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Crossing the river before summiting 17,500 Pico Austria. Photo by Ella Williams (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest, 2nd Place), South America Semester.

Bolivia: The Hugh Brown Update

Hello Yak Board!

Right now we are staying in an oasis property just outside of Sorata. Everywhere you look it feels like art. There are beautiful gardens filled with flowers I don’t recognize and a swimming pool made from rocks from the water and filled by rain water. Johnny, the property owner, explained to me that he was using the pool to restore the local frog population. In the valley the frogs have been disappearing, so he has brought frogs eggs up and let them hatch in the pool. Sure enough I was swimming with the tadpoles! There is also an outdoor shower made from bottles, a teeter totter fashioned from a car’s axel, and a treehouse overlooking the river. Even the building I am staying in is painted as a mural, showing the Aboriginals in war paint and the lush forests of the surrounding area.

As a group we have been focusing on trying to build group dynamic and how to safely navigate Bolivian culture. Today we went into Sorata, crossing over the river and up the valley into town. It was amazing to finally meet some native Bolivians, and we definitely noticed each other. Our group’s assorted REI, MEC, and North Face clothes was a stark contrast to Bolivian women in their traditional attire, kids in their school uniforms, and soccer jerseys supporting their favorite club (Go Barca). We dived into Spanish right away and navigated our way to a restaurant in town. Even though my Spanish is broken, it was very rewarding to walk up to the Bolivians and have them happily point you in the right direction. At the restaurant we ate for around 7$ for 4 people, for two courses (SO CHEAP). Afterwards my group with Rebecca and Franca were given time to wander through the weaving streets of Sorata. Music whispered through the streets from open doors (including Despacito) and we passed by meat shops with huge slabs of meat skewered on hooks from the ceiling.

Once we got back from our adventure in town, we were assigned our first leadership roles! Liza and I are “Condors”. Some of our responsibilities include daily check ins, being the vehicle for instructor-student communications and making sure our fellow travelers needs and responsibilities are met. It is pretty cool and I’ll let you know how it’s going at next check in.

Hugh Brown