Another completely packed week!

Hi everyone!

I’m writing this right at the end of my second week in La Paz! Still no wifi so posts are a bit few and far between.

So last weekend we went along to the big (very fancy) driver’s school, which is part of this weird car club in a posh part in La Paz. It was really well received and, unlike in England where if you ask a question out to a group of people they stay fairly awkwardly silent, here everyone was very keen to give their opinions on the issue of noise pollution.

The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing really- we visited the Megacentre which is down the road and so big it’s almost a joke. You can buy literally anything you can think of, there’s an ice rink, a HUGE cinema, a bowling alley, casino and laser tag. Madness. There’s also a big cafeteria style thing which everyone was in and you could basically get whatever food you fancy.

We had the morning off on Monday because we worked Saturday morning but when we met in the afternoon we were spreading awareness about our event we were carrying out in a square on Tuesday. We literally had to go right up to people with our little signs and tell them about the event. Good Spanish practice but any shyness/awkwardness had to go out the window!

Tuesday was the day of the event. We had our two tents set up showing the polluted La Paz (dark, lots of clouds which we had info on, a bonfire in the middle) and a tent which was showing a La Paz free of pollution where we had a guitar, cushions, flowers and even a legit hippy who overstayed his welcome maybe a tad at the end sort-of playing the guitar! People were really interested and impressed with what we did and I had people congratulating us and shaking my hand!

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Wednesday we started the day with a language exchange with the Bolivian volunteers from the other groups with International service. Most of them speak great English, with a few exceptions! So it was a good experience. We then had a day on how to deliver a workshop and we got into groups and delivered a workshop to each other at the end of the day. Ours was on gender, there was one on the environment and one on human rights too.

On Thursday our team leader told us that we aren’t having much (if any) communication really with our partner organisation in La Paz which is obviously not ideal but does mean that we can branch out a little in the things that we are doing. Our project is officially called ‘Ciudadanos del Mundo’ which means citizens of the world and is basically to do with citizenship culture and awareness and rights and such. So we’re making workshops on whatever we really fancy, such as female empowerment, employability, rights, sexuality etc. and we have lots of contacts with other charities in the city who are really keen for us to work with them and for us to deliver the workshops to them which is great!!

Sadly I was ill on Thursday night/Friday so I missed work which was a weird feeling; I think we’ve all been completely rushed off our feet for the last couple of weeks almost every single one of us has got ill at some point!

It was the gay pride march in La Paz last night which apparently only the second one they’ve ever had here and the last one was 4 years ago! We all went along, got our hats and all marched behind our International Service banner. It was loads of fun and tonnes of people turned out to watch, we were quite the spectacle. Being actively gay is legal in Bolivia but most people are quite religious and are not quite round to the idea yet so it was a big moment for La Paz to have such a big turn out. There were amazing drag queens left, right and centre who were basically amazing.

So that’s been my week, more or less. I’m starting to know La Paz a bit more now and it definitely feels like it’s shrinking in size as I figure out how to get around. The minibuses are madness, they have landmarks they pass on their fronts and are jam packed with people all the time and you just flag them down wherever you fancy. The Teleférico continues to amaze me and they’re having another 6 or so routes of that put in in over the next 5 years which will be really impressive.

Today we got the Teleferico up to El Alto, which is this massive town at the top of the hill and basically merged with La Paz now where there was an absolutely GINORMOUS market. I mean, you could buy anything for next to no money at all from tyres and cars to clothes hangers and roast chicken. There was every sticker you could fancy for your car, like a taxi one to start your illegitimate business, strange sewing staple things, churros and hot dogs, coats and dresses, cafes and places to buy your furniture and curtains. Crazy. We were beyond knackered at the end though, it was such a big place.

Tonight we’re off out with Cecilia, our host mum, for dinner in the south part of La Paz which will be lovely. I’m having a great time out here and it feels like it’s flying by already!!

More photos soon!

Lots of love,

Katie xxx

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I’m in La Paz!

Hi everyone!

I’ve been in La Paz for all of four days now and haven’t had ten seconds to write a quick blog! It’s been crazy.

I left England on Saturday afternoon… twenty hours later we touched down in the La Paz airport! Fair to say we were all exhausted; we had been on three separate flights. We only had a couple of hours between when our long-haul flight landed and when the small internal flight to La Paz took off. There was a massive queue for passport control and we ended up all completely legging it to the TINY plane which couldn’t even take all of our bags! Santa Cruz (the town we landed in) is in the jungle so we were so warm and gross! Hahha!

We flew over the beautiful Andes mountains coming into La Paz and landed at the airport which is a few hundred metres above the city itself at a massive town (almost city) called El Alto. It was FREEZING cold! But very bright, we were above the clouds!

We got a minibus down to the International Service office and saw some of the most beautiful views of La Paz. La Paz is basically situated in a bowl and we were on the rim so the views were ridiculous. We could see the snow-topped mountains at the other side too!

At the office we met our host families. I’m living with two very lovely British volunteers and with Cecilia and her daughter Dani (who is a volunteer for the second time with International Service). They are so kind and welcoming, genuinely could not ask for more, they have been so lovely. We are living in quite a quiet area which is about half an hour by car to the office but the commute is so much fun it doesn’t matter! There is a cable car (Teleférico) here which costs 3 Bolivianos (about 30p) to take you above the city! It’s like the Underground in the air! And obviously INCREDIBLE views. Just cannot believe everyone uses it as transport and not just as a wonderful tourist-y way to see the city.

We had a rest and some comforting pizza that night with the family and then we had a day off to wander about the city on Monday. The three of us went off to a busy square where we had lunch and explored a bit. We went to the Coca museum and found the witches market with all the seriously creepy dried alpaca foetuses which are buried under new houses for good luck…

On Tuesday we had some more of introductions to the projects. We heard a bit about all of them as well as a talk from the police and other talks about security and such. We also met the Bolivian volunteers who are in the same projects as us. They seem really nice and are as keen to learn English as we are to learn Spanish so it should be fun!

The next day the people on my project were thrown into work! We have a Bolivian and a British team leader. This Saturday we are carrying out a couple of workshops at the biggest driving school in La Paz relating to noise pollution so we planned that out as well as designing a couple of tents which we will have in the centre of the city on Tuesday, once which will be ‘A Polluted La Paz’ and the other ‘A Pollution-free La Paz’. We went for a big team lunch to get to know everyone some more too.

Today we carried out the surveys we had put together the day before (for information for Tuesday!) in a couple of parks in the city. We were paired up, each British volunteer with a Bolivian volunteer. We asked questions such as ‘do you consider noise pollution to be a problem in La Paz?’ and then disagree strongly to agree strongly. Everyone considered it to be a big problem and even some people who when we asked if they had time to answer some questions weren’t keen until we told them it was related to noise pollution. Lots of people consider it to be a huge issue in La Paz and mainly just due to lack of education and respect for other drivers or pedestrians. It was all really interesting to be able to see just how important the work we will be doing actually will affect the people living in the city. In the the afternoon we brainstormed ideas on how to raise awareness for noise pollution (please like the facebook page!) and also what workshops to give at places around La Paz; one for boys aged 2-17 who may be orphans or have horrible pasts involving abuse or anything really. They live there full time. There is also the same for girls of the same age and also one called ‘Casa de Refugio’ which is for teenage girls who have their own babies; they can be from 11-17. I think it will be a really special experience to be able to give workshops on nutrition, hygiene, employability, self-esteem and the like.

Back at the house now, we are getting wifi put in either tomorrow or Monday so that should be good. We also have a big welcome party on Saturday evening when all the families with their volunteers gather at one house and we all present something from each house. We are going to do a traditional Bolivian dance in traditional dress and everything! So we’ll see how that goes….

I really hope to be able to update this blog more regularly once the wifi is in place and I can put up some photos. I don’t have too many yet and none which quite show just how jaw-dropping the view is but I will keep trying to capture it!

Lots of love from Bolivia!

Katie xxx

Finishing my live below the line challenge!

Hi everyone!

Today is day 5 of my five day live below the line challenge and I’m fairly relieved! It’s definitely been extremely difficult and I probably would change everything I bought (maybe that’s just because I’m so sick of it all now!). The frozen veg was far too expensive for how much of it I actually used and also plain rice with tasteless frozen veg was so so nasty, worse than I could have imagined! I only used half of my bag of porridge but I was aware of this beforehand and exchanged the leftover for salt and pepper as seasonings, which was handy for my soup.

Thank you so so so much for all your support and generous donations you’ve already given. I am so truly grateful and it’s made the whole thing worthwhile (almost!!?). If you’d still like to donate that’d be amazing and the link is here.

Here’s a photo of my food that I’ve had today, my last bowl of tasteless porridge and my tomato/kidney bean mix which was actually tasty and I’m feeling full for the first time in the whole challenge!

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And below is a photo of some of the food (and tea!!) which has been right under my nose!

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Ahhhh! Struggles!

Anyway a massive massive thank you to everyone for your support. It’s kept me sane.

Lots of love,

Katie xox

Day 2. Going out of my mind.

Hi everyone again!

Just thought I’d update you on how I’m getting on with my live below the line challenge. It’s hard. Really really hard. I’m finding that even though before the challenge started I’ve always been one to talk endlessly about food, now it is literally all I ever talk or think about.

I think the main problem is that I just cannot stand all this bland food (and the fact that I really really hate porridge). My lunch today was rice with those frozen mixed veg and I only managed to eat about a third of it before I succumbed to utter boredom. There really is only so much boring plain rice you can eat in one go.

I’ve managed to make 3 carrots into a soup which I’m hoping to make last 3 days, going well so far and I’ve made a lot of chapattis which are basically all I seem to really be eating!

Also a MASSIVE thank you to all of you wonderful, kind, generous people who have already sponsored me for this. I’m so grateful. I was having a very low moment earlier on today and feeling rubbish when I saw someone donated onto my page again and I realised it really is all for a great cause and revived myself and kept on going! If you would like to donate, this is my justgiving page.

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Day 1: Terrible porridge, otherwise fine. Fear that I wouldn’t be able to do it kicking in!

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Day 2: Porridge was gross, as per, rice was awful and bland and soup the highlight of the day! Missing variety so much!

Lots of love,

Katie xox

I’m back!

Hello everyone and welcome back!!

This summer I am embarking on a brand new challenge. Back in February I applied to the International Citizenship Service programme (ICS). This is an organisation which is funded almost wholly by the UK government (DFID) and is associated with the United Nations. I got through the first application process and was invited to an assessment day in London in April. There a small group of us did some teamwork exercises and discussed various scenarios that we were given. I had no idea if I had got through to the programme. However, I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the ICS programme and I was placed with a company who ICS work with call International Service and I’m off to Bolivia in June!!

International Service works with ICS with a mission to empower groups of marginalised people and promote their human rights. They work with organisations and charities which already exist in the countries and do valuable research as well as hands-on work for them too. I was at my training day in York earlier this week.

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My project that I will be involved with in Bolivia is called ‘Zebras for a Silent La Paz’. Us volunteers will be working with the Bolivian Department for Citizen Culture and the Zebras. The zebras are well-known figures on the streets of La Paz and teach about noise pollution, traffic awareness and safety and cultural citizenship and respect, amongst others. The zebras themselves are generally made up of people from La Paz and from disadvantaged backgrounds aged 15-21(ish). We also work with local community centres and hospitals to talk about health awareness etc. This is the volunteer blog for the people currently working on the zebra project in La Paz: http://zebras.internationalservice.org.

A huge part of the ICS programme is integration in the community. Each of us volunteers with have a Bolivian counterpart volunteer who we will most likely be living with in a host family’s home. We will be completely immersed in the culture. Hopefully my Spanish will improve in leaps and bounds!

Although the British governments funds the majority of the placements for us, each volunteer needs to raise £800 for the charity, International Service, themselves. None of this money goes to my flights or expenses, it’s all straight to the charity to support the great work they do. To do this I am going to be ‘living below the line’ for 5 days. This means that for each day I will only pay £1 for food. I bought my food today for the next 5 days and I’m feeling very very apprehensive.

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As a couple of people have pointed out, Sainsbury’s probably wasn’t the best idea but all the more of a challenge for me!

I’m now at home, having finished my first year of university and I know there will massive temptations everywhere food-wise. I think everyone who has read any of this blog before knows that I am, quite frankly, obsessed with food so this is one of the biggest challenges I could do! I’m very nervous indeed!

I would absolutely love it if any of you could spare anything at all, every 1p helps! I have set up a justgiving page which is here.

Thank you SO much for the support!

Lots of love,
Katie xoxox

Sunshine on Koh Chang

Rachel and I have been on Koh Chang for nearly a week now. Once the first few days of rain got out the way there was ridiculous sunshine! We spent days on the beach and the warm warm sea. One day we rented a motorbike to Bang Bao where there is a massive pier with shops and restaurants all along it. We stopped for some seafood there. I had a shrimp, pineapple and coconut spicy curry which was sooooo tasty!! We also found a nice little beach a bit further round too.

The bungalow has been amazing and the view of the ocean is still amazing everyday!

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There are lots and lots of monkeys on the island which just hang about on the road or on telephone wires. Sometimes they eat all the fruit in the trees next to the restaurant and stare at us…

It’s been an amazing few weeks travelling. We are about to get on a bus to start the 36 hour journey home… We are literally getting a bus, boat, plane, train and car! Impressive I think. Can’t believe quite how quickly the time has gone!

Lots of love

Katie xxx

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A really weird bus journey and heavenly sunset bungalows!

We left Phnom Penh so very early the next morning on our coach to Koh Chang, back in Thailand. We were on this coach for about 7 hours. It was bizarre. There were three children sat in the seats in front of us who leaned their chairs right back and stared at us over the top of them. One girl was probably only inches from Rachel’s face! So that was intense… No sleeping! Also there was a strange man who wore sunnies in the rain who literally sat for 5 hours of the journey with a tiny fluffy white rabbit ON HIS SHOULDER. We were all confusion. And then for the last couple of hours brought out ANOTHER one which sat on the other shoulder. Sooooo strange! He was acting all casual, as if it’s totally normal to have a bunny on each shoulder for a 7 hour bus journey.

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We crossed over back into Thailand and got in a minibus, which took us to the ferry point. This ferry was only barely afloat, it was all rust and creaking. A bit concerning. It was also drizzling with rain and there was a very strong breeze! We finally arrived to the island, got back in the minibus and were hurtled to our hotel. Walked up a steep little path to where we are staying. It is literally one of the nicest places I’ve ever stayed! Rachel and I have a little bungalow with a hammock! There’s an open air restaurant which overlooks the sea and has sunset views (apparently! We arrived in the dark last night!). We had a really tasty dinner, I had a delicious blueberry milkshake, and then to bed!

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Up this morning late-ish. Had a shower in our bathroom which doesn’t have a roof!!! It’s pretty cool. Then yummy breakfast when we could actually see the sea! We then walked down into the village and the beach. It’s a pretty rainy day today so we all seem to have taken refuge in this little restaurant/bar place with big cushions to sit cross legged on. Tasty pineapple milkshake too. Yumm!

Lots of love!

Katie xxx