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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

10 Things I’ve Learned About Bolivia So Far

1. TV is a social activity. Every night, we watch telenovelas (before, during, and after eating). My family’s two favorites are “Me Declaro Culpable” and “Esposa Joven 2”. I don’t understand either of the shows, except that in “Me Declaro Culpable”, there’s a lady in jail who’s pregnant, an older man with a blue tie who seems to be in every scene, and an affair that my host dad finds hilarious.
2. Dogs are not family members. This one is super hard for me, and I find myself constantly wanting to pet the animals. But rabies is a thing here and I’ll just have to wait a few more months for good ole doggie snuggles.
3. Coca Cola is water. My homestay family does not understand how I can drink such a plain drink as water all the time and they have yet to stop offering me various sodas every day.
4. Mayonnaise is the best topping. I was not a huge fan back home, but have somehow transformed into someone who puts mayo on pasta. I’m unsure if it’s because I’m starting to love the taste of mayo or if the potatoes are becoming blander.
5. Showers are complicated. My host mom will not let me take a shower if there is no hot water (it will make me sick), but the instant water heater rarely works. I’m getting used to the feeling of not being clean all the time and feel like the shower situation will only get less accessible (long treks and rural villages to come).
6. Cows are big. I know this should not be a revelation from Bolivia, but I’ve never really come face to face with one while it snorted at me before. And after being pulled three blocks by a bull on a rope while being laughed at by my host sisters, I think I’m finally starting to understand how small I am in comparison.
7. Potato peeling is always a competition (especially with Doña Marta). My host mom races me in potato peeling and then laughs at me when I lose. Maybe by the end of my homestay, I’ll be able to peel two potatoes in the time she is able to peel ten.
8. Refusing food from a host mom is very difficult. It’s especially hard when she shoves a banana in your backpack as you’re walking out the door.
9. Sleeping in past seven is not possible. Between dogs, roosters, and chatty host sisters, it is rare to even sleep past six. This is something I’m still getting used to but really starting to enjoy.
10. People are inherently good. I don’t know if I believed this coming from the United States, but I have yet to encounter someone who won’t give me directions, say “buenas tardes”, or speak slower for the gringos. I know that this will be something I miss most upon returning to the United States.