Wherein I leave for Bolivia

Last fall, nearly on a whim and certainly at the last minute possible, I applied for a program called Group Study Exchange (GSE) through the Rotary Club. It’s an international exchange program for young professionals, and the Seattle GSE this year is sending four of us (plus a Rotary group leader) from the Seattle area to travel around Bolivia for a month to “study the host country’s institutions and ways of life, observe their own vocations as practiced abroad, develop personal and professional relationships, and exchange ideas.”

In laymen’s terms: For me, it’s a trip to South America to learn about environmental journalism, practice my Spanish, and have a blast traveling around a continent I’ve never been to.

Originally, I was chosen by Rotary to be an “alternate” team member. Yeah right, as if I wouldn’t luck into going. And in January, someone dropped out of the program, and I was called up out of the reserves to travel to Bolivia from April 10 through May 8!

Which means I leave technically … today. Oy. I’ll be traveling to seven different cities across Bolivia, staying with Bolivian Rotary host families, and meeting with media and environmental organizations (among others) while there. This includes attending the World People’s Conference on Climate Change, aka President Evo Morales’ response to the United Nations climate process. What a way to spend Earth Day, eh?

On top of all that, this little vegetarian will be eating non-industrial farmed meat while there. (More on that to come.) I mean, how could I pass up a little wild guinea pig while I’m there? Also, I don’t want to reject the foods of Bolivia which are offered to me by my hosts. It’s poor etiquette no matter what country you’re in.

Relatedly, you should learn about Bolivia: It’s the most impoverished and one of the only landlocked nations in South America, with large indigenous populations and more llamas than you can shake a stick at. It has a mix of geography that ranges from the Amazon to the Andes mountains to the cool, dry highlands. Also, it’s gorgeous. See the Salar de Uyuni (salt flat):

Salar de Uyuni

Photo: Tomas Rawski via Creative Commons http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomasrawski/387528475/

And this is La Paz, the administrative capital of Bolivia (not the historical one, but this is where most stuff gets done), where I’ll be flying into:

La Paz Bolivia

Photo: guillermoduran via Creative Commons http://www.flickr.com/photos/guillermoduran/705284155/

Look for more updates (I hope) from Bolivia on food, culture, the environment, and let’s be honest, probably llamas (it’s all for you, Skray!). As we used to say on el Camino de Santiago de Compostela: Buen camino!

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5 thoughts on “Wherein I leave for Bolivia

  1. Dad says:

    Hello daughter!
    Well at this time on Saturday we are staying in sun drenched Nebraska with your Uncle Bill and Aunt Becky. Just visited Grandma … she is well! Going to church tonight and then to dinner. Will see Uncle Darryl and Aunt Kim tomorrow (and Grandma of course). Will be back on the road again on Monday to Dayton.
    Hope all of your travels are safe and well! Email us when you get in and maybe even start SKYPING … if we can work out times.
    Stay safe and healthy … don’t eat too much guiena pig!
    Love you,
    Dad

  2. Que te vaya super bien! (Wooo, go Ashley!)

  3. Genevieve says:

    Ashley – this is awesome! Have a fantastic time on your adventure. I hear you on the need to eat meat so as not to offend your hosts – I have given it a lot of thought as I’ll be going to Chile later this year. Keep us posted on how it’s all going!! Vaya con Dios!

  4. Senora Watson says:

    Hola y como te va? No puedo creer que estes en Bolivia. I will write in English so your family can read this. Ashley, I am so excited for you! I was also an alternate before being chosen for my exchange year in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. I would love the opportunity to go back! You will have to tell me your thoughts and about your experiences! My favorite fruit from there is the chirimoya. Please give it a try and look for the sloths in the trees of the main plaza downtown. Speak Spanish as much as possible and know that a chulupi is a cockroach (not a cucaracha!) I would love to know how the city looks now and do the street lights work yet? I am so excited for you! Good for you for seeing what God has in store for you there. You will learn about yourself and our world! What an opportunity! It is definitely different than our trip to Spain! Write when you get a chance! If not, we will catch up when you return! Enjoy!

    Love,
    Senora

  5. JR says:

    Wow, I’m very late to the chase, but great to see these pics et al!

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