These are excerpts from my Peace Corps diary. They are set in a Quechua community, perched 10,000 feet in the Bolivian Andes, lost in a time before electricity and running water.
A series of diary entries written while I was in the Peace Corps in Bolivia from 2004-2006.
Today marks my 14th day in Bolivia and my spirits are still high. Currently, I am in the training stage of my service which will last for ten more weeks before we are sent out on assignment. I am living in an extremely rural area like I have never experienced before. I have an outhouse, electricity most of the time, and water some of the time.
When my plane first landed in Bolivia, there were protests and road blocks in the capital of La Paz and none of the public transportation was running. In my first week, volunteers were rotating through the Bolivian hospitals and I thought, this is going to be a difficult experience.
My first weeks as an official volunteer have been rough. I just finished a ten day stint out in my site (the village of Maragua) and feel as though I have been put through an agonizing gauntlet.
I now have a functioning little bedroom and an adjacent kitchen area. I also used the excess stones from the work we did on the house to build a vegetable garden.
About every two to three weeks during the beginning of the rainy season, I start waiting for a couple of sunny days in a row and then hike the two and a half hours out to the river to see if it is low enough to cross. Two weeks ago when I did exactly this, I really wished I had not.
For my first Carnival, I traveled to Oruro, a city referred to as the “Indigenous Capital of the Country”, hosting the largest parade in the country.
In the end, reality is only what we agree it to be, and in this situation with such limited understanding between staff at ASUR and villagers in Maragua, parallel versions of the truth are kept. I see my role as a bridge of communication that can better relate theories to facts, weaving a closer understanding of what is important, possible, and realistic.
We were not entirely comfortable there, as we knew rains upstream might flood the river bed in the darkness, but all that descended that night was a piecing alpine cold. We had not brought sleeping bags to save weight, and long before dawn we were all awake willing the sun to pass over the surrounding peaks and flood the river valley below.