So it has been a while since the last post. Interestingly enough, this is the final day of our trip. So really, this entry will contain our activities from July 12th to today. I suggest firing up the microwave and get some popcorn.
The last two and a half weeks have been more than hectic. Our project took some harsh turns as Cochabamba was entirely out of rebar. No rebar, no significant building. So we put together a pilot program and furnished the building with a refrigerator, chairs, tables, a stove, a small library composed of donated books, and school supplies. The pilot program ran three days a week with Tuesday and Thursday left for minor construction. We divided the children of the community by grade. Teaching hygiene has been our main focus. We have been encouraging hand washing and teeth brushing.
The water has been hooked up to the local pump and electricity will be connected soon (we bought all of the materials and left them in the hands of Ernesto, the man in charge of the entire operation). The project will take much more work before it is a full fledge orphanage. Bolivian law says that an orphanage must have a wall and a security guard. We have quite a bit more to go before this project leaps from a community center to an orphanage. This is not at all to say that our work is in vain. More than 60 kids are a part of the program that will run to the end of August. Reinforcements will arrive in March to continue the construction.
Since the last post, the culinary adventures of our group have continued with great satisfaction. We have tried beef heart, kidneys, beef tongue, and llama. Beef heart is interesting. Chewy, flavorful, a bit grainy, definitely worth trying. Most of us, including the “vegetarian” of the group enjoyed it. Kidneys taste much like sausage. Though we were never informed of which animal the kidneys were actually from, they were delicious. Beef tongue is tender, juicy, and lean. Cooked for hours in tomato sauce and spices, served with potatoes, pasta, and beans, the tongue leaped to a Bolivian favorite. Llama is not just tasty. It is the manifestation of delicious. It was partnered on a skewer with bacon, fresh red peppers, and onions. Try llama.
On our weekends, we have been making a point to get around Bolivia. One Saturay we decided to travel to Mizque. We set off at 7AM and stopped for a lovely breakfast at a truck stop. After that we went to a lovely, relatively overlooked ruin called Incallajta. A beautiful waterfall cuts the ruins in two. The history is fascinating and the site is astounding. We made our way to Tatora, where the intended 50 kilometer bike ride was intended to begin. Five minutes in, one bike broke. Thirty minutes in, the bikers got split up. An hour and a half in, two more bikes broke. 3 hours in, the bikers were reunited. 4 hours in, another bike broke. Around 8PM, in an attempt to cross a river, our Volkswagen bus broke down. We resorted to cuddling for warmth in the frigid Andes for a night. It was below freezing. At 530AM the owner of Casa International and one of the adventurers hiked and biked the remaining 40km to Mizque on the remaining two bikes. Those that stayed behind enjoyed basking in the river and a wonderful view. A taxi picked up those that stayed behind and all were reunited in Mizque. We enjoyed a steak dinner that seemed to be an entire cow. The next day, we made our way home on a bus.
This last weekend, we traveled to Lake Titicaca and spent a night on the Isla de Sol (Island of the Sun). Unfortunately, we never made it to the Island of the Moon, but regardless, Lake Titicaca is overwhelmingly fascinating. Consider this, 13000 feet above sea level sits the highest lake in the world. It holds the largest volume of water in South America for a lake. Surrounding the lake are brown mountains, around those, 16000ft snow capped Andes. No more than 10 boats are visible at any time and all of them carry no more that 30 people. The lake is pristine. The islands are a direct connection to the history of the religion of the Aymara. It is difficult to grasp the concept that Lake Titicaca is actually real.
For the past month or so I’ve boomeranged between excitement and anxiety pretty regularly, but now that all of the pre-arrival details have been taken care of, my body is brimming with vaccines and my pack is stitched proudly with a California flag, I feel totally mellow. Ready. Stoked. But above all, very zen. There’s nothing else to do, and if there is I’m sure its nothing Rosh and I can’t handle. Its the calm before the storm…..for weeks the conditions change and churn and now all we have to do is make it happen!
I’ve studied for four years to do international development projects, and its pretty surreal to be sitting on my couch here in the heart of LA, knowing that at this time tomorrow we’ll be zooming off to help execute a project we have been planning for months. Countless people invested hours in moving the wheels of Nourish on our campus and throughout Westwood, and its a rush to know that hocking donuts and inviting people to party has actually created the momentum for change that was promised……
Someone once said that higher education is a schooling in the vastness of what you dont know. If there is anything I took from studying international development, its that I have so much more to learn before I can have any hope of understanding how everything works and what motivates peoples around the world. So all I can hope is that I can learn as much from the Quechua people of Santiago as they are willing to share! And even that is such a small start; there is so much to know. So much to learn from everyone.
Feeling outrageously fortunate on every level
more to come when we land! First stop: Lima Peru. Second stop: La Paz. Third stop: Lake Titicaca. Fourth stop: Cochabamba. Fifth stop: Santiago Farm Project
ok so less than 24 hrs until departure and now the nerves are definitely kicking in! I feeel as though i am almost finally ready to head out which some last minute shopping stuff to take care of as for snacks and such for the long 30 hour journey that awaits! As soon as we arrive in La paz we plan on staying there for couple of days and then taking an 8 hour bus ride through the Bolivian countryside to reach our next location of Cochabamba where we will meet up with the project coodinator luc! Then a couple of days shopping there and off to Santiago community we will go on the 8th of August 2010. After seeing the pictures and having much communication with Save the children i am definitely quite excited for journey that lies ahead. Definitely scared of the communication barrier, but have been brushing up my Spanish even though the main language is Quechwa it should be interesting. I cannot wait to start building the animal farm, working with the community and implementing animal husbandry with the youth there. Got my sleeping bag ready and quite nervous, yet excited for the no water, no electricity because definitely give me a new found appreciation for life. So with all that said, bolivia ready or not here i come help make change happen!
Writing a blog in Bolivia is harder that it would seem. The ability to simply do something else is so prevalent that even getting the conviction to get a substantial amount of sleep is a rare occurrence.
Anyway, Bolivia is treating us well… and not so well. In short, don’t drink the water. If you do, prepare to experience some outrageous biological behavior. Your body will undergo some terribly undesirable sensations. Pack drugs.
The last week we have been both frantically busy, as well as useless. Most of our busy days have been spent buying parts for our projects and working on them. We installed a water system to the building that will be used as a community room (intended to involve the orphans with the community). We have yet to connect it to the local pump, so we are currently hauling water up to the ceiling every time we need some. We will begin working on connecting the pump to the orphanage building next week.
The days of which we were rendered useless were due to either sickness or civil protests. Apparently, if you ever need to protest something in Bolivia, make road blocks. On Wednesday, our 20 minute trip to the orphanage grounds became an off road adventure. Winding through the rural rock and dust made roads, we bounced and bumped for two hours. Thursday, the protesters had further organized and there was not even a dirt path without a blockade (we readily accepted it as a day off).
Last Sunday, we were fortunate enough to make it out to a soccer game. Real Potosi vs. Aurora. Though Aurora was quick to score with a clutch shot in between the keeper an his post, the previous year’s champs were quick to take a dominate position. A beautiful through-ball resulting in a goal, an own goal, a chip, and a 30 yard ripper sent Aurora packing with a Real Potosi 4-1 victory. Though the game was exciting, it was insignificant to the intensity of the fans. Bolivians take football (soccer) more seriously than Americans take fried chicken (bold statement, understood). There was rarely a five minute period of which a hail of 2 liter bottles and ice cream cones did not come down with the intention of injuring the referees. Riot police, fully clad in Kevlar, riot shields, batons, and guns were there for every time the refs made a call or got on or off the pitch.
The children at the orphanage, currently, are not orphans. While we have been working on the orphanage, local kids have come to play and socialize. It will take some time before we can actual move orphans in as the legal process for and orphanage in Bolivia contains more red tape than Home Depot. Though the children we have been playing with have parents (or some form of guardian), they still are living in poverty. Many of them had pink eye. I say had because on Tuesday we brought eye drops and by Friday most of the pink eye cases had disappeared. In the next two weeks we have set aside a few days to teach regular hygiene. We will be teaching them about teeth brushing and hand washing.
Hopefully this blog will experience a more frequent update routine. As I write that, I am off to do something simply more interesting. Ciao.
Friday, at around 5AM, we landed in El Alto’s airport, just outside of La Paz. Our disembarkation introduced us to 20 degree weather and lack of oxygen. El Alto is 13,615 feet above sea level and the altitude is not too forgiving.
After obtaining visas, collecting luggage, and getting properly dressed, we got on our way to Cochabamba. We stopped at a restaurant for breakfast, which turned out to be fantastic. Chicken soup with herbs, a hard boiled egg, and potatoes was a spectacular way to treat the cold and the head aches caused by altitude. Delicious omelets, roles and Coca tea were consumed with delight and ferocity.
Currently, in the food department, Bolivia is passing with flying colors.
After the most delectable of breakfasts, we continued our bus ride to Cochabamba. Bolivia, simply from a bus window, is a fascinating place. The ride led us through rocky mountains, only inhabited by the most durable of creatures, plants, and people. The land, for miles in every direction, is a brown, rolling landscape, dotted occasionally with homes or small herds of sheep or llama.
The transition from El Alto to Cochabamba was havoc on the senses. The sun is relentlessly hot while the air is frigid. It is warmer in Cochabamba, but not much. We arrived in Cochabamba around 3:30pm to a cozy bed and breakfast, Casa Internacional. That evening, we went to a nearby restaurant and had delicious fish, yuca, fava beans, spicy salsa, salty cheese, y muchas cervasas! We also learned a dice game similar to poker.
Saturday morning, breakfast was served at 8am. After a satiating meal of succulent tangerines, fresh roles, creamy butter, salty cheese, jelly, and coca tea, we made our way to our work site. At the orphanage grounds, we were received by curious and shy children. Wide smiles stretched across their tiny faces. It took some effort on our part to coax them out of their houses but they warmed up to us quickly. We let them play with our camera and take pictures with us. They walked with us to the orphanage where we played soccer and tag while our adviser, Connie, made plans for our stay. It looks like we’ll be finishing the bathrooms, staining the doors, and painting this first week. If we can get the electric and water running, the first eight or ten orphans can move in.
Our first operation was moving rocks from the yard. In all reality, it was to facilitate passing for soccer. The ground in Cochabamba is riddled with volcanic rock. Thistle plants and colonies of ants provided a constant nuisance of stinging bites and sharp spikes.
The return to Casa Internacional was followed by a trip to the market. Bustling with activity, the market boasted chickens (dead, alive, and some in between), haggling, beeping vehicles, Spanish, Quechua, and sizzling street food. There were loom woven ponchos of wool and alpaca, colorful sweaters, shawls, jewelry, and handcrafted accessories.
The day finished with a enjoyable night out. With new friends and pleasant strangers, we ate lots and danced late.
Today, in preparation for our work tomorrow, we are collecting supplies and getting rest before the flood gates of manual labor fly open.
Welcome to the Ohio State University and University of California Berkeley Chapter collaborative project Blog. Our adventure will take us to Cochabamba, Bolivia, with the goal of building a part of a much needed orphanage. We have partnered up with Global Gallery, a fair trade non-profit organization based in Columbus, Ohio. The Bolivia Orphanage Project is a collaboration Between Global Gallery and Foundation Anyi.
The project will go from July 2nd to July 30th.