Tag Archives: Bonderman Fellow

The Carletti expedition: excerpts from Nicaragua

Guest post by Wilson Carletti, recipient of the Bonderman Travel Fellowship

Before departing for La Isla de Ometepe, I happened to meet Alex Tuthill, a UW grad who started Pacha Mama (arguably the most well-known hostel in San Juan del Sur). He left corporate America behind after the 2008 financial crisis and ended up meeting his future Nicaraguan business partner in a hostel while traveling. We chatted about his business, the emerging middle class in Nicaragua, and the various projects he is involved in around the community – currently he is helping to rebuild the local health clinic, but he is also involved in local youth sports leagues, women’s shelters, etc. And to think, simply because I wore my UW shorts that day, I ended up having an awesome conversation.

Ometepe

Ometepe is a gigantic island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua that houses two massive volcanoes – it looks like it belongs in Jurassic Park.

I sat down on the stiff, warm wooden bench on the musty ferry, as the loud motor churned at the water, attempting to pry itself from the land. Mexico was playing Nicaragua in Little League baseball on a tiny, fuzzy television set, so I sat down with some other men and entered the conversation. One guy’s favorite team was the Boston Red Sox, while the other’s was the LA Dodgers. The Dodgers fan spoke nearly perfect English – turns out he grew up in LA, but left the states for one reason or another. Now he lives on Ometepe, working as a chef.

I got up early on the day I planned to climb Madeira, the smaller, more forested volcano on Ometepe. As we clambered up a trail toward the entrance of the park, our guide, Harold, gave us a quick Ometepe history lesson (currently it has 47,000 residents, but the first inhabitants came here 4,000 years ago), and showed us some 2,000 year old petroglyphs.

He commented on the state of Ometepe. Tourism has greatly improved the quality of life on the island. For example, there used to be two schools on the island and now every town has its own school. There are still plenty of problems, one being sexual education – Harold’s wife has 64 siblings.

Sure, there are problems, but Ometepe is also nearly self-sustaining – almost all of the fruit, dairy and meat products come from the island or the lake. Unlike much of Nicaragua, there is a recycling program on the island, the animals look much healthier and in general, the people have a much greater respect for nature.

Regardless of what I am doing, I am learning every day. I am so incredibly grateful for this opportunity.

 

Granada

I wandered down the streets of Granada looking for a cab, but had no such luck. Two men, one who spoke English, near the Parque Central persistently offered me a taxi, though something in my gut told me not to go with them. I can’t really explain it – the offering of assistance felt insincere.

And then out of nowhere, a taxi driven by an older man came whipping around the corner and stopped right in front of me. There were already two women and two kids in the backseat, but he saw the other men attempting to strike a deal and immediately undercut their prices. This time my gut told me to hop in, so I did.

Minutes later the man asked me where I was from. “Los Estados Unidos,” I replied, which disrupted his calm demeanor and brought about a new energy in him.

“Los Estados Unidos es el mejor país del mundo,” he declared dramatically. I was pleasantly surprised and honestly taken aback. Most people here have been very friendly and helpful, but not to the point of declaring my country the “greatest on Earth.” He went on to explain that while the U.S. does some bad stuff, all countries have bad people, and the U.S. helps those in need. Plus, they have Major League Baseball (his brother lives in San Francisco, so he is a Giants fan).

We went back and forth talking about politics, baseball, poverty, his favorite U.S. presidents (he really liked Ronald Reagan), communism, war, etc. He explained why he feels democracy is so great; “democracy allows us to be friends,” he said, extending his hand. As I shook it, and told him my name was Wilson, he smiled and exclaimed, “Como la pelota!” – “Like the ball (from Castaway).” As we neared my destination the road became muddier and rugged; he slowed down and looked gravely at the rough terrain ahead. He then turned to me and said what might be the only words he knows in English, “I’m sorry, Wilson.”

The sincerity in his voice was heart wrenching. He felt as though he was letting me down – after that single sentence, the conversation switched back to Spanish and I assured him that everything was just fine.

Little did he know that was one of the coolest taxi rides of my life and a moment I’ll never forget.

I bid my new friend farewell and gave him a nice tip. Holding the money in his hands, he looked up, smiled, and said – “Dios bendiga usted y Los Estados Unidos” – “God bless you and the United States.”

And with that he was gone.

Adapted for the Foster Blog with the help of Wilson Carletti. More episodes to come. Follow his unabridged journey here.

The Carletti Expedition–Prologue

Guest post by Wilson Carletti, recipient of the Bonderman Travel Fellowship (read more about the fellowship and Carletti’s backstory here).

Wil Carletti I do not think there is necessarily a definitive “line,” that we cross and magically become adults; however, as I look around, I watch my best friends, acquaintances, family, co-workers (real, intelligent human beings) crossover from being merely faces in the crowd to the ones standing onstage. Better yet, they’re not just standing, they are dancing, celebrating, creating beautiful art, expressing themselves. They’re winning PAC-12 championships (and IMA championships), creating clothing lines, moving to faraway places, building companies, designing products, and literally saving lives. They are starting non-profit organizations, they’re becoming doctors, lawyers; they’re pushing their limits, as well as those around them. As I stared out the airplane window—the sun had just set behind Managua—I began to think about just how far I was about to push my own limits.

After landing and standing in line at customs, I found the shuttle that would take me to Granada. At this point, darkness made it difficult to take in much of the scenery, so I chatted with the driver a bit. While it seems as though Nicaragua takes the lines on the road a little more seriously than drivers did in China (I participated in an Exploration Seminar there), it took me awhile to get used to. I kept noticing buses with bright, blinking, colorful lights all over the front end – I asked the driver what that was for. Apparently it’s legal in Nicaragua, so why not? “You should see this place during Christmas time – the entire road looks like a Christmas tree,” he exclaimed.

We made it safely to the hotel, and, as I sat there, about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, I decided I would write to reflect on what was. I would write to grow, as I explore what will be. And I would write to inspire others to pursue what could be.

Of all the paths I described above, none is more worthy than the other; you do not have to be an astronaut or rock star (or go on an 8-month long adventure for that matter) to make a positive difference in this world. Find something that you are passionate about and share it with those around you. Find your stage.

I felt excited to try to find my stage over these next eight months. While I definitely felt nervous, I was pleasantly surprised by how calm I was. I have been thinking about this for months now, and finally, I was ready.

The next day, when I awoke in my warm, humid hotel room in Granada, I felt like I had woken up from a long dream. I was a bit anxious – I knew no one and I was far away from home. Finally I strode confidently out onto the cobblestone street.

Adapted for the Foster Blog with the help of Wilson Carletti. More episodes to come. Follow his unabridged journey here.

Foster student receives Bonderman Travel Fellowship

Wilson Carletti in Hong Kong while on the China Exploration Seminar
Wilson Carletti in Hong Kong while on the China Exploration Seminar

Foster undergraduate student Wilson Carletti was recently awarded a Bonderman Travel Fellowship which will enable him to travel solo for eight months and visit at least two regions and six countries around the world. Carletti was one of fourteen UW students to receive the fellowship worth $20,000.

Carletti grew up in Seattle and is preparing to graduate in June with an undergraduate degree in finance from the Foster School. He plans to leave for his eight-month adventure sometime in September or early October and will travel to Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Antarctica, Argentina and South Africa. He first heard about the fellowship as a freshman through the Honors Program. After studying abroad in Italy and Spain for a summer and participating in an Exploration Seminar to China, he knew he wanted to travel more.

His travel objectives are to appreciate the natural beauty of these places, engage in dialogue with local communities, and participate in sports to learn to understand their role in the lives of other peoples and cultures of South America and South Africa. He is also interested in improving his Spanish while he’s in South America. And he’s visiting Antarctica because he has always wanted to visit all seven continents. He said, “I also want to use the opportunity to focus on one of my passions: writing. I want to write about my experiences, as a mode of self-reflection and documentation for others, and to hone my art of storytelling.” He said he started his blog before his first study abroad trip and found it helped him view his experiences differently, especially as he documented them for others.

He expects the most challenging aspect of this trip to be the long periods of solitude. Venturing out of the Puget Sound for eight months will also be an adjustment, but it’s one he’s looking forward to.

When Carletti returns, he’ll pursue a master’s degree in human centered design at UW. His ultimate goal is to combine his business education with startups and writing. His advice to current students, “Study abroad if you can. Seek out those opportunities that expose you to other parts of the world.”

The Bonderman Travel Fellows were established in 1995. The aim is to expose students to the intrinsic, often life-changing benefits of international travel. While traveling, students may not pursue academic study, projects or research. UW graduate students, professional students and undergraduate students are eligible to apply. In total, 207 UW students—127 undergraduate and 80 graduate and professional students—have been named Bonderman Fellows, including the 2014 fellows. Look for future blog posts from Carletti next year as he shares his journey with us on the Foster Blog.