by Logan Pratico
One question that I frequently found myself being asked over the past 7 months is ‘what is your favorite part about Bolivia?’ Most people, looking for a straight answer, are quite surprised (and maybe somewhat irritated) when I respond with an answer that can take most of 10 minutes.
But the truth is that there is no simple answer to this question. After 7 months of travel in Bolivia I have seen so many great places, talked to so many amazing people and had so many incredible experiences that it is impossible for me to limit my experience to just one thing. During my time in Bolivia the people that I worked with ranged from children to medicinal plant healers. The places that I traveled to ranged from salt flats to jungles to mountains. Each experience was undoubtedly as incredible as the last.
After experiencing a different culture with my host-family, experiencing a different type of work at my volunteer placement, and making an unbelievable amount of new friends at the Sustainable Bolivia (SB) volunteer house. I can honestly say that I have had enough amazing experiences in the last 7 months to fill a life time.
During my time working with SB I was able to gain a plethora of new knowledge through each individual volunteer placement. While working with children in an orphanage I learned to be patient, to always keep a positive attitude, and more importantly to have fun. Each of these characteristics can be very easily forgotten, however through my placement I was able to learn just what it meant to be a kid again. Furthermore, while working at the Cochabamba Botanical Gardens and with a medicinal plant healer I was able to learn a lot about Bolivian culture through plant life. This taught me a lot about how plant life has shaped Bolivian and South American culture for centuries. Finally, while working as the Resident Coordinator for Sustainable Bolivia, I gained insight into the inner workings of an NGO and how they operate. This provided me with a unique perspective into what it takes to keep an NGO running smoothly. The work that I did was not only fulfilling at the end of a long day, but it also provided me with a deep insight about myself and about the world around me that I certainly would not have gotten anywhere else.
More so, between the Friday night Koas, the Coca leaf chewing, and the Chicha drinking. My trip to Bolivia has given me an in depth insight into a culture that I could never experience at home. From the afternoon cooking sessions with the Spanish teachers where I learned to make ‘Sopa de Mani’ (peanut soup), or the late night drum circles at Kasa Muyu. Bolivia’s deep culture has impacted me greatly throughout my time in Cochabamba. Due to the fact that I would never have had a chance to experience any of these opportunities back home, I felt that by learning about a different way of life I was able to learn so much more about my own.
In addition to my work placements and the culture I experienced, the people that I met while working at Sustainable Bolivia affected me in an amazing way with the new ideas including ways to experience new cultures, ways to live a sustainable lifestyle, and ways to look at life differently. In addition, the incredible kindness that they brought forth on a day to day basis was something that I had never experienced before in my life. I have never felt so accepted by so many people as I did during my time in Bolivia. The people that I met and the true friends that I made will always have a special place in my heart.
So after all of the weekend trips around the country, after all of the days spent working, after all of the late night talks on the couches in the back yard of SB. One thing is for sure, I will never forget my time in Bolivia.