Friday, January 4, 2013

Hacia el Mar

Getting to Cochabamba was something we were looking forward to because we would be in one place for about a month to volunteer with Mano a Mano. Upon arrival, we were very pleasantly surprised to learn that we would be staying in a sweet apartment downtown, thanks to the organization.

The Christ with a full moon.
(view from our balcony of the Cristo)

Cochabamba ended up being a very comfortable city.  With a population of about 700,000, it is big, but still seems pretty small.  We had access to great food, bars, markets, etc, and since it is Bolivia, everything was very affordable.  Jill went to Spanish school at Volunteer Bolivia, which was great because it was only a couple of blocks from our house and she really liked both her teachers.  We also hung out with a couple of American couchsurfers who had been in Cochabamba for a longer period of time, who showed us some cool places in town.

Probably the best thing about being in Cochabamba, though, was that we got to unpack and settle into one place for a whole month.  Traveling every day does take its toll, and we were both happy to be able to do normal things for awhile.

At the end of our stay, our friend Dana (who we stayed with for 3 weeks in Panama) arrived with the founder of Mano a Mano, Segundo, and several donors from the US.  We were able to go with the group to several communities that Mano a Mano has worked in. The first day, Mike went with the group to see a reservoir and irrigation project.

Work on the Mano a Mano irrigation project.

Work on the Mano a Mano irrigation project.

Making Chicha.
(They also got to see how chicha is made.)

(And a delicious meal made by the community - fresh cheese, the ubiquitous papas, and "chicharrones" del pollo.  I always that chicharrones were gross fried pig parts, but these chicken pieces - that actually included meat - were some of the tastiest chicken pieces I've ever had.)

The second day Jill went to a community about two hours away that is in the middle of building a clinic.  The community is very small and isolated and the clinic will service people from up to a 4 hour walk away that have no other access to medical help.  This was an unexpected visit for the community, but when we arrived,  members were busy working away on the clinic.

Installing the windows at the clinic in Jironkota.
(Installation of the windows, which Mano a Mano makes themselves.)

Community workers outside their new clinic in Jironkota.
(Workers outside their almost completed clinic.)

It was really nice to go on the trips with Mano a Mano to the communities.  Seeing the areas in which they work and the reach that they have was truly amazing.  Mano a Mano is accomplishing a lot in Bolivia and are doing it in a very sustainable way by having the communities completely involved in the process.

All around Bolivia you see promotions for their navy, rather strange for a landlocked country. Chile took away Bolivia's coastline around 1900 and the Bolivian's still hold a grudge. In fact, there is a national holiday every year where all Bolivian's face to the west in silence. While the dispute keeps going, it doesn't seem that Bolivia will have much of a chance in this one...

Bolivia - towards the ocean.
("Bolivia - towards the ocean")

We had a great time hanging out with Dana and one of the donors, Greg, in the evenings.  Here is Dana's blog about her time spent in Bolivia.

Greg, Mike, Jill and Dana having a good time in Cochabamba.

And in our usual style, we also appreciated some of the street art on our block.

Giraffe graffiti in Cochabamba.Owl graffiti in Cochabamba.
Llama graffiti in Cochabamba

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