Sickness —the symptom and treatment for a fast paced life

Today I lied in bed sick all day. Glued to my mattress, I mentally replayed the past few days trying to pinpoint the source of my illness — was it one of the various new foods I dared myself to try? Did I drink some unboiled tap water? But I couldn’t blame any one thing I ingested or encountered. I think today was simply the result of the combination of various new foods, environments, activities and the constant “doing” of life here in Bolivia that has been gradually wearing me down and finally caught up to me. Every day here is full of activity and so much mental and sensory stimulation. A typical day for me looks like this:

7:00 — Wake up to the sunrise over the Cristo, visible from my bedroom window.

8:45 — Leave for the office. We either flag down a taxi, or hop on our borrowed spare-parts bikes, kindly lent to us by our boss. By car or bike, its a 10–15 minute heart-pumping ride through traffic as we narrowly avoid collision. In a city where red lights mean next to nothing, the morning commute is my daily dose of adrenaline.

9:00 — Arrive at the office of AHA Bolivia and begin my spanish lesson with Elizabeth, a wonderful spanish teacher and one of my favorite Cochabambinos who I’ve met here.

10:00 — Check on the office garden — as an intern, one of my projects is to tend to raised beds built for the benefit of the employees who work here. Every morning I water the plants that are surviving the winter, and work on prepping the remaining spaces for spring by adding compost and starting seeds. new plants to grow for the spring. assigned to me at the office is to take care of the garden.

11:00 — Go back upstairs to join the rest of the interns, and tend to one of the various tasks and projects assigned to me. So far, this has included working on a life cycle analysis of the recyclable plastic bags sold by AHA (which assesses its environmental impact compared to that of a disposable bag or a less durable cloth bag), and helping promote internship opportunities at AHA and connected organizations to other universities.

12:30 — Pile in Anna’s car to drive to her house for lunch — a two hour break in which we enjoy the culinary delights of Anna’s cooks, Juana and Prudencia, as well as the company of all AHA and Bolivia 4Ward interns, Anna’s family, and their guests of the day. Lunch is probably everyone’s favorite time of day. Not only are we treated to a delicious traditional Bolivian meal, home-cooked with love, but also with ample time to enjoy it, as well as a post meal coffee, tea, and cookies from the cookie basket.

2:30 — Return to the office and attend to more tasks and projects. Lately, this has involved walking with Karen and Charlene, another AHA intern, around the neighborhood in search of organizations that could offer helpful services to the women artisans employed by AHA.

6:00 — Leave the office and explore what Cochabamba has to offer — which has proven to be quite a lot! So far, our post work activities have included:

Wandering — checking out the food scene (fun fact: Cochabamba is both the breadbasket and gastronomic capital of Bolivia)

Rock climbing at the outdoor wall down the street

Yoga classes

Dance classes

A mindfulness workshop

Local professional basketball games, starring a recent graduate of USF, who Anna, and subsequently all of us, befriended

Parlana — a cultural exchange for foreigners in Bolivia, held at a different local venue every Tuesday night.

10:00 — Return home to our homestay apartment, which sits above a motorbike shop.

10:15 — Snack on our local food purchases — tropical fruit and quinoa cookies. We have become friends with a certain fruit lady and a health-food store owner. Now that they know us, they both throw in extra treats (a few mandarinas, or some amaranth bars) with every purchase.

10:30 — If there water left in the tank, take a one minute shower to rinse the Cochabamba dust off. Water here is scarce — it has only rained once, very briefly, since we have been here, so it is very dry and dusty.

11:00 — Collapse into bed, exhausted from a long, but fun and fulfilling day.

Living the past 4 weeks like this, with excursions every weekend to local tourist sites such as Toro Toro, the Uyuni salt flats, and Chapare, has been so fun but has left little time for necessary rest, recuperation, and processing of all I encounter and experience every day. Today, confined to my bed, I had the opportunity to finally let some of it sink in and reflect on all that’s happened so far, and how grateful I am for all of it, even for today. I am reminded of an ayurvedic saying that if you don’t slow yourself down, nature will. I am appreciating this wise reminder today, and will strive to remember this as I return to a busy schedule, setting aside more time for myself to simply be, reflect, and appreciate.

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