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January 2012

¡¡Adiós América, Hola Cochabamba!! by Caitlin Donohue (Chicago - USA)   (published in Bolivia)

January 12, 2012 by   Comments(5)

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Movie after movie, horrendous plane cuisine, South American guidebooks, and much needed sleep. Ladies and gentleman, my twenty-four hour trip to Bolivia. First flight, check. Two more flights and I was destined to be home; well, for the time being. I overcame US security(the pat-down), navigated through the Portuguese-speaking Brazilian airport, cautiously slept at a Santa Cruz gate, and, eventually, arrived in Cochabamba. It was past my bedtime and for Bolivians, their evening was just beginning.    


With a turn down Junín Street, an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu occurred when I spotted the apartment that has been haunting my dreams for a month.  I was welcomed into the Patiño household with an attempt by little Santiago and Alexia to carry my American-sized luggage up the three flights of stairs. Once nestled into my Bolivian casa, warm tea and bread were awaiting my arrival at the kitchen table accompanied by a pleasant conversation with my family.

 After a good night’s rest, twelve hours to be exact, I was introduced to the streets of Cochabamba. As I was soaking in the locals, the Bolivian driving (or lack thereof), I was then asked if I was ready to begin work the following day.  With confidence, I retorted ¨Well, of course! I am a wee bit nervous, but knowing that I am an assistant eases the nerves.¨ A smile grew upon the face of my supervisor. I soon realized the meaning of this smile; I am the English teacher. Not the assistant, not a helper, THE English teacher. Having only come here with activities for an assistant position, I freaked. I collected myself and knew I had work, to say the least.

SIDE NOTE: Yes. I read about culture shock and knew what to expect. No. I didn´t think I was going to be homesick. I am an independent Chicago, city girl. If I can parade the streets of Chi-city, how much different can a small, quaint town in Bolivia be? Wake-up call! Guilty, I miss my family, I miss my friends, I even miss the outrageous music that blasts from my brother´s room before bed. To make matters worse, I couldn´t make outward calls with my supposedly invincible iPhone, after hitting up seven ATM´s/banks, the seventh ATM accepting my credit card, I finally had my Bolivianos. I was essentially safe if I were, let´s say, to be mugged. ¨Here take my LG phone, my pretty, little American pennies, and my SPF 70 sunscreen. Yeah, that´ll get you real far.¨

Day one of teaching included the general introductions, getting to know the students, and the failed attempts of pronouncing my name. Suffice to say, it was not as bad as I thought. Four hours later and the weekend was mine! Due to my endless knowledge of Cochabamba and tight squeezes within the town, obviously, my weekend was booked. Oh wait…  Cochabamba, I soon found out, is a go as you may, little pueblo.

My first official weekend in Bolivia was unknown, yet, somehow successful. It was my host moms birthday Saturday, naturally there was a big bash Friday evening. I was introduced to family members, friends, and traditional Cochabamba dancing. My lack of coordination did not do me any good when it was time to ¨get jiggy¨ on the dance floor, resulting in spilled drinks and interrupted partner dances. The night soon ended and Saturday poured into the evening. It was then sleeping Saturday, where my family and I slept until early afternoon. In the evening, we headed over to my mom´s families house. We had a grand lunch that included, Paella, a traditional seafood dish in Spain, cooked by a retired French chef and loads of desserts.

Sunday was by far the best yet; I fully embraced what Bolivia had to offer. There was the trip to Quillacollo, to fully experience a Bolivian ritual where burnt offerings (q´owa) are made in which people may ask for good health, money, good fortune in business and work. I also explored Inca ruins that reside within the mountains of Quillacollo and enjoyed the ever popular cuyo(sorry kiddies back home, I just ate your pet guinea pig).  Following this venture, there was a dinner to say final good-byes to a fellow volunteer. I desperately needed to speak English and friends were a must! I recall meeting the volunteers, struggling to remember everyone’s name. As the night progressed, the effort of having to socialize was nonexistent. The evening was simply natural. Everyone was friendly, open, and in the same boat I was in. Three volunteers were kind enough to walk me home, to avoid taking a taxi home. We dropped off Celine(the volunteer heading home); when we were saying goodbye, it was a bittersweet feeling: the sweet feeling of meshing with someone having only met them hours before and the bitter feeling knowing that that is the last time you will see them.

This Sunday evening was my breakthrough. I realized why I am here, how everything works out in life, the pure joy of others, and the unexpected that is to come. This is my Gap year; let the chips fall where they may.


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¡¡Adiós América, Hola Cochabamba!! by Caitlin Donohue (Chicago - USA)
¡¡Adiós América, Hola Cochabamba!! by Caitlin Donohue (Chicago - USA)