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!