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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.

36 Hours

Walking “home” through El Alto for the first time was full of nerves and curiosity, but we had our six year old host sister, Luciana, holding our hands the whole way. For our first homestay, Rebecca and I were assigned to an incredible family who had never hosted anyone before, but were quick to welcome us in to their family. As soon as we carried our stuff up the 3 flights of stairs, we were off to pick up the eight year old, Celina, from school. When we returned to their house we had a wonderful kid-friendly meal of chicken strips, rice, and tomato. Immediately after lunch we were walked back to the meeting spot to take a tour of El Alto while our host sisters took dance and violin lessons. The second we returned from the tour Luciana and Celina gave everyone in the group big hugs before walking us home for our first night at an actual house.
Daniel, our host father, works in La Paz so he did not come home until 8, but as soon as he walked in we began talking about our families, where we are from, where we are going, and sharing pictures of home. Meanwhile, Luciana was getting our help on her Spanish homework, she decided it was her job to help Rebecca and I learn Spanish…For dinner our host mother, Veronica, wanted to cook us a traditional Bolivian meal, so we had a delicious chicken and veggie soup with cheese and rice as well as some empanadas full of cheese, we couldn’t stop eating them they were so good.
Before bed, Veronica showed us were we would sleep and explained that it gets cold at night so each of our beds had seven blankets on them. Because our host father returns late from work, we had a late night, but nonetheless the little girls made sure to wake us up promptly at seven am for breakfast of fruit salad, eggs, bread, yogurt, and anything else we could have wanted.
After the girls were off to school, Rebecca and I were walked to Compa-a theater center- for a morning full of “de colonizing the body.” Somehow afterward we made it back home on our own, just in time for lunch. We then spent the next 2 hours of free time playing with stuffed animals and making friendship blankets on their rooftop terrace. When we returned from our afternoon class, the little girls wanted to watch “boss baby,”in Spanish before dinner, so we drank our afternoon tea (at 6 o’clock) and then watched the movie before bed.