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

A Day in the Garden

My first Saturday living in Tiquipaya left me feeling relaxed and connected – to the other students, to my host family, and to the Bolivian soil. We started our day with a 30 minute Trufi ride to the colorful Plaza Colon, where we sat in the middle of what seemed like hundreds of pigeons, some beautiful water features, and little parks to plan the logistics of our day. Because our group as a whole has a pretty big sweet tooth, we decided to stop by a local coffee shop for some ultra-sweet coffee drinks. My mochalatte was delicious and much sweeter and creamier than the ones I´ve had in the US. Once we got a sufficient sugar and caffeine fix, we headed on foot towards the Botanical Gardens on the outskirts of town called Martin Cardenas, where we wandered through hundreds of species of beautiful local flowers, succulents, and trees. As we chatted and soaked in our surroundings, we also took note that the garden had the perfect view of the famous and massive Cristo de la Concordia at the top of San Pedro Hill. As we walked out, we all put flowers in our hair. We especially admired the way Margot´s yellow flower went perfectly with her hair and realized that the flower was actually called ¨Margarita¨.

After a filling lunch and some much needed time in an internet cafe connecting with friends and family, everyone felt ready to head back to their homestay houses. As soon as I got home, my host sisters and mom were out in the garden, weeding and preparing to sell their plants in the Sunday morning mercado in Tiquipaya. My host sisters warmly invited me to help them pull weeds or ¨hierbas¨from the garden and sort bay leaves for seasoning the delicious meals Doña Leti makes. My host sister Ana urged me to pull the hierbas ¨con fuerza!¨or with strength, because I was tentative at first. However, I soon found my strength and wasn´t afraid to cover my hands and knees with soil in order to restore their beautiful garden. Along the way, my host sisters described all of the many flowers, vegetables, fruits, and sugar canes growing in their garden and showed me how to water them properly in order to make them grow tall. Also we took frequent breaks to eat some frambuesas (raspberries) straight from the garden. By dinner time, Ana was complimenting me on my weeding strength and speed, and we collected all of the cut and pulled plants to put in the compost behind the house. I am still truly amazed by the diversity of plants in Leti and Wilfredo’s garden and hope to watch some flowers bloom and  tomatoes ripen over the course of the next few weeks

After a long day in the garden, I was especially thankful for Doña Leti´s delicious dinner. Because there is no school tomorrow, we stayed up slightly later than usual playing a game their previous student from Germany brought for them. Ana is a pro at the game but I was happy to get second place. I went to bed with a full heart and stomach, with visions of the day´s flowers lulling me to sleep.