Journals of our Bolivian Adventure

Trip Journal Introduction 

 After 18 months of fundraising, collecting clothes, learning rudimentary Spanish and about Bolivia we are off to Cochabamba, Bolivia.  The objectives that we have set for ourselves are to deliver clothing to the poorest children of Bolivia, get to know and play with orphan children in Bolivia, view various projects of the local Rotarians and fund the development of an orphanage in Bolivia.

We are going to spend 10 days working in the Amistad Mission in Cochabamba.  During this time we will be completely sanding, filling and painting a residence of some of the children, clearing an area where their septic field is and building brick walls in the area to improve the drainage, and build a rock wall in their play area.

We had spent many evenings during the past three weeks packing suitcases with clothing donated by the citizens of the West Kootenays.  Each suitcase was pack several times in order to get them to weigh approximately 47 lbs (the maximum weight allowed on the flight is 50 lbs).  We, the travelers, can only take our carry on suitcases for ourselves.  In addition we have packed 100 quilts (3-5 per person) produced and donated USCC quilters in pillowcases and are using these as pillows (very large ones) when we travel.

In order to get the most inexpensive flight cost our travel is horrendous.  We leave Castlegar on Thursday morning and arrive in Santa Cruz, Bolivia at 9:30 pm Friday night.  Because of the massive amount of luggage destined for the poor children in Bolivia the local airlines would not connect us to Cochabamba without a significant cost ($US 40 per bag plus a similar amount for each carryon).

We decided to instead spend 2 days as tourists while traveling to Cochabamba.  This would enable us to get some sleep, see part of the country and save the cost on the baggage.

Trip Journal Day 1 – written by Amanda

We’re off! Everyone assembled on time with smiles on their faces at the Spokane airport. All our bags were weighed, repacked and labeled twice. It was chaotic to say the least. Then it was into security to wait for our first flight to Seattle. And it was not a fun wait. We had an uneventful flight to Seattle (it was only an hour long); then we had more downtime in that airport. After a couple hours of Uno and airport food it was onto the next flight…bound for Dallas/Fort Worth. Everyone was tired, but too excited to sleep for the most part.

 

Trip Journal Day 2 – written by Heather

 

All the flights went smoothly, until Dallas airport where our flight got delayed one and a half hours because of thunderstorms. The rain was falling practically horizontal and the lightning illuminated the entire place. Although the weather was hideous in Dallas, Miami was hot and humid. Many people asked about/ commented on our shirts. Good coverage for the group! Our flight from Miami to Santa Cruz was fairly eventful. Firstly, we had a late lunch/ early dinner. We were all so hungry we never really tasted it, but I don’t imagine it tasted good. After we ate most people watched a movie; however, it was interrupted by another passenger who was snoring incredibly loud. The 6.5 hour flight went by moderately quickly and when we got of the plane there was a group of people with medical masks on. Also, we saw many people wearing sweaters and touques like what we wear in 15 below, while we wore t-shirts and shorts. Following customs we met Juan Carlos, the Rotarian from Cochabamba who is helping us, and then we made our way by bus to Hotel Felimar. After an exhausting day of planes, buses and lugging around 100 lbs of clothes and quilts each we made our way around the streets of Santa Cruz on foot. Some blocks down from our hotel there was an ice cream place that also had gelato. As scrumptious as the dessert was, it may not have been the best idea because we didn’t fall asleep until 2:30 and we had an early morning to look forward to.

 

P.S. – Hackett family: I hope you read this, thinking of you and missing you all! Have safe travels you guys!

 

Trip Journal Day 3 – written by Sierra

 

Our first full day in Santa Cruz was one of adventure as we experienced the colourful sights and sounds of the city. The day began with breakfast at 8:00am and went off with a bang, literally, as one of the Rotarians had her chair disintegrate right from under her and ended up landing on the floor. After this little episode, we began a tour around Santa Cruz, which included walking through the pigeon-filled central square and through one of the many intricately designed cathedrals. We then hopped on the bus and drove through the streets viewing the many statues of local war heroes. We say first-hand how crazy the local driving can be. Then we were told some facts about the various geographical regions in Bolivia along with the different people residing in them. A quick stop at one of the many local vendors and everyone was able to sample some delicious coconut juice. While stopping at a little outdoor market we had our first taste of fame as we had the fortune of being interviewed by the local news station. Following this, we took a walk through another, more crowded market where you could find anything from fresh produce and spices to llama fetus. It was very crowded as we had to maneuver our way past several people pushing wheelbarrows of produce. Then we went and had lunch, which consisted of a traditional Bolivian meal of steak, rice, veggies and yuca (type of potato). After we couldn’t eat anymore, it was off to the local Biocentre where we took a tour of the different vegetation and animals such as the butterflies, turtles, parrots and peacocks. Some of us were even brave enough to hold a tarantula! We got a little wet as we kayaked through the lagoon and swam in the beautiful swimming pools. Then it was back to the hotel where we took a little siesta. As supper approached, we wandered the streets looking for a place to eat and came across a pizzeria. From both lunch and supper we had leftovers so we began looking for people on the streets who could use a meal. After a quick stop at the hotel, we went back out. Some of us decided to go to Dumbo and have an ice cream, while the rest of us walked back through the central square where a concert was being held. We also came across local artisans displaying their paintings. Being that it was Saturday night the streets were filled with locals. As the night came to an end and we were back at the hotel, we could still hear the music playing in the streets as fireworks went off.  What an ending to such an exciting day here in Santa Cruz, Bolivia!

 

 

Day 4- Jungle- Tay’s journal                

 

This morning we forced our belongings into our bags as our stay in Santa Cruz came to an end.  We were met at the front of the hotel by a fleet of taxi drivers. These taxis would transport us and our mountain of luggage to the bus station. After only a few pulse quickening moments of Bolivian taxi driving we arrived at the bus station very relieved to have made it safely. As palm trees whiz by our bus seat windows, I look forward to an exciting day in the jungle.

We arrived at our hotel in the Chapare jungle. The long driveway to the hotel was too narrow for the bus to negotiate and therefore we had to unload the now hated suitcases of clothing to lug them 150 meters to the hotel.  Fortunately the owner was able to convince one of the guests to let us use his pick up truck.  Three trips later and many mosquito bites (we weren’t expecting to have to put this on for a few minutes longer) we had the luggage in the lobby where it was stored for the night.  The humidity of the jungle hit us immediately.

My cabin sits on top of a cliff over looking a large river beneath. We spent the afternoon walking to an animal reserve where we saw and pet several kinds of cute and interesting monkeys. Following the monkey visit was a sweaty hike up a mountain to see the view of the city, jungle and river below. Dinner at 8:00 pm was fried egg sandwiches.  We then played some card games and a battle of capture the flag in the dark coconut field ended our day in the jungle.

PS: Miss you Mum, Dad and Katie. xo

 

Trip Journal Day 5 – written by Carly

 

This morning we all woke up at 7:00 am to the sound of people knocking on our doors. Wake up call! This was the final day of travel on our way to Cochabamba. We started the beautiful morning off by going to La Jungla where we got to go on many different swings and a zip line. First everyone went on the lowest swing and next the zip line. After we had fun on those two activities we went for a walk to the other three swings. One was about 4 m, one was 12 m, and the highest was 18 m. To get to the tops of the swings we had to climb an old fleet of ladders. Then we were strapped into a harness and clipped onto a cable so we were secure. Sitting on the swing was kinda scary though since it was only a small wooden plank. Watching everyone’s faces was very interesting since their eyes were full of fear and exhilaration. After we went on the swings we saw some monkeys eating bananas and hanging from the trees above us.

Once we left La Jungla we continued our bus trip through lush jungles. Going through the jungle was pretty amazing…we were on top of a mountain with incredible views sprawled out before us. As we were driving along the rocky and uneven highway we came across some washrooms that required us to pay for before using. They were nothing like you would ever find in Canada. Since there is no toilet paper, you must bring your own. Also, the toilets were basically a hole where you had to fill a bucket of water out back to pour in so they would flush.   There are stops along the way as the government is making concerted efforts to stop the transport of the various products that are used for the production of cocaine.  This includes not only the cocoa leaf (which is legally sold everywhere) but also toilet paper and gasoline.

As the bus continued, we went through some tunnels and once we got over a mountain the whole scenery changed. We went from jungle to a dry pine tree environment! When we finally arrived in Cochabamba we passed what looked like a parade but was only two dance groups and a small band. Once we drove up some hills we finally arrived at our accommodations, called La Morada.

Mikey and Sabrina were not able to be part of our group flight booking and traveled separately.  They were here to greet us when we arrived. Everyone unpacked the mountain of suitcases from the bus then we settled into our rooms. The rooms are quite nice; there are only a few people in each one and the showers are warm (for the first to get the showers). We had some dinner and afterwards some of us kids sat down and played good old fashioned Uno! This day was interesting and a great experience seeing the jungle. All together we had a fun and exciting day!

 

Trip Journal Day 6 – written by Josh

 

Today the wake up call came a bit later at 7:00 am. Everyone was excited to finally visit the orphanage, the Amistad Mission. When we arrived we initially were ushered to a small chapel and joined some of the orphans for a welcome service and prayers.  After the service we had a tour of the grounds and got to look at the three projects we’re working on: a garden, a stone wall, and an all girls house that we will be painting inside and out.

The orphanage consists of 8 houses on directly on the site and these houses have 8-10 orphans each.  Each house has a “mama” that lives with them.  There are also 2 other houses which have older orphans that have been raised in La Villa and now attend University. The Administration of La Villa are understandably proud of theses individuals. 

After our tour it was too close to lunch to start work so we were able to play with the kids from the orphanage. We all gathered to play an intense game of dodgeball, also called “burnball” in Spanish. It was the kids vs. the Interactors. We ended up playing two games of it, losing both times. Some of the kids can whip the ball really hard. And not just the teen boys either, some of the girls and younger boys could throw pretty hard. After these extreme games we headed back to La Morada for lunch, with a few new bruises. When lunch was finished we returned to the orphanage to begin on the girls’ house and the garden. The girls’ house has teen girls living in it, and it is named Casa San Miguel. Many of the kids were eager to help with what ever they could. Inside the house a few of the orphanage girls were amazed with how pretty Vince’s eyelashes are. Meanwhile someone else from the group accidentally stepped in the putty and had tracked it through the house. After an afternoon of hard work we went back to La Morada at 6:00 pm, had dinner, and promptly fell asleep.

 

Trip Journal Day 7 – written by Megan

 

Well as usual we woke up quite early at La Morada. Just when you thought it was going to be a normal day the unexpected happens. All that was heard was the bloody murder scream coming from Heather, while she witnessed a horrifying event. It was Mikey walking down the stairs with his shirt off! Scary? We think so! Mikey’s reaction was just one major eye roll as he sauntered down the stairs.

After breakfast we made our way to La Villa (the orphanage) at 8:15 am to start another day of hard work. The house needed work still and the brick walls in the garden were being finished quite quickly. Lorraine and Josh had to return to La Villa to pick up the 36 suitcases of clothing that we had designated for this orphanage.  We could not fit all of us and this luggage on the bus at the same time.

Each day we make a 15 minute drive to the orphanage in the morning, return at lunch at 12:30, back to the orphanage at 2:00 and then make a final return to La Morada at 6:00 in time to clean up for dinner at 6:30 pm.  The food has been varied and really good and the two ladies making it for us have been great.

Before we returned to La Villa after lunch, we went to exchange our American dollars for Bolivianos. You would think that we would go to the bank like we would in Canada, right? Not a chance! The currency exchange consists of two men sitting on a street corner with HUGE wads of money in a vest with lots of pockets. Oh and they had a sign up saying “Dollares,” which is dollars in Spanish. So “Jose”, the gentleman who exchanged our money, came right on the bus and pulled out huge wads of Bolivianos and American dollars. We all had our cameras out taking pictures of Jose and all the money in his hands. The rest of the afternoon we went back to working on painting the house and finishing the brick walls. For dinner we returned to La Morada and relaxed for the rest of the evening. It’s been an interesting time here in Bolivia, but it has its ups and downs. And also a lot of laughs at Mikey’s instigation and sometimes at his expense.

Our work in the orphanage has so far been concentrated in two areas:  the septic field and the San Miguel girls’ house. The first day we cleared a large area of brush and rocks using machetes, shovels, racks, and pick axes.  I think that we surprised the people of La Villa that we got this all cleared in the first day.  Getting this done has enabled us to build brick walls around the areas of the septic field that they would like to protect.

We have also been madly washing, spackling, sanding and painting the girls’ house (both inside and outside).  We really wanted to be able to finish the girls’ bedrooms by Friday so that they could get back into their rooms to sleep for the weekend.

 

Hi to Mom, Dad, Stephen and Charlie. Miss you lots and can’t wait to come home. Xoxo.

 

Trip Journal Day 8 – written by Alexa

 

Today is day 8 of this life changing trip. We woke up at around 7 and went downstairs to eat breakfast. To start our wonderful morning off Blake and Mikey were play fighting once again. But this time they went a little over board! Blake decided to duct tape Mikey. We all had a good laugh about this because then while Mikey was duct taped he tossed Blake to the ground! Now imagine a not so large man (Mikey) attacking a not so large boy (Blake). Now this was very hilarious and we all laughed a lot. Then after that great moment of laughter we hopped onto the bus and drove to Villa Amistad.

When we got there we split up into two groups. One group was inside painting the house while the other group was outside working on the brick walls around the raw sewage tanks. Casey and I were painting one of the room’s walls. Both of us got really far with our room and we kept working non-stop. Around 5 we drove back to La Morada and got ready and washed up for the Rotary dinner. We arrived at the Rotary building at 7:45 pm and talked about both of our Rotary groups and how our trip was up to this point. Fernando (the Tunari Rotary Club President) and the Club secretary of the Cochabamba Rotary Tunari Club presented gifts to each of us to show their appreciation of our work and funding of the project. The gifts we received were beautiful traditional Bolivian purses to put money and even our passport in as well. After we ate dinner and socialized for a bit we were on our way to the fundraiser concert that the Rotaractors from Cochabamba organized. We got to the concert around 10:30 pm and one of the Rotaractors met us at the door to let us all in. After getting in and hearing some of the music, a group of us headed to the dance floor to watch the bands play and rock out. During the concert one of our girls got hit on by a pretty good looking Bolivian boy. A group of us had a good giggle about it and how she acted when he asked if she had a boyfriend and where she was from. She gave him a weird look and kept dancing. Amanda and Blake almost got thrown around in the mosh pit while one of the bands was playing.

We had set a predetermined time of 1:00 am to get picked to return home.  When the time came we were disappointed but knew that we would regret it tomorrow if we left any later.   We therefore head back to La Morada, and call it a night.

 

P.S.  Verigin family I miss you tons and I love you lots!

 

 

Trip Journal Day 9 – written by Casey

 

Traveling in a group is kind of like a long term relationship. Some days you love them, and some days you want to stab them in the eyes with a fork. You have your good days and bad days, but there’s always a reason you stick together.

Today seemed like the worst day of the trip, but when things get that bad they can only get better, right?  It started of like any other day. When Geoff came to wake Alexa and I up I wasn’t exactly in the mood for anything besides sleeping, and I especially didn’t want to talk to anyone but, as luck would have it, Mikey sat next to me at breakfast. He complained about the dogs barking all night, again (I swear one day he will neuter them all himself). But once he had two cups of coffee he was bouncing off walls and singing, as usual.

When we arrived at the mission I was not excited at all to paint (it isn’t exactly something I enjoy). I reminded myself that it’s for someone who really deserves it so; I grabbed a brush and started my masterpiece. We took a break at around eleven o’clock to play dodgeball with some of the girls, and let’s just say it’s Blake’s fault we lost. After we lost twice we headed back to our residence for lunch, which was delicious as always. When went back to the mission Alexa, Megan and I started our second coat in one of the rooms. About half on hour before we we’re suppose to leave, Megan noticed that our walls were white instead of cream. Turns out someone put white paint in with the cream paint. We thought we would have finished that room before the weekend but now, we have to wait until Monday.

So now I’m in a horrible mood. I don’t want to talk or even look at anyone, and I felt like a complete buzz kill. Luckily for me, we had a long bus ride to another orphanage so I could blow off some steam on the way. The Interact club worked at the Bolivian Children’s Mission two years ago so everyone who went on the last trip was super excited to see all the kids again. I didn’t know what I was expecting it to look like but I was completely blown away by the house. It didn’t look like an orphanage at all (besides the thirty plus children running around). They had a basketball court, a swimming pool and the friendliest people I have ever met. I got off the bus and immediately a little girl came up to me, held my hand and said “Hola!” My heart just melted. I started contemplating on whether or not I should take when no one is looking (decided not to since it would cause a huge scene at the airport).

We played with the kids for a while and then had dinner, and I must say I was pretty impressed they were able to pull of a delicious meal for fifty plus! After dinner we played with the kids some more and that’s when the cameras came out. All of the kids wanted to take pictures. At any given time there were at least ten photographers in training taking pictures of everyone and everything. Megan attached herself to a baby girl named Agar, Josh wowed the crowed by dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Vince was getting stared at by all the preteen girls. The kids were so happy but some of their stories are horrifying. From abuse to alcoholic parents, these kids have been through more than some go through in a lifetime. Hearing these dreaded stories made me feel helpless but happy that someone was making a positive difference in their lives.

When it was time to go I hugged everyone. Even though I’ve only known these kids I feel as if they are my brothers and sisters. I want to see them everyday. I want to hold them when they cry. I want to help them anyway I can because I know that even though I can’t erase the past I can make a difference in the future. I don’t even speak the same language as them but language is only a small part of communication. The difference we make in each others lives goes way beyond any words in any language. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what language you speak, what matters most is the impact you make on another persons life. Love conquers all.

 

Day 10 – By Reanne

 

Today? Awesome. One of our trip objectives is to spend time with the orphans playing games and having fun with them.  There are so many that, while the staff do their best to spend individual time with the children, they can always need and appreciate help.  Today we really had a chance to help give the children some love and attention.

We started out like a normal day, eating our corn flakes and bread but something special was to happen today. Canada/Bolivia day. Canada/Bolivia day is where we bring the two countries together. We arrived at the orphanage around 9 am and we had opening ceremonies, all the children were colour coordinated into teams. We marched in, raised the Canadian and Bolivian flags, and sang both national anthems. We moved into the gym and played a Bolivia game to get to know one another. After that exciting event to get us ready for the games, we had potato sack races. Mikey and Geoff were flying! Geoff then told us who our partners were for the three-legged race and wheelbarrow races. The children, interactors and Rotoractors had such a good time. Everybody met in the gym and we got a big game of dodgeball going. It was the Interactors versus the children from the orphanage and the Rotoractors.

After losing for the fifth time since we’ve been here, we went outside to eat pizza we purchased for the children and staff of the Amistad as a special treat. This was no ordinary pizza; this was a 40 slice pizza. The size the pizza box was about the size of your stove top. It was so cheesy, goat cheesy, and delicious. After eating, we handed out our Canadian goody bags we had made for the children and then said goodbye for the day.

We got ready for out big hike (race) up El Cristo de la Concordia. Cochabamba is at an altitude of 2,800 meters (8,500 ft).  This is 1,500 feet higher than the top of Granite Mountain.  At that elevation it is difficult to breath and all of us have been drinking coca tea as it increases the absorption of oxygen into the blood.  Climbing El Cristo we were all doubtful as to whether or not it was helping at all.  The 1738 steps (climbing a vertical rise of approx 400 meters) in the warm sun and lack of oxygen is exhausting.  Until you have been at high altitude you cannot have an appreciation for how the lack of oxygen impacts you (Sabrina and I tied for fourth in the ascent by the by).  We went inside the large statue of Christ, it was quite high; the largest statue of Christ statue in the world (3 meters higher then the one in Rio de Janeiro).

After taking pictures of our victory climb, we went back on the bus and went to the town square to try to catch the baby washing; unfortunately it did not happen this Saturday. On the up side, Tay got a balloon swan made for her by a Chilean guy on the street. On our way back to the orphanage, we saw a parade go by with very unique costumes. When we got home, we ate and played patootie hole, a card game.  It was a pretty chill night all together; we got to sleep around ten. A much needed full night sleep.

P.S love you Mom, Dad, Ashley, and Jeremy.

And happy late birthday Jeremy!

 

Trip Journal Day 11 – written by Blake

 

This morning we had an early morning. We had to eat, get ready and finish our daily chores before the clock struck 8:15 am. Even though today was a Sunday, we did not go to church with our Spanish friends as previously planned; however, we started the day with a trip to Tarata. This is a small ancient mountain town 35 km outside of Cochabamba. Most of the buildings were built in the 1500’s and are made out of soil bricks. To get there we had a 1 ½ hour bus ride with Juan Carlos; he pointed out the illegal squatter houses upon the hillsides as we went. These have been built by Bolivians that have moved to Cochabamba because of its climate but do not have the means to purchase a home.  Instead they initially camp and as they can afford bricks begin building walls which over time become a home. 

Finally arriving in Tarata, we voyaged over to the church where there is a convent that housed Franciscan Priests. There used to be many Priests who resided there but now there are only three due to declining interest by youth in joining the Priesthood. Inside the church we found a very peaceful place. Surrounding a decadent pond was an assortment of stunning flowers. As we left the church, many of us had to use a washroom. What we found was no usual washroom for us Canadians. We have found that many of the toilets in Bolivia are just holes with doors. Such was again the case. There was only one toilet available, because the children within the other one were too scared to come out because of the line up of Canadians.

After relieving ourselves, we ventured across a bridge; it is said that if you cross you will one day return to Cochabamba. After crossing the bridge we traveled to the town square where the historical museum is located. Our guide Mario, who was deeply enthusiastic about his work, taught us about the history and science related facts of Tarata’s past.   Tarata has a rich history and Mario was able to show us many things including dinosaur bones, ancient tools and arrowheads and Inca skulls which had been intentionally deformed to denote their high social status.

The museum was located in the central town square.  It is interesting to note that each of Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and Tarata all have these squares built in the traditional Spanish style…..the government buildings on one side, statues and trees in the centre and shops around the rest of the outside of the square.  An impressive feature of this square was the clock tower built in 1902.  It is still functional. Only a few of us were brave enough to climb to the very top of the tower. As Mikey cringed a little bit due to the rotten boards we were climbing on, Blake, Casey and Cassie toughed it out and even posed for a photo.

We said our final goodbye to our tour guide and finally we were off to lunch…or we thought so. Juan Carlos decided to let us sip a local delicacy. It was called chicha and it was a mild alcohol made from corn. Those who wanted to try it had a sip; many thought that it tasted like vinegar-ish corn. We were on our way to Herlados, a restaurant specializing in fish from the nearby lake. The restaurant was directly below a dam that was funded by the Mexican government.  This dam is important as it preserves the water for the inhabitants of the Cochabamba valley.  When we arrived, we were greeted by several of the Bolivian Rotary members and Rotaractors.  As we sat down, we discovered that water fell from the roof and created this illusion of a magical wonderland. The meal started with appetizers that consisted of sardines from the lake and also Yuca french fries. The fish at this place was incredible. Later after we had eaten we decided to go play on the children’s playground; let’s just say some people are too big. We then paid 5 Bolivianos to go across the lake next to the restaurant on a zip line. This was űber fun. After some playtime, we went back to the bus and were now off to Cochabamba once again. Dinner was at La Morada and afterwards we finished off the night with some downtime.

As the internet has gone down at the Orphanage we are now having troubles in sending daily journals and photos.   Hopefully this will get fixed soon.

P.S. I love you mom and dad and friends

P.P.S.

There were a couple of other unique things that are worth mentioning in our journal.  The first is that Shannon found a scorpion in her suitcase when she returned to La Morada this evening.  She quickly killed it and then spent the next hour taking each piece of clothing out of her suitcase to closely inspect it for further insects.

The second item that is very unique to Bolivia is their love of dogs.  Sabrina, Tay and Nicole spent the 1 ½ hour drive this morning counting the number of dogs they saw.  They reached 353 in this short time.  Apparently in the city of Cochabamba there are 250,000 dogs (population of Cochabamba is 800,000).   They know this because a few years ago they had a rabies problem and therefore Rotary funded free vaccinations of dogs.  They were able to determine the number of dogs by the number of vaccinations.

Trip Journal Day 12 – written by Chelan

 

Today was a very fun, rejuvenating and eventful day.  It all started out when everyone was woken up by the barking dogs and Mikey was sure that he wished he had an AK-47 to shoot at them!  Everyone then came downstairs to the kitchen to have breakfast which consisted of cereal, bread, fruit and juice.  Each morning we have a list of chores from cleaning toilets (yes parents believe it!) to sweeping and mopping the floors.  We have been split into 4 groups and rotate the chores.

As soon as everyone was ready, we were on our way to Amistad Mission (orphanage).  Once we arrived we all went to church mass which started at approximately 9:15 and ended by 10:00.  Our group was really thankful to have Ximema, because she was able to translate everything that was being spoken to us, which allowed for a better understanding of the culture. At the end of the service our entire group was given bracelets which said Asociacion Amistad. Each bracelet was a little bit different which added individuality.  The main purpose of the bracelets was to state that we may live far from each other but our hearts will always be together.  Once the service was done, we then toured the orphanage that was next to ours.  We were able to see the church, gardens, school and many other features.  We were told that every student that goes to this school, has a chance to make it big in life.  For example the Executive Director of this orphanage is apparently fantastic at her job and started as an orphan there.

We then proceeded back to our orphanage and our team broke up into two.  One half of the group went to go and play dodgeball with the kids while the others worked on our three projects.  Those include the rock wall, painting a girls house and building brick walls. To date, we have eight brick walls made around the sewer systems, our rock wall is almost done and the painting is coming along greatly.  We then came back to La Morada for lunch, which consisted of soup, bread, potatoes, vegetables, chicken and dessert.  After lunch was over, everyone was given ½ hour of quiet time to reflect back on their actions 

Once reflection time was done, we were back on the bus, going to the orphanage.  The entire group worked the rest of the afternoon.  How many interactors does it take it open up a can of paint?  Surprisingly, it took four girls with very strong muscles.  By the end of the afternoon, the rock wall was done and most of the bedrooms were painted, as well as the common room.  We then came back to La Morada and had quick five minute showers before supper.  These quick showers were to ensure that everyone had equal time to cleanup in hot / warm water after working in various conditions.  Once supper was ready, everyone went down to eat in the kitchen.  Supper was really tasty and filling like always.  It consisted of pasta, vegetables, meat and potatoes. Everyone then rushed back to their rooms to get ready for having ice cream with the kids from the old orphanage (Bolivian Children’s Mission). We walked down the Atahuallpa street which was named after the last Inca King who fought for power and wanted to see if anyone could be higher that he was.  Once we reached the very end of the street, which was quite a walk, we then waited for the Orphanage’s bus to come and pick us up.  The bus was loaded with all of the kids from the old orphanage and by the time all of the interactors squeezed inside, there were forty-nine people on a half sized bus. Once we arrived at Globos, we all stumbled out of the bus and took full responsibility for one of the small kids. Globos was the coolest place ever; everyone had fun that night.  There were so many different flavored ice creams that it was so hard to choose which ones you wanted.  Everyone got two scoops on a wafer cone.  People hung out with their buddies that they made, last time they saw them at the orphanage. Lots made new friends that night and many pictures were taken to remember the fun time that we had that night.  Later, we all piled back into the car sized bus, where we were taken to a really poor school.  Peter, leader of the old orphanage, told us a little bit of history about how these poor kids were using newspapers and wood as their utensils and learning material.  He stated that every time a group comes down, he tries to get them to donate some school supplies to the kids so that they have something to enhance their learning abilities. Once the story was over and everyone got a chance to peek through the window, we were back on our way to the hotel. The night was so perfect it seemed as though the city was alive.  There were night lights everywhere, people were walking in the parks, kids playing in the courts nearby and the breeze was like a mothers touch. After arriving at La Morada hotel, all of the interactors were dropped off and then came the sad part.  We all had to say goodbye to our friends that we loved so dearly.  After many hugs, kisses and a few tears, we watched them fade away, into the night. Knowing that they left a footprint in our lives and in our hearts, we will always be connected together.

 

 

Trip Journal Day 13 – written by Cassie 

 

Today started out as any other day except that that we were all very excited about the plan to go to La Concha market this afternoon.  As we are finding often happens plans change.  There was a protest / demonstration happening in the City and all of the major roads had been blockaded.  Not only was the market out of the question but we also were possibly required to spend the day at La Morada.  Fortunately our wonderful bus driver, Jose Luis, was willing to drive on a multitude of dirt backloads to not only get to us but also get us around the city to the Vila Amistad.  It is not exactly easy driving along a narrow, one way road with huge bumps and potholes.  Jose Luis was able to negotiate by cars, trucks, other buses to get us there.  At one point we all had to get out of the bus so that there was enough clearance to get over the bump.

Our plan for today changed to attempting to complete all of our project work with the hope that we could go to the market tomorrow.   After ½ hour of driving we arrived at the Villa Amistad. We were pretty much the only people there other than the orphans and the house mothers, so we were lucky that the painting supplies were not all locked up.  We got to work right away with the hope of finishing all of our projects.  By noon it was clear that the blockade was not going to finish soon and decided to eat the bits of bread and fruit that we had packed this morning rather than risk going back to La Morada.  The Interactors took shifts for 15 minutes in order to have some food.  Each Interactor got a bun, a cookie, and if you were lucky some chips.

Soon the rock wall was complete and in the residence the hallway fully painted.  Finally the last room (the kitchen) was complete.  But nothing was complete without some difficulties and interesting stories.  For example, Blake received a love note from one of the girls of the residence we were painting.  Late in the afternoon I was standing on top of some cupboards to paint and they sort of broke and I thought that I was going to fall 9 feet to the ground.  During the afternoon Geoff started a chain reaction when he over filled a roller with paint.  The space in the kitchen was tight for the Megan, Cassie, Blake, Heather and Geoff to work so he had to pass the roller to Heather who then while holding Blake’s ladder passed it up high to Cassie.  Paint started spilling everywhere so Heather jumped to try and reduce the spillage.  In the process she let go of Blake’s ladder and it slid slightly down the wall.  Blake almost had a heart attack.  We did finish the kitchen (from spackling to sanding, to washing to painting 3 coats) in one day.

By 2:30 pm we heard that the protest was over so we headed back to La Morada.  Once we got back we had a second complete lunch because a bun and a cookie was not enough for most.  After doing chores, showering and having our 45 minute daily “quiet time” we went to the bowling alley where we met up with the Rotaractors.  For some people like Vince and Reanne, 10 pin bowling was easy.  For others like Casey and Sabrina it wasn’t their forte.   

At 7:30 pm we said good bye to the Rotaractors and went to a supermarket down the street.  Almost everyone bought cookies or crackers for the journey home.  We were all happy and surprised at how cheap it was.  So after 20 minutes of running around the supermarket we got back to the bus and returned to La Morada for a late dinner.

Many of the Interactors were very happy to see mashed potatoes on the table tonight.  When dinner was over half the group went and played cards while the others watched “Taken”.  At 10 pm the movie was stopped for everyone to go to bed (we will watch the rest tomorrow night) because after a long day of work everyone happy to go to bed at that time.

Overall we are very happy to have accomplished what we had set out for the projects.  Tomorrow we can now spend time with the orphans and hopefully leave a positive impression with them as too what we are a Canadian teenagers.

P.S. – Stacey, Mike was talking about you all day! Happy Birthday!!

 

Trip Journal Day 14 – written by Nicole

 

Today started in a very special way. As a sign of appreciation, we all pitched in to make pancakes for the two ladies who cooked for us the past 10 days, our bus driver (Jose Luis) and our constant helper/translator (Ximena). We had brought from Canada traditional maple syrup, which they loved.

 After breakfast and chores we traveled, for the last time, our usual route to the orphanage.  On the way we dropped off Amanda and Geoff at “Tuesday’s” to make another attempt to send our daily journal and photos.  We have had trouble finding locations where there is “rapido” internet to allow us to post photos.  Tuesdays was not open for another couple of hours but the staff cleaning was incredibly nice and allowed them to sit inside and use the wireless while they mopped and vacuumed around them.  Three hours later they had posted approximately 30 photos and updated the previous day’s journal.

 The rest of the group continued on to the orphanage where we played our last games of dodgeball with the kids. We also played “pikachu”, which is their version of “rock, paper, scissors”. As we were about to leave the orphanage, for the first time in three months in Cochabamba, the skies clouded over and it began to rain. It has been unseasonably cold this winter (it is winter as we are in the southern hemisphere) in Cochabamba with night temperatures dropping below 10 degrees Celsius.  Many of us girls are regularly wearing our hoodies.  After a much needed lunch and daily “quiet time”, it was already hot again.

 We then took the bus to visit two stores that sell goods made by women in prison. While in prison, they have to pay 6 Bolivianos a day, and if they haven’t paid by the end of their sentence, they must stay until they do so. Also, if they have kids, they have to stay in prison with their mother, which raises the fee for them. These stores help them with their payments by selling merchandise.  Mrs. Brown’s grade 6 class at Twin Rivers had raised a little more than $100 after reading the book “I am a Taxi”. We made a presentation of these funds to the executive director of one of the stores that support these children living with their parents in the prison.  She was overwhelmed with the generosity.  They also gave us a tour of the back of the store where some of the women and children recently released from the prison are making products for sale while transitioning back to the world outside of the prison.

 After visiting these stores, we headed on to the local market, where we divided into groups of 6 or 7 and toured up and down the 2×2 meter stores. These tiny stores were packed with everything from scarves and earrings to rain sticks and buffalo horns, stuffed crocodiles, and so much more. We were told that it costs approximately $US 12,000 to purchase one of these stalls.  It is incredible to think that it can be worthwhile when they are selling their wares for 2- 70 Bolivianos ($0.01 – $10.00).  The Bolivians accompanying us were extremely nervous that we would be robbed and ensured that we wore no jewelry, did not take our cameras and protected the money that we took with us.   Many souvenirs and gifts were purchased and our group departed La Concha market with arm full of bags.

After our brief time experiencing Bolivian market life, we trooped back home for dinner.  The two ladies that make us food have done a great job.  For dinner tonight we had spaghetti noodles with a beef stroganoff type accompaniment.  The food in Bolivia does not differ greatly from what we have in Canada.   One significant difference is that they cook vegetables well before they meal, let them cool down and then serve them as “salad”.  The common vegetables that we get for many meals are carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumber and cabbage.

Tonight was busy as we had to pack for our leave to La Paz tomorrow morning, dust and sweep out our rooms and say good bye to Ximena, the Rotaractors that showed up (with our  “Pulsa” t-shirts).  We still managed to get to bed by close to 10:00 pm.

 Outside it rained for the second time in three months. 

Trip Journal Day 15 – written by Vince

This morning started off a bit earlier than usual, because today we had to start out on our adventure to La Paz. It is about an 8 hour bus ride from Cochabamba. Jose Luis delivered us to the bus depot just after 8 am and were greeted by Juan Carlos and his wife Rosio. From there we boarded our bus which turned out to be really nice with plenty of leg room and super comfortable seats. Our bus has two bus drivers because of the length of the trip. When we were leaving Cochabamba it seemed like forever trying to get out of the city, but when we finally got out of the city it was quite the never-ending climb. On the way to the top we saw snow which was kind of exciting. After 2 ½ hours and about an hour or so of just solid climbing we stopped for a pee break at these random abandoned buildings and almost drove away without Alexa and Chelan.

About 20 minutes later we reached the summit (4,496 meters). It was quite the relief because I had a headache from the elevation. All of us have been drinking cocoa tea or chewing cocoa leaves in preparation for the high altitude but even so all of us could at least to some extent feel the impact of limited oxygen.  We briefly descended from the bus into the cold and wind to take some pictures.  Surprisingly enough there were some stray dogs up there. We drove some more until we came to our last place to stop before La Paz. The place literally smelled like raw sewage, but then you remind yourself you’re in a developing country and just deal with it. The bathrooms had Turkish toilets which were a new concept to me; I really wasn’t a fan.

After we left that stop we entered the Alto Plano which looks kind of like Alberta and there wasn’t too much too look at after that.  As the bus proceeded along the Alto Plano it periodically made 5 second stops and another passenger jumps on.  Our bus is two tiered with the passenger area raised up above the driver’s seat.  However it appears that somehow they at one point had picked up an additional 10 passengers and squeezed them around the driver.   Approaching La Paz became rather spectacular with the views as snow peeked mountains reached up to greet us.  It was somewhat similar to leaving Calgary heading west towards the Rockies.

As we entered El Alto above La Paz something possessed our bus driver.  He was weaving crazily in and out of traffic and finally just missed a car.  They started yelling at each other and our bus driver was tailgating like you have never seen before.  The three people sitting in the front row could at most times not see the back bumper of the car in front.  After about 5-10 minutes of this craziness we were stopped at a light and the driver in front jumps out of his car and calls over 4-5 policeman.  A yelling match continues and finally something happens where our driver is required to sit at the side of the road for 15 minutes.  This was agony for some as they had been cross legged and squeezing for more than ½ hour, but none the less it made for a much more exciting bus ride than I expected it to be.

We continued on and made the spectacular decent into La Paz. The view from the top of the road looking out of the bus window down into La Paz was really something I wouldn’t of expected it looked completely different compared to any of the other Bolivian cities we had visited. We dropped down about 2,000 feet into in deep valley that was carved out by 5 rivers.  We were dropped off at the bus depot because our bus was too tall to make it through the telephone wires within the La Paz.  After 6 taxis got us the rest of the way to the Hotel Copacabana we checked into our rooms, had a walk around La Paz. |On the streets of La Paz there were many people and of course there were many things being sold, one Bolivian was even selling the same laptop that I’m writing my journal with.

The last time the Interact club was in La Paz they went to this one restaurant with traditional dancers and music, and we thought would try it out again this time around. It was 17$ US per person which was for the show, dinner, and a drink. It was pretty neat they had some bands and some dancers. Even some of us ended up on stage at one point or another. Then after dinner we walked back to the hotel had a brief meeting on what we were doing the next day and headed to bed.  Despite many getting some sleep during the day on the bus, a combination of the extremely high elevation and the pace of the last two weeks we were all tired and happy crawl into our beds.

Trip Journal Day 16 – written by Hilary

Sorry everyone but we are having problems with the space on this web page and adding text and photos. 

Aloha from La Paz!

This morning we arose early to eat breakfast before heading off to the airport to pick up Lorraine who had taken Sierra and Josh who were heading home early in order that they can get ready and leave for university. On the way we passed through the main street of La Paz which is extremely busy this is somewhat ironic due to the fact that La Paz means “peaceful”. To fully understand what La Paz looks like picture it as Robson Street in Vancouver: a constant flow of traffic, business people in suits, street vendors all over the place, fancy stores and homeless people. However the outskirts of La Paz are very different almost all of the buildings are built with bricks and there is very little to them. We also picked up Juan Carlos who had flown in this morning. Juan Carlos had brought with him a surprise…a news paper (Las Tiempos the Cochabamba newspaper) which had pictures of our group at “IMPULSA tu musica.”

We then started off our three and a half hour trip to Lake Titicaca (Island of the sun). We traveled along with the 170 km Cordillera Real mountain range on our right.  The book ends of this range are “Illampu” mountain in the south and the “Illimani” mountain in the north.  These mountains rise up to nearly 6,000 meters.  The significance of this range is that it is the eastern range that splits off from the Andes and then joins again.  Between these ranges is the Alto Plano which is completely sealed off from water flow to the Pacific and the Atlantic.  

 

Trip Journal Day 16 – written by Hilary

Hola from La Paz!

This morning we arose early to eat breakfast before heading off to the airport to pick up Lorraine who had taken Sierra and Josh who were heading home early in order that they can get ready and leave for university. On the way we passed through the main street of La Paz which is extremely busy this is somewhat ironic due to the fact that La Paz means “peaceful”. To fully understand what La Paz looks like picture it as Robson Street in Vancouver: a constant flow of traffic, business people in suits, street vendors all over the place, fancy stores and homeless people. However the outskirts of La Paz are very different almost all of the buildings are built with bricks and there is very little to them. We also picked up Juan Carlos who had flown in this morning. Juan Carlos had brought with him a surprise…a news paper (Las Tiempos the Cochabamba newspaper) which had pictures of our group at “IMPULSA tu musica.”

We then started off our three and a half hour trip to Lake Titicaca (Island of the sun). We traveled along with the 170 km Cordillera Real mountain range on our right.  The book ends of this range are “Illampu” mountain in the south and the “Illimani” mountain in the north.  These mountains rise up to nearly 6,000 meters.  The significance of this range is that it is the eastern range that splits off from the Andes and then joins again.  Between these ranges is the Alto Plano which is completely sealed off from water flow to the Pacific and the Atlantic.  Therefore all of the water flowing out of Lake Titicaca flows south and then evaporates to make the salt mines at the southern end of the Alto Plano.

The natives of this region are Incas which make up 72% of the population. To the Incas the island of the sun is very special as it is believed that the first female/male couple emerged from the island.  For those who don’t know Lake Titicaca is the highest navigated commercial lake in the world with an elevation of 3,810m. The drive was beautiful on one side we had a mountain range with snow covered peeks, and on the other side we had more of a desert type of terrain (looked a bit like Osoyoos). Due to the high pace in which we were climbing many of the Heather and Cassie (and later Casey and Lorraine) of us got extremely bad elevation sickness. We unloaded from the bus in San Paulo to San Pedro.  In order to do this we took a short ferry ride across a channel separating the small Lake Titicaca from the large Lake Titicaca. It was then back on the bus to head into the real Copacabana were we visited a church that was one of the most incredible churches that we have been to.  The altar alone was amazing. It was then time to have lunch we ate a locale restaurant which played VH1 80’s music videos which was neat as during the whole trip we had been listening to those songs. It was then time to head to the island of the sun the boat ride was one hour and ten minutes with an elevation of over 4,000m.  Upon our arrival we started to climb up to the Incas temple. We learned a lot about the traditions of the Incas and of the other islands. We get on going up a dirt path which lead to the highest part of the island from there we felt on top of the world. When we stopped to think about where we were it seemed so surreal; we were standing on an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, what an experience. We continued on the path but this time it was down hill. We passed donkeys on the side of the path and some of the 2,000 residents on the island. We were almost done when we came across three water falls. Each of the falls represented one of the three commandments that the Incas follow there lives by….they are; don’t be lazy, don’t steal and don’t lie. It is believed that if you drink from the fountains then you will be forever young as it is named the fountain of youth.  Many of us must have been somewhat more impacted by the elevation than we thought as we stepped down and drank the water.  We will see how our systems deal with our first non-bottled water while in Bolivia.

It was then back across the lake to the bus where we headed back to La Paz, in the not so far distances the sun was setting to our backs.  As we were traveling back we made an illegal stop in Peru. We had a group picture with half of or bodies in Bolivia and the other half in Peru. As we headed back to the bus the full moon was rising of the lake and one of the island of Peru it was one of the most amazing moon rising any one had seen. We had to disembark from the bus to cross to San Paulo.  We reloaded on to the bus and continued to La Paz were the mountain of Illampu was living up to its name which means mountain of lighting. Every night of the year there is always a lighting show.  You cannot have ever seen anything like it as there are flashes of lightening every 1-2 seconds.

Our dinner was very American; as we ate at Burger King which meant that our stay here was coming to a close soon. It was then off to bed were we where to fall asleep too the busy street traffic.

Finally to sum up the day in one word: incredible.

Ciao for now from La Paz!

P.S.  Family I miss you lots and love you. I can’t wait to see you soon.

P.P.S. Mom and dad please can we not eat rice, white bread, potatoes, or beef for at least a week when I get back. However, a nice salad or veggies and dip would be great.

 

Trip Journal Day 17 – written by Sabrina

Today was the first day of our trip we got to sleep in. I have never been so happy to wake up at 9:30. Unfortunately most people weren’t able to sleep that long and still ended up waking up around 8 or earlier as their bodies were now used to an early wake up. Thank goodness I wasn’t one of those unlucky people. We ate our breakfast at the hotel which consists of bread and your choice of hot chocolate, coffee or tea and juice. I don’t know about you but I’m still a bit hungry after only eating that.

Then we were off to Valle de la Luna (valley of the moons). Once there, we got a short tour of the place. What makes this attraction special is that the rock is supposedly the same as on the moon so the astronauts would go there to train. We had some time to go off and look around on or own as well once the tour was over. Heather, Cassie and Casey were encouraged by Lorraine and Geoff to walk slowly to ensure that they fully recover from elevation sickness and they were still feeling its affects draining all of their energy. Reanne and I were to the rescue! We kept back as well being the cheerleaders/tour guides encouraging those same girls. Our stories about the rocks may not have been completely true but they sure were funnier. There is a man named Bario, who is a native Amyara, which was selling some instruments and would play the flute and guitar on one of the highest rocks. It was really beautiful music. He also taught Geoff, Reanne, Heather, Casey, Cassie and I some of his language. It was pretty sweet, but confusing. I already can’t remember what he taught me. Also I embarrassed myself by making the mistake of expecting no one would speak English here and made some hand movements for a while trying to get a women to take a picture of some of us. She finally replied with “would you like me to take a picture for you? Yes I speak English.”. After touring there was a shop there that some people bought a few things from but left soon after.

We next went to the Plaza Murillo which is the traditional Spanish style square containing the government buildings and the Church. We walked around the square for a bit and got some pictures with all of the pigeons. We weren’t allowed to take pictures with the guards this time. That was a bit of a let down. After, we enjoyed pizza while sitting on the steps. Remember that balloon guy in Cochabamba that we mentioned in a previous journal? Well we saw him making balloon poodles there. It was weird. He didn’t remember us but he made a little balloon lady bug for us. Another weird thing was that a random person wanted to take a picture with all of us. And this happened to us twice. Unfortunately we couldn’t go into the parliament building because it was closed for meetings. We were all pretty sad we didn’t get the opportunity to meet Evo (the president). But oh well.

Next on the agenda we went in our small groups and did some shopping in the “witches market” (an area of La Paz because it possibly sells witch craft) until 5 pm when we met up at the hotel to pack up. Everyone went to different places for dinner tonight so I don’t quite know what everyone did but quite a few of us went to Burger King again. It was amazing. Then in those small groups still we did some more market shopping. We all came home nice and safe and mostly before our curfew.  Tomorrow morning we wake up at 3:00 am to begin our long trek home.

P.S. I love you Mom, Michelle and Alexandra and miss you guys sooo much! And Danica of course J

P.P.S everyone do the rain rain go away dance for the day we get home please. We don’t want to come home to rainy weather! L

 

 

Trip Journal Day 18 – written by Chantal

 

This morning, we woke up at 3:30 by a wake up call. After making sure we had everything and doing one last double check in our rooms, we all headed down stairs with our luggage in hand…6 taxis were awaiting us. As our suitcases were being packed into the taxis Geoff reminded us of what we were to do if we got lost. Thankfully we all arrived together and on time. We met by the American Airlines entrance/terminal. We received a sheet of paper that we had to fill out for when we get into Miami. Spending about an hour in the airport we were all hungry, tired and very anxious to be getting on our way home. After boarding the hour flight from La Paz to Santa Cruz. Quite a few of us got some sleep and we stayed on the plane waiting for people to board heading to Miami. When the last few passengers boarded, we were shown the safety video yet again. I am sure all of us are very tired of seeing this and we probably have it memorized quite well. By the time we get home a bunch of us may end up becoming flight attendants. After approximately 1 hour sitting in the plane waiting for the debarking and boarding we were finally again on our way to Miami, to complete the 9 hour flight. We all got comfortable and we were all ready to fall asleep, but little did we realize that we were all going to get treated to some food. The flight attendants walked down the aisles passing out food and giving us juices and soda. The telecom came on to let us know that a few movies were going to be playing for us. The two choices were “The Proposal”, and “The Great Buck Howard”. We all watched the Proposal first, which was a really good movie and next up we watched the Great Buck Howard, which I have to say was a very odd movie.

 

As our flight to Miami finally came to an end we all were very much awake. After getting our carry on and leaving the plane we all headed for customs. We showed them our passports and the sheet we had previously filled out on our flight before. After doing that and getting our checked luggage we all headed into security. As fun as waiting to board is we were all just really excited to be almost home. We grabbed a snack and headed back to our terminal (46 D) and we waited patiently for our plane to arrive. When our plane showed up we were all ready to get on with our boarding passes in hand and carry on`s next to us or on us. After boarding the plane we were on our way to Chicago. So close but yet we still had two flights left ahead of us. Chicago to Seattle and then Seattle to Spokane.  Because we arrived  so late in Seattle (11:30 pm) and leave so early tomorrow we decided that it would be money better spent to contribute to the orphanage rather than a hotel room for a couple of hours of sleep.  We are therefore going to sleep on benches in the airport for 5 hours.  In the morning we board our plane from Seattle to Spokane at 7:00 am local time. We are hopefully going to be greeted by our loved ones.

P.S. – we all miss our families so much and can’t wait to get home. Dad I love you and I am so excited to give you a big hug!!

 

Trip Journal Day 19 – written by Geoff, Lorraine and Mike

This trip is the culmination of a community effort.  Over the past 20 months our Interactors have been involved in more than 50 fund raising activities, had volunteers give us Spanish lessons and public speaking lessons all with the objective of being the best representatives that we possibly can of Canada, Castlegar, Rotary and SHSS.  Parents have been volunteering to work alongside their teen in the fundraising activities.  We have a teacher liaison at SHSS helping us integrate within the school.   A Twin Rivers Elementary Class raised funds for us to give towards and organization aiding children who live with a parent in a prison in Bolivia.  The two Rotary Clubs in Castlegar are always willing to involve the Interactors in their fundraisers and trust them to do a proper job.  The citizens of Castlegar are extremely generous when asked to support our fundraisers, provide used clothing and in producing quilts for us to take to the orphanage in Bolivia.  This trip would not be possible without all of this assistance.

This morning our group is rising in the Seattle airport to catch a 7:00 am flight from Seattle to Spokane.  We have now been traveling back home for more than 30 hours.  As we look at the seventeen 14 – 17 year olds that have given us the pleasure to travel and work with this over the past 18 days (and 20 months before that) we look at them with pride.  If the people of Canada, Castlegar, Rotary and parents could have watched them over these weeks we are certain that they would have been equally proud.  This is a group that we asked to rise before 7:00 am each morning, clean the kitchen, common areas, bedrooms and bathrooms before 8:00 am and then go to work digging, bricking laying, shoveling, sanding, painting and whatever else is thrown at them each day.  They eat different food, at times have only cold showers, have not been able to put toilet paper in a toilet for 2 weeks, have at times been sick with colds and digestive tract issues or elevation sickness.  We still expect them to get up every day and perform in order to not be the weak link in the team that might cause us to not be the best group that we can be.  Each day they succeeded and represented us at a standard that we are sure that a group of adults could only hope to match.

We say this because of things that we saw happen during our time in Bolivia.

1.  The faces on the orphans at Villa Amistad would each day tell us that they look forward to us arriving at the orphanage in order to either play with us or help us where possible with our projects.

2.  The pride that the girls of San Miguel house at Villa Amistad showed in their newly spackled, sanded and painted house.

3.  The mama’s of two of the houses making us empanadas’ and cake as a thank-you for the work that we did for them.

4.  The orphans who would proudly model clothing we brought to Bolivia.

5.  The excitement for those who have already received their own quilts made in Castlegar.

6.  The remembrance that the children of the Bolivian Children’s Mission had of our returning Interactors when we went to visit.

7.  The fact that our macho 21 year old Bolivian driver, Jose Luis, who took us around Cochabamba, had to wear sunglasses on the last day in order that his teary eyes would not be noticed.

8.  The clearly heart felt hugs that our constant companion/translator, Ximena, gave us all on our last evening after the rigors of dealing with us daily for nearly two weeks.

9.  The fact that our cooks where we lived in Cochabamba had told us that they did not want us to leave because our group was appreciative, courteous and easy to take care of.

10.  The fact that the Cochabamba Tunari Rotary Club has already presented us with a proposal for the project that they wish us to return in two years and work on.

11.  Rotarian, Juan Carlos, came to La Paz to ensure that we were properly taken care of and toured despite the fact that he had far more pressing issues to deal with at home.

12.  On the aircrafts and at the airports our members would proudly tell of our achievements and where we were from.

We expected these youth to act as responsible adults and gave them responsibilities and roles accordingly.  Seldom did they not justify our faith.

 Canada, Castlegar and Rotary be proud of our Interactors.  You have raised an outstanding group of individuals.

 

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