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Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17


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    [post_content] => Attached are photos of our first two weeks of May. We've enjoyed exploring the city of Santa Cruz, trekking through beautiful Parque Amboro in the Bolivian Amazon, and relaxing and reflecting on our last eight months in Samaipata, a small and peaceful town where the Andes meet the Amazon.

Our last two weeks can be found below:
  • May 15-20th: Land in La Paz after a flight from Santa Cruz
  • May 21-25th: Homestay in the small town of Santiago de Okola on the shores of Lake Titicaca
  • May 26-28th: Final stages of transference in Copacabana, also on the shores of Lake Titicaca
  • May 29-30th: Prep for our return home in La Paz
  • May 31st: Fly back to the states and split ways at Miami airport 😞
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The first half of our May excursion

Mark Skepasts,Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17

Description

Attached are photos of our first two weeks of May. We’ve enjoyed exploring the city of Santa Cruz, trekking through beautiful Parque Amboro in the Bolivian Amazon, and relaxing and reflecting on our last eight months in Samaipata, a small and peaceful town where the Andes meet the Amazon. Our last two weeks can be […]

Posted On

05/22/17

Author

Mark Skepasts

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    [post_content] => Last night we said goodbye to our instructor, Luis. It was a night filled with music, views of La Paz at night, and delicious food. It was a perfect goodbye for an amazing instructor.
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Luis’s last night

Mark Skepasts,Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17

Description

Last night we said goodbye to our instructor, Luis. It was a night filled with music, views of La Paz at night, and delicious food. It was a perfect goodbye for an amazing instructor.

Posted On

05/22/17

Author

Mark Skepasts

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    [post_content] => Recently, we said goodbye to our families and to Tiquipaya, our Bolivian home. We each read speeches to our families, danced throughout the afternoon, and took a lot of photos. It was a wonderful way to close out our memorable homestay experience.
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Tiquipaya Despedida

Mark Skepasts,Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17

Description

Recently, we said goodbye to our families and to Tiquipaya, our Bolivian home. We each read speeches to our families, danced throughout the afternoon, and took a lot of photos. It was a wonderful way to close out our memorable homestay experience.

Posted On

05/22/17

Author

Mark Skepasts

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    [post_content] => As we are about to set off on our last month here in Bolivia, we thought we’d let you know what we’ll be up to. We’re so excited to make the most of these final moments in Bolivia.
  • May 2nd: Take an overnight bus to Santa Cruz
  • May 3rd: Spend the day in Santa Cruz
  • May 4th: Head to Buena Vista outside of Parque Amboro and prep for our trek
  • May 5-8th: Trek in beautiful Parque Amboro, leaving for daily hikes from a base camp
  • May 9th: Leave Parque Amboro and spend another night in Buena Vista
  • May 10-14th: Arrive in Semaipata and spend this time reflecting and doing transference activities
  • May 15-20th: Land in La Paz after a flight from Santa Cruz
  • May 21-22nd: Homestay in the small town of Santiago de Okola on the shores of Lake Titicaca
  • May 23-24th: Retreat at a spiritual center run by Don Calixto, a yatiri, Catholic priest, and friend of the group
  • May 26-27th: Final stages of transference in Copacabana, also on the shores of Lake Titicaca
  • May 28-30th: Prep for our return home in La Paz
  • May 31st: Fly back to the states and split ways at Miami airport 😞
Thanks for checking in on what we’re doing. We’re so happy to be traveling again! [post_title] => May Itinerary [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => may-itinerary-2 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-09 15:15:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-09 21:15:43 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/blog/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 579 [name] => Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17 [slug] => princeton-bridge-year-bolivia-2016-17 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 579 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 263 [count] => 43 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3.1 [cat_ID] => 579 [category_count] => 43 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17 [category_nicename] => princeton-bridge-year-bolivia-2016-17 [category_parent] => 263 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/princeton-bridge-year/princeton-bridge-year-bolivia-2016-17/ ) ) [category_links] => Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17 )

Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17

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May Itinerary

Luis Alvarado,Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17

Description

As we are about to set off on our last month here in Bolivia, we thought we’d let you know what we’ll be up to. We’re so excited to make the most of these final moments in Bolivia. May 2nd: Take an overnight bus to Santa Cruz May 3rd: Spend the day in Santa Cruz […]

Posted On

05/9/17

Author

Luis Alvarado

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Halfway up the slope, I was ready to call it quits. An image of a giant white flag waved in the back of my mind, and I was seriously considering rolling back down the steep mountainside that I had just hauled myself up. We were nearing the end of our two-week excursion, and the rest of the group and I found ourselves hiking an active volcano somewhere along the Bolivia-Chile border. It was a battle between man and mountain, and the mountain was winning. Sure, we had done some hiking in September, but I had forgotten just how painful it can be for a kid that grew up a stone's throw away from the ocean to suddenly be scaling a volcano around three miles above sea level. My head pounded, my muscles burned, and my pulse was racing as if I'd just completed a set of wind sprints. Listening to my ragged breathing, one of our Bolivian guides just looked at me and grinned, as though we were merely going for a relaxing stroll down the street. Then, in Luis' hands, I saw my saving grace: a shiny green bag that he was offering to the group. I eagerly approached, and, after I'd cupped both of my hands together as ritual dictates, he placed in them a large pile of small, green leaves. I brought one up to my nose, and drank in the strong, distinct smell that I now know so well. Coca.

As I put one foot in front of the other, I began to chew, or, to use the Quechua verb so often heard in Bolivia, Pijchar. One-by-one, I worked each leaf into the space between the inside of my left cheek and my gum. Soon, I had what looked like a ping-pong ball on one side of my mouth, and the juice from the leaves overpowered my senses with the taste of coca. A few mintues later, my tongue began to tingle and gradually, the pounding in my head receded and I could breathe a little easier. That day, coca had allowed me to complete a hike without too much trouble. Yet, as I had witnessed earlier during the excursion, those tiny leaves offer a lot more than just a way for gringoes to adjust to high atitudes. I came to better understand just how integral coca's role is in the lives of the people in the Bolivian Andes. Here, coca is the thing that has continued to permeate the culture as the surrounding world shifts and changes. Here, those oval-shaped, green leaves act as connectors, as the social glue that binds people together, not just with those around them, but with past generations of people who have chewed coca in the region for centuries.

At the beginning of the excursion, we completed a four day trek in the Frailes region of the Andes, just outside the city of Sucre. Three of those days were filled with about ten grueling miles of hiking, each. Though it wasn't the relief I felt in my shoulders when we had finished, and I could finally put my pack down that I will remember most. Nor the beautiful, meandering river that we followed on the third day, or the way that the mist shrouded everything in an eerie blanket of white on the morning of the first. Instead, the most impactful moments of the trek came when we would make brief stops along the trail. The reason? At times, it was simply because we needed to make a pit-stop on account of someone's bladder. More often than not, however, we stopped because we encountered Campesinas along the trail. Sometimes working their fields of choclo, other times leading livestock down the road, and still other times simply relaxing under the shade of a tree, it didn't matter. Lucero, our guide, would immediately stop and search through her pack until she found her own shiny green bag of coca.  She would offer them some, and the women would always bring out their own green bags, and readily accept. On many occasions, Lucero engaged them in conversation in Quechua as well, but I got the feeling that she didn't need any words to communicate; that's what the coca is for. We would continue on, leaving the Campesinas to pijchar in peace, but now there was a connection, a link between them and the group of strangers that had passed through. Lucero showed me the power that coca has. She's not even from the Sucre region, in fact, she grew up further south. But guess what? They chew coca there, too. Sure, coca leaves are filled with nutrients, and they happen to be a great remedy for altitude sickness. But coca is more than a mountainous plant with some cool properties, it's the social currency for an entire area of the world.

The middle section of our trip brought us to Potosí, the city that is responsible for Bolivia's existence. In the background, looming over the valley, lies the source of Potosí's power: Cerro Rico (literally, rich hill). Now, it is an extremely ugly, barren piece of rock, but about five-hundred years ago, it contained the largest silver reserve ever seen on the planet. That silver almost single-handedly funded the development of Western Europe, and from there, the United States. Sadly, though, the human cost of exploiting the riches of Potosí is often overlooked. In the colonial years alone, eight million people, mostly Africans and Indigenous South Americans working as slaves, died in the mines of Cerro Rico. 8,000,000. Yet today, those mines are still open, and people continue to risk their lives to exploit the inside of the mountain. On our last day in Potosí, we sat and talked with a few miners who were on their break outside. Covered from head to toe in dust and grime, and with expressions reflecting the grave conditions that they work in, their source of color, and life, was held in their hands: shiny green bags, loaded with coca leaves. Our guide, an ex-miner, told us how vital coca is in the lives of those who work in Cerro Rico. Just as it did for the enslaved workers in the time of Spanish rule, coca continues to provide sustenance for miners. Helping to stave off hunger, increase endurance, and numb some of the horrible consequences of working in a mine, coca is their lifeline.

Our January excursion was an extremely rewarding part my Bridge Year experience. As we traveled and were able to explore other areas of the country that we'd been living in for months, we met some amazing people, came face-to-face with the unbelievable history of the country, and, of course, took some foolish pictures in EL Salar, a beautiful, seemingly interminable environment of salt flats. More than anything, however, our mid-year "vacation" helped to show me the complex but critical role that coca plays in Bolivian life.  In the eyes of the DEA, coca is simply seen as a "Schedule II Controlled Substance", because one of it's twelve alkaloids is used to produce cocaine. Yet in the eyes of the Inca, the coca plant was viewed as a gift from the Gods. Today, some of that same reverence for those small leaves is clearly visible in Bolivia, and I'm so happy to have been able to witness it. From keeping people alive in the some of the world's worst working conditions, to breaking down barriers among strangers, to allowing me to reach the summit of an active volcano, coca is an extraordinary plant.  And as I think back to those kind Campesinas from the trek, the solemn miners of Cerro Rico, and even our cheerful mountain guides, it's clear to me that coca has been the perfect way to come to know the beautiful people of the country that I currently call my home. [post_title] => Shiny Green Gifts [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => shiny-green-gifts [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-02 09:08:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-02 15:08:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/blog/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 579 [name] => Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17 [slug] => princeton-bridge-year-bolivia-2016-17 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 579 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 263 [count] => 43 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3.1 [cat_ID] => 579 [category_count] => 43 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17 [category_nicename] => princeton-bridge-year-bolivia-2016-17 [category_parent] => 263 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/princeton-bridge-year/princeton-bridge-year-bolivia-2016-17/ ) ) [category_links] => Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17 )
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Shiny Green Gifts

Jackson Vail,Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17

Description

Halfway up the slope, I was ready to call it quits. An image of a giant white flag waved in the back of my mind, and I was seriously considering rolling back down the steep mountainside that I had just hauled myself up. We were nearing the end of our two-week excursion, and the rest […]

Posted On

05/2/17

Author

Jackson Vail

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Today, I’d like to talk about a member of my Bolivian family whom very few of you have heard of. This dedicated relative works without complaint, with limited resources and demanding customers. Always dressed in shades of gray, she makes the lives of our family more convenient, while staying out of sight when not needed. She is one of my greatest sources of joy, and very occasionally a great source of frustration. Her boxy frame is both comforting in its solidity and unyielding in its purpose.

In English, roughly translated, her name is Washing Machine.

Of course, Washing Machine does not contain a beating heart under all the circuity. But her place at my side has grown far larger than what her Cincinnati-based cousin ever did. Laundry in my first eighteen years was a source of nagging from my parents, wrinkles in my button-downs, and, need I say it, an incredible amount of laziness by me. I would unceremoniously pile my clothes beside the washer amidst those of my siblings and parents. Magically, after a few days, the same clothes would appear cleaned and dried in a hamper in my parent’s bedroom. Well, I did know that my parents regularly did my laundry, but the knowledge was passive—like how a five year-old knows the sky is blue but can’t explain the why’s or the how’s. On the rare occasions of an independent volition on my part to clean my own clothes, I had to ask, for example, how much detergent to use.

Coming to a small semi-rural town with a chronic water shortage and unpredictable rain storms changed my approach to clothes-cleaning. For the first few weeks of my home-stay, my family did not own a washing machine (much less a dryer). One sunny Sunday afternoon, my host-mom introduced to the time-honored practice of filling plastic buckets with water and detergent and scrubbing, scrubbing, and scrubbing some more. I was satisfied with my pace of progress until, somehow, the sharp detergent grains cut my finger. Ay! Eres muyyy delicado. (Oh! You’re sooo delicate), exclaimed my host-mom in a tone balanced halfway between traditional motherly concern and an accepting resignation of the fact that this pale, skinny gringo was not tougher than he looked.

While I cannot be sure exactly how much my cut factored in the decision, within two weeks of this incident a shiny metal washer arrived at our doorstep. The machine manual contained a mix of Spanish and English labeling, requiring the team effort of my host-mom and me to bring to life. But once assembled, I felt confident in my chances of conquering the growing pile of dirty clothing next to my bed. That is, until I triumphantly pushed the start button to find only a constipated trickle of water entering the tub. The machine groaned in frustration, matching in pitch and volume my internal groan. But approximately four hours later, enough water had entered for both the wash and rinse cycles. I hung my clothes out to dry, content.

Since that first fateful wash, I have experienced both triumphs and tribulations. Days where the water flows freely, and days where the stream is cut off mid-soak. Days of erased stains, and days of wet clothes being blown off the clothesline into the dirt. But every single use, I am grateful for more than the time I have saved. It may sound silly to my friends here who are here without washing machines and live happy, productive lives. But for me, my washer is a source of joy and satisfaction.

Despite having never before contemplated it in my life, each load of labor-free laundry is a chance to appreciate the privileges I have. The convenience and speed of each wash teaches me concretely about how by virtue of circumstances outside my control, many aspects of my life are comparatively quite easy. For many Bolivians, washing day means heading to the river, summer or winter. And yet, even while I am here, with the purpose of integrating into this community, I have the privilege of using a washing machine. Of course, the satisfaction of simple convenience is the most impactful feeling I receive each load. But also every load, I have the opportunity to explore what that convenience can teach me, about myself and the communities I inhabit. There is something quite special in that. [post_title] => Relatively Clean [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => relatively-clean [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-03-14 12:45:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-03-14 18:45:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/blog/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 579 [name] => Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17 [slug] => princeton-bridge-year-bolivia-2016-17 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 579 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 263 [count] => 43 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3.1 [cat_ID] => 579 [category_count] => 43 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17 [category_nicename] => princeton-bridge-year-bolivia-2016-17 [category_parent] => 263 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/princeton-bridge-year/princeton-bridge-year-bolivia-2016-17/ ) ) [category_links] => Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17 )

Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17

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Relatively Clean

Ethan Kahn,Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17

Description

Today, I’d like to talk about a member of my Bolivian family whom very few of you have heard of. This dedicated relative works without complaint, with limited resources and demanding customers. Always dressed in shades of gray, she makes the lives of our family more convenient, while staying out of sight when not needed. […]

Posted On

03/14/17

Author

Ethan Kahn

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    [post_date] => 2017-01-31 13:16:09
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“Careful not to get that on your hands—it’s battery acid,” Guido, a thirteen year-old boy with large round eyes, warned matter-of-factly. I glanced warily at my bare hands, pale in the gray light of an overcast morning. “Ok,” I responded with a nervous smile. We were standing in the main cemetery of Potosí, an aging mining town stationed at over 13,000 feet. My job of morning was to help him clean—with acid—and polish the lápidas (tombstones), many of whose metal frames had dulled.

Why? The previous day, we had met with the (adult) director and founder of Consejo de Niñas, Niños, y Adolescentes Trabajadores Organizados de Potosí (Council for Organized Children and Adolescent Workers of Potosí, or CONATSOP), an organization of unionized child laborers in Potosí. She had explained to us the recent change in child labor law in Bolivia. While the official minimum working age was kept at 14, workers as young as 10 were authorized to do light work (ie. not mining or brick laying) with the permission of their parents. Organizations like the International Labor Organization decried the law as a step backward for Bolivia, but Doña Luz, the steely and determined director of CONATSOP, dismissed their concerns: In Bolivia, a country where one in three children work, legal workplace protections could only help. So could an organization dedicated to representing child workers and teaching them their rights, which was her motivation for founding CONATSOP. Coming from a country where the end of child labor was celebrated as a triumph of progressivism, the new permissive Bolivian labor law challenged my thinking. Was the daily reality of working children reason enough to legalize an often exploitative practice that can crowd out time spent on education? 

That brings me back to the morning, when, with that question still lingering in my mind, we split up to spend time with different children in the organization; I ended up in the cemetery, learning the multistep process of treating each lápida’s metal frame with acid, then polishing, and then removing the dust from the glass with window cleaner. But the most fulfilling aspect of the morning for me was not that I was able to make the metal shine or that I avoided a serious chemical burn (although that was a plus). Instead, most valuable were my conversations with Guido and his shy sixteen year-old companion Jonathan. Walking in between niches of freshly cut flowers and under gnarled trees, we discussed topics both light (are squirrels really as common as dogs where you live?) and heavy (is the United States an empire?). The complex political, economic, health, and cultural issue of how to deal with child labor was certainly not resolved. But I learned that Jonathan is planning on studying tourism in college, and Guido wants to run for president of CONATSOP. That has to be progress, right?

  [post_title] => Labor and Lápidas [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => labor-and-lapidas [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-31 13:16:09 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-31 20:16:09 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/blog/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 579 [name] => Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17 [slug] => princeton-bridge-year-bolivia-2016-17 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 579 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 263 [count] => 43 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3.1 [cat_ID] => 579 [category_count] => 43 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17 [category_nicename] => princeton-bridge-year-bolivia-2016-17 [category_parent] => 263 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/princeton-bridge-year/princeton-bridge-year-bolivia-2016-17/ ) ) [category_links] => Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17 )
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Labor and Lápidas

Ethan Kahn,Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17

Description

“Careful not to get that on your hands—it’s battery acid,” Guido, a thirteen year-old boy with large round eyes, warned matter-of-factly. I glanced warily at my bare hands, pale in the gray light of an overcast morning. “Ok,” I responded with a nervous smile. We were standing in the main cemetery of Potosí, an aging […]

Posted On

01/31/17

Author

Ethan Kahn

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    [post_date] => 2016-12-27 14:02:26
    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-27 21:02:26
    [post_content] => 

Hola a todos,

As all of the service organizations are currently on holiday break, the BYBolivia group will be setting off on our winter excursion soon. This excursion has been planned and organized almost entirely by the student group, based on their interests and using their new language and organizational skills.  The students have been in charge of not only defining the itinerary, but also of contacting the appropriate people and organizations, as well as creating a projected budget for the trip.  It’s been a pleasure to plan this upcoming adventure alongside the group and it promises to be a truly rewarding time away.  Please take a look at our itinerary below:
  • Jan 2: We will depart from Tiquipaya by bus. We will travel overnight and arrive in Sucre in the morning.
  • Jan 3: After arriving in Sucre, we will have a day to explore and visit museums.
  • Jan 4: We will begin preparations for our trek in the Frailes mountain range. This day will be a mix of trek prep and pump up.
  • Jan 5-8: The group will trek in the Frailes mountain range with Condor Trekkers.
    • Jan 6: While still on the trek, we will do mid-course activities. These will include reflections on the first half of our trip, and goal-setting for the second half.
  • Jan 9: We will have another day to explore Sucre and will leave for Potosi on the evening of 1/9.
  • Jan 10-12: During these days we will spend our time exploring Potosi, the most historically significant city in Bolivia. We will learn about the history of mining and visit with a union of child workers.
  • Jan 13: We travel to Uyuni for the start of our visit to the Salar de Uyuni
  • Jan 14-16: We will be exploring the Salar de Uyuni, an expansive salt flat. We will be accompanied by Quechua Connection. This portion of the trip will include a volcano hike and, hopefully, a dip in some hot springs.
  • Jan 17: We arrive back in Tiquipaya,...Home sweet home.
We are so excited for this amazing trip. What an opportunity to get out and see more of Bolivia! We’ll be in touch with photos and updates from our adventure, so please stay tuned! BY Bolivia Staff [post_title] => Winter Excursion Itinerary [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => winter-excursion-itinerary [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-27 14:02:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-27 21:02:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/blog/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 579 [name] => Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17 [slug] => princeton-bridge-year-bolivia-2016-17 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 579 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 263 [count] => 43 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3.1 [cat_ID] => 579 [category_count] => 43 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17 [category_nicename] => princeton-bridge-year-bolivia-2016-17 [category_parent] => 263 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/princeton-bridge-year/princeton-bridge-year-bolivia-2016-17/ ) ) [category_links] => Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17 )

Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17

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Winter Excursion Itinerary

Luis Alvarado,Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17

Description

Hola a todos, As all of the service organizations are currently on holiday break, the BYBolivia group will be setting off on our winter excursion soon. This excursion has been planned and organized almost entirely by the student group, based on their interests and using their new language and organizational skills.  The students have been […]

Posted On

12/27/16

Author

Luis Alvarado

WP_Post Object
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    [ID] => 151124
    [post_author] => 2
    [post_date] => 2016-12-27 13:41:41
    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-27 20:41:41
    [post_content] => 

When we all crammed together in our small program house “den” during a hot and sticky November afternoon (summertime here!) to plan our Thanksgiving menu, I felt a swirl of apprehension. Sure, I had vague memories of chopping and peeling for previous family meals, but my most enduring contribution to Thanksgiving had always been my food consumption, not production. Add to that an explicitly non-binding, but perhaps expectations-wise mandatory request to source our food locally, I had no good ideas of how I could contribute. So naturally, I volunteered to make the sweet potato dish. In my estimation, with enough sugar and butter and marshmallows, even I couldn’t screw it up. Then a mixture of my own inexperience and a misguided backlash against Bolivia got in the way.

The recipe I quickly found on Google was a fairly simple: eight pounds of sweet potato (camote in Spanish), some sugar and spices to make into a glaze, and marshmallows. Jason was awesome enough to buy everything but the marshmallows at a nearby organic market, so I could safely check my locally-sourced box. However, unsurprisingly, there were no locally-sourced marshmallows to be found. And so off I went to our friendly, neighborhood, externally-sourced, supermarket mecca: Hipermaxi. I will not lie and say that this is the first, or even the third time that I have visited a supermarket while in Bolivia. But I will also not lie and claim that I did not experience a kind of rush seeing each orderly parallel shelf full of orderly parallel rows of brightly colored packages of food. I quickly picked up two large bags of giant heart-shaped marshmallows. I felt only a small qualm about my purchase – let me explain.

I recently read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. It’s a thought-provoking book in many ways, but one of the most lasting messages it left with me was the way in which our United States industrial food system walls us off from and blinds us to the consequences of how our food is produced. By hiding the inhumane treatment of animals behind distant factory walls and using environmentally harmful fossil fuels to ship our food thousands of miles, corporations incentivize us to treat our planet poorly, both unethically and unsustainably. In contrast, most Bolivia families continue to source their food far more locally and generate an environmental footprint far smaller than that of Americans. For milk, my host-mom walks five minutes down the street to a small dairy farm. For fruits, vegetables, and meats, the Sunday market provides whatever is seasonally available. From this idea came the impetus for our locally-sourced Thanksgiving, and my small qualm about buying two large bags of marshmallows. But it was only a small qualm. In fact, the “locally-sourced Thanksgiving” idea, first proposed and advocated for by Jason, endured a fair amount of complaints and cynicism by the group (myself included) at the beginning. Why should we, living far more sustainable lives here in Bolivia every day than we do in the US, have to subject ourselves to the inconvenience of seeking local food for one holiday meal? Our preliminary objection came from more than just the guilty pleasure of ogling jars of Nutella and boxes of Betty Crocker Brownie Mix at the Hipermaxi. There also was, and still is, the joy that comes from the simple predictability of neatly packaged and organized food products. To us Americans, supermarket products are familiar, convenient, and almost welcoming. Perhaps, I thought smugly to myself as I left the Hipermaxi, my marshmallows will be an all-American highlight that we’ve all been missing. More on that in a moment.

The day of Thanksgiving dawned hot and sunny, and I began the process of washing and peeling the sweet potatoes. As I scrubbed the dirt off, the ruby-red underlayer of flesh began to peek out from the rough outer brown coat. We had no vegetable peeler, so a long session small paring knife was needed to separate to sand-papery skin from the pale-orange flesh, and then to chop each potato into pieces. After came the glaze – in short, it burned. Once off the heat, the shiny black caramel hardened into a hard glassy disk. A second try with the glaze yielded something more edible, with which I coated the potatoes. I spread them out on a tray, and stuck them in our gas powered oven. Fifty minutes later, I added the marshmallows to brown. Ten minutes after that, I was beckoned to the oven by a sharp shout from Lindsay. Similar to what would happen at any good campfire, one of the marshmallows was happily burning with a bright orange flame and steadily blackening.

Once the fire was extinguished, I began to notice other problems. The giant marshmallows had swelled in the oven, covering nearly the entire surface of the pan in a ugly mosaic of wrinkled white and pink. Some of the potatoes had burned. I was disappointed, disappointed that my contribution to Thanksgiving would be a source of (light-hearted) jokes, almost artfully ugly in comparison with traditional Thanksgiving sweet potatoes. But after reflecting a little, and laughing along with everyone else, one incongruence stood out to me. Since my purchase at the Hipermaxi, I had never imagined that the marshmallows would be what would give me the most trouble. Somehow, my infallible, externally-sourced, proudly-artificial marshmallows had turned out to be the most aberrant ingredient.

Any experience living in a new environment in a foreign country brings a host of unexpected difficulties – accidentally taking public transportation to the opposite end of the city, enduring five days without enough running water to take a shower, or accidentally declaring (in Spanish) that the water situation here is a transvestite instead of a travesty, to name a few of my own. We often cling to our home-culture, its worldview and its commercial products, as a source of stability and comfort. But just as much as our crutches can support us, their failure can spark us to grow.

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Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17

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Betty Crocker Blues

Ethan Kahn,Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17

Description

When we all crammed together in our small program house “den” during a hot and sticky November afternoon (summertime here!) to plan our Thanksgiving menu, I felt a swirl of apprehension. Sure, I had vague memories of chopping and peeling for previous family meals, but my most enduring contribution to Thanksgiving had always been my […]

Posted On

12/27/16

Author

Ethan Kahn

WP_Post Object
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    [post_author] => 2
    [post_date] => 2016-12-12 10:01:37
    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-12 17:01:37
    [post_content] => 

Let me tell you a little story.

There once was a traveller who, for 2 and a half months, rotated through her 4 pairs of pants managing to convince herself that her sole pair of Underarmor leggings indeed were the nicest pair. She wore them everywhere; despididas (goodbye parties), family feasts, and even kingdom-wide fiestas (celebrations)…somehow, she had disregarded the words of wisdom from the all-knowing program guide to bring a pair of “city pants”. And so, settled in and familiar with the 3 block radius containing everything one could possibly need in the land of Tiquipaya, she decided to scout out the thing that would signify the end of feeling like a tourist in Bolivia, the holy grail of city, farm, or semi-rural fashion: a pair of blue jeans.

Her search began not through some storybook forest, but as a casual twenty minute after-work pit-stop. Through the chaotic piles she rummaged; there seemed to be every sort of jean imaginable: ripped, faded, pink, kids, cropped, and even mom. Knowing that every piece was unique in this shop gave her all the more motivation on her journey. It was as if an inimitable pair would be destined for her, it wouldn’t just be any other mediocre porridge. Behind an impromptu curtain she sampled the treasure chest, optimistic that she could totally rock mom jeans in Bolivia, but even from that gargantuan blur of blue, she couldn’t find one pair to her liking. After her third visit, the shopkeeper, a mother of three, began to offer her her impressions, advising her on which pairs seemed to be too tight or too loose, too bell-bottomey or too trimmed. Having known the shopkeeper for a grand total of at most an hour, she was left in the store to look after the children as their mother bought some milk. On that day, our protagonist became a jean enthusiast turned temporary babysitter, but she felt her heart warm at the realization that Tiquipayeñas could have so much confidence in her, even if just for 20 minutes.

Unsuccessful thus far in her expedition, the traveller peeped into a newly opened shop on her street which flaunted the fanciest dresses in the land. She was drawn in by the sea of untouched blouses, but more so, by the rack of expertly hung jeans. It was only after 5 minutes that she realised a whole family was sitting at the back; they were eating lunch together and casually glancing over at the girl in hiking pants and an unnecessarily heavy duty backpack. Again, she zoomed through the array of jeans, becoming so desperate that she tried on a range from size 2 to size 16. Instead of looking in the mirror content with her find, our protagonist found a little girl, standing beside her, staring at the stranger three times her size and unfamiliarly Asian. The little girl started off just observing, but then came the flurry of questions and the tugging of the pants. “What’s your name? Do you like my dress?” Little Andrea didn’t even care that the traveller had been in the store for 40 minutes, only trying on jeans. In fact, the little girl began to crawl around and into the cramped “changing room,” impatiently waiting the continuation of the “fashion show”. Andie, as our protagonist has come to call her, asked where she was going right as she was about to give up on the jeans and leave. Right then, the traveller told Andie the she would be back, and surely enough she has been back a countless number of times, whether to explore the racks or not.

At last she arrived at the last resort. At the Sunday market that extended from her doorstep, our protagonist passed a clothing kiosk inhabited by two women and their babies. They asserted that the mountain of jeans that she was about to conquer was solely for men. Of course. On the brink of surrendering her silly obsession, she decided to try on a couple of these men’s jeans as a last hurrah, a last proof to justify the end the search; however, she realized that she wouldn’t be able to try on the pairs unless willing to strip off her pants in the middle of the street…not the most storybook-friendly prospect. Instead, she struck up a gutsy deal with the two gossiping señoritas: she was to take the jeans to her house, but leave her cellphone with them as insurance. She admitted to herself that it wasn’t the brightest of ideas, but the fact that her phone would be somewhat hidden under the shopkeeper’s baby’s blanket eased her mind. So, with no time to waste or reconsider her decision, the traveller rushed to her house and to her surprise, one pair out of the five that she carried home actually fit! She returned to the stall, bought the jeans, and received her phone back, but not before jokes were exchanged about the fact that she had one, left her phone in a baby carriage and two, had just bought jeans for men. An unrivalled level of trust was built between her those señoritas, a trust that she never would’ve expected to encounter amongst blue jeans.

The whole time, the traveller thought that finally buying jeans would be her initiation to becoming a Tiquipayeña, to not simply remain as another foreigner passing through this beautiful kingdom. In reality, her feeling at home in Tiquipaya has taken shape in many different ways…perhaps not in the shape of high-waisted or slim fit, but certainly in a passing wave to Andie or in the companionship that arises every Sunday.

 

I hope you’ve come to realize, as our budding Tiquipayeña has, that this story was never really about porridge or other foolish material things, but about the diversity of characters that are more deserving of attention than the temperature of porridge. So to give you an ending for now, she may not be living a fairytale reality, but to this day, her glimpses of happily ever after come in the form of genuine smiles exchanged on the street and surprisingly well-fitting men’s jeans.

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Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17

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Goldilocks and Her Blue Jeans

Ysabel Ayala,Princeton Bridge Year: Bolivia 2016-17

Description

Let me tell you a little story. There once was a traveller who, for 2 and a half months, rotated through her 4 pairs of pants managing to convince herself that her sole pair of Underarmor leggings indeed were the nicest pair. She wore them everywhere; despididas (goodbye parties), family feasts, and even kingdom-wide fiestas […]

Posted On

12/12/16

Author

Ysabel Ayala

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