Bolivia, Week Seven

It’s the end of week seven and, with just one week in Bolivia to go, the goodbyes have already begun. I don’t want to jump too far ahead though, so I’ll run through what I’d call a typical week at Up Close Bolivia (I feel like I’ve been here long enough to say that).

Monday started with a Spanish lesson, after which I went on my longest run to date – a huge 4.2km (this is after working out that I can get the 2 boliviano (20p) bus into the next town, Mallasa, and run downhill all the way back!)

One of my favourite things about this place is that it’s quite common to see someone I know when I’m walking down the street. Whilst on my run, I heard a child’s voice from behind me shout “Hola Tío!”, which is what they call me at the Children’s Centre (tío = uncle). I didn’t see who it was, but my money is on a boy called Lionel (as an aside, I think I’ve met three Neymars, two Sergios and just one Lionel).

Tuesday involved another busy morning of last-minute lesson planning before the English class at the Hermann Gmeiner School. Once again it wasn’t quite up to my CELTA-standards, but I’m sure some of the students learned about places in the city.

At the Albergue we made and decorated paper aeroplanes for 90 minutes, before going outside to put them to the test. This activity was inspired by one of the books that Globetrotting for Good donated – it featured countless designs with step-by-step instructions and I’d say it was a success.

I was back at the Children’s Centre on Wednesday and I was assigned to help Giovanna with her pre-infant class. It’s a sign of how far I’ve come – and how much they trust me – that I was left alone with the class while Giovanna went home to get something she’d forgotten. I remember a time, I think it was in week two, when Maribel tried to move me from kitchen duty to the pre-infant class for the first time and Giovanna asked for Laura instead. Now look at me:

The volunteer-led organised activity was about traditional Bolivian instruments – the zampona, tarka, quena, charango and wancara to name five. Later in the morning, each class took centre stage and “performed” a “dance” for the others – this was them taking putting their new sound system into use, after it was donated by Globetrotting for Good last week.

At the Albergue we played volleyball for the first hour – the girls’ team outnumbered the boys’ team by 2 to 1, but it was a reasonably close game. We played football in the second hour and I was impressed again by the way the mixed teams (gender and age) played together.

In the evening we all went into La Paz for some Mexican food. It was great and a welcome break from the chicken/rice/veg that I’ve become accustomed to having far too often.

Thursday was another busy day with a Spanish class followed by another English class. In the latter, we recapped some of the previous lessons and had a discussion about what they wanted to learn in the next few weeks.

Back at the Albergue, it was the boys’ turn to make paper aeroplanes. They spent more time making and less time decorating than the girls, so when we went outside there were more successes (although the planes often still needed an adult’s throw to do them justice).

On Thursday evening, we planned the next week’s activities for the Children’s Centre, Children’s Home and Porvenir and then on Friday morning we got together to discuss the English classes. After all the planning, it was time to get back to Porvenir and we had another fun session. The dynamics between the children continue to evolve as they become more comfortable with their surroundings, each other and sharing the toys, balls etc. Towards the end, Malte got involved in a game of football with a father/son combo (Ivar and Kevin) and ended up exhausted – he needs to learn how to conserve energy and let the children win occasionally!

We returned to Porvenir on Saturday morning for my penultimate session and this is when my upcoming departure started to become real. Several of the parents said that they wouldn’t be able to make it to next Friday’s session, my last, so we had to say ciao for the final time. It was actually Lizzie’s last session, as she leaves the day before me, so at the end we were both presented with Fundacion Porvenir badges as a thank you and took plenty of photos (to follow).

On Saturday evening we had a party to jointly mark the departure of Alison and Helene, the campsite workaways, and me and Lizzie (even though we have another week to go). Emma rolled out one of her trademark quizzes for the occasion and it quickly became apparent that it was a quiz with a twist. Although there were points on offer for the five rounds of general knowledge questions, they paled in comparison with the points to be had by bribing the quizmaster – Emma was open to all manner of flattery, as well as being willing to give bonus points for enthusiastic singing, impressions and dancing.

The night concluded as all despedidas do, with some kind words from the hosts followed by the leavers answering Bell’s infamous final question: how has Bolivia changed you? I’ll be writing another blog post next week to sum up my time here, so I’ll cover my answer then.

Having said all that, I’ve still got another week in Bolivia, so let’s see what week eight has in store…


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