It is so warm out today in Cochabamba, the city itself is known for being warm and dry (even more so now with a shrinking rainy season thanks to climate change). Today is toward the end of spring here, whole southern hemisphere thing, but I am told this is warmer than usual. I can now officially say I skipped Winter and Fall. Went straight from Summer to Spring…weird and cool.
We got to our host families almost a week ago now and have been settling in here. I am living in a cool non-traditional household with my hippie host mom/grandma, her adult daughter Camilla, Camilla’s son Emilio (shout out to my favorite sister Emilia) and Diego our adult host brother. I have to admit speaking Spanish, even though it isn’t perfect, makes such a difference. We live on a pretty big park in the nice (i.e wealthy) neighborhood, actually called Lincoln Park, no relation to the questionable band and all relation to the former U.S President. There is so much fruit here and I am getting to feel healthier and a little more in control. Eating homemade granola for breakfast feels like a luxury I don’t deserve…
We spent the first week of Bolivia in La Paz (@3680m yikes!). I got a taste of what I am convinced being old feels like, muscle aches and altitude un-adjustment meant I took my time (and lost my breath) getting anywhere. We spent a few magical days camping outside a small community on the shore of Lake Titicaca, swimming and bathing in the ice cold lake, exploring the Island of the Moon, Island of the Sun, having campfires and learning about Andean Cosmo-vision and history. This experience raised important questions about our role, burden/footprint, and responsibility in this non-tourist tourist experience that I am still parsing out, but also I was just grateful for unpolluted air, water, and so many stars.
On our way to the Lake, and for a two-day-one-night excursion we got to go to Tiwanaku and learn about the ancient (pre-Incan) civilization with the Bolivian archeologist who discovered, preserved, and made it the cultural site it is today, Oswaldo Rivera. Most notably we got to learn about and see in person his reconstructions of suka kollus, which are super cool ancient agricultural practices of raised fields with water channels alongside to insulate and protect against frost as well as be dredged to provide nutrients. The whole system was a complicated and advanced agro-ecological system that yielded more food than any method of super yucky (very scientific terms) chemical intensified agriculture we now practice. You can read/see some pictures here (stop when it turns into some Atlantis conspiracy, I couldn’t find any good English resources).
My cranberry sauce is hopefully plumping up as I write this… send good vibes that the one package of dried (and super pricey) cranberries I could find somehow makes a sauce. I am using unsweetened juice to add tartness, no sugar, as they are already sweetened, and orange zest/juice to complexify the flavor a bit. I also made a fresh berry pie, lattice and all. I am helping organize a Thanksgiving potluck at our country directors house for tonight. I am excited (and a bit anxious because I am me) for what awaits as 28 students try to cook something in a foreign country. I went out and bought flowers and candles to decorate and also have prepared paper for everyone to write something they are thankful for and we can read them out during dessert. In honor of Andean tradition, we are going to burn the papers ceremonially after we read them out and before we bust out the instruments to make music (according to Ismael our director), I will leave that to him. My main aspiration is just for people to feel like there are people that care about them here, not just people missing them at home.
I am hoping all goes well and know that staying busy and organizing things, especially food and decoration related things, helps me stay busy and present as I miss my family and friends on such a community-oriented holiday. I am sending out all my love and wishing you the best of companies and yummiest of foods on this holiday. Don’t take for granted your readily accessible canned pumpkin!
p.s. remember colonialism sucks and we all live on stolen indigenous land.