Primer día en el hogar de niños

So today I started my first day volunteering at a foster home. As I am on summer break I have a lot of extra time, and wanted to do some form of volunteer work. Then it hit me. Why not do something I love at the same time and play with kids? So that’s exactly what I did. My host dad helped me to find a great place with kids that range from babies to about 7 years old. I must say I am very glad that I get to work with younger kids. One reason for that is that the second I walked in and they saw me, a bunch of them came up and starting hugging me. I stayed for about 3 and a half hours, and the whole time I had someone wanting to hold my hand and drag me around, or have me pick them up. Kids at that age live in a near constant state of fun and it is wonderful. At one point I was at the bottom of a doggie pile with 6 or 7 giggling kids on top of me. A couple of them really enjoyed my leg hair. By that I mean they really enjoyed pulling it out and laughing at the face I made. I’m a little sad that after just one day I am going to have to take a break, but then I realize it is to go on a tour around Bolivia so it will be alright I guess. Anyways, upon my return to Santa Cruz I am planning on volunteering 2-3 times a week. Also I am getting a gym membership with my brother, so goodbye exchange weight. But before losing all that weight, I have a dinner with all the other Rotary students tomorrow night for Thanksgiving. I am sad that I won’t be with my family, but if this holiday has taught me anything it’s that I should be thankful for this opportunity that I have had. I am so thankful for everything, from my amazing host family to delicious food to this opportunity to work with kids. Ciao!


3 Months

3 months ago I gave my mom a hug, and walked onto a plane in the SeaTac airport that would take me on my first leg to Bolivia. I remember having seeing one of my fellow exchange students named Claire in her blazer, who was also from Washington, board the plane before me. When I first saw her I knew she was a Rotary Youth Exchange student, but I thought it would be awkward to go up and talk to her. I mean I had never met her before, what would we talk about? I only bring up this point to exemplify one of the biggest changes to my personality that I have experienced down in Bolivia. After 3 months of meeting new people almost everyday, I never get that same feeling. In fact I actually enjoy meeting new people. I know it sounds crazy even to me, but now I realize that with new people come new stories, and you never know what you are going to get to hear by talking to someone you’ve never met before.

So now the question arises: What are some of the things that I have done in these past 3 months, and what does the rest of my exchange hold for me? As there is no way that I could talk about every little thing, in this post I will just focus on one event that I found interesting. Last night I went the the Bolivian equivalent of Prom, but this Prom wasn’t quite like the kind you would see in the states. They call it “Graduacion,” and basically people invite their whole families and friends to come celebrate. I was invited with my host brother and father, because one of my cousins is graduating high school this year. Around 8 O’clock at night we all started to get ready. I put on a pair of dress pants, a button up shirt, and a tie, yet I was still under dressed! My whole family was wearing suits and elaborate dresses. I didn’t have the full outfit, but my family assured me I would be fine. At 9 we headed to the party, and when we arrived it was time for each graduating student to walk by accompanied by a parent, friend, or other while being filmed. We all clapped as they walked by, which in my opinion is a really beautiful tradition. After this, the band started playing and dinner was served. During and after eating food, there was a lot of dancing and socializing. By 2 in the morning my family found me on the dance floor and we headed out. I was a little surprised that Prom went so late, but the crazy thing is that the graduating class was planning on staying there until 5:30 in the morning, only to head off to another place to continue the festivities. All in all it was a great night!

Although I can’t deny that I have already had some of the most fun in my life in Bolivia, I know that the best is yet to come. As all of my friends and family from the US probably know Thanksgiving is right around the corner. While I do feel a little sad that I don’t get to do a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with my family, the Rotary club anticipated this and found a solution. On Thanksgiving day all of the exchange students are going to a house to have a potluck where we will cook a food from our own country. I am planning on making some homemade rolls, but I am still not entirely sure. It’s going to be a really fun night, and some of the exchange students from two other cities in Bolivia that we all got really close to are going to be joining us as well.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, in fact in just a little over a week from today, I will be leaving the city of Santa Cruz for a tour of Bolivia. From the time I got my first email from my Rotary club and heard about this trip I have been excited about it. I am going to have the opportunity to visit cities all across this beautiful country. I m going to go from the humid tropics of my own city, to the vineyards of Tarija, to Cochabamba, known as the city of eternal spring, to La Paz situated in the Andes mountain range, and being the capital city at the greatest elevation in the world. I’ll visit places like Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake on the globe, and Salar de Uyuni, the biggest salt flat on this planet, which is actually visible from space. All of this will be with some of the best friends that I have made in my life. Last year I knew a girl who went on exchange and she made a Facebook post saying something along the lines of “You can’t understand the bond that exchange students make together until you have been one yourself.” When I read it I believe I rolled my eyes thinking it was just some cheesy post, but now I think its true. I’ve known some of these people less than 3 months, yet I feel so close to so many of them. Because of that, this 10 day trip is going to be an experience to never forget. Of course I will take lots of pictures, although who knows if I will be able to post them until I get back.

Finally this brings me to the present. Today I slept in late, and when I woke up found out that we are having a churrasco, the Bolivian equivalent of a barbecue. It’s a pleasant sunny day, and soon the house will be filled with family and friends to enjoy some delicious meat and conversation. As it is mango season, I just finished collecting what must have been 50 juicy ripe mangoes, which will probably end up being our dessert. Life is good!


So basically everyone has told me that I haven’t been posting enough, and let’s be honest it’s true. Well now it is time to make up for it by posting two posts in just two days! So anyways, for the past couple days a few relatives of my host dad have been staying over at our house, and yesterday they went to one of the many markets here in Santa Cruz. There they bought a bunch of fruit, many of them that I had never seen in my whole life. The first fruit I tried was called chirimoya, which I put a picture of below.


It was so soft you could scoop it out of the peel with a spoon, and it had big black seeds that you had to pick out. Although I had never heard of it before, Mark Twain certainly had, and called it “The most delicious fruit known to man.” Next we tried another kind of acidic fruit that you popped out of the peel, to eat the white flesh inside that surrounded two big seeds. The last foreign fruit that I tried was the most strange of all. At first glance it looked like a couple of old leaves that had crumpled onto each other to make a roughly pyramid shaped object. In fact that’s kind of what it was, but once you peeled away the outer leaves, a little orange orb was revealed, roughly half the size of a cherry. I think I must of unwrapped about 50 of this little fruits, because they were the perfect combination of sweet and sour. Upon eating all of this food that I didn’t even know existed, I have bestowed a mission upon myself. I now have it in my head that I must go to a Bolivian market sometime soon with some friends, and try every fruit that I have never seen before. Of course I will see ordinary things like strawberries and papayas, but who knows what delicious flavors I am missing out on in the United States?three_physalis_fruits

The difference a year can make

Just about one year ago was when the seeds of world travel were planted in my mind. In fact before a year ago I had never even thought of it as a real possibility. A year ago I was looking at the program AFS, hoping to fly to Spain on the opposite end of the world as where I am today. How can so much have happened in just one measly year? If I had known 365 days ago where I would be now I wouldn’t believe it. Things can’t happen that fast right? You can’t just transform your whole life in the span of a few months? But you can, and I have. As a young child a year seemed like forever, and adults would always tell me “Just wait until you’re older and time will fly by.” This year most certainly has flown by, and the unbelievable thing is that in just one more year I will likely be sitting in college classes reflecting back on writing my applications in Bolivia, thinking there’s no way that another whole year has passed. But rather than worry about the elusiveness of time, this realization is a calling to me. An epiphany telling me to enjoy every last moment and get the most out of this short period of time that I get to be in Bolivia.