Doctors, blockades and protests, oh my!
I thought I would hop on to give a little update on life here in Bolivia and answer a few common questions that I get. But first, an update on the past month.
The Tuesday before lent began we celebrated Carnaval here in Bolivia. This is the biggest holiday here in Bolivia (and also the reason they don’t have ocean access, but that’s another story). The Saturday prior to Carnaval, Olivia, Hannah and I travelled with my old language school to Oruro, Bolivia. Here they had a huge parade to celebrate Carnaval. They have parades and celebrations throughout March all over Bolivia, but Oruro is known for having one of the biggest celebrations. It was so fun to experience the culture of Bolivia a little bit more. We even had some history lessons from one of the teachers at the language school.
The parade was basically all their traditional dances and garb with music. It was beautiful to see the different outfits they had based on where they are from and the different dances as well. The parade lasted well into the night, but since we live 4 hours away from Oruro, we had to leave mid-afternoon.
Another fun tradition they have to celebrate Carnaval is they treat it as a ginormous water balloon and foam fight! Anywhere you go for a couple days before and after Carnaval you are at risk for being foamed or hit with water. And since we don’t exactly look like anybody here, so we were HUGE targets!
On the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, we celebrated Carnaval in the Hogar with the girls! It also happened to be the 18th birthday of one of the girls. We celebrated first with chicken, french fries and cake provided by her godparents. Afterward all of us dressed into “ugly costumes” to have a costume contest. Every year they have a costume contest and rotate between ugliest and prettiest costumes. After this contest, the girls hit the piñatas and out came candy AND flour!! Needless to say, they were all very dirty after the piñatas! What better way to clean up then to have a canned foam and water balloon fight? It was so fun to run around with the girls and throw water balloons, it’s not something we are really allowed to do with the girls normally, so it was nice to see them all enjoying themselves and laughing.
In the meantime, we have been working hard on homework and chores around the house. In March the girls went to part-time in person school! They only have class 2-3 days a week but is really nice for them to be with other kids and other educators, even if its only for a couple hours a week.
Another part of my job here in the Hogar has been taking kids to the doctor and dentist, as well as giving out medications everyday/organizing the medication room, and any sort of first aid and wound care that might be needed during the day. But without fail there are usually at least a group of girls a day who need help with a bloody nose, a cut or headache. I have really come to enjoy being able to use my skills as a nurse to help the girls here! It also happens to include waiting outside a medical clinic at 5am until 7:15am to get an “appointment time” for either the morning or afternoon. Then return with the girls to wait up to 4 hours for them to be seen. It is for sure a long process that has increased my patience!
But on the topic of doctor’s visits, one of the little girls broke their arms a few weeks ago. So Olivia (one of the other volunteers) and I took her to the orthopedic doctor 2 hours away. We almost made it to the town when we came across a blockade. There were people standing in the road with tree limbs and tires blocking the road. From there we got off the bus and followed some Bolivian women who suggested we walk past the blockade. So we did, we followed our new Bolivian friends to the next blockade, and low and behold, there was another blockade. We ended up walking for an hour until we arrived at the doctor’s office. Even better, the girl that we took to the doctor’s was seen for 5 minutes…YES…only 5 minutes. After picking our jaws up from the ground we promptly got back to walking, but this time in the opposite direction. We made it past the blockade we had first encountered, after 1.5hours of walking only to find out that there were now a lot more blockades. And on top of that the girl we brought with us (who we had been switching off holding on our shoulders) now had to go to the bathroom. After walking for another couple of hours we finally made it to a gas station with a bathroom for her to go, unfortunately it was too late. She was crying because she was so embarrassed, so we started to pray a rosary to calm her down, and also to help Olivia and I because we had reached our limit as well. As soon as we started the rosary a taxi drove by. We hopped in and rode it for probably another 2-3 miles down the road to the next blockade, which happened to be the last blockade! As soon as we crossed the blockade we hopped on a bus to Cochabamba! Once we were in the city Olivia and I were so excited to FINALLY see familiar sites after walking for 5 hours to get home. Once we got to the Hogar all the girls were so worried because we were VERY burnt. Everyday for the next couple of days they would ask us, ‘how long are you going to have red skin?’ and ‘will your skin ever go back to normal?’.
Back at the Hogar I have been attempting to teach multiplication, and now division to my students. Which has been interesting to say the least. I have had to learn a lot of different methods of teaching, as well as having to learn lots of patience. If anything, when I head home, I hope that my patience has grown, because it is pushed further every day. But then of course, a cute little child comes and gives me a hug and tells me they are so excited to see me. That makes it all worth it, the Joy that the girls bring to my life.
Enjoy some extra photos from the past month or so!
Blessed (almost) Easter!