Tuesday, October 31, 2017

All Done, and Moving On

Our six days of building is complete, and our team is going in separate ways.  After one more day in La Paz, I move on to Chile.  But others are staying in Bolivia and a number are going to the Salt Flats, where they'll stay in 'Salt Hotels'.  I didn't even know about that!  As with all of these trips, we leave feeling great satisfaction, exhaustion and camaraderie, and SO thankful for all we have, and the lives we live. 

The houses we worked on are larger and nicer than most of my other 'builds'.  They're three bedroom and about 750 square feet, and they have plumbing, electricity, tile kitchens and baths, and finished plaster interior walls.

While we didn't have much interaction with the homeowners, we did enjoy being with the contractors, and some of their spouses and children.  And I even spoke with some sheep each day.  Baaaa  .  .  . 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Lake Titicaca

OK, yes, the name is fun to say. Titicaca!  It’s the largest high altitude lake in the world with boats on it, and it serves as part of the border for Bolivia and Peru. During our two-day break from work, we stayed in the lakeside village of Copacabana.  It has the same name as the famous Rio de Janeiro beach, but the resemblance ends there.  For an excursion, we traveled by boat to Isla del Sol, an island in the lake where no vehicles are allowed, so all transport is by foot, water or donkey.  I knew that we’d be walking and hiking there, but I didn’t know that it would be on ancient Inca steps and trails, and that we’d see a temple and stone walls and terraces similar to those at Machu Picchu.  It was a four-hour trip by bus and ferry to Copacabana, but it felt a world away from the frenzied, teeming mass of humanity in La Paz.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

And We Build

We pace ourselves, and need to catch our breath at times at 13,000 feet, but we’re getting a lot done.  Five home sites were in various stages when we arrived, including two that were noting but dirt lots. So we’re doing everything from digging foundations and mixing and pouring concrete to tying Rebar supporting metal, building walls of clay block and doing final cleaning of exteriors.  Our team just fits inside a cramped minivan for a one-hour daily commute through chaotic traffic.  Medical aides from the Cruz Roja (Red Cross) are on site, checking our blood pressure and standing at the ready, since we’re working at such high elevation.  But everyone is staying in good health and spirit, laughing a lot, and generally having a fantastic time.  We’re happy to meet homeowner families, and we have a constant companion in a dog named Paloosa.  The weather changes dramatically throughout the day, from blazing sun to a chill with cloud cover, and even a little rain and hail.  And we continue to be amazed when we look up from our work and see the deep blue sky, beautiful billowy clouds and the snow capped Andes Mountains. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

La Paz: Commute by Gondola

We start work tomorrow, and our team is ready to go.  Our first glimpse of La Paz was overwhelming.  Other world capitals have much larger populations than this city's 1.8 million, but the density here is visually staggering.  A novel solution to transportation issues was the installation of gondolas that whisk residents up and down the very steep terrain.  Indigenous people may have been slow to warm to this new means of transport, but many of them are on board now.  And a bonus of the ride is panoramic views of the majestic, snow-capped Andes Mountains.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sucre, Bolivia: 9,000 Feet and Climbing

I'm in Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, to help build houses for families in need.  It's not with Habitat for Humanity this time, but with The Fuller Center, another Georgia-based organization that has the same basic mission.  Most of the 13 members of our team know each other from previous 'builds'.  And we've started off as tourists in Sucre, the country's Colonial capital.  We're here early to 'acclimate' at 9,000 feet; we'll be building at 13,000 feet in El Alto, near the city of La Paz. We're doing a lot of walking, and many of us are taking the prescription medication Diamox. I'm particularly enjoying seeing the beautiful white-washed colonial architecture, and all of the brilliant color.  I'm even bringing some color home, in the form of of small wall hanging done by an eight-year-old student.  My purchase will help fund a program to encourage the continuation of indigenous culture. And looking at it makes me happy, too!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Goodbye Italy

As has become my blog tradition, this is goodbye.  Here are a few more 'snapshots' as I depart Italy.  But just two weeks at home, then I head out again, to Bolivia and Chile.  So, see you soon  .  .  .