We have landed ourselves in a wonderful casita. (You know it´s meant to be if it´s where you take your first hot shower in Bolivia). As per reponsibilty and in temporary break of our Wifi fast, here are a few snippets of our experiences in El Alto.
Liam: It would be the first day without the rest of the group … our little orange bubble had been so constant for the past 8 days (it feels like a month) of knowing each other, I was both excited by the homestay idea and frightened of being the intruder. But our homestay mother was so lighthearted, excited, and much less nervous than we were. Laughing make breathing up here in El Alto simultaneously easier and much more difficult.
Miguel: The first thing we did at home was drink lemonade. After we downed a couple of cups, we remembered protocol and asked if it was made with boiled water (it was, but we should have asked first). We set our bags down, then walked straight out again with our homestay mom, Regina, to the mercado to change money and buy bread, bananas, and choclo (think granules of white corn, but on steroids).
Liam: I had no idea there were so many vegetables I needed to know about in this world. But alas, here I am. I thought vegetarianism would be a little more difficult here, but our homestay mother is so so so accomodating. It really is quite amazing. I´ve never left the table hungry or dissatisfied, which is certainly a privilege within itself. I´m fortunate to be able to wash the dishes after a meal, almost always accompanied by a community or great conversation. Did I expect to engage in a long conversation about my spirituality only 24 hours after getting here? Most certainly not. But I have learned that love is in and over a meal, and that understanding comes with a serving spoon and some good instant coffee at night.
Miguel: Regina is our mega-gracious host mom, who is full of wonderful recipes for vegetarian food and a variety of jokes. By the first evening, she had already attempted to sell Liam and me to a local caserita for five bolivianos a piece. On the second day, she tried to convince me that my left hand was my right hand (she did not succeed). I also try to wash dishes after every meal, but Regina talks me out of it half of the time. I´ll keep trying.
Liam: The tempo of speech here is certainly slower and more easily understood by beginners of Spanish, but I still find myself nodding and saying “si” or “super” or “esta bien.” I am quite grateful for Miguel, whose conversational Spanish allows me to listen in on discussions with our dad and brother about exports, the economy, and issues with the public education system. I ask questions when I can. Listening is my new favorite activity, most because it is far easier to listen than to produce, but it is also much more worthwhile to hear what this family, who has quite graciously welcomed us into their home, wants to talk about.
Miguel: I am not a cat person. Liam finds it amusing and cute that our cat climbs through our window at 6 in the morning and crawls over our beds. I do not. Pimienta (the dog) is a different story. When I sit on the sofa, she crawls on my lap, looks at me with her big dark eyes, and just snuggles while licking my leg. I may have petted her once, maybe twice, perhaps three times (please don´t tell, I may have to pay higher insurance).
Liam: It takes some much self control not to pet the cat. The dog I am indifferent to, but when a little white cat comes into your room rather loudly at 6 in the morning through a tiny hole in the window that goes into the garage, how could you not love it? Right, Miguel?