Andes and Amazon Adventures

Greetings from Bolivia! 

Hi everyone! I'm writing this post in an internet cafe in La Paz, Bolivia, after successfully renewing my visa and then searching through aisles and aisles of cut up raw meat and wilted Todos Santos flowers in search of peanuts and raisins to buy for group snacks on our upcoming ten-day trek. 

I am immersed in a program called Where There Be Dragons, and I've spent the past two months traveling around Bolivia and Peru with their Andes and Amazon semester program. By necessity, this blog post won't be current because I'll be staying in a tent in a tiny village in the Amazon rainforest on the day it is supposed to go out. Also, I cannot attach current photos because you can't plug your camera into an internet cafe computer if you ever want to use that camera for anything ever again- other than as a paper weight or maybe a missile to throw at scary dogs. If you want to know more about the program, you can go to the Dragons website. You can also view my current course.

House on mountain

Yeah. So I'm on a gap year. It took me a long time to finally come to the decision that I didn't need to rush right into college after high school, and Olin's attitude towards taking time off really helped me. I thought of education - maybe not on a logical level but on a sort of experiential level - as something difficult and exhausting that I should try to finish as soon as possible. I won't say I suddenly saw some light and had an epiphany about taking life slowly and never stressing about anything, but senior spring I realized that I might never have an opportunity to travel so freely again. So I started to look at gap year programs. Essentially, all I knew was that I wanted to go somewhere where I could practice Spanish. Little did I know, my homestay family would speak mostly Quetchua at home! Oh well. The experience has been incredible and indescribable. Because time is limited and I only have a few Boliviano coins on me, I’ll attach an excerpt of a post I wrote for the Dragons website. Photo credit to Dragons as well.  I’m the tall one on the right.

This morning I woke up in my homestay in Tiquipaya. I opened my eyes to the early morning light diluted by the lace curtains. I knew where I was. I swung my feet out of bed and for once didn’t smash them against the tile floor; I had learned the height of the bed. I think of Eugenia, my host mother, having to teach me to wash my clothes by hand. I thought I knew how to do it, scrubbing them against the ridged washboard side of the sink. I had to watch in shame as she pulled and pounded my treking pants and then showed me the dirty water she wrung from the fabric. At the breakfast table, some of the bananas have gone bad, and I make a note to buy eggs so I can make more banana bread. On my walk to the program house, I’m braced for the auditory and mental assault of the barking dogs along my route, but the dogs are laid out in shade and merely glance at me as I pass. They must have become accustomed to this new set of feet passing them every day. Perhaps my smell has changed. I pass my landmarks, Burnt Log In The Road, Tiny Church, Tiny Store, Tractor Road, Complaining Cow, Scary Roof Dog, Big Store, Helen’s Store, Empty Greenhouses and so on.

I never really believed before this trip that I could adapt. I thought of myself as a static and inflexible being, a homebody. This is part of the reason I decided I needed to travel. I’m a long way from living completely in the moment, the steps I’ve made are nearly insignificant, but I have moved, changed in a way I never thought I could.

Posted in: Gap Year Blogs