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Title: Learning Spanish and Volunteering
Location: Cochabamba, Bolivia
My husband and I met the other volunteers for the first time on Tuesday night. As luck would have it we bumped into a guy we met on the open day in Brighton and he took our mobile number and called us with the rendez-vous.
Three social nights later we can report that: We are the oldest by miles apart from one retired lecturer Valerie still to be seen! Some are 17 which make me twice their age and others 25 ish. But they are a good bunch. As you might expect they are trying so hard to be cool travelers that they end up looking the same. They are festooned in friendship bands and have started to learn the guitar. They are an intrepid bunch who travel around Bolivia most weekends.
It is frightening how mature some of them are having already done projects in Africa etc and just think they are only 4 years older than my son! They stay with host families and these are the source of endless conversations as they vary so much. Some have got satellite in their rooms, others have a 30 minute bus ride to town, some have curfews of midnight which causes endless strife as things don't start here until 10pm. Some get lunch (the main meal here in S America) only and others get rice and beans 3 times a day.
Most of them are on medical or care placements. This means they help out in clinics and vaccinate children and take blood. The care homes are awful by all accounts and the kids can be mentally, physically handicapped and in some cases the victims of physical and sexual abuse. I have read some of the cases and it's heart breaking. What surprises me is that the volunteers work in these institutions at such a young age and without any formal training. However they seem to make a positive difference.
So far the volunteers have had 2 cases of typhoid and so has my supervisor at the University - she picked it up when she went into hospital for planned surgery. Of course the volunteers who have had it are quite proud (hard core travelers now). I however am not so keen to pick it up.
My husband and I are very cautious and luckily we can afford to eat at the best places in town without a problem. It is so cheap here, I can't tell you. We regularly have dinner and drinks for less than two pounds.
The best café in town is quite a surprise its Brazillian and Japanese. You get great coffee and Brazillian snacks alongside a full Sushi Sashimi menu. Both are great. There is a very noticeable link between Bolivia and Japan. The Sumitomo corporation has just built a new hospital at the end of our road and one of the last Presidents of Bolivia was Japanese. It is thought that the two races are genetically linked and since we learnt about this you can really see it in their features.
There is an authentic little French café for crepes and we had Mexican on Tuesday owned by a Mexican producer director who has invited us to his village one weekend if we fancy it. Cochabamba also has the best Italian in Bolivia but we haven't been there yet. We had traditional bolivian fare too but boy do you have to be hungry for that!
Our Spanish is coming along nicely! Here in Cochabamba, Bolivia we are volunteering to teach English and also learning Spanish by lectures, which are great at the University!