Posts tagged ‘Bolivia’

Me with Bolivia, a great love affair!

It seems like ages ago that I was frantically working on my Kiva Fellows application back in the spring of 2012 while traveling in Southeast Asia. Then the tense months of interviews followed by the thrill of being selected. And finally the excitement of preparing for my placement in mesmerizing Bolivia.

How time flies when you’re having fun and loving your job!

Now, after a blink of the eye, I am leaving Bolivia and my Kiva Fellowship after three whirlwind months of motivating work, meeting endearing people and learning fascinating things in a whole new world.

My moving on is bittersweet – while I am eager for the new journeys that await, I am so thankful for the meaningful opportunity Kiva has given me in the world of microfinance. I have absorbed so much and witnessed how access to low-interest credit can make a real difference for those living in poverty.

At every moment of this incredible adventure Kiva has provided outstanding support and open trust in my work and my mission.  My Kiva family has showered me with love from beginning to end. I am eternally grateful.

And Bolivia! Oh my beguiling Bolivia: you welcomed me with the smiles of your handsome people, you gave me a home that I simply loved, you treated me to splendid sights and vigorous geography, you nourished my body with wholesome foods and you gave me friends to fill my days. My heart is heavy as I leave you.

I already miss your rugged landscapes, the comfort of familiar places and people, and my routine and purposefulness in your midst.  You have shown me a new way to travel, one that comes slowly after considerable effort but rewards in powerful ways. I can’t wait to see you again!

I am so proud of my Kiva Fellowship – proud of the difficult changes I made in my life to get here and proud of the work I accomplished.

No, I probably didn’t change the world. But it changed my world.

And the best part of all this is knowing that it is only the beginning…

Kiva Fellows Class 19... we rock!

Kids flying kites above La Paz

Visiting a potato farm in Colomí

Mysterious and mystical mountain ruins

Chola women watching a bullfight in the altiplano

CIDRE colleagues enjoying an afternoon chicha break

Beautiful Lake Titicaca and Island of the Sun, spiritual center of the Incas

With Angélica, my bestie at Emprender in La Paz

Street fiesta in Tarata

Here’s my sixth installment on the Kiva Stories from the Field website as I serve as a Kiva Fellow in Bolivia. Perhaps the highlights of my experiences were the many opportunities to meet Kiva borrowers.

Here are three of the many wonderful moments I shared with Bolivians who received low-interest loans through Kiva’s partners here in Bolivia. Thanks to all of you who loan through Kiva, you make a big difference in their lives.

Kiva Fellows Blog 6: Magical Moments with Kiva Borrowers in Bolivia

The capital city of th Tiwanaku, the great Andean civilization that preceeded the Incas and who influenced them heavily

Tiwanaku

I couldn’t bear another cold, rainy day in La Paz so I struck out after breakfast one Saturday to visit one of Bolivia’s most important archaeological sites Tiwanku, a UNESCO World Heritage Site just 90 minutes from La Paz. This “cradle of Andean civilization,” which preceded the Incas, was centered near the fertile soils near Lake Titicaca and flourished for nearly 2500 years until about 1000 AD when the site was abandoned after severe drought.

There is no written history of the Tiwanaku so unfortunately very little is known about this civilization.  An agriculturally based society, they developed sophisticated farming methods (including the sukakullos which Paul and I saw near Copacabana earlier this year) which sustained a considerably growing population. By 800 AD, the capital city of Tiwanaku had perhaps 50,000 residents and recent studies suggest up to 1.5 million inhabitants lived in the region.

The walled Kalasasaya, sacred space featuring many of the most important icons and temples (as seen from atop the Akapana pyramid).

The walled Kalasasaya, sacred space featuring many of the most important icons and temples (as seen from atop the Akapana pyramid).

They worshipped many gods, the most important being Viracocha who created the earth at Island of the Sun on Lake Titicaca and brought forth humans from the earth’s rocks. He is celebrated in the site’s outstanding Temple of the Sun, one of the few remaining monuments at the site.  The Tiwanaku also placed great spiritual importance in prominent mountain peaks, the apus (deities) that control weather and determine agricultural output, traditions which continue to this day.

One of the iconic monoliths central to Tiwanau sacred art. This religious leader holds a goblet-like keru for chicha and a wooden case holding hallucinogenic herbs.

One of the iconic monoliths central to Tiwanau sacred art. This religious leader holds a goblet-like keru for chicha and a wooden case for hallucinogenic herbs.

Continue reading ‘Tiwanaku: The Cradle of Andean Civilization’ »

Scenes from my daily life in Cochabamba

My life as a Kiva Fellow was obviously different than my normal travel mostly due to the fact that I lived primarily in one city, had an apartment, went shopping for food, spent time in an office, and had time and energy to socialize at night.

Here are some pictures and captions that I hope give a sense of my daily life in Bolivia.

Home: More than just a place to hang my hat for a night or two…

Office: No cubicles, a 10-minute commute, a two-hour lunch break, and not a word in English…

Continue reading ‘A Day in My Life: Scenes from Cochabamba’ »

Here’s my fifth installment on the Kiva Stories from the Field website as I serve as a Kiva Fellow in Bolivia. Bolivia is full of spring celebrations this time of year, so I had lots of opportunities to add a new post for Kiva’s “Holiday” theme for the month of November.

Kiva Fellows Blog 5: The San Severino Festival - Rain, Ritual and Revelry in Bolivia

The many natural wonders of Toro Toro National Park, Bolivia

Toro Toro Town

I was in great need of a long weekend in Toro Toro which awaited me at the end of a curvaceous and bumpy six-hour ride from Cochabamba. The town, with its laid-back vibe, is the base for an adjacent national park that promised me a rewarding getaway with spectacular sights. It was my first escape from large Bolivian cities in two months and I was ready for a mini-holiday from my consuming Kiva duties.

There’s not much to Toro Toro town and that’s what makes it such a delight. It’s a traditional quechua-speaking village that hasn’t changed much from its Republican days except for a mild increase in tourism once 60-million-year-old dinosaur footprints were found in the area. And given that it sits in a place of striking natural beauty, it’s a small wonder people started coming here.

There are a handful of basic hostales spread about town that serve meals since there aren’t any restaurants. I was incredibly happy to stay with the warmest and welcoming hostess Lily at Hostal Las Hermanas, a lush paradise of blooming roses, bougainvillea, lime and pomegranate trees, hanging coyate squash (which is cooked and sweetened for tasty desserts), a host of potted flowers and a menagerie of kittens and parrots roaming the grounds.

Continue reading ‘Toro Toro’s Land of the Lost: Walking In the Footsteps of Dinosaurs’ »

Volkswagen Bugs in Bolivia 1

While these Volkswagen beauties have not been produced anywhere for almost a decade, Bolivia continues its love affair with the classic Beetle (marketed here as the “Peta”). In all the major cities and towns, the streets abound with this unique and cherished automobile.

I’m not sure how much longer these cars with remain a characteristic feature of the streets of Latin America but I certainly love seeing (and hearing) the “people’s car” everywhere I go.

Volkswagen Bugs in Bolivia 2

Día del Peatón - Pedestrian Day in Cochabamba

One Sunday every four months Cochabamba celebrates “Pedestrian Day,” a surreal phenomenon when all streets in the city are closed to motor traffic (except emergency vehicles) and residents take to the streets en masse. Side streets remain tranquil and quiet, with dogs sleeping on the pavement and the only sounds are children playing soccer on fresh asphalt fields.

Major thoroughfares are filled with dance groups, live music, children’s’ rides and of course a huge variety of food. Families and friends gather, grab bicycles and head to the fume-free streets for a day of healthy fun in this fair city.

The strangely deserted streets of Cochabamba beneath its iconic Cristo de la Concordia

The strangely deserted streets of Cochabamba beneath its iconic Jesús Cristo

The Día del Peatón holiday started in thirteen years ago in response to the choked streets of Cochabamba and to raise consciousness about fossil fuel pollution in this especially congested city.

From the start it was a huge success and something residents now look forward to and genuinely enjoy.  Today an estimated 300,000 citizens, young and old, fill the city’s streets.  A study this year determined that contamination levels are 80% lower on Día del Peatón, reason indeed to leave the house and breathe in some much cleaner air.

Bicyclists aren't the only traffic on Pedestrian Day, even a pony and young rider gets in on the action!

Bicyclists aren’t the only Pedestrian Day traffic, even ponies get in on the action!

Continue reading ‘Día del Peatón: When Pedestrians Power the Streets of Cochabamba’ »

Here’s my fourth installment on the Kiva Stories from the Field website as I serve as a Kiva Fellow in Bolivia.  Here’s a look at how microcredit helps many Bolivian farmers overcome the many challenges they face today.

Kiva Fellows Blog 4: Challenges Facing Bolivian Farmers Today

All things small at the Alasitas Fair in Bolivia

La Feria de la Alasita is a craft fair in Bolivia where miniature ritualistic items are sold to enthusiastic locals. Objects include tiny baby dolls, wads of small bills, petite bottles filled with healthy concoctions, cars, houses, even diminutive diplomas. With the help of the Tiwanakan deity Ekeko, god of abundance and prosperity, the Aymaran people of the Andean altiplano believe that possessing (or gifting) these figurines will become reality for holders.

While the crafts on display were fascinating, I especially enjoyed watching the whirlwind commotion at the fair.