Day 6 – Work and play

August 21, 2013

 Today we had our second round at the jobsite. We got up nice and early, had Coco Puffs and Fruit Loops for breakfast, and then made the short trek over to the Concha. Today our focus was creating a level surface for the playground area as well as preparing the space behind the bleachers for concrete. About half way through some of the students at the Center invited us to play some soccer. They were a lot better than us even though they were so much younger! Some of the student’s parents came today and helped us shovel, pick, and wheelbarrow. They were so productive and hard working, and even helped us with our Spanish. We all took lots of breaks and drank lots of water, as it is quite hot here in Bolivia. All of us came back to the scout hall this afternoon both happy and very tired.  

                Later we got to spend some time with the Cochabamba Interact club as well as roughly 10 local Rotarians. We played games and got to know the other kids. They showed us a game called captain on deck, which was somewhat like Simon Says. Then we showed them the ever so popular “Kungfu Panda” which was a big hit. They were very kind and their English was good, so we had no problem making new friends. We got their names for Facebook and gave them ours, so later we will be able to talk to them more. Although at the beginning of the evening while waiting for the Interctors to arrive, many of us just wanted to go to bed and even some were hoping that our company would not show up. However, we were all so happy that we stayed up, met new friends.

                At the end of the day we were all tired and ready for bed. We got a lot done at the jobsite and made lots of friends. We all can’t wait for tomorrow and are excited to see how the Concha turns out.

 – Derek

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Day 3 – Day in Santa Cruz, Bolivia

August 17, 2013

Although many people had mixed feelings about our long travel to Bolivia, the opinions of our first day in this fascinating country were all the same; hard laughs, lots of sun, relaxation and lots of excitement for the trip to come.

The day started with a small, simple breakfast of bread, grilled cheese, juice, coffee and tea in our hotel. For most of us this was our first opportunity to try coca tea. Most found that we liked the taste quite a bit and we’ll have no problem drinking it during the rest of our trip.

Today Juan Carlos and the rest of the leaders planned a day at the ecological center just outside of Santa Cruz. Our bus picked us up early in the morning and we headed out.  Juan Carlos had picked up a bag of coca leaves and each of us got a chance to try them for the first time as well. He explained how to use the coca leaf and its useful properties. To use the leaf you have to rip out the stem then place it on your tongue, allowing it to absorb some moisture. Then moving it to your cheek and sucking on it. Although the majority of people didn’t mind or even liked the taste of the leaf some commented in the beginning that it tasted like tree bark or pet food. By the end of the day however many people were requesting more leaves to chew on.

By the time we got to the ecological center everyone was ready to look around. We had booked a tour which would show us around several different species in the center. We started with the butterfly building which had many different species which were quite bright and exotic looking. On our way to the turtle habitat we stopped by a couple small bee farms of bees native to Bolivia. It was interesting to see the turtles interacting with each other and eat their food. The bird sanctuary connected to the turtle habitat and there we saw many species of birds including toucans, peacocks as well as red and blue macaws. Many of the birds were so colorful and bright that we thought that they were stuffed or plastic. Although everyone really enjoyed the exhibits we saw everybody’s favourite part of the tour was when we spotted a sloth which had climbed in to the turtle habitat to share their food. Everyone got lots of great pictures as the sloth climbed up the bridge to meet us. After our tour it was time for lunch.

Lunch was served buffet style in the restaurant of the center. They offered everything from fried eggs to tortellini to hot dogs as well as a variety of salads, rices, potato dishes and local vegetables such  oca, yucca and achgcha which were grilled and stuffed with cheese. Everybody ate lots and enjoyed everything, particularly Steven. Steven piled his plate extremely high with a large selection of all the foods. He explained to the group while digging through his food that he was like an “archaeologist of food” or as he preferred “farchaeologist”. Everybody left the table laughing and very full. As we were leaving the table the staff handed out two tickets each to go to the dessert hut. Everybody went and chose from a selection of ice cream, pastries and cheesecake.

Our afternoon was free of plans so we were given the option of many activities offered at the center. Many people walked around revisiting the animals and walking over to “Monkey Island”: a small island in the middle of the lagoon which is inhabited by two different species of monkeys. Everyone agreed that the monkeys were adorable however everybody was happy for the distance of water that was between us and them. As well, people rode carriages in a tour around the center. The center also offers kayaking in a small pond and the use of their 10 pools. For many people, pool hopping became the activity of the afternoon (we are all proud to say that many of us swam in all 10, no matter how cold). Also, towards the ending of our afternoon a group of interactors got together and played a game of beach volleyball. Shortly in to the game, a group of Santa Cruz locals came up and joined the teams. Everyone involved agreed that it was a really fun way to be introduced to Bolivian people. Pastries, coffee and tea were then served in the restaurant, before we returned to our hotel.

On our way back to our hotel, Juan Carlos brought us to the center square of Santa Cruz or as he explained “the heart of the city”. While walking around  square, we were introduced to big parts of  Bolivian culture; family, friends and religion. It was cool to see Bolivians relaxing in day to day life, however many of the reaction to a big group of white teenaged tourists were funny at times. Everyone that we met were extremely friendly and happy to see us.

Of course, an interact trip wouldn’t be the same without some loud, highly off key singing.  So, on our way back from the square to the hotel some Avril Lavigne broke out closely followed by Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and Don’t Stop Believing.

Once we returned to the hotel we were given an hour of quiet time which people took to write in their journals, listen to music, lay down or in the case of some of the boys, juggle and climb trees. After our quiet time it was time for dinner.

We walked for about 10 minutes to a local Bolivian pizza restaurant. For anyone questioning the validity of Bolivian pizza, don’t worry so were we.  We ordered a bunch of pizzas and all were delicious. Everybody laughed so hard at dinner that we left the restaurant with slight headaches and sore cheeks.

We returned to the hotel ready to get into bed. Unfortunately, the club beside us played loud Bolivian music until 3am. Although the music was really good and it was cool to hear that part of Bolivian culture, many of us were still quite sleepy in the morning.

Today was a perfect day of relaxing, eating good food, connecting as a group and introducing ourselves to Bolivia. Hopefully the days to come will be as good as this one.  Looking forward to getting to Cochabamba tomorrow after the nine hours of driving!

Ecological Park

 

Swimming in one of the ten pool at the ecological park

Swimming in one of the ten pool at the ecological park.

Day 5 – The work begins!

August 20, 2013

Today we went to Cereco Center for the first time to meet the children and the workers. They greeted us with cards, flags, hugs and lots of excitement. Mike and Geoff briefed us on the project and what we would be doing for the next few days. We started work this morning on pulling out tires, transporting rubble from the broken cement, making molds for the retaining wall, and transplanting various trees and shrubs. It’s a very big project for us but everyone is working so hard to get the job done that it is still possible. The scout hall where we are staying is a block away from our worksite; it’s so close that we can see the project from our windows! We have been divided into groups to do work around the scout hall during the day. We do things such as dishes, sweeping bedrooms, and cleaning the bathrooms and showers. Even though it’s winter in Bolivia it’s still very hot outside which makes the work we are doing tiring. Some people already feel the effects of the elevation and are losing their breath quickly, having headaches, and becoming tired easily. We may become tired quickly also because we are working so hard, we’ve actually broken a large portion of the shovels and pick axes within the first few hours!

Around 12:30 we walked back to the scout hall to have lunch, wash dishes, and have our quiet time. At 2pm we all went back to Cereco to finish up the day’s work. We dug up all of the tires that were in the ground, transplanted all of the trees and shrubs, and we finished moving all of the concrete rubble, which we thought was going to take 2 weeks! At 3:30pm a few Interactors from the Cochabamba club came to the worksite to get to know us better and help out with finishing our tasks. Near the end of the day we started mixing the concrete for the jungle gyms and plan on continuing the concrete work tomorrow.

Once we finished up at the job site we returned to the scout hall and had showers which felt oh so good! After the long, hot day of working hard we were covered in dirt and very grateful for the showers, even though there was no hot water. Later on, we had our dinner which was cooked by people from a local restaurant. We finished up dinner, cleaned up the dishes and had some time to relax a little bit. Then we went to bed.

– Noah and Israel

Some of the  adults at the center working on some crafts

Some of the adults at the center working on some crafts

 

students and adults at the Center presented each of us with a lei type necklace, a Bolivian flag and a picture

students and adults at the Center presented each of us with a lei type necklace, a Bolivian flag and a picture

 

Kids from the Center greeting us upon  our  arrival

Kids from the Center greeting us upon our arrival

 

The work site-we will help pour a new concrete slab for games, but we need to move all the dirt and old broken concrete first-there  are about 4 more large piles of dirt behind the other piles

The work site-we will help pour a new concrete slab for games, but we need to move all the dirt and old broken concrete first-there are about 4 more large piles of dirt behind the other piles

 

Natasha gathering up pieces  concrete

Natasha gathering up pieces concrete

 

Wren sweeping up pieces of concrete

Wren sweeping up pieces of concrete

 

 

Day 4 – Traveling by bus

August 19, 2013 

Today was Cole Chernoff’s 15th birthday. We woke up bright and early, loaded all our suitcases back onto the bus, and then went for breakfast. During breakfast we sang Cole Happy Birthday and gave him the card that all the Interactors and leaders signed as well as a beautifully decorated cake.

After breakfast we all rushed out to the buses and began our journey to Cochabamba. After about 20 minutes of driving, we stopped to switch onto our new bus. We took all of our stuff off the old bus and loaded it onto our new double decker bus. We then started our 10 hour bus ride. After driving for about 2 and half hours we stopped to eat lunch at Yapacana. For lunch we were served three courses, a peanut or noodle soup, chicken, rice and yucca, and a Bolivian desert. After lunch we continued our drive, and the scenes that we saw while driving were quite beautiful. We drove through country side that looked very tropical and saw many small towns.

While in one of the small towns most of the Interactors went and bought themselves some big bags of Coca leaves to help them with the change in altitude. We were all surprised at the amount of stray dogs there were along the road, either sleeping or wandering around. The most famous pass time for us on the bus was definitely playing cards and having random outbreaks of singing. Everywhere you looked on the bus there were groups playing games of Egyptian War, Crazy 8’s, speed, and many, many more. Some of us sat as a group at the top front of the bus and watched the road and the scenery. We came to the conclusion that driving in Bolivia is basically like a huge game of chicken as we almost hit multiple vehicles, a chicken, and a pig. For fear of getting altitude sickness Wren drank more than 6 big bottles of Coca Tea and water so she was probably in the bathroom more than 12 times and ate many coca leaves. When we finally saw Cochabamba in the distance, excitement came upon all of us…we had finally arrived.

Once we made it to the scout hall where we would be staying for the duration of the project, we had to get the luggage off the bus and drag them all up 3 flights of stairs. By this time everyone was beyond starving. After getting ourselves settled and our room assignments, we ate some chicken, rice, noodles and sandwiches. We then sang Cole Happy Birthday again, and ate the cake we had gotten for him. Joining us at dinner were various representatives from the Rotary clubs that included the Presidents of the Interact and Rotaract clubs from Cochabamba. We all helped with the cleanup and then went and cleaned ourselves up before going to bed. What we all had expected to be a long boring bus ride actually turned out to be a very eventful and fun day. Everyone is now VERY excited to begin working on our project tomorrow morning.

– Ashlee and Anna

Coca leaves

Buying coca leaves from a street vendor for 50 cents a bag

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Day 2 – Traveling by plane round 2

August 17, 2013

We arrived bright and early in Miami after our red-eye flight from Seattle. We had 8 hours to kill in Miami airport before our next flight later that day. It seemed as though everyone dispersed very quickly to find some breakfast! After people had filled up we all chose different activities to help the layover pass more quickly. Some people decided to go do a little bit of shopping while others just wanted to explore the airport and be able to move around. However a large group of us decided that sleep would be the best thing for us, so we set up camp on the airport floor, literally. Derek used quilts, blankets and suitcases to build a little tent! But it was short lived as people needed to get into their suitcases. The layover passed relatively quickly between sleeping, exploring and trying to complete Geoff’s Scavenger Hunt through the Miami airport. The Scavenger Hunt included a list of several random things that we had to find and take pictures of. Each group did a great job and enjoyed the prize at the end…Chocolate for everyone!

We finally departed from Miami at about 2:30pm on our last flight for the day. We flew from Miami to La Paz, Bolivia where we stopped for about an hour to let passengers off, let others on, and refuel the plane. After our short pit-stop we flew to Santa Cruz.
Then came the difficult part, getting 46 suitcases, 23 carry-on’s, 23 quilts, and 23 very tired people through customs and loaded onto two tiny buses. But with some cooperation we successfully made it to our hotel by 1:30am.

– Israel Millar

(No photos from today! I guess they were too busy travelling)

Day 1 – Travelling by plane

August 16, 2013

It was bittersweet leaving home today. There was excitement for Bolivia but we didn’t want to say goodbye to our beds, houses, showers, fridges, pets, friends and family. We arrived at the Spokane airport with our quilts, two suitcases filled with donated clothing (thank-you to all those that donated) for the people of Bolivia.  We also had our carry-on luggage which was packed so full we had to get our siblings to sit on them so that they would close. We got our tickets, took a group picture with all forty-something suitcases and said our last goodbye to our loved ones. There were some tears but we all knew that we would have no time to miss them with all the fun we would be having. We breezed through security and started our adventure of a lifetime.

The plane ride to Seattle was short and sweet. We mostly chatted and played cards for the hour that we were on the flight. Before we knew it we were in Seattle! We had a two hour layover which gave us time to eat and make sure we were prepared for the next six hour flight to Miami. Unfortunately it was already dark, but looking out across the changing landscape of America was still cool. You could see little glowing patches across the horizon, and you would wonder which city it was below and who was living in it. Some of us succeeded in sleeping but most people were awake the majority of the flight. Excitement built when we peeked out the window and saw on one side of the plane, the rising sunset, and on the other, the lights of Miami. It was finally hitting us that we weren’t in Canada anymore. Our blue t-shirt prompted lots of questions from travelers and we were happy to share information about our project. All in all it has been a wonderful start to the trip and we are very excited to start our project and begin helping people in need!

Lots of love, 

Raissa Chernoff and Jessica Trickey

Day 1 - Traveling by plane

Day 1 – Traveling by plane

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