Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Week 5: Goodbye La Paz. Hello Tarija.

Hello again friends, family, random people who read this,

I apologize for the extreme lateness of this post, as I have been very busy in my last week in La Paz and my first week in Tarija.

But because of this there will be two posts this week! For those of you who have been worried about me, I am fine. Nothing bad has happened to me, and I seem to have had great luck for the most part.

Day 30-31 - October 27th - 28th, 2014 - Oncology

As it sounds, yes I was in the cancer ward for my final week in La Paz. And yes I was still in the children's hospital. Which means I was basically listening to patient charts of children who were dying.

And yes it was hard. Children who were losing their eyes due to retinoblastomas, children who were losing their hair, or had no hair, and children screaming and crying in pain.

To be truthful, it may have been one of the harder experiences I had in La Paz. Dying children is not really something to be excited about.

This is the entrance to the ward where the residents wait for the doctors while preparing their materials (washing hands, getting masks and gloves, etc.). That young boy in his mother's arms has a retinoblastoma, and he has bandages all across his right eye.

The other thing about this ward is that all visitors or parents are forced to wear robes and caps like the ones in this picture. This is necessary in order to reduce the amount of pathogens in the air keeping the area as sterile as possible.

Each room is separate by glass walls, with a glass door that slides open. My guess for why it was this way was because it was a little more sealed than the other rooms in the hospital that may not have been as secure.

As these two days passed, I listened to the doctors talk about chemotherapy and the outlook of the patients' recovery, sadly hearing stories of possible death and loss of eyes.

Even so, these patients never seemed sad to me (unless they were in pain). They kept smiles on their faces, played with toys, watched television, and talked a lot for patients that could be dying. From my perspective, it shows how hopeful children are, even in the lowest points of their lives. I learned a lot from them in this week.

Day 32 - October 29th, 2014 - Las Cebras de La Paz and Fútbol: Bolívar vs The Strongest

You remember the zebras? Yeah, I did that. And it may have been my favorite day of the entire time I was in La Paz.

The zebras stand for something in La Paz. They stand for happiness, kindness, proper treatment, and safety. The main job of the zebras is to direct traffic in an always busy and dangerous city. They dance around in the streets with signs and flags, letting pedestrians know when it's safe to cross, and telling cars when they need to stop.

The reason these zebras exist is to provide jobs for people who don't really have the ability to get a job. For example, orphans who are old enough to leave the orphanage, but they never had the chance to go to school or get a job. The zebras gives them an opportunity to have a job.

It also helps mothers who don't have a husband and who have to watch their kids. It provides them a job so they can also go to school at the same time.

I actually got to do this with a couple of my friends from England as well as my Spanish teacher. We were introduced to some of the zebras and the manager and then we did a little bit of dancing and singing and we were off.

One of the things I liked most about this was that zebras are supposed to wave to every child they see. They are allowed to hug and pick up kids as well as say hello to everyone. The reason for this is to make people happy who may not be having the best day. For the kids, it makes their day as well. But they believe the zebras are real and it has somewhat of Disney-esque to it.

I think the fact that I was so important to kids and people, and my job was to be happy and dance, made this my favorite experience yet.

Following the zebras, my friends had invited me to a soccer/fútbol game later that night. Two teams faced of in a La Paz classic. Each of the teams were clubs were from La Paz, so as you can imagine there was a bitter rivalry.

The side I was on was Bolívar. There colors were blue and white, as noted here. The fans were loud, chanting questionable phrases directed to the other teams and middle fingers flying everywhere. What an adrenaline rush.

Although this is blurry because of the crazed fans and excitement, that gray patch towards the top is a giant flag. That we pulled over the crowd. And jumped around, grabbing the flag and waving it up and down.

After any of the 4 goals that Bolívar scored, the fans would go insane, climbing the fence, waving shirts and blankets, yelling and bragging to the other team. Fútbol really is as crazy as it should be. Technically, this was my first real soccer game ever. And I will be sure to go to more in the future.

Day 33-34 - October 30th - 31st, 2014 - Last days in the hospital and Halloween

My "last" two days (haha) were spent in oncology and dance clubs. And they may have been two of the greatest days/nights of my life (although I say that about everyday in Bolivia).

In the cancer ward, it was pretty much the same story both days. I went with the doctors and listened to the charts and watched children play with toys and their parents.

One of the little boys, the same boy from the first two days, kept waving at me, even though he could only see with one eye. I thought it was great, knowing that he couldn't see very well and still wanted to wave and for me to wave back.

 Each one of these patients was less than 10 years old and fighting cancer. Some of the toughest children I have ever seen.

On the first night, I ended up going on a walk and to a club with a girl from Bolivia who I had met the week before. She wanted to hang out before I left for Tarija, so we talked awhile and walked down the Prado Street and ended the night actually pretty late.

It was a nice send off for me with one of the great people I had met in La Paz.

The second night was Halloween. And it is just as crazy as it is in the United States. People dressed up everywhere, children going from store to store, instead of house to house, and tons of parties and dances.

Oh, and my friend was definitely wearing a chicken costume.

My friends and I ended up going to one of our favorite dance clubs called TTKOS. Its normal music style is reggae and it was extremely fun to go hang out and dance.

This was my technical last night, so we were going to stay out really late.

We danced all night until around 4:00 in the morning and my friends decided they wanted to go home. My flight was at 11:45 the next morning so I had to get home for that.

Day 35 - November 1, 2014 - My last day in La Paz..... Just kidding....

If you would like to know what I did on this day, I waited.

And waited.

Waited a little longer.

Waited until it was too late! The taxi that my coordinator had set up to pick me up for my flight at 10:00 in the morning never showed up.

I didn't have my phone anymore either.

So my host dad called a different taxi, which arrived at around 11:00. I said goodbye to family and was off.

The drive took half an hour. I got to the check in station 15 minutes before my flight.

And sadly, they told me check in was closed and I would have to change my flight.

So there I was, in a foreign airport, where it's still difficult to communicate, with no phone, too many bags to carry, and a missed flight.

Thankfully in the airport they have phone stations. I called my coordinator and he told me to change my flight to the next day and to take a bus back down to Sopocachi. Now I know I had a lot of the greatest days ever, but this was definitely the most stressful day I have ever had.

Even so, I ended up making it back, unpacking one outfit for the next day, and going to a cafe for awhile to ease my mind. Everything turned out fine though!

Day 36 - November 2nd, 2014 - My REAL last day in La Paz and my new family

Today, I left my home, or what was now my home, and I was actually sad. I had made so many great friends and memories, I didn't really want to leave.

I loved my family

The area.

My friends.

My work.

The people and culture.

I wasn't really ready to give that up. I took one last picture with part of my family and said farewell and that I hoped that I could see them again someday.

My flight left at 3 in the afternoon, and everything went smoothly. I even had 30 minutes to spare before my flight took off this time!

It was also the first time I got to walk on to the landing strip and board a plane. It made me feel like the president or something of that sort.

And as my flight left, I thought of the great people who had changed my life forever.

As my plane arrived, I was greeted by my new coordinators who took me to my new home. And basically the rest of the day I rested. I didn't really talk to my family much, as I was tired and somewhat nervous, but that would soon change.

Now that I have been in this country for over a month, I finally feel at home. In fact, so at home, that sometimes I wish I didn't have to go back to the United States. I have learned a lot about myself, about people in general, and I've loved every minute of my time her -- even the hard times.

Once again I thank everyone for their patience and their forgiveness on my tardiness. I am trying to get internet but it's actually harder here than in La Paz. I have so many stories to tell when I get back, and there will be another update this week. Stay tuned.

Love you all and ¡nos vemos!

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