When we arrived here in Santa Cruz, Bolivia we found out that Puma, the director Paul Hoffman’s dog, had two puppies since the last time we were here! When we’ve been at the children’s home or at the Hoffman’s house that is right next door, I’ve spent at least some time playing with the puppies. Now the puppies are much larger (I’m not sure if you can even call them puppies anymore!)
We were spending a lot of time inside because it had been raining almost every day. I guess this dry season was not so dry! We were told it has rained a lot more this year than it has in the Hoffman’s 9 years of living here. Now in August it has been getting a lot hotter and much drier.
On July 9th the Pope visited Bolivia and he came to Santa Cruz. We went to see him and there were thousands of people there just to catch a glimpse of him.
We traveled for about 24 hours from our house in the U.S. to the place we are staying here and much of that time was waiting for flights and traveling to and from the airports by car. There wasn’t much to make it special.
Entering the place we are staying was a different matter. When we walked through the gate I saw how big the yard was for the first time. There’s a pool, a trampoline, 9 bunnies, 4 quails, 2 cats, 1 big turtle, 9 baby turtles, and lots and lots of space. My mom hit me square in the nose while she was motioning around with her hand saying how big the space was. I guess it isn’t big enough for me to avoid being hit.
After weeks of not being cleaned, the pool has gotten greener and greener. Now you can’t even see the bottom. It is not something you want to be in right now.
We are staying in the little guest cottage in the corner of the property and I get the little loft that looks into the kitchen and my mom and dad get the big room that has air conditioning. How fair. The public transportation here is very different from what it is like in the U.S. Nothing runs on a schedule like, say, Septa buses arriving at a bus station around a certain time. The microbuses run on a sporadic schedule but you can always catch one that you need very quickly. Microbus rides around the city cost 2 Bolivianos or about 29 cents and if you want to go to el Torno, a town outside of Santa Cruz, you can catch the el Torno express in which case you have to pay 3 bolivianos (44¢). The taxis are much the same as they are in the U.S. but they are much, much cheaper as in a 30 minute ride the could cost up to $75 in North America while it might only cost 30 Bs ($4.36) or it could cost 80 Bs ($11.63) but it depends on distance.
The food here is really good but not the best for you. Steak is one of the foods that they got right because cows are plenty here. There are also a lot of chickens, meaning there are a lot of chicken restaurants and fast food chains. They also have Burger King, really. You can sometimes get really good grilled chicken from a venta, a little roadside shop, if you go at the right time.
This summer I took some Spanish classes with a lady named Profesora Gladys Fernandez. I would go to her house where she had a cute cat and an escape artist macaw named Choci. She didn’t speak any English other than a few basic words like “how” and “you” so it was really good for my learning. I still can’t speak much Spanish but I am definitely better than I was the first time I was here.
There are some really neat things in Bolivia, especially out in the campo (or country) like the Aguas Calientes (hot springs). We got to go on a trip to the Chiquitania region, a part of the Santa Cruz department of Bolivia. There are really cool cliffs that you can hike up and you can see pretty far because it is mostly flat land. If you are watching you can sometimes see a group of cute parrots, a toucan or, if you’re lucky, a macaw or two. We also went to the Biocenter. They have an aviary in one part of the the park that has dozens of macaws and parrots. There are also a couple of toucans and peacocks. In another part of the park there is a butterfly sanctuary that has some really cool butterflies. You can go kayaking in one of the lakes and on an island in another one there are a lot of crazy monkeys.
The last time we were here we went to ancient Inca ruins called la Fuerte outside of a town called Samaipata. There are foundations of old buildings and a massive carved rock that is 220 meters long and 60 meters wide (about 722 feet by 197 feet) so I mean massive. It is amazing to look out into the hills that surround Samaipata. That night we went to a great Bolivian pizza place in the town.
We just went to the sand dunes here. They are in a protected park so that means you are not allowed to hunt the wildlife. You can find really cool birds like storks, owls and emus and other animals like armadillos there. They are huge and so out of place being just outside of the city. It is an overall amazing view.
When we come back we would like to visit Cochabamba, the fourth largest city in Bolivia. A friend of my parents here worked and lived in Cochabamba until she came to Santa Cruz to work at the Home. We have heard about Cochabamba from listening to her and it sounds really interesting and we want to take a trip there. We would also like to go to La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. Just outside of the city is Lake Titicaca. By measure of water volume, it is the largest lake in South America. It is geographically in two countries, Bolivia and Peru. On the Bolivian side is the largest island on the lake. It is called Isla de Sol or the island of the sun and it has more than 180 ruins scattered around it.
Bolivia isn’t the first place I would recommend going to just for a vacation but if you are here working or visiting friends or family I would definitely recommend exploring and seeing things. I like it here but I am really excited to come home. Bolivia is very different from the U.S. and it is a big change. It is a place that will take me a while to get used to. It is a great place in its own unique way but is also a strange new place for someone like me who has only been out of the U.S. once (and that was to the Canadian side of Niagara falls).