Mil gracias, Kiva y Bolivia… What An Awesome Ride!

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

My Kiva Fellows Blog 6: Magical Moments with Kiva Borrowers

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

Tiwanaku: The Cradle of Andean Civilization

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


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.

Around 1000 AD a significant climatic shift occurred in the region resulting in greatly reduced rainfall which diminished crop yields. Tiwanaku society quickly broke down and by 1200 AD the once-mighty civilization vanished with only loosely organized remnants remaining. The Incas arrived a couple centuries later as they expanded their nascent empire and drew heavily from Tiwanaku architecture and its belief system.

Continue reading “Tiwanaku: The Cradle of Andean Civilization”

Peter’s Picture Show: ¡Feliz Año Nuevo 2013!

Here’s a short video of Paul and my New Year’s revelry in Cuenca, Ecuador. Locals here celebrate with a unique tradition in which they burn life-sized dolls representing the old year in order to start the new year with a clean slate. These effigies are simply old clothes filled with sawdust, cardboard and newspaper and at midnight they drag them out to the streets, douse them with gasoline and the blazes begin.

Lots of neighborhood groups work together to build elaborate themed displays of these Old Men. We saw acerbic political commentary, clever takes on global warming, and other displays that were just plain absurd.

And since this is Latin America there were plenty of costumes, loud music, fireworks, dancing in the streets, food and good fun kept everyone entertained throughout the whole evening. An unusual but amusing way to ring in the New Year!