Nuestro primer día en Camino y Cerefe!!!!!

Today we took a tour to both of the schools and got to know the amazing professionals working with children with disabilities.
We first arrived at Cerefe where we were very welcomed by the new director Mr. Quiroga who explained to us the new changes in the institution such as the effort to integrate the students into regular educational schools and the community. We were also given a tour of some of the classrooms and we were introduced to the students. This gave us an opportunity to observe the interaction between the teacher and the students, the resources available and the set up of the classrooms.
Also we were able to visit “El taller de costura” where teenagers to young adults learn vocational skills such as sewing, embroidering, and selling their own products. They showed us some of the items that they designed. In addition, the teacher explained that these skills enable them to be integrated in the workforce. We were so impressed by the clothes that they had sewn!!!!
After this first amazing encounter we visited Camino. We were welcomed with a well organized choreography of a traditional Bolivian dance and they signed a beautiful song by Grupo Boliviano Octavia called “Bienvenido”. We were moved by the lyrics of the song because it demonstrated how appreciative they are of the services that we have been providing. The icing of the cake was the atapi (it is a Bolivian style pot luck) which we enjoyed so much and look forward to working with the Camino family.

El atapi estuvo delicoso!!!!

Another picture of the delicious food that the kids helped make!

La familia de Camino y la familia de Teachers College!




Final día de clases de español 20/5/12

Today we had breakfast at the hotel with several of the newly arrived group members before continuing to our last day of Spanish classes.  While we headed to the Instituto Exclusivo the new arrivals began the process of acclimating to the altitude. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the streets were full of people.

For our final day of classes we each took an exam to access the progress we have made in our week long stay before walking to El Prado to watch a parade of traditional dances performed by high school students in anticipation of Gran Poder. Gran Poder is a religious celebration, which combines catholic and Aymara traditions and recognizes the diversity within Bolivia while bringing everyone together.

The performances were incredible and their importance was very clear, as was the parents’ pride that their children were part of the performance. The parade lasts between 3-4 hours and is exhausting due to the activity, heat, and heavy costumes. As the students passed, family members gave them water or coca cola, and mothers were quick to advise their children on how to perform the dance moves. We watched several different dances some of which started with small fireworks and colorful bursts of smoke.  The performers used bells as well as the sheep’s nails we learned about in the museum of Bolivian music yesterday, so that their motions become a part of the music that they are dancing to.  It also makes the coordination of their motions more important and requires simultaneous movement between the dancers as differences become more noticeable.

Christie and Theresa were interviewed about their impression of the parade before we left.

On our way back to the school, we saw a protest advocating for animal rights.

We enjoyed some delicious salteñas as part of a goodbye celebration with Lucas Cecilia Carlos and Milka.  Salteñas are a traditional Bolivian dish which comes in beef, chicken, and vegetarian forms.  We discussed our upcoming trip and gained some valuable advice over things to try in our remaining time.  We know that we will go back and visit soon.  And we managed to take a few pictures together!

Salteñas de pollo, de res, y de vegetales

Carlos, Cecilia, and Milka

Carlos, Cecilia, Lucas, and Milka

Later our entire group went to see Cholita wrestling in El Alto. On our way up to El Alto we saw a group of people practicing for El Gran Poder in the streets. Once we arrived at cholita wrestling it was an intense experience, and we even managed to meet one of the cholitas after her performance.  The wrestling is a staged performance but it requires acrobatic work and the audience takes it very seriously, even throwing things at some of the “evil” wrestlers.

Practice for Gran Poder

Cholita Wrestler

Once we returned from El Alto we all went to dinner in a nearby café.  We also discovered that on Sundays many of the restaurants and almost all of the stores are closed.  After a delicious dinner we introduced the newly arrived members of our group to the hippermaxi before returning to the hotel. Overall it was a long but wonderful day.

La familia TC con la cholita Rosita!!!!!

-Kiera Crowley

Un día de aprendizaje y compras! 19/5/12

We had a busy day today!  After our individual Spanish lessons in the morning, we all ventured out for an afternoon at the museums with Carlos and Cecilia, two of our teachers at the Instituto Exclusivo.  We had a hard time finding a mini bus to take us all, so instead we had our first ride on one of the larger buses.  In the afternoon it wasn’t too crowded (which was a nice change from the mini buses) but Carlos told us that during rush hours and busier travel times they get packed with people.Riding the bus

We rode the bus up El Prado which is most similar to our Broadway in New York City.  Our teachers explained that it’s an important road in La Paz because it connects the north, center, and south parts of the city.  In El Prado there is a statue of Simón Bolívar, the liberator of Bolivia.  Carlos explained to us that if the subject of a statue is riding a horse, you can determine how they died!  If the horse has all 4 feet on the ground, they died of natural causes.  If the horse has 3 feet on the ground, they died due to injuries sustained during battle and if the horse is standing on only 2 legs, they died during battle itself.  Unfortunately the bus went by too quickly to snap a picture of Simón, but the horse he was riding had all four feet on the ground so we determined that he died of natural causes!

We walked down Calle Apolinar Jaen which Carlos explained is named for Apolinar Jaen who was involved in the Bolivian revolution.  The street dates back to Colonial times and we could definitely see the difference between that and the other streets of La Paz.

We arrived at the Museo de Instrumentos Musicales de Bolivia (Museum of Bolivian Musical Instruments) and began to explore the vast collection they have.  Carlos explained all the instruments we saw and made special note of the sicu which is traditional of Bolivia and comes in many shapes and sizes.

There was a huge variety of instruments including different types of charangos (similar to what we consider a guitar), xylophones, bells, drums, and even an instrument made from sheep’s nails.  We even got a chance to try playing a few traditional instruments!

Elanna playing un arpo piano

Kiera and Theresa playing a xilofón!

All of us in the museo!

After we left the museo we walked to Plaza Murillo, which is named for Pedro Domingo Murillo, who was the liberator Bolivia.  Today, the plaza is the site of the Congress building, a beautiful church… and also many pigeons.

Plaza Murillo

After touring the church and the plaza we were all hungry so stopped for lunch of sandwiches and coffee in a nearby café.  After, we were ready to do some shopping!  We had heard that Calle Sagarnaga was the place to go so headed over from the café.  We found stores upon stores selling everything anyone could possibly want from Bolivia; scarves, sweaters, hats, and gloves made from Alpaca fur, purses, keychains, instruments, paintings, tapestries, jewelry and so much more!  We enjoyed walking around the stores looking at everything for sale… and also doing a fair amount of purchasing.

Alpaca sweaters

Belts and purses

Nativity scenes and other ceramic items

With all our shopping we learned a little bit about bargaining!  Some helpful tips that we learned:

1. If you hesitate in making a purchase, even for a moment, the seller will likely drop the price.

2. Christie and Theresa’s Spanish teacher taught them the word ‘rebajarme’ which translates into ‘can you lower that for me?’ Try using that and sometimes the seller will lower their price.

3. Look around before making an impulse buy! Often the same items will be cheaper in a different place just around the corner (a few of us learned this the hard way…)

We were hoping to make it to mercato de las brujas (witch’s market) but were tired after our shopping spree.  We hope to go with the rest of the group later in our trip.  We came back to the hotel to do a little preparation for our Spanish exams tomorrow morning and rest before dinner.  We went to La Guinguette, a french restaurant that we’ve had our eyes on for a while.  We enjoyed vegetable lasagna and hamburgers.  We’ve been steering clear of most raw vegetables in case they were washed in tap water which would likely make us sick.  It’s always exciting when we can find cooked vegetables in a meal!

Tomorrow the rest of the students and our supervisors and professors arrive.  We’ve all loved our week of Spanish classes and exploring and getting to know La Paz but we’re excited for the rest of our group to arrive so we can begin our clinical work!

Hasta Luego


A visit to la zona sur! 18/5/12

In Spanish class today, Theresa and I learned about Bolivian music and dance. Milka, our instructor, introduced us to a popular type of Bolivian music called “cumbia”. We watched videos of some popular cumbia groups, including “Azul Azul”. She also showed us videos of popular Bolivian dances, including la morenada, la cueca, and caporales. The morenada is a dance that comes from the time of the Spanish colonization, characterized by a mixture African and native elements. The cueca boliviana is a traditional dance that is performed during all types of Bolivian celebrations. Depending on the region of Bolivia, the style of dress and dance are different. The colorful short skirts seen in the picture below are typical of cueca dancers in Cochabamba and Tarija, other major Bolivian cities. The caporales dance originated in La Paz and is performed at all types of Bolivian celebrations as well. Below you can see the extravagant dress of the men who dance caporales.


After Spanish classes, we headed to Blueberries, a coffee shop near el instituto for lunch and coffee while we caught up on our course pack reading.

In the afternoon, Lucas took us to explore la zona sur, the wealthy section of La Paz located in the south, where the altitude is about 500 meters lower than the city center (where we are staying). Here we saw the striking contrast between El Alto, where the population is largely lower class and the wealthy neighborhood of la zona sur, which is very modern. We traveled by minibus and on our route we passed by Evo Morales’s house, the president of Bolivia, which was heavily guarded, but very close to the main road.

Getting cozy in the minibus.

Our best attempt at getting a picture of the president’s house while inside a moving minibus.

After exiting the minibus, we passed a Bolivian military school, where we saw some soldiers walking around the grounds. Military service is mandatory for men for one year.


Our first stop in la zona sur was the Mega Center, the largest mall in La Paz. We browsed the stores in the mall mostly to see how they compared to other stores we had seen in La Paz and to see how westernized this area has become. The mall had a variety of stores, including a supermarket, a movie theater, and a bowling alley. Although this mall was very similar to an American mall, we encountered something that we have never seen in the US. There was a section for kids to play inside large plastic bubbles in a pool of water. They were rolling around, trying their best to stay standing! It looked awesome and would have tried it ourselves, if only we were a little younger. Kids in America are missing out!

The highlight of the visit to the Mega Center!

Our next stop in the Mega Center was the food court, which had been highly recommended by many Bolivians. We were in the mood for something sweet and had out first Bolivian frozen yogurt and smoothie experience. It was delicious! Over the past few days, we have gradually become more adventurous with food (don’t worry not too adventurous).

After we’d had enough of the mall, Lucas brought us to Montenegro, a neighborhood in la zona sur with a lot of shops and restaurants.

We spent some time walking around and finally sat down for dinner at El Paladar, a Brazilian restaurant, recommended by Lucas. Theresa, Carla, and I shared the feijoada, a traditional Brazilian dish of beans, beef, and pork, while Elanna tried Carne Asada Rellena (see pics below).  Both dishes were delicious and we highly recommend this restaurant!


Overall, today’s outing was a sharp contrast to yesterday’s visit to La Ferria. At La Ferria, EVERYTHING was being sold and sold at very low prices. In la zona sur, we saw the opposite, where a large mall consisted of high-end stores and prices were high. The difference between the restaurants of Montenegro and the street food being sold at the fair also reflected the contrast of the neighborhoods.

Mañana, our instructors are taking us to some museums after morning Spanish classes and then we hope to do some shopping in La Sagarnada and the Witch’s market. Can’t wait!

– Christie Clarke

¡Vamos a la feria! 17/05/12

Today we visited El Alto for the first time. After our classes in the morning, we returned to Instituto Exclusivo for our trip to the Ferria El Alto, which is basically a huge flea market where you can find absolutely anything from sweaters to gardening tools to automobiles!

Before embarking on the VERY uphill journey to El Alto (for which most of us had our first Minibus experience), Lucas and Carlos took us to the Cementerio General in La Paz. In this cemetery, families purchase or rent spaces in the walls of the cemetery (the bigger the crypt, the more expensive) instead of burying their loved ones in the ground. Many of the spaces in the cemetery that we saw had photos, object, and poems placed by families in remembrance of their loved ones. Carlos pointed out one memorial in particular of a very important figure in Bolivian political history, that of Carlos Palenque Evilés, who was a Bolivian musician, journalist, and politician. Palenque died young of a heart attack, just as he was gaining political prominence during the late 1990s.


We also got some beautiful views of La Paz and the Andes from one of the buildings in the Cementerio, such as these.

After we left, we took our second Minibus up to the fair. As we ascended, we got some more excellent views of much of La Paz. When we arrived at the fair, we noticed that it was not as crowded as we were expecting, as we had been told by our friends from the UK that the place was likely to be mobbed and we should be extremely wary of pickpockets. The fair is only open on Thursdays and Sundays, and Lucas told us that Thursday is a much better day to come because it is significantly less crowded.

Sure enough, we trekked through much of the fair (the place is so huge, it’s impossible to see everything in one day) without incident, and we made some excellent purchases at great bargains! For example…

Several of us got these beautiful blankets made of the cloth typically worn by the cholitas who use it to carry their wares, or sometimes their children. Mine was only 42 Bs (about $6).

We also bought scarves, bags, and Christie even bought a NorthFace jacket in preparation for her trip to Macchu Picchu!

After nearly three hours of shopping, we headed down to the highway to go back to La Paz, but not before taking advantage of a few more fantastic photo ops.

Back in La Paz, we got off the Minibus in front of the Museo de San Francisco, which was mentioned in an earlier post. After waiting a few minutes for a cab in the craziness of rush hour, we decided to walk back to the hotel instead, and on the way we saw several cebras in the streets directing traffic. These men and women literally dress up in large zebra costumes with Stop/Go signs and basically function as crossing guards, with a little extra flair.  One even stopped and posed for a picture!

After recovering from our tiring afternoon, we dined at La Coca, a Bolivian restaurant near the Instituto Exclusivo and across the street from the Hipermaxi. We had a delicious dinner which included arepas, sandwiches made of thick corn tortillas…

…as well as sandwiches on fried plantains, and grilled chicken cooked with pineapple and fried camotes (sweet potatoes).


All in all a great day – more to come tomorrow!


Bolivian Spirits are High! 16/05/12

2pm :

It’s already Wednesday! Time is really flying by! Soon we will be joined by our fellow classmates and supervisors. We can’t wait! Today started off with another delicious  breakfast here at El Rey Palace Hotel where we have been met with nothing but kind and polite staff.  My personal favorite is the yogurt with bananas and my fellow classmates have enjoyed  eggs, toast, croissants, pancakes, and many other delicious things to start off the day. Everyone seems to enjoy the coca tea with has helped with the affects of the altitude which seem to get a little bit easier day by day. The weather is a lot warmer than expected. *Note to those joining: it has been very cold at night, but warmer during the day. When we go on long walks we tend to take off layers! Don’t forget your sunglasses because the sun is SHINING!

Spanish lessons have proved to be very helpful and tailored to each’s groups needs. Currently Elanna and I are working on grammar (Subjunctive in particular) while fellow classmates focus in on vocab, other aspects of grammar, and more advanced areas of comprehension. The teachers have proved to be extremely knowledgeable and helpful. Today as part of Spanish class Elanna and I were taken to the San Francisco Museum by our Spanish Instructor Carlos. This tripped proved to be very informative.

Before even entering the Museum we encountered a protest in the Plaza of San Francisco. Carlos informed us that last week there was a protest against the current president of Bolivia, Evo Morales. This time the protest was in support of President Morales. Hundreds of supporters were gathering together to show their support of Morales’s policies.


Once inside the Museum we were greeted by a tour guide who took us the rest of the way. Unfortunately pictures were not allowed inside but I did manage to get some pictures of the outside and the inside garden (which was allowed). Inside the Museum there were beautiful paintings which were done by many various anonymous painters (mostly indigenous). One interesting fact that was relayed was that the indigenous people who painted these works felt a strong connection with Jesus. Therefore instead of painting the Roman soldiers in a traditional manner, they were painted as Spaniards in many of the works in the San Francisco Museum. Currently there are 4 San Franciscan monks still living at this location, and there is an active school at this location as well.  We hope to return here with our fellow classmates sometime as soon as one part of the tour was closed.

The trip the the Museum was a welcomed addition to our Spanish lessons. We learned that this location has been the site of many important historical moments in Bolivia’s history. This would include being an integral part in the Revolution of 1809.

This flower only blooms once a year and is very important to the Bolivians because is contains all the colors of their flag.


Returning back to our classmates also proved to be another adventure! During midday here in La Paz we witnessed two separate protest. Carlos was sure to keep us out of harms way as sometimes these protest can get out of hand. During these protest traffic is completely stopped. Carlos explains that the people of La Paz have become some what accustomed to these weekly occcurances.

The first protest is by “Los Medicos”, which here would include the doctors, nurses, dentists, and all those in  the medical field. Carlos explains that they are protesting against working an 8 hour shift. Right now they are working 6 hours shift. “No tenemos miedo, No tenemos miedo!”  ( We are not afraid! We are not afraid) We hear them shout, as we look for an alternative route back.  Then we encounter the students protesting against the 8 hour shift as well as the minimal wage. Carlos explains that here in La Paz roughly minimum wage is about 800 bolivianos a month (roughly $114). We return to meet our classmates safe and sound. We make a quick stop to pick up some much needed refreshments and snacks and head the the hotel for a midday siesta. Lucas and the other teachers have arranged a wonderful afternoon! We will need our rest.


We have returned from a wonderful afternoon at el Instituto Exclusivo where Lucas and the other instructors invited us to a traditional Apthapi. Apthapi is a traditional Aymara way to share typical food. This is a native word which means brings to the city. It was explained by one of the instructors that this was originally done as a meeting after the harvest where everyone came together to join in the goods of the harvest. This tradition is carried on in Universities, schools, and is commonly celebrated with typical Bolivian food as well as fruits, breads, and cookies.

Tonight’s menu included:

Charque Kan:

Carne seca frita de llama (dried llama)

mote con queso frito (grain, with fried cheese)

huevo cocido (hard boiled egg)

llagua (picante tradicional) traditional spice

Typical Bolivian drinks:

Fresco de Canahua (Marina de Canahua negro)

Willkapatu (refresco de semilla)

linaza (semilla de linaza)

Bread/ Desert included: Sarua, Kavcas, and Marraqueta.

Food was delicious with my personal favorite being the fried cheese and the kavcas.  Fellow classmates recommend the Linaza beverage as well as the carne seca frita de llama. Lucas as the fellow instructors were very welcoming and it was a great time!

                                                                                                We meet some new friends!

At instituto exclusivo we meet a great group of girls who are in La Paz volunteering their time at a local orphanage. They are here from London for 3 months and are also taking Spanish lessons at I.E. It was an instant bond as we talked about our individual programs and what we were doing here in La Paz. We received many insider tips on how to survive here in La Paz including where to eat, where to shop, and some do’s and don’t about visiting el Alto Mercado. Our new friends have been here for 3 weeks and have traveled to many places including Lake Titicaca! They said we are going to have an amazing time. After some more bonding we joined our friends at a local cafe for coffee and drinks to chat more about our experiences. We learned about the orphanages here in La Paz and the amazing work these girls are doing. We explained about our future work in Camino and CEREFE. They were very interested to hear all the details and about the SLP program in general. We had a great time! We hope to meet again with them real soon!

Now its off to do some homework and rest up!

Tomorrow we have another full day ahead of us as we are heading to El Alto! Keep you posted!

-Carla Montoya

Eat, Learn, Nap, Repeat- Martes 15/05/12

Now that we’re all adjusted fairly well to the effects of the altitude we have been able to begin exploring all that La Paz has to offer!  We started the day bright and early with the delicious desayuno from the hotel.


Mate de coca has become a staple of our diets, not only because it helps with the altitude but also because of the weather!  When we left the hotel this morning it was a balmy 32 degrees Fahrenheit. We walked to the Instituto Exclusivo and began our four hours of lessons.  Our groups are working on different things ranging from worksheets, to vocabulary, to conversation, to 30 minute oral presentations!  We’re learning a lot and the Spanish is coming easier with practice!  During our 30 minute break we got together to talk about our mornings and drink some more Mate de coca to ward off the cold!

After our lessons were over for the day, we were all ready for a filling lunch.  We decided it was about time to try Alexander’s, a café that many students from former Bolivia trips have recommended.  We enjoyed some Mexican dishes including quesadillas and flautas.


After our filling lunch it was time for our daily siesta.  Being in the high altitude requires more effort to get the oxygen we need through our bodies, making us tired more easily.  We came to the hotel and slept and/or did some Spanish homework (and course packet reading).  We had planned to explore some of La Paz that some students got to see yesterday during class before heading to dinner.  After our siesta we walked to the Mirador el Montículo, a scenic viewpoint that looks out over La Paz.  Although we had to climb a steep hill, we were pleasantly surprised that it’s becoming easier and easier.  The views were beautiful and we enjoyed learning about some of the city from students who had visited yesterday.

From the Mirador we can see different parts of the city that are separated by socioeconomic class.  The difference is very noticeable in the houses.


We also learned that this snow capped mountain is used as a direction signal; if you’re facing the mountain you know you’re looking south.  Legend also has it that if you look at the mountain from El Alto you can see the face of Pacha Mama (Madre Tierra- Mother Earth).


Here are some scenic views from the Mirador!

On the way back down we learned about the practice of displaying a dead person– or something that resembles one– to dissuade people from entering abandoned houses.  It would certainly keep us away!

Last night, after dining alone in the restaurant we realized that Bolivians typically eat later than what we’re used to.  In order to try and have an “authentic” Bolivian dining experience, we decided to get some café before heading to dinner.  We stumbled upon Blueberries, and we all enjoyed our beverages there.


By then we had worked up quite an appetitite and figured it was late enough to try and catch some locals in a restaurant.  We were wrong about the locals, but we had a delicious dinner at quebecoise.  We ate everything from Pollo Clementine, Pollo Cordon Blu, y Fillet Mignon. We were so hungry and it was so delicious we forgot to take pictures.  Sorry!  We’re sure that we’ll return (especially since they brought a space heater to our table) so we’ll remember to take pictures then.

We’re looking forward to Apthapi at Instituo Exclusivo tomorrow!  This is a traditional Aymara event where people share typical food.  We are going to learn to prepare a traditional drink made out of purple corn (called Api).  We will leave you with some things we have learned today.

1. Don’t step in tar; even if it looks like a thin layer on the street you may sink into it like quicksand and almost fall.


1a. Have no fear! If you do step in tar, it will likely dry and flake off leaving your boots (hopefully) just fine! (Despite the disapproving looks from the Bolivians on the street.)


2. Street performance at red lights is completely acceptable! And the performer will likely forcefully request applause.


3. Even if you specifically ask if a sandwich contains vegetales cocinados (cooked vegetables) and are assured it does, you will likely be surprised with a sandwich containing primarily lettuce.

4. In Bolivia, broken bottles are used to prevent pigeons from roosting.

5. We asked our Spanish teacher about the hats worn by indigenous Bolivians such as this mujer (woman).


We were interested because we hadn’t seen any men wearing them, even though they appear to be hats designed for men.  We were told that this dates back to the colonial times.  After the Spanish left, people wanted to emulate them, especially in their clothing.  They started selling these typical hats to men, but they were uninterested.  Instead, the hats were then marketed toward women, where it was successful.

Hasta Luego!

Elanna Seid & Kiera Crowley