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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

Homestay in Tiqipaya

My host mother, Dona Maxima is one of the strongest women I have ever met. The first night I became a part of her family, I could tell how amazing she is. With my lack of Spanish the first day walking back to her house was a bit awkward until she asked my name and when I told her, “Me llamo Becca”, she couldn’t stop laughing then said “baca! baca!” (which for those who don’t know means cow) and hearing her laugh and seeing her big beautiful smile made me feel so comfortable and loved.

From living alone, managing her own farm (tending to cows, chickens, turkeys, etc), cooking delicious meals, this woman is the definition of strong. Most days she wakes up around 5 am to milk the cows then proceeds to feed every other animal, including myself. She then herds her 7 big cows from her backyard, where they spend the night to the huge plot of land across the street where they spend the day grazing. During her “down time” she makes cheese from the milk she collected the day prior and coming from someone who ate the cheese daily, I can proudly say it is beyond delicious. The days when she wakes up at 4am is when she travels 45 minutes to Cochabamba to sell the fresh cheese she made. With me there to give a second hand with herding the cows, wheel-barreling grass for the cows, and getting down and dirty by cutting the grass, Maxima makes it seem like nothing with her strong self. Maxima has a constant smile on her face and like my mom from home, will feed you more than enough. With my lack of Spanish throughout these 3 weeks, she still makes conversation and works around my verbal mistakes which I am so grateful for.

My second night with Maxima, I came to help bring the cows back to her backyard. This night was different because it had already began to go dark which made things a bit harder with the cows. She released 4 and I led them back to her house with my large stick I used to assert my dominance. By the time I got back to the field, one cow had become angry with Maxima and decided to put his front hooves onto her shoulders, pushing all its weight on Maxima. I stood there, yelling, but Maxima seemed fine, kept standing through it all. When the cow got off of her, she laughed and walked it off. Just like that. Such a strong woman.

Each of us had the opportunity to become apart of a family here in Tiqipaya and we all had different experiences that made a great impact on our trip. For me, Maxima has shown me what it means to be strong, independent, and most of all, she has provided me with a smile that will warm my heart forever. I am sad to be leaving Tiqipaya but more importantly, I am exteremly sad to be leaving Maxima and her warmth and love.