Sunday, August 19, 2007

By Nicole Duciaume, Documentation and Sponsorship Support Officer

The week before traveling was consumed with trip preparation: flights, shots, altitude medication, luggage packing, arranging dog sitters, paying bills that would become due, reading country materials, attending meetings and preparing questions. The week before a trip seems endlessly long and yet passes before you notice.

I am CCF’s Documentation and Sponsorship Support Officer in the Global Program Group. I have been with CCF for a little over two years and this is my second trip to Bolivia.

A small team from both the International and the Americas Regional Offices is traveling in Bolivia to assess program readiness for opening a new community outside of La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. Though we currently operate in over 50 communities throughout the country, we are expanding to a new area called El Alto (The Height).

To give you a sense of altitude:
Richmond = 150 feet
La Paz = 11,800 feet
El Alto = 13,451 feet

It is Sunday, August 19th and we arrived last evening. The flights and connections were smooth and thankfully not packed. I was given the grace to sleep through just about anything, including long flights. Today was meant as a day for adjustment --- to the altitude as well as to the language, culture and just being in La Paz again. The altitude leaves you short of breath, a bit dizzy and occasionally with a headache that demands your complete attention. Walking up a few steps can be extremely laborious and lifting your laptop can throw off your balance. Local legend has it that you will adjust within about two days and that chewing on leaves will expedite the process. I chew the leaves and drink the tea, but still turn to my altitude medicine as well.

Resistant to the idea of just staying in the hotel, we walked the streets and did some personal shopping. Then we rested. We took a taxi into the city to explore the Plaza Mayor (photo to the left), the Monument to the Unknown Soldier, the Witches Market (photo at the top), the Church of San Francisco and the Presidential residence. Then we rested. We met for a few hours in the afternoon to brainstorm and prepare for tomorrow. Then, of course, we rested.

These waning hours of rest are our last chance to catch our breath before the week begins in earnest. Tomorrow will be exciting, we are meeting with various members of the National Office to discuss site selection, affiliation process, community preparedness, roles and responsibilities and expectations for the week ahead. There is so much to do in the coming week and I truly am looking forward to learning from my colleagues in the various offices and visiting the communities.

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