Last Tuesday was my first day working at the boys home in La Paz. The house that they live in is in El Alto, which indicates that it is set on a very tall mountain in Bolivia. It is at approximately 12,000 feet in altitude. In other words, I am out of breath almost everyday when I arrive at the home because it is about 2,000 feet higher than where I am living in La Paz. Mountains here in Bolivia begin where mountains in America end.
Unfortunately, I will not be able to share many details about bernabé because it would put the boys in a very vulnerable position. They all come from very difficult backgrounds of living on the streets and often, people are searching for them so that they can take advantage of cheap labor. (Pray for that) However, I will be able to share many of the moments that have amazed me during my work in La Paz.
I work with two other girls at bernabé, one from the Czech Republic and the other from San Francisco. My first day was the first time that I had to take a mini bus in La Paz. We had to wait 30 minutes for the bus and the girls told me that if you need to get somewhere on time in La Paz, get a car. The mini bus experience was probably one of the scariest times of my life. I usually get nervous when my dad gets within a few inches of a car in Ohio, but in Bolivia, they get within centimeters, sometimes less. My host mom told me about when she first arrived in Bolivia. She got out of her car and was in the process of locking the door when a mini bus came so close that it squished her in between the bus and her car. The people on the bus were screaming “You’re squishing that lady” over and over again. She was not hurt, but the story just goes to show how frightening the driving is in Bolivia. We finally got onto the bus and it was so full that the door had to remain open so that people could hang on to the roof. On the way to El Alto, the mini bus driver almost ran over 3 dogs and did run over a pig’s foot. I am now starting to learn that if I do not give attention to the driving, then I will, so far, make it to my destination in one piece.
My first day was also the hardest day that I have had at bernabé so far. I was trying so hard to translate everything that anyone said to me into English that I ended up with a splitting headache, and little understanding. As the week went on, it did not become a whole lot easier and when the week ended, I was glad to get some rest.