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Photo by Benjamin Swift, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Lessons from La Jastambo

Here in our homestay barrio in the suburbs of Sucre we have all settled into a routine over the last few weeks. We’ve figured out who actually lives in our houses vs. who just comes over a lot, and we’re no longer surprised to wake up and speak Spanish every morning. We know how to get to our ISPs, various mercados, parques, and tiendas, the program house, and each other’s houses without a problem, and which dogs we’ll encounter along the way. We know to take the 25 to Mercado Campesino and switch buses if the micro B downtown takes too long to come, and that we can get away with paying 1 Boliviano without showing a student card. We are so grateful to our instructors and Alan for all the work they’ve done to make sure this brand new homestay and ISPs run smoothly.

Here are 15 things I learned during the 1st week of my homestay, and some pictures of our neighborhood.

  1. Papas y arroz are essential to every meal, and soup should be eaten at least once a day at a minimum,  as should pan and tecito.
  2. The biggest struggle of living in Bolivia is not being able to pet the dogs.
  3. Taking your homestay sisters on a “gringo hunt” through the barrio is the best way to figure out where all of your friends live.
  4. Disliking fútbol is not an option.
  5. People are equally addicted to phones and TV anywhere there’s internet.
  6. Telling a joke in Spanish that makes your whole family laugh is the best feeling ever.
  7. Trash < compost < giving it to the animals.
  8. You can never have enough Spanish vocab.
  9. The small talk adults inevitably try to make with you about your future is the same in every language.
  10. Playing Jenga with your little brothers is more fun if everyone cheats (and having brothers is great!).
  11. Sunsets and sunrises are prettiest when you live above the city and surrounded by mountains.
  12. Snacks costing 1 Boliviano each at tiendas on every block in the neighborhood, including your own family tienda, will test you.
  13. It’s normal for your family to gossip about you, in front of you, in both Castellano and Quechua.
  14. The real fun begins when your siblings get comfortable making fun of you
  15. Taking public transportation home is the most fun when you’re sitting on a friend’s lap (preferably Maddy) in a packed micro laughing so hard you cry.