First Impressions

Before I post my first official note, I have to come clean and say that I have never felt giddy about internet until this morning, but the fact is, my face lit up when that little ripple came to life on my computer. How embarrassing. I also plan to retroactively post a few thoughts from earlier, but I thought my first few days would be most interesting…

My first impression of Bolivia was nothing short of breathtaking. I peeled my eyelids apart after no more than an hour and a half of an Ativan induced doze – the best I could do with 4 hours of such violent turbulence that multiple people were vomiting (thanks a lot, amazon basin). The eastern sky was just starting to pink up. No more than ten minutes later, a small tree covered peak pushed its way through the cloud cover, and then. Wah-BAM. My first Andean peak, set against deep lavender clouds and an electric pink sky. I asked the 8 year old in the seat next to me if the mountain had a name, she didn’t know. And I didn’t care. The mountain took my breath away and left me talking about her and her sisters for hours.

Once in La Paz, I was pleasantly surprised that immigration doesn’t care about your photo or yellow fever vaccine, they simply want your $135, which conveniently buys you a tourist visa good for 90 days every year, for 5 years. I also could check two bags for free to Sucre on a domestic flight, and as I had hoped, a cheese empanada and fresh mango juice awaited me at my next gate. I took my first deep breath since boarding in Miami. Funny how food can do that.

(It is worth noting that my 2 hours in La Paz was enough to leave my head swimming from the altitude and oxygen deprivation- I’m going to recommend Diamox and coca tea to anyone considering the trip). Sucre is about a 40 minute flight to the southwest, in a lush green valley at about 2800 meters, or ~9100 feet.  La Paz by comparison is greater than 12000 feet. Here is the wiki article about Sucre, which I’m learning has a very rich history and culture- one that the residents take great pride in showing to extranjeros.  Also of note: While the president resides in La Paz, it is NOT the capital, as that silly little song (you know the one) may teach. Sucre-ites will strongly affirm that their city, while smaller, is and always will be the capital of Bolivia.  I will share more here as I learn it.

Rocío, my host mom, waited with my name scrawled in perfect letters, in green highlighter. Her 4 year old son, Pablo, was very shy until we established that yes I had a cell phone and yes it had games and well I wanted to be his friend so of course he could play. I’ve been rejected by too many toddlers to hold strong against this one. The rest of my host family is equally beautiful: 6 year old Adriana loves doing dishes and looking after myself and her little brother, and their father Luis is a kind, hard working, soft spoken man. They just moved into a new house a week ago, yet I have my own huge room with a view, simple and perfectly prepared for my arrival.

My first night, I was also welcomed with a perfect Bolivian storm; after an afternoon of anticipation, the skies finally burst open, torn apart by lightning (relampago) followed by rolling thunder (truena) from Apocatequil himself. The rain was warm and fell in giant drops that landed with a satisfying SMACK on the pavement. A perfect way to end a surreal but wonderful day.

Bien, I think I have rambled enough, I will try to be more focused in my following posts, but hopefully this one gives enough insight into my beginnings here.



  1. Awesome read/great writing! Sweet glimpse into the beginning of what’s to be an incredible journey. I assume your family made mention of Apocatequil? If so, it’s pretty cool to see a culture still deeply rooted in its Inca mythology. Enjoy the mango juice and fresh fruit!

  2. Sonia: I am your dad’s first cousin Cindee; (Uncle Bill) he sent me your blog and itinerary. Very ambitious and unbelievable. Hope you continue to have good adventures and your safety will be included in my prayers.

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