We arrived in Tocaña after a hard week of trekking. Tired,smelly and sore we arrived at last to what would become our base of operations; Pulga´s house. A La Paz born anthropologist, he had visited Tocaña some 25 odd years ago and found it so much to his liking he stayed. His house, or hostel rather, (many from the nearby city of Coroico visit on the weekend) is covered with art. Poems, phrases, portraits and more cover every inch of the walls and tables. Pulga, as individual as his was a wonderful kind host. We were never without tea: to him, a thirsty guest was unimaginable.
After making our introductions to the community, I was bundled into the car of my host mother Tanya. I soon found myself rooming with Becca and Annabelle who had been placed under the care of Luisa, Tonya’s mother. We were ferried to our home for the next four days, a giant compound that seven families shared. At first, like as in all homestays, we were timid, unsure of our place in this new environment. Were we bothering them? What should we do? But after a few days we all relaxed and soon felt comfortable; feeding (the absolutely adorable) baby Alba, washing the dishes, talking over meals. One night specifically I gathered my courage and asked to help with dinner. With the upmost kindness (and patience) Tanya guided me throughout the night´s meal. I cut onions, (and didn’t cry!) garlic and tomatoes while rice bubbled on the stove. My incredible dice work was added to sauce that would later be poured over the rice. Meanwhile my host sister Belen cut up chunks of meat to cook in the sauce. (To be honest, more things went into the meal,but I was too preoccupied with not messing up and speaking in Spanish to take mental notes.) All night I kept smelling onions on my hands and smiling to myself. I helped cook! I followed (honestly really simple) directions! It was fun! I got to talk to my host family members about their days! And all in Spanish! I went to bed that night, snuggled next to Annabelle, smelling of onions and satisfaction.