La Paz At Last!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014
La Paz, Bolivia
Hello Family and Friends,

The 8 of us Youth International travelers plus our two leaders who have
now become the ``Bucket List Bunch`` have begun our journey at last . It began
on Friday, September 12th in Estes Park, Colorado at the beautiful
Y.M.C.A. We intermittently arrived with travelers from the Asia program. 

Throughout the 2 and a half days there, we had many workshops conducted by Brad Gillings, Youth International’s director. Between health and safety, an introduction on culture shock and
cultural sensitivity, a mindfulness workshop on how to stay mentally healthy
abroad and more, we felt very prepared to push our comfort zones. 

Although we often sat inside doing workshops with Brad, we weren’t always inside. On Saturday we all had the opportunity to go for a hike in the breathtaking Rocky
Mountains. For experienced hikers, the trail was a breeze, and for some it was
quite the workout, but for all it was absolutely gorgeous. Mountains with snow
topped peaks, lofty pine trees, and turquoise-green lakes surrounded us at all
times. On Sunday, the Bucket List Bunch participated in some very fun team
building exercises, which helped us get to know each other a little more before
leaving the country .

Sunday night at 9 P.M. we headed out in two vans back to the Denver
airport to begin the real journey. We had an overnight flight from Denver to
Miami and then a 7 hour flight from Mimi to La Paz, on which, Geoff and Arvind
received a very long Spanish lesson from a nice lady named Ruby. We arrived in
La Paz at around 630 P.M. and immediately experienced the pure chaos that is
Bolivian driving. Apparently, you need to be aggressive or you’ll never get
anywhere, but there were several gasps let out, at least from me! 

Today, we began with breakfast at our quaint hostel and while our
leaders did some booking errands, the group set out to walk around the streets
of Bolivia and view the San Francisco Cathedral, which was quite beautiful.  
 Around seven soccer stores lined one street and the boys stopped in every one, even some twice, to compare the quality and prices, but alas, nothing was purchased. We met up with our leaders for lunch which was at a scenic rooftop restaurant occupied only by us! Salad *minus the lettuce so as not to get sick, tomato soup, empanadas with cheese for some, and
fried fish for others, ending with a strawberry sorbet was our first lunch in
Bolivia . It was great to have a 4 course, delicious meal before heading off to
some of the more remote areas. After lunch we all went to the coca museum and
learned a great deal about the common South American plant from the museum
owner. Afterwards, some went to watch the Futbol game, while others took a hike
to view the presidential palace located near a plaza brimming with pigeons. It
was a wonderful day of sightseeing, exploring, and of course, practicing our
Spanish before meeting our first host families.

Tonight we went to a Pena, which was Bolivian dinner and a traditional Bolivian show. It was incredibly lively with fantastic music, food, and amazing costumes. Nearly everyone was pulled on stage to dance at some point!

Tomorrow night, The Bucket List Bunch is headed to Cochabamba on a 7 hour bus ride, and there, we will meet our first host families. Wish us luck!