This I Believe

Andrés - Accra, Ghana
Entered on February 17, 2008

I believe in intellectual excitement, curiosity, and understanding. I usually get excited by events and issues that other people do not consider that exciting. My excitement however tends to become contagious and to generate a positive atmosphere, I get excited about all sorts of food, places, music, and science in general. My excitement is one of my strongest tools in university classrooms, where I teach economic development, economic anthropology, economic history, and other interdisciplinary subjects. Indeed, in one occasion while teaching economic development issues I got so into the discussion and so excited that I felt a unique and intense satisfaction, very different from anything I have felt before, as if a new substance was released in my brain. In fact I feel similarly in the classroom when my students look at me when we discuss something very interesting and new for them and for me as well. Every class program I prepare is completely new; I feel that every new class outline is a precious opportunity for me to explore new ideas, new authors, and new literature. Paradoxically, I approach teaching as a learning activity. I am an economist but do my best to incorporate insights from anthropology, sociology, and even from fiction. I teach in Africa, at Ashesi University, in Ghana, which I found by reading an NPR news-article and got excited about the Ashesi mission. I am from Guatemala, and went to grad school at George Mason University, and from there did research in the Colombian Amazon for my dissertation. It was there, practically in the middle of the jungle, where I read NPRs article about Ashesi University; I have been at Ashesi twice and alternate my time between Ashesi and my university in Guatemala, Francisco Marroquín. I usually wonder where my curiosity and excitement come from, and have reached the preliminary conclusion that it comes from my intense desire of understanding and make sense of human being’s deepest and more challenging puzzles: death, love, suffering, and poverty. Although I have always been intellectually curious, my curiosity was enhanced by a car accident which happened five years ago while driving my car with my friend Lourdes in the Guatemalan highlands, Lourdes was my first girlfriend and my platonic teenage love. She died and I survived. Through this experience I became a very empathetic person. After this episode I adopted a new survival strategy every day, none of these strategies was effective for than one day, this means that every day I came up with a new explanation, a new motivation to keep going with my life – the love of my mom, brothers and friends helped in this emotional turmoil. I knew that sooner or later I will feel better and then will have something to give back to humanity, which I do now through my college students. My desire and actions to understand the causes and results of the car accident and Lourdes death were painful, but this has gradually changed, to the extent that nowadays, six years after the accident, my desire for understanding targets other issues and events of my life and society, as if my curiosity has transformed itself into a powerful driven force, it has become a totally positive motivation. I believe that things happen for a reason, there is a reason why she died and I survived. I believe that Lourdes smiles in heaven every time I get puzzled by an idea, a happening, a new theory, or by simple things of my everyday life.