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):
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:
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!