Thursday, May 27, 2010

BOLIVIA! Vengo…casi! (I’m on my way…almost!)

For those few fortunate souls who haven’t heard me shouting it from the rooftops for the last few weeks, I am going to be spending three months of my summer in Bolivia! I will be working with Save the Children in the Department of Oruro, studying their educational programs and looking at the effects of out-of-school factors, community engagement, and teacher training on educational outcomes. But there will be plenty of time to talk about the study itself and the methods, discoveries, and challenges I’ll encounter. Let’s just lay out some geographic and cultural facts for those who try to keep track of where I actually am in the world.

I will be living in the city of Oruro, Bolivia. It is the capital of the Department (like a State in the US) of Oruro. Bolivia itself is the size of 1 and a half Texas-es and has a population size akin to that of Michigan (a little under 10 million people.) Oruro is in the western portion of the country about 3 hours south of the working capital La Paz. That’s right, geography buffs, I’ll be living in the Andean altiplano. 12,000 feet high! (That’s twice as high as Denver,CO…hence my new dedication to working out and getting more cardiovascularly fit…I want to use whatever oxygen I get as best I can!) I’ll be taking a medication to help with the altitude adjustment and I’ll stay in La Paz for a couple of days before heading up (altitude-wise) to Oruro.

And, yes, right again, geographic wizards! I will indeed be moving to the other side of the equator, so it will be winter (but thankfully a dry climate!) Freezing temperatures. Less air pressure. Yet I can’t wait to go!

Oruro is central to the mining industry, which is one of Bolivia’s biggest exports. The city itself has about 400,000 people (according to some estimates). I’ll also be travelling out from Oruro to visit schools and talk with teachers and community members in outlying towns in the region as well.

The Bolivian currency is the boliviano, and there are currently 7 bolivianos to the dollar. The international abbreviation for the boliviano is BOB and I’ve already started to call them “bob” in my mind, in a east London accent no less (silly brain!)

I’m looking forward to getting back to the birthplace of the potato. And cuy! (Yep, guinea pigs are an Andean delicacy! Before you judge, remember this is where the little dudes came from in the first place. If you didn’t have cows or chickens or fish or beans, where would you go for your protein? Even in pet-friendly Western nations, in times of hunger the cat population plunges.)

I look forward to picking up a few words of Quechua or Aymara, the main indigenous languages of Bolivia, and getting to spend some real time in a culture that is new to me. I’ll be staying with a family, I think, so that will help me to adjust. I’ll be expanding (exploding!) my quantitative and qualitative research skills and hopefully proving helpful to educational programs in one of the poorest nations in Latin America. This is really a dream come true (I acknowledge having what many people think are strange dreams, okay?)

June 2 – August 24, 2010…Kati en Bolivia! Esta listo? (Are you ready?) Esta lista Bolivia? (Is Bolivia ready?)


  1. Safe travels to you. I'm looking forward to following your adventures. Great meeting you last week in DC.

  2. i hear screaming coming from the brain & not allowing the draining of recordings to stop the humor & education of those near and far.
    ty Kati. here's to good sense, good senses, and good sentences. keep 'em coming.