I arrived in Cochabamba, Bolivia a little more than a week ago. The words I would use to sum up the time here so far are compassionate care. Compassionate care of me, what an incredible gift!
When I landed here, I was greeted by three friends and my host mother, Anita. It was a surprise and very much appreciated after the long flight. It was a great start to this adventure! We arrived at my home here, which is a lovely single room house with a bathroom. It is just a perfect place to stay! Pictured here (starting on the left) are Anita, Domo (Franciscan Mission Service), Paul (Maryknoll), myself and Victor (Maryknoll).
Anita is an amazing host. I receive the most incredible and healthy homemade meals, here. We have had great conversations as we eat as well. Our phones are always next to us, so we can find the right words to talk about our homes, growing up and our families. I was surprised from the beginning how much I can already understand. At one point, when some of Anita’s family was visiting, we were talking about COVID, and how some people don’t want to get vaccinated, and they expressed how frustrated they were about it. I thought it was interesting how the conversation was so similar to those I've had in the states the weeks before I came.
I also started school on Monday. Anita was kind enough to drive me the first day, and I arrived at the Maryknoll Center here, full of gardens and (wahoo!) birds singing. Inside, we met our instructors who are all very kind, full of joy and super patient, which I really appreciate! This week I learned how to greet people, ask some general questions and describe people. I had fun using all the best descriptors for my family and friends! Pictured here is a Roadside Hawk that I found one day at the Center.
Walking to and from class was a nice way to get to know the area and practice my Spanish: Buenos Dias! Buenas Tardes! I also greet the dogs I see along the way, most of which are street dogs: Hola mi perro! Pictured here is a local street dog I pass each day. They are not mean, but also uninterested in being friends.
Late in the week I woke up with a bit of an itchy throat. I was hopeful that it would be allergies, but unfortunately, it was COVID. Somewhere in my travels, I picked it up. I will be isolating in my little home for 10 days. I have been overwhelmed at everyone’s kind response to getting sick. The school had to be closed, disinfected and everyone there tested. They have been so gracious about it and even held online class with me for a short time the next day. Anita has been leaving me breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, and whatever else I need, outside my door. She always waits so she can see me and make sure I look ok – but from a distance of course! Pictured here is breakfast: some carrot bread, a blood sugar regulating smoothy (Anita found the recipe which contains mango, almond milk and cinnamon, num!) and Mate de Coca tea.
So far, COVID has not been too rough, just like a bad cold. It’s early, but the symptoms are mild and should begin dissipating in a few days, which I am grateful for. I worry most about the people I came in contact with, especially Anita, my friends, as well as the instructors and the students at the school. It is quite a burden being the one to bring COVID to a place. I continue to pray for their health and wellbeing.
When I was learning about Bolivia I heard about how full of hospitality the Bolivian people are, and this first week has proven it to be true! I am so blessed to be in this place at this time, and blessed by everyone around me.