Outbound Rotary Youth Exchange - Update from Bolivia


My school is having inter-class Olympic games, and the games start next week on September 9th.  I am participating in basketball, volleyball, ping pong, and swimming.  Everyone here calls me "Michael Jordan" because of my basketball skills, but in all honesty, I'm not even that good.  I'd consider myself a little better than average in the United States, but here I am like MJ!  It helps that I am 6'1" tall!

I am not sure that everyone understand this, but since the seasons here are flipped in the southern hemisphere (you guys in the northern hemisphere are heading into Fall, but here in the southern hemisphere, we are heading into Spring!), the school year is also flipped.  The school year here is February to November, so that means I will be finishing school in just a few months.  My summer vacation here will be from November to February.  Since I technically arrived to Bolivia during the middle of the school year (in August), Rotary Club enrolled me as a junior so that I will begin my senior year this coming February 2014.  If they had enrolled me as a senior upon my arrival, then I would have been done with school in November, and I would have had to return to the U.S.  Pretty funky, huh?!!?

Since we are heading into Spring here, it also means that the Bolivian equivalent of "The Prom" is coming up.  Interestingly, my classmates have elected me to represent them as their candidate for Prom King.  As I mentioned in a previous email, there are 3 areas in each grade, so I will be competing against the other two areas.  When they did the vote to name the Prom King candidates, I had no idea what was going on.  Only after the fact did I figure out what had happened!  I was only a little surprised, because I know I have the looks to make a great King!!  :)

Last Monday, I went to a seniors' home with some school classmates.  We visited with the elderly residents, listened to their stories, and took them some marshmallows to eat.  It was really fun to visit with these "ancianos" (elderly ones), and to see their eyes light up upon seeing visitors and a treat.  I love this kind of service.  As I mentioned last week, I really enjoyed visiting the orphanage and playing with the little kids.  They were so cute and seemed very happy when we were there.  On our walk home from the seniors' home, one of the funniest things that I've seen in a long time happened.  Remember that I am talking about last Monday, and there was still a lot of leftover snow from the weekend.  So instead of having a snowball fight like we did last time, some of the girls were writing their names in the snow and were taking photos.  Well, while they were taking photos, this one girl was trying to show-off and be funny, so she ran through this one girl's name, and messed it all up.  Well, little did she know that at the edge of the snow, there was some nice slick ice.  She ran right through the writing and right on to the ice, and her fall was picture perfect!  Her feet went straight up, and it seemed like she was suspended in the air for an eternity.  She came down and landed straight on her backside!  She was laughing and seemed fine, but she wasn’t at school for the next two days.  She is fine now, but she said she had to go to the doctor and get 5 shots in her back.  We are all glad that she is okay, but that fall was cartoon-quality funny!

On Saturday, my Rotary Club here in Oruro had its 86th anniversary, and we had a program and a dinner.  The only problem was that I didn’t get home until 1 o’clock in the morning (1:00 AM).  There is a saying here called "the Bolivian Hour," and it means that everything starts later than planned.  The saying is as follows:  "The Bolivian clock is one hour later."  Everyone here admits to the veracity of the saying, and to their own "un-punctuality."  So instead of the anniversary celebration and dinner starting at 7:30 PM like the program said, everyone arrived at like 9:30 PM, and we started at 9:45 PM.  Of course, I am a punctual American (in my experience, Americans tend to be on time, more or less!), so I was there waiting for 2 hours for everything to begin!

I think that should wrap up the week, as nothing much more really happened.  Spanish is becoming easier and easier, and I am understanding so much more than when I arrived at the beginning of August.  I am even starting to pick up some of their idiomatic expressions.  I also must say that the people here are marvelous.  They are so kind to me and very generous.  I am very grateful for this experience. -- Brock Bastian