On Wednesday, September 18th, just under a month after arriving, we had our first Rotary meeting. Other than receiving our first month’s allowance, it was our first interaction with our host Rotary club. It wasn’t a normal Rotary meeting though, because it consisted of just the inbound RYE students, their host families, and our tutors and counselors. The meeting was led by Jorge Alcoreza, our inbound YEO, who is incredibly kind and helpful. I look forward to getting to know him this year! (pictured below)
The meeting was held at the Rotary Club of Tarija which has a nice meeting room and facilities. We were given a very warm welcome, introduced ourselves to the other people and families who were there, and took lots of pictures. The meeting started with a welcome message and a description of goals, important dates, and activities that we will be doing here together in Tarija. After that, we spend a long time talking about the trips and traveling that we will be doing. Our big trips loo a little something like this:
The first trip with all the other RYE students from our district will meet in Santa Cruz on October 4th(less than two weeks away!!!). This will be the first time that all the exchange students from the district come together, and it is traditionally a trip to the orchid festival in Chiquitania. Unfortunately, the orchids burned up in the recent Amazon fires. Instead of going to Chiquitania, we will instead be going 3 hours in the opposite direction towards the mountains and Samaipata, a beautiful city of ancient ruins, scenery, and culture. Because Santa Cruz is a 14-hour bus ride from Tarija I am hoping to fly, save a combined 25 hours, and spend some quality time in Santa Cruz with the Rotary students there who we don’t have much time with. This will allow me an extra day to get to know Santa Cruz in addition to Samaipata.
The second trip is the Bolivia trip, an adventure to each major city and important sites from the 16th to the 27th of November. I am especially looking forward to this trip! I have heard so many good things from many people about the places we are going and can’t wait to go! Spending many hours on the bus will be a great time to get to know the 30 exchange students from our district, a district four times larger than California. This will be an incredible opportunity to do a whole lot of photography in very diverse settings and will really test my abilities. You will have to let me know what you think! One of the important parts of this trip is what to pack, since we will be everywhere from hot and sweaty jungle to ultra high altitude. Many photographers have taken stunning photos at the Uyuni salt flats (12,500ft) where we will also go, and they have said it is the coldest they have ever been!! This will be an adventure!
The third trip with just the Bolivia RYE students is the Cusco-Machu Pichu trip from April 3rd to 8th. Getting to go to Peru and see such ancient and important sites will be an incredible opportunity and I am very excited about the possibility of this trip. For many students I have heard that this is one of the experiences that they never forget. We are still waiting for more details on this trip.
The final and optional trip is a joint trip with the RYE students in Brazil. It is up to a month long depending on how much you want to do or are available for, and it includes Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, and Peru! A truly incredible itinerary! We have yet to hear all the details for this trip, but it will be in May 2020 and we have the invitation join. This trip is still so far away but just trying to conceive how insanely incredible the opportunity is is almost impossible.
My biggest concern for trips is managing meals and nutrition. Obviously, I don’t want to be too much of a burden on the organizers because of my diet, but I also shouldn’t be expected to convert to a near meat-only diet. I have been working on trying new meats and have indeed been enjoying my fair share of some chicken. Still, it really isn’t my thing quite yet. I am trying to prepare to eat more meat on trips because I have heard some bad stories of vegetarian and vegan meat substitutes in dishes that have caused a lot of people to get sick. Meat is such an important and staple dish, that it is almost guaranteed to be the safest option even if it may not be preferred. I am definitely not the only vegetarian-ish RYE student, but I really want to expand my diet so that eating becomes less of a puzzle for me and for my host families who don’t always know what vegetarian options look like.
Even with my concerns, I know that no matter what happens or if I get sick or wet or cold or whatever, it will be the epic adventures that I remember for the rest of my life. Even without going anywhere except my little town of Tarija, I am living an adventure that I will never forget, and I am endlessly grateful for everyone who helped me get to where I am now. I am especially grateful for my host Rotary club which is full of very caring and supportive people who are eager to show me and my fellow RYE students the culture and scenery in this beautiful city. I have quickly developed great relationships with some of the other host parents and families and feel very comfortable approaching Rotary if I have any issues. There were many questions asked and answered by the RYE students, our host families, and our counselors at the meeting and it was nice to see that everything is thoroughly thought through and every detail is thought of.