Tuesday, June 16, 2015

6/15-16/15: First days at Proyecto Horizonte

I was a little wary about starting my volunteering at Proyecto because I had been alone and essentially free for so long - even though it had only been 3 weeks that I was in Peru, Copacabana, and La Paz, I am the type of person that gets used to a lifestyle very quickly. As a solo traveler, I loved my freedom - I could walk wherever I wanted in the city as early or as late as I wanted, and I decided whether and when to eat, visit attractions, book tours, etc. I had no one to answer to, as long as I made sure to contact my mother. It was hard at times - not because of the loneliness, but because I always had to rely on myself for everything. Every single decision - do I turn left or right? What do I want to do today? Does this restaurant look clean enough? What is that? Should I buy it? What kind of tour should I be thinking about? - was one that I had to make by myself. I had to ask all the questions I needed answers to and rely on my previously-nonexistent Spanish to get around, every day. Yes, I can read a map and had internet good enough to do research with before each day, but that kind of lifestyle is tiring.

When I took a three-day weekend to rest and simply read, I remembered what I had chosen to give up - even though travel was great, lying in bed all day and reading is just as appealing. It's so great to just be comfortable and know what you're doing and where to go all the time. When you're in bed, that's your life, but I guess you can't have that forever.

On Monday, I woke up at 6:45 to be ready at around 7:15, when Katia, the volunteer coordinator, was going to come get me to bring me to Proyecto for the first time. She apparently got sick over the weekend, so she showed up a little later but that was fine with me. The public transportation here is called a taxi-trufi, commonly known as the "trufi". It's a minivan that sits a total of 9 people including the driver, and you basically stand anywhere along the route and hail it down like a taxi or tell the driver that you're going to get off anywhere else along the route. Basically, it's the epitome of traveling in South America - there are some basic guidelines but really it's just a free-for-all in many, many ways.

To get to Ushpa-Ushpa, where Proyecto is located, I have to take two trufis - one from Jeanette's house towards a location on the edge of the main city known as Kilometer 0, and then change to another that brings me directly to the front of the Proyecto building/area. It's not a super difficult thing to navigate, but if you know me (or remember from my posts about Lima), then you know that public buses just are not easy for me. They are the ultimate challenge for me, as weird as that may be. Luckily, Katia brought me to Proyecto both days and back the first, and the ride back on the second day went much more smoothly than I ever expected.

Essentially, Proyecto is a local organization that has three goals - education, health, and community development. It was started and still primarily sponsored by a German man now living in the United States who chose Ushpa as the organization location because it was the home of illegitimate minors at first. It wasn't recognized by the Cochabamba government, so they did not have access to any relevant resources - including schools and hospitals. Proyecto started a day care, school, and health center - though the day care and school have since been officially recognized by the government, who owns them. Proyecto still supports these with scholarships for students, volunteers/tutors, after-school programs, and social workers. They run the health center (with doctors, nurses, a lab, and dentists) for about 100 patients each day.

Since I don't speak much Spanish yet, I spent Monday working with babies in the nursery. They were really cute but very messy. On Tuesday, I did some research for Katia about potential grants that Proyecto could apply for. It hasn't been much, but it actually has been kind of nice to be in one place, do some work in the morning, and then have time off to enjoy my summer.

I visited the market on Monday, and I was actually surprised at how much food I could get for so little - it was great! I bought 10 oranges, 5 pears, Pringles, peanuts, milk, and bread for just over $10. I did not mean to buy so much fruit, but the lady gave me that much so I just went with it. It was hard to not have a map to begin with, but after two days, I've gotten a lot more comfortable in the part of the city that I've ridden through in a trufi, and the little part that I've walked through. I haven't taken any pictures because I figure there's plenty of time, and I will definitely post them as I have them!

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