Thanks to the support of family, friends, and other donors, I have been fortunate enough to have spent the last 2 weeks in Bolivia as the photographer for a non-profit called Quaker Bolivia Link. QBL primarily puts fresh water and greenhouses into rural communities throughout the poorest country in South America: Bolivia. Not only do they build projects that change the quality of life for many communities, they also educate the people about hygiene and nutrition.
When we arrived at the over 12,000 ft. altitude, it felt like the oxygen was being sucked out of my lungs after only a few steps on solid ground. Luckily our group of 11 loaded up the van and set off on a scenic drive to the town of Sorata which is a few thousand feet lower than La Paz.
While we acclimated to the altitude in Sorata, our group traveled to various projects, spent an evening with some kids from the local boarding school, and did a bit of site-seeing. The beauty of this country took my breath away, but the amount of poverty we witnessed left me stunned and speechless. The nicest hotel in the town was beautiful, but the lack of shower curtains, a rag for a towel, rock hard pillows, and deformed beds made it very clear that we were no longer in a first world country.
And while the quality of our rooms didn’t exactly lend themselves to a good night’s sleep, the charming town square, markets, and people made up for it. Since my Spanish was quite rusty, I had difficulties navigating the town and conversing with the natives. This was especially true when a man called to me and asked if I would take his picture. This was all good and dandy until he started trying to speak to me. I had to resort to “No hablo Español.” This man was persistent though and using hand gestures patted his lap and then after saying “camera” pointed to his friend. After my interpretation that he wanted me to sit on his lap and have his friend take the picture, I quickly said “no gracias” and scurried back to the hotel. Although, who knows if that’s what he was actually trying to get across – That may have been one of my many misinterpretations! Luckily my job was to be a photographer and not a translator.