So it has been a while since the last post. Interestingly enough, this is the final day of our trip. So really, this entry will contain our activities from July 12th to today. I suggest firing up the microwave and get some popcorn.
The last two and a half weeks have been more than hectic. Our project took some harsh turns as Cochabamba was entirely out of rebar. No rebar, no significant building. So we put together a pilot program and furnished the building with a refrigerator, chairs, tables, a stove, a small library composed of donated books, and school supplies. The pilot program ran three days a week with Tuesday and Thursday left for minor construction. We divided the children of the community by grade. Teaching hygiene has been our main focus. We have been encouraging hand washing and teeth brushing.
The water has been hooked up to the local pump and electricity will be connected soon (we bought all of the materials and left them in the hands of Ernesto, the man in charge of the entire operation). The project will take much more work before it is a full fledge orphanage. Bolivian law says that an orphanage must have a wall and a security guard. We have quite a bit more to go before this project leaps from a community center to an orphanage. This is not at all to say that our work is in vain. More than 60 kids are a part of the program that will run to the end of August. Reinforcements will arrive in March to continue the construction.
Since the last post, the culinary adventures of our group have continued with great satisfaction. We have tried beef heart, kidneys, beef tongue, and llama. Beef heart is interesting. Chewy, flavorful, a bit grainy, definitely worth trying. Most of us, including the “vegetarian” of the group enjoyed it. Kidneys taste much like sausage. Though we were never informed of which animal the kidneys were actually from, they were delicious. Beef tongue is tender, juicy, and lean. Cooked for hours in tomato sauce and spices, served with potatoes, pasta, and beans, the tongue leaped to a Bolivian favorite. Llama is not just tasty. It is the manifestation of delicious. It was partnered on a skewer with bacon, fresh red peppers, and onions. Try llama.
On our weekends, we have been making a point to get around Bolivia. One Saturay we decided to travel to Mizque. We set off at 7AM and stopped for a lovely breakfast at a truck stop. After that we went to a lovely, relatively overlooked ruin called Incallajta. A beautiful waterfall cuts the ruins in two. The history is fascinating and the site is astounding. We made our way to Tatora, where the intended 50 kilometer bike ride was intended to begin. Five minutes in, one bike broke. Thirty minutes in, the bikers got split up. An hour and a half in, two more bikes broke. 3 hours in, the bikers were reunited. 4 hours in, another bike broke. Around 8PM, in an attempt to cross a river, our Volkswagen bus broke down. We resorted to cuddling for warmth in the frigid Andes for a night. It was below freezing. At 530AM the owner of Casa International and one of the adventurers hiked and biked the remaining 40km to Mizque on the remaining two bikes. Those that stayed behind enjoyed basking in the river and a wonderful view. A taxi picked up those that stayed behind and all were reunited in Mizque. We enjoyed a steak dinner that seemed to be an entire cow. The next day, we made our way home on a bus.
This last weekend, we traveled to Lake Titicaca and spent a night on the Isla de Sol (Island of the Sun). Unfortunately, we never made it to the Island of the Moon, but regardless, Lake Titicaca is overwhelmingly fascinating. Consider this, 13000 feet above sea level sits the highest lake in the world. It holds the largest volume of water in South America for a lake. Surrounding the lake are brown mountains, around those, 16000ft snow capped Andes. No more than 10 boats are visible at any time and all of them carry no more that 30 people. The lake is pristine. The islands are a direct connection to the history of the religion of the Aymara. It is difficult to grasp the concept that Lake Titicaca is actually real.