I’ve told you that I’m leaving but it’s probably not super clear what I’ll actually be doing in Bolivia! I have accepted a 1 year placement with CUSO international. They’re a great organization which pairs people with specific skills sets (industrial design in my case) to partner organizations in “developing countries” which are in need of that type of assistance.
A team of students from Escuela Taller Sucre in their jumpsuits and hard hats.
Note: All pictures from the school are courtesy of the inter-webz. Once I arrive, I will be able to take my own pictures for all of you to see!
So, what’s really going to happen over the next 2 months?
- Throughout June/July/August: Lots of fun social plans with friends, time to attend festivals, and explore Ottawa in summer.
- June 29/July 1: Celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa! (Featuring Nature Nocturne, which involves drinks and dancing while checking out exhibits at the Museum of Nature, potluck + board games at our place, and fireworks downtown near the parliament buildings)
- July 8 – 12: Training week in Ottawa with other volunteers to learn about CUSO, international development, policies and procedures, health and safety, etc.
- July 27: Night of laughs at Absolute Comedy (you’re all invited – message me for more details).
- July 29: Last day of work for both of us!
- August 5 (estimated): Finish packing up our apartment, finish packing our bags, and hand over the keys to our apartment before leaving for Toronto.
- August 5 – 9 (estimated): Spend the weekend in Toronto/Newmarket to see Steve’s family (including a brand new nephew/niece), and our Toronto friends.
- August 9/10 (estimated): Overnight flight from Ottawa/Toronto to La Paz, Bolivia (likely with a stop-over in Miami or other mid-point destination). Someone from CUSO Bolivia will pick us up at the airport.
- August 10: A day to acclimatize to the possible altitude sickness.
- August 11 – 14 (estimated): Attend training with other volunteers arriving in Bolivia (in La Paz), learn more about the history of country, local safety tips, cultural considerations, etc. They will arrange for a hotel where we can stay during our time in La Paz.
- Week of August 15 (estimated): Attend a CUSO Bolivia conference/volunteer gathering in Cochabamba (a 30 minute flight or 6 hour bus ride from Sucre).
- Week of August 22 (estimated): Move to Sucre, meet with my new work, find/get settled in our new apartment, start Spanish classes (both of us) and work (just me).
Left: A photo of tulips outside of the Museum of Nature last time I attended Nature Nocture in the spring. Right: Playing a game of Canada-opoly at a previous games night with friends.
When I arrive in Bolivia, I will be working with a school. Here’s what I know so far:
- I will be working at a technical school called Escuela Taller Sucre
- The school has 4 different specializations: metal working, carpentry, masonry, and electrical/plumbing.
- There are a variety of different certifications available – ranging in length from 6 months to 2 years.
- Each class has about 15-20 students.
- The teachers are skills trade people who are experts in their craft.
- Students do a lot of hands-on work to learn their trade (alongside some classroom learning).
- The school is currently partially subsidized by the government.
- Many of the students come from marginalized communities.
- One of the goals of the school is to foster employment in youth.
- One of the main projects they work on is the restoration of Sucre itself (many of the buildings are old, colonial buildings).
- The school wants to help increase funding by opening a small store on it’s campus.
- The store would help bring in an income to support the school.
- The store would be full of products created by the students themselves (plus alumni and teachers perhaps).
- This would give the students the opportunity to use their skills to create real products in their community.
- My job comes in 3 parts (I think…)
- 1. Research – Figure out what products are for sale locally, what prices are reasonable, what skills the students have, available local materials, what other technical schools have done, etc.
- 2. Design products – Based on the research (above), work with the faculty and administration to design products that will be sold in the store. This may also involve helping with the layout (shelving, furniture, etc.) for the actual store itself.
- 3. Teach – If I have time (and my Spanish level improves greatly) then I hope to be able to teach the students a thing or two about design. I think it will also help to work with the teachers, which may allow them to integrate design considerations into their future lessons.
A few pictures of the students of Escuela Taller Sucre hard at work restoring old buildings in the beautiful, old city of Sucre. If you want to see more, check out their blog website (though all of the writing is in Spanish).
What about Steve?
I’ve been on a few international placements before (as you may have read about on my blog). However, all of those placements were for 6 months or less, so Steve and I have been doing “the long-distance thing” while I was away. However, my latest opportunity is a whole year. We discussed it, and it made the most sense for him to come too! It gives us a chance to explore the world, learn Spanish, and have amazing adventures! Fortunately, CUSO will help to support “accompanying partners”, and we’re at a great time in our life with little responsibility (we don’t have children or mortgage payments to worry about). We’re both really excited for the opportunity. 🙂
Thankfully Steve and I are a great team! Left: At our friend’s wedding in Toronto last month. Right: Riding horses in northern Chile during our last South American adventure.
So what will Steve be doing in Bolivia? Well, we’re not exactly sure yet. The first step is just to get everything sorted out here in Canada before leaving, including making sure he has an appropriate visa for entry. When we first arrive he’s planning to enroll in full-time Spanish classes for at least a month – until he’s at a good level. During that time, he’s looking to network with local doctors and hospitals. Hopefully he’ll find a job (or at least a volunteer opportunity) in his field (he’s a chiropodist – a foot and ankle specialist)! According to Wikipedia, “The majority of the population has no health insurance or access to healthcare”, so there’s definitely a lot of great work he can do to help people there.
As of right now we have about 5 weeks left to go. Can you imagine – in 2 months from now we’ll probably be arriving at our new place in Sucre, ready to start work! It’s totally bonkers and really exciting. Over the weekend, we met up with a lot of family and friends, and they were super excited to hear about our upcoming trip. Sometimes when you tell someone what you’re planning, and they get really excited, that makes me really excited too! So, thanks for all the love and support guys 🙂
Check out my other blogs about my upcoming move to Bolivia:
- Sucre, Bolivia you say? Yeah, I totally know where that is… *Looks around in confusion*
- So, are you like freaking out? You leave in less than 2 months!