Tuesday, May 5, 2015

There is nowhere else I would rather be right now!

Writing this blog, I cannot believe our cohort have been in Bolivia for more than three and a half weeks, and that we are over one-third of the way through already.  When we first landed in El Alto I was surprised at how flat it was, given that we were in the mountains, 4,000m above sea level; however, all of a sudden the roads steepened and La Paz was revealed, and I do not think I have walked on a flat path since – you are either going up or down a hill in La Paz, and are often out-of-breath!!

I was so happy to find out I was on the Urban Agriculture project – and now we are here, and working on the project, I am even more pleased that I am part of the team. We have a very long list of things to achieve over the ten weeks, from making a nutritional binder, producing video manuals of best greenhouse practices and finding new markets for the producers, but being so busy is great as time flies by every day. The general routine is that we spend two days in the office, and two days in El Alto, and then it’s Action Friday, where we visit the other projects that International Service are involved in. 
Action Friday's - Helping on the ChildFund project at the Pampahasi Alto children's centre

The days out of the office are more practical, and these are definitely my favourite. 
Working in the Focapaci greenhouses.
 One afternoon last week, we spent time at Doña Delfina’s house, one of the producers in El Alto, with her two children, Carolina, 10, and Victor, 4. 

Dona Delfina in one of her greenhouses
She was teaching us to transplant lettuces from the pots they had germinated in, to the main area of the greenhouse. We also did a video interview with Doña Delfina, so that we can create profiles of the producers on the new and improved website (currently in progress!). Despite my lack of Spanish skills, there was a moment during filming where everyone was smiling, and I knew something lovely had been said. When we stepped outside, I asked Florence (one of the volunteers who speaks much better Spanish than me!) to translate. Doña Delfina had said ‘prior to the project her children used to often be unwell, but since being part of the project, they eat a wider range of food, that is more nutritious and organic, and so they are healthier and are rarely unwell’. Hearing that confirmed what a great project we are part of it, and why it is so important that we aim to get more families involved. 

The Urban Agriculture team, Dona Delfina, her two children, Carolina and Victor, and their two dogs!
Outside of work a lot has also happened; we have travelled to Coroico and Lake Titicaca during our weekends off; two very different and beautiful parts of Bolivia.

Enjoying the weekend off at Lake Titicaca with some of the other volunteers.
 Living with a host family is also a wonderful experience; they cook us lots of tasty traditional Bolivian meals, during Easter weekend we visited seven churches in one night, and my Spanish, and their English is also improving a lot! 

Lauren and I enjoying lunch out in La Paz with our wonderful host family.
Becoming unwell also seems part of the adaptation process in the first few weeks! Unfortunately I became ill with salmonella typhoid about a week in, and am still suffering a little, but despite the illness, and the cravings for a cup of tea with some digestive biscuits at home on the sofa at times, there is nowhere else I would rather be right now. Wherever you are in the city, the views always amaze me, both day and night. The weather here is constantly changing, providing a different backdrop to the city each day, with some very impressive thunderstorms at least a few times a week. And travelling on the teleferico for just 30p as part of your daily commute is another highlight. 
The daily commute - taking the teleferico to the office.
As amazing as the city and the project are, it is definitely the people I am with who have made my time here so great. Being around so many people, from all over the world, with such a diverse range of life experiences has been both refreshing and fascinating.

Basically everyone involved in the program is lovely, Bolivia is an amazing country, and the project work is really enjoyable and rewarding. If you are already planning on applying for the ICS program, definitely do it. If you are not planning to, then consider it. And if you cannot apply, but know someone who could, then tell them about it!

Photos and text by Chloe Moore

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