The last post was basically an overview, but while I’m blogging and have some free time (and after several nice comments) I thought I’d add a few extra details.
My first day in La Paz was the first time I’ve really been affected by the altitude – it’s higher than the Himalayan trek I did in 2009. Jupapina is a couple of hundred metres lower, but even a few stairs can leave you out of breath. Unfortunately, I don’t think living in the Andes is going to make me a superfit runner as it’s just too high, but daily life is easily manageable if you take it easy.
Apart from that, the weather is pretty much perfect and incredibly consistent. There’s rarely a cloud in the sky and every day has been nice and warm. Out of the sun, the temperature drops pretty sharply to about 0°C at night.
The day before I started my volunteering, I went to a football match at Estadio Hernando Siles (the world’s highest international football stadium and subject of some controversy).
It was a La Paz derby in the cup, Bolivar vs The Strongest – the latter is my adopted team because:
- the name!
- their colours are the same as my university and work teams’
- they seemed popular with the kids around the city
- they have a player called Pablo Escobar
- this was how the fans arrived 90 minutes before kick off:
The match itself was a bit disappointing; the pitch made it difficult to play decent football and the players definitely tired in the second half. It finished 0-0 and went straight to penalties, with The Strongest winning the shootout 3-0. It’s safe to say that the fans outshone the players.
I’m based in Jupapina with the Mendoza family (who run Up Close Bolivia). There’s a large family house, 3 smaller houses for volunteers and work-aways and then a campsite on the same grounds. I share a house with Danny, who’s worked here for two years, although we don’t seem to see that much of each other.
The Children’s Centre and Albergue are a 10 minute drive away in Mallasa (20p by bus or £1 by taxi), whilst Porvenir is just a 5 minute walk down to the bottom of the valley.
It hasn’t been the completely immersive experience I’d been pre-warned about because everyone at Casa Mendoza speaks English. I’m going to have to push myself harder to get as much Spanish conversation in as possible before I go to Peru in September.
I don’t think Bolivia wins many culinary awards, although I’m getting by so far. One of my first meals in La Paz was this very big but very thin beef steak with eggs, on top of mounds of rice and potatoes.
On my first day in Jupapina I was invited to have lunch in Casa Mendoza with the family and workers. I’d already mentioned that I had a dodgy stomach and no appetite that day and that wasn’t helped when they served stomach as the main course (I wasn’t the only one who didn’t eat it!) The next night we went to the local pizza place, which was really good, and I’ve also eaten nice meals at a couple of upmarket places in San Miguel (Italian and Indian). I haven’t done much in my own kitchen yet (no change there), but the fruit and veg here is really good.
Speaking of San Miguel, I discovered the MegaCentre on Saturday. It has all sorts of things in addition to the standard shops and food court, such as bowling, ice skating, paintball and we watched Jason Bourne in the most luxury cinema I’ve ever been in.
Finally, I should say that I played chess against a one-eyed man outside a local shop. He’s there most days and I’d spoken to him a couple of times before we played. Which reminds me, we’re due a rematch.