Rather, I am here.
After 24 or so hours of travel — Seattle to Dallas to Miami to La Paz, Bolivia — I’ve arrived safely. My first impressions of Bolivia and La Paz were breathtaking, both literally at 13,000-some feet and figuratively at the gorgeous view of a darkened city set in a bowl with the early lights twinkling and the sunrise catching the edge of the triple-peaked mountain overlooking La Paz. Illimani is the snow-capped mountain that commands attention and awe from the city at all times, much in the same way that Mt. Rainier does over Seattle, except Illimani is 21,000 ft. tall. I couldn’t stop staring at it.
We were met at the airport by several Rotary hosts and my GSE teammate Mark’s Bolivian friend Ernesto. My host parents here in Bolivia, Pedro y Marta, chauffeured half of our group on a winding but interesting route through downtown, dropping people off until it was just us left. La Paz is vaguely reminiscent of some Spanish cities I’ve been to, which is likely due to its hundreds of years of Spanish rule, before becoming independent thanks to Simón Bolívar (hence, Bolivia) in 1825.
Then, they brought me back to their lovely home in Sopocachi. I met two of their sons, Javi (21) and Ernesto (17), at an 8 AM breakfast of mate de coca (coca tea, which helps alleviate altitude sickness) and some simple pastries with jam and dulce de leche. I proceeded to pass out for 6 hours until I woke up feeling like I was in the nose-bleed seats. Quite literally, unfortunately.
However, lucky for me (and you), my host family has internet so I can keep in touch while I’m here in La Paz for the next four days.
Once again, I can’t stress enough the intense contrast of light and shadow in this city, whether on the dry, craggy mountains surrounding the city and changing color throughout the day or the way certain parts of the city are left in a cool darkness and then suddenly catch a flash of light as you pass.
Another note of interest: Mark noticed as we were passing through the city that the “river” was a mere trickle, and Marta reinforced that La Paz’s usual rainy season, summer (which they’re just coming out of), left the city much hotter (by 10 degrees Celsius) and drier than usual. Meaning La Paz is usually around 64 degrees F but has jumped up to 80 degrees in recent years. Her son Ernesto mentioned it again at breakfast when we were discussing the climate here, and they’ve seen stark changes in the weather here for the past three or four years. Now climate is not weather, but this doesn’t look like a very good trend for the city based on expected changes in climate.
OK, enough of that. Now for a cute picture of some of the four kittens living in my host family’s kitchen: