Now I´m already here in Bolivia since half a year. Half of my time has passed. Unbelievable… time flies so, so fast…
By now I think I´ve “settled in” into my project pretty well. The kids I have taken to my heart from the very beginning anyways, but meanwhile also the teamwork with my boss and the other volunteers is going much better. I don´t really know what has caused this, but since the beginning of 2014 I have the feeling that the atmosphere is much better. New ideas are welcome and being valued, we laugh a lot and also talk about topics not necessarily regarding work from time to time.
We´ve also changed the workshop concept for this year. Whereas during the last year we´ve worked with three groups of kids of mixed ages each afternoon, we´ve now differentiated the groups by age. By this we intended to better adjust our work to the kids´ needs and abilities. To additionally have a little more time we´re no more working with 3, but only 2 groups each afternoon and with the “mas chicititos” therefore on two mornings.
Actual problems I´m not facing in my project. Sometimes there are only difficulties with the “problematic cases” amongst the children. You can tell, that a lot of them a running a little behind in their development, that they simply aren´t yet able to do certain things, that other children their age already can. A major problem is speaking. There are some kids that are already 3 or 4 years old but still barely speak a word. Furthermore, oftentimes it´s quite hard to take away the fear of new kids that just came to the orphanage, to teach them to open up and enjoy the work we do. And, of course, listening and obeying rules is also not too easy for a lot of the kids. Lots of them lack concentration. But we´re trying to work on exactly those problems with the kids and it´s always making me happy to actually see little achievements. But not only those achievements are making me happy. It´s just always very nice to see, how excited the kids get when we come and take them for the workshops, when they come running towards you and hug you…
With my Bolivian host family I´m also still getting along very well. Since about 2 month now there´s a new family member living with us: Lucy from England who´s also volunteering here in La Paz. With her I´m getting along very well, too.
My free time I´m mostly spending with friend and especially with my boyfriend Alex. Yeeees I know this is probably leading to lots of surprised faces now, but for now just this: We´ve already known each other for some month now and I´m very happy. And that´s of course also why, even though I´ll be staying here for another 6 month, the thought of having to say Goodbye to him is already making me sad… but until then we´re very much enjoying the time we still have together.
Apart from that I´m now regularly going to the gym, every Sunday I play ultimate frisbee and I´m really eager to also start salsa classes now!!!
But another thing that I´m really looking forward to now is travelling. First I´m going to Buenos Aires for ten days now, leaving this Saturday, the 22nd. I´ll be meeting my friend Wayne from the US who´s staying there right now. I´m hoping for wonderful weather, good food, inspiring atmosphere, long nights with lots of dancing and well, as I know Wayne and I we´ll probably also go shopping quite a lot. And on April 11th my mom, dad and sister will come visit me here. They´ll be staying for three weeks and we´ll be venturing round Bolivia together. Can´t wait!!!
In other respects my Spanish is coming along quite well by now. Whereas in the beginning I could hardly understand three sentences, not to mention talking, I now can understand quite a lot and talks are also getting better and better. However I still got a lot left to learn. In the next 6 month I want to become way better. To be honest, in the beginning I was not making that big of an effort, but since a couple of time I´m trying to go over the grama again and to learn a lot of new vocabs.
Regarding my impression of Bolivia I can just say again that I´m always noticing the huge “differences” in various areas.
First of all there´s obviously the diversity of landscape. Here in La Paz I´m surrounded by brownish, bare rocks, but in about 3 hours I can also be in the jungle like Coroico or admire the gigantic Titicaca Lake which actually seems like a sea.
However, also the cultural and social differences seem quite distinct. Right now I´m in an area called “Sopocachi”. Here you mainly see multi-story buildings, in the “Zona Sur” in some streets there are actual villas –walking through some of those streets one could actually think to be walking through a neighborhood in the US. In contrast, up in “El Alto”, for example, you hardly encounter a single, completed house. It´s mostly just unfinished bare brick work with some provisional windows that are oftentimes even missing a roof. On the streets here you see businessmen with suits and ties that are getting their shoes polished by shoe shiners who have their faces covered, since their job is being looked at very badly. Next to the modern “Multicine” complex that amongst others inhabits a cinema, a gym and lots of fast food chains there are women and children begging for money. Quite frequently you come across a street child sleeping on the floor, its mind probably clouded by drugs.
Apart from that I feel like traditions are quite important to Bolivians. The first weekend of March was carnivals weekend. There were a lot of processions with lots of fantastic costumes, traditional music and dances. In the beginning very fun, with the time, however, rather annoying appeared to me the “tradition” of throwing water bombs and spraying foam on each other.
On March first I went to Oruru with a couple of friends to see the, as I was being told, “most traditional” carnival of all Bolivia. It was very nice until everything found a rather tragic ending. One of the temporary bridges which lead over the street on that the procession was taking place collapsed. Apparently there were too many people on it. 5 people died. Nothing happened to me or my friends, but of course we were all very shocked…especially because we had crossed that very same bridge less than an hour before the accident.
On March 2nd I then celebrated my 20th (!!!) birthday. Hard to believe that I already have the 2 in front now… but meanwhile I´m already over my initial “I´m sooo old”-crisis!
To then come back to the “traditions” once more: Of course, ou see the traditionally dressed “cholitas” everywhere. What kind of makes me smile every time is when one of those so conservative seeming ladies is taking her smartphone out of her pocket. However, you can tell by the way they dress, whether you´re looking at a rather “wealthy” woman or not. The cloth of the “smartphone-cholitas” definitely differs from the cloth of those ones who sell pretty much any type of goods on almost every corner…
Well, this for now to my already 6 month lasting Bolivia adventure. I´m excited for whatever else is there to come in the remaining half year.
And at this point I should probably also say sorry for my rather miserable online presence … LO SIENTO!!!