South America here I come!!!!!
I made my way to South America after I graduated college in 2007. My friend Amanda was living in Santa Cruz as a missionary so she invited me to come visit and I said sure, why not! I spent about a week visiting her in Santa Cruz. I did not get to visit La Paz because it’s very far from Santa Cruz.
One thing that I remember was that the streets were very dark. There were not street lights on every corner. I was really excited about being in Bolivia because it was another opportunity where I could practice my Spanish. Amanda spent most of her days teaching English at the local school. I went to school with her a few days too because I had nothing else to do. It was really cool to see her interact with the students. It was also cool to hear her speak Spanish because prior to moving to Bolivia, she didn’t know much Spanish. Goes to show that you don’t have to be fluent in a language before moving to a particular country. With time, you will eventually pick up the language. Like most things, you will get out of it what you put into it. I could tell that Amanda was really making an effort to learn Spanish.
Another day while we were out exploring, there was a group of dancers performing in the plaza. They were dressed in traditional costumes and it was amazing. It was unlike anything I had ever witnessed before. Whenever I visit a new country, it’s always important that I’m able to experience cultural events. That’s not always possible but it’s something that I try to make happen. I feel like my trip to Bolivia was unique because I was able to see what life in Bolivia is like for everyday people. Sometimes when you visit a foreign country and you just stick to the tourist sites, it’s hard to get a feel for how the locals really live.
One of things that stands out in my mind about Bolivia is the food. The foods that I enjoyed most were the empanadas that Amanda’s host mother made and salteñas. I had tried empanadas before in the states but there was something different about Bolivian empanadas. The inside was stuffed with cheese and on the outside was sprinkled with sugar. That may sound like an odd combination but they were amazing. Salteñas are a different type of empanada because they are usually filled with meat and tend to be spicy. I remember one morning Amanda’s host family took us out for salteñas for breakfast. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Scrumptious!!!
I recall on one of the first days out exploring town, I happened to notice that most houses had broken glass at the top of the fence outside their homes. This was their way of securing their homes. It was very creative but it also struck me as odd. I had never seen glass being used that way. I thought it was very ingenious to find another use of glass bottles. Another thing that stood out to me was the fact that hot water was not always readily available. Again, that was something that I had definitely took for granted. After getting over the initial shock, I came to realize that it wasn’t that big of a deal. You just learn to go with the flow and shower when you can. This is an example of how traveling abroad can make you a much more appreciative and flexible person.
Bolivian people are very kind and warm. Santa Cruz is not the most glamorous place but the beauty of the people is what I will always remember about Bolivia. I hope to return and explore other parts of Bolivia and continue my love affair with empanadas!