each twice when the other was present and each with two others that lend to some pretty embarrassing stories. Mike was in the middle of the dance floor in our favorite Club balling and I was by myself at a very full coffee shop bar in Cuszco Peru (Chris only cried three so his heart can’t be made of that much stone.). We are lucky to have people that we can confide in especially during the biggest experiences of our lives. I am a person who when given the chance internalizes so much of this world. I can then take all those thoughts and principles and emotions and keep them and lock them up in the songs that I write, but it is so important to me when I find people who I feel comfortable enough to be completely real. It makes life so much easier and happier. Mike is one of the best friends that have been able to be that for me and he knows it. (I hope the others know who they are!)

Both of these individuals help and challenge me in ways that I’m sure that I am not aware of. But one specific aspect of life that they have helped me understand is the concept of waiting for life to start. “Waiting in Bolivia” is the leading title for the first album that I make. What it means is not that I am waiting to go home, but at times I have caught my self waiting for life here in Bolivia (but that I am waiting in Bolivia for life – or the beginning of the rest of my life). I came to Bolivia with an understanding that I would be a slightly different person when I returned home. So I was waiting for change. The ironic part is that even if you wait for that change you will never know when, where, or how it will come; you’ll never be ready. Just waiting for life to begin or change is useless and a waist of energy. I still wait and compare my changing self but I try not to let life go by in the mean time. We can never wait on dreams. If we have them we must chase them. I must because living life trough the chance of the chase and the development of dreams is for me one of the greatest wonders and blessings of this beautiful world.

The friendships between Chris, Mike and I have been my saving grace here in South America. Our bond has not become stale with age, but rather vintage. Traveling through life is not easy. Living so far from the people you love and those I have confided in is a challenge. Having Chris and Mike beside me makes the world of difference even when we are a world away. Thanks Guys

PS: OH YEAH I’m so done with Chris and Mike's R&B favorite hits blaaaaa! Well I guess they are good sometimes hahahaha


Blogger Kailyn said...

Collin Whelley - my father - you never cease to amaze and challenge me. I love hearing your tales and living vicariously through you... Tell Mike hello for me. Miss you both!! xoxo, Kailyn

2:46 PM  
Blogger Stu said...

Hey Collin- This is Stuart. I met you, Chris and a few other buddies of yours on a bus ride from Copacabana to La Paz (actually on the boat portion of the trip), anyway, I was the American dude starting up a travel website ( which is for travelers and people genuinely passionate about making a difference in world, and I know the community would love to read about the Bolivia Project, and it would be a good medium to spread the word on the amazing things you and your friends are doing in Cochabamba and beyond..

anyway, I only had Chris' email, so i sent him the invite link. (we can only invite people into the website now), but if he doesn't get it, please email me, and I will send you an invite right away..

I am honored to have met you guys. you are doing great things.

1:27 PM  

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