Thursday, May 9, 2013

First Month - A Cultural Insight

When we began our initial training as volunteers with ICS at an intensive weekend in York, many of us left thinking that we had had a taster of what our lives were going to be like living in Bolivia. Two months on from that weekend, I now realise that nothing they could have told us then would ever have properly prepared us for the life and culture we were going to experience.  It was something we were going to have to start learning from the minute we stepped off the plane and the ICS team in Bolivia knew we were going to need some help.

The first step was getting us settled; meeting the people we would be working with (in my case, the Mendoza family, and their charity, UpClose Bolivia) and later the community that we would be contributing to.  The next day began our initial Induction to understanding Bolivia and especially La Paz, such as how to get around, where to eat, important Spanish phrases to use. Meeting the Cooperantes and speaking to them about life here gave us a better idea of Bolivian history and culture, the norms of the Bolivian people and the key issues between different ethnic groups and social movements in regards to diversity and equalities. Their patience and understanding made the whole experience engaging.

Over the next few weeks we learnt to live our new lives, which at the start seemed massively daunting; the main message I gained was “Adapt, Improve, Overcome”, which has helped us quickly settle into the Bolivian way of life.
A Guided Learning session by the Bolivian Police on safety, protection and law & order
Written by Joseph Beaver
Edited by Liam Hilton

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