I have completely not updated this blog in quite a while! So here we go.
I’ve been living in La Paz now for over six weeks. To be honest, writing that makes it feel like it’s flown by but really it does feel like a lifetime ago that I was meeting everyone at the airport.
I’m living in a neighbourhood in La Paz called Bolognia which is very quiet and peaceful. We are about a half hour’s minibus drive away from the main centre and about a 10 minute trufi ride (shared taxi) from the posher, pricier end of town but we don’t get stuck in the middle as we’re over a slight hill (someone accurately said we are literally over the hills and far away). I live with Cecilia, who is our extremely lovely host mum, Daniella, our host sister, and Saara who is another British volunteer. It’s a great little house and a fab place to live.
Each day I go to work at about 9:30am to the office which is in an area of La Paz called Sopocachi which is fairly touristy and there are plenty of great places to get snacks or lunch. Our days vary so much. We have had basically no communication from our partner organisation, the Department of Citizenship Culture (??!), since I last updated this blog so we have gone off piste and done our own thing. We have two team leaders, one Brit and one Bolivian and they have been really great with what has essentially been a crappy situation for them to be stuck in. They have been contacting all sorts of organisations across the city. Yesterday we had a really interesting meeting with a human rights organisation who had gathered a few of the main LGBT rights organisations in La Paz who then appealed for us to help them and asked us to think of ideas of how we can raise awareness and gain support for their mission to pass a law which allows same sex couples to raise a child. We brainstormed ideas today which we will present to them tomorrow.
We are continuing to work at Fundación Alternativa which is the allotments where families can grow fruit and veg to sell. It’s actually a really awarding project because each week you can really see how we’re making a positive change; there are already so many more raised flowerbeds now than when we started work there.
We have also been trying to work with an African-Bolivian organisation to help them but they have managed to cancel many meetings with us so far! Although there is one tonight to perhaps see if we can support them out in Las Yungas which is a jungle-y area near La Paz in the next few weeks.
What else? We have designed and painted a mural opposite a hospital and ran a few events in a popular square; on noise pollution and more recently for World Population day on refugees where people wrote down what they wanted for La Paz, had their photo taken with their answers and were given sunflowers to grow.
As per with this blog I should probably talk about the food we’ve been having here. Similar to Ecuador the staple meal seems to be meat and two carbs (rice and potatoes). On any street there will be about one hundred little chicken shops (broasterías) which sell delicious roast chicken with rice, fideo (a tasty sort of spaghetti), baked potato and plantains (savoury bananas) which costs less than £2 for a huge meal. Cecilia is a great cook so we get a bit more variety at home like curry, lentils, meatballs, chicken-y rice risottos etc.
After the first few weeks when we were advised against eating street food due to our delicate British stomachs we have now completely embraced it. Very popular here are salteñas which are sort of like pasties with a sweeter pastry filled with chicken or beef or vegetables. They’re tasty but I prefer the empanadas with puff pastry which are great. Also very popular are choripans which are just chorizo in a bread roll with some salsa and salad. Recently we’ve tried a new street food which are like deep fried salteñas but with a more curried filling and lovely. My personal favourite though is how on every corner there is a lady with a cart of oranges and a juicer who will sell you a pint of freshly squeezed orange juice for 7 Bolivianos which is about 70p. Fairly spoilt for choice really!
I’ve managed to get out of La Paz a couple of times now at the weekend. A few weeks ago we went to Coroico which is about 3 hours away and in a jungle-y area in the mountains. It was fairly warm, about 25 degrees and just lovely and relaxing. We stayed in a hotel for £5 each a night which had a lovely pool and we found a wonderful restaurant which had delicious food, cocktails and hammocks so I managed to while away three days there essentially. The views were stunning and it was a perfect way to relax.
Myself and a couple of others have also walked up to the Muela Del Diablo which is a rocky formation on the mountain horizon at the rim of the bowl of La Paz. It took us about 3 hours to walk up to the top and we had incredible views of La Paz and the surrounding areas. We had got almost all the way down when one of the girls went over on her ankle. We had to hail a taxi and then a very friendly local wheeled her down the last 10 metres to the road in a wheelbarrow! She didn’t break it but she’s had it wrapped up and been walking with a cast since then.
Last weekend I managed to get to Lake Titicaca. We had to take a minibus from La Paz to Copacabana which took 3 hours, followed by an hour and a half trip on a boat to Isla del Sol where we walked up an extremely steep hill at very high altitude to the village at the top. It was completely worth it. I had the most magical weekend sipping pineapple juice and looking across the lake which is absolutely vast at the snow-topped Andean mountains in the distance. It’s so understandable why it’s thought to be the birthplace of the Incas; I’ve never seen such a massive lake be so still.
It’s been a great six weeks and although I can’t wait to get home and eat some decent cheese and have Marmite on toast, I will really miss this whole experience.
Lots of love,