After a long and tiring journey, I have arrived safely in Bolivia! I am now in my host city of Tarija and everything so far has gone smoothly. My host family is incredibly welcoming and kind, I am very lucky. Their son Marcel who is going to spend the year in Davis, California left today from Santa Cruz when we left for Tarija. It was great to spend a day and do some last-minute shopping with him at a mall in Santa Cruz. It was amazing to see how many stores were the same as in the US, including Levi’s, Hard Rock Cafe and Starbucks! Everything is new and different, but it is very hard to explain.
Arriving last night was not too difficult except I was(and still am) very tired. Driving through the city at 04:00 was very interesting. The road from the airport is the main highway going north and it is bordered by truck dealerships, many dark and walled lots, ATMs, stores, and homes. The Bolivian driving style is new for me, almost all cars are very small and I didn’t know it was possible to drive so close together. Practically all cars are manual, with little or no air conditioning, and it doesn’t seem as if any have ever had a smog check. Even though Bolivia is four hours ahead I did not actually get to sleep until after 06:00. I hope tonight I will be able to get some more sleep!
Even after just one day, it seems that being vegetarian is going to be very difficult. As we learned at rotary orientations things in a new country aren’t right or wrong necessarily, just different. So far it seems like this may be one of the biggest “different” things. I will have to see how it goes.
The air quality in Santa Cruz was very poor and it was hurting my nose and throat. There was a combination of serious smog and smoke from some close fires recently. I’m not sure if these are the only reasons, but I would definitely be concerned if it was my host city.
I am very happy with my family and we understand each other (just maybe not in Spanish yet) and I am excited to get to know them better!