Acclimation and the First Few Days

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was quite concerned about acclimating to the altitude, however, the altitude has not affected me as badly as I had originally thought it would. That being said, I have experienced tingling in my fingers, feet, and lips, which is a very disconcerting sensation, and I have really noticed the altitude’s effect whenever I try to climb stairs or hold a conversation while walking. I realize that this is to be expected, but I lose my breath so quickly that I have decided for now it is best for me to walk very slowly, and do so in silence.

After arriving in La Paz early Friday morning, I got a few hours of much-needed sleep before rallying and attending the UCB campus tour the following day. In retrospect, I really should have booked an earlier flight, and by Friday evening when I was climbing the seemingly endless road to my host house, I was really wishing that I had.

That evening I retired early and slept for nearly thirteen hours, before getting up the next day to go on the Waliki Friends walking tour. I really enjoyed that experience as it was nice meeting some of the Bolivian UCB students who have similar interests in travel and study abroad. We visited many “miradores” or viewpoints, and our tour guides imparted lots of wisdom not only about historical monuments and the history of La Paz’s many plazas but also about how to navigate the tricky public transport systems.

Today, on my final day before classes start, my host family took me to Lake Tititcaca. My host father picked me up from spending the night at Laura’s (another student on this trip) house, and took me home, telling me I had approximately ten minutes to change while he picked up the rest of the family. Much to my surprise, this included not only my two little host brothers and my host mother, but also my host father’s mother (Abuela) and his ninety-seven year old grandmother (Abuelita), who only speaks Quechua.

After an hour car ride we arrived at the lake, which was truly stunning and seemed to have a strange calmness and serenity that I didn’t expect. We ate lunch at a restaurant which was surrounded by the lake on three sides, which made for a pretty breathtaking view. Once the food arrived and before we ate, the family said a prayer, which I, of course, participated in, although I am not religious myself. I mention this because it somehow seemed very significant as the prayer was given by Abuelita in Quechua, translated by Abuela into Spanish, and then (mostly) understood by me as a native English speaker. It seemed to represent the intersection of three distinct languages, cultures, histories, and religious backgrounds around one small table and reminded me that the world isn’t really so big and inaccessible as it may often seem.

After lunch, we went out on a small boat and puttered around the lake for about an hour. As you might guess, getting ninety-seven year old Abuelita onto the boat was quite a task, which involved me and my host mother standing on the dock keeping the boat steady, while my host father hoisted Abuelita onto his back and precariously boarded the boat. He commented that she was his “mochillita abuelita” or “little grandma backpack” which I found particularly funny. We then settled ourselves in, me and my host brothers at the front, and the four adults at the back. From my viewpoint sitting on the bow of the boat, I noted how clear and placid the water was. In many places, you could see all the way to the bottom, and the wake created by the boat seemed to have no effect on the tranquility of the lake’s surface. I also noticed a large number of waterfowl floating on the lake’s surface and watched as they flew no more than six inches above the water and wagged their feet so that it looked like they were running on the water’s surface.

We returned to shore and piled back into the car for the hour ride home. When we arrived my host family left to attend a baby shower and I thought their absence would be the perfect opportunity to get ahead on my blog posts and do tomorrow’s reading. It’s only been three days but I feel like I have already done so much, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of this trip has in store. See you all in class tomorrow!


One thought on “Acclimation and the First Few Days

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  1. I’m glad you had this great experience. Lake Titicaca is actually really nice place to relax (and eat lake fish). The fact that you went with your host family’s extended family is an interesting point for reflection. What are you noticing about family dynamics in Bolivia? Despite being just one anecdote, what kind of questions (or avenues of investigation) does this kind of interaction suggest about broader social patterns in Bolivia?


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