After arriving safely in Bolivia, our newest missioners started their Spanish-immersion classes at the Maryknoll Language Institute yesterday. In her first blog post abroad, Kitzi Hendricks summarized her observations so far. 

As is common with new arrivals overseas, many of her observations are general and are from an outsider’s view. Her understanding and appreciation of the Bolivian culture will deepen during the next two years as she journeys with the people. 

Kitzi dancing to traditional Bolivian music with her host family and neighbors in Cochabamba

Here’s what I’ve learned so far in Cochabamba:

1. Cows use the streets along with cars. They also reside in stables that have no fences and are about two feet from some of the busiest streets

2. I don’t know if there are any rules for driving here…if there are, there aren’t many. Drivers use their horns for everything. Nobody has the right of way. The roads don’t make sense at all. I don’t think there are any speed limits. There are no seatbelts.

3. Dogs sit in the middle of the street even when cars are coming. The cars avoid the dogs.

4. Bolivians LOVE their instant coffee.

5. Bolivians ALWAYS eat. I can’t even tell you the number of times that I’ve said “Estoy bien, gracias” y “Estoy lleno (I am full)” and pointed to my stomach. The food is amazing, but there’s only so much I can fit in my stomach! My host grandparents ask me multiple times, say “Servite”, and put the food in front of me. I usually abide for the first few times and then gratefully decline with a smile and a full stomach.

6. Llamas ride in boxes on top of cars. I’ll try to get a picture of it next time I see a car with llamas on the roof.

7. Besides in some showers, there is no hot water in Bolivia. The hot water in my shower, along with the showers of others, is powered by electricity.

8. Bolivians LOVE their Coca-Cola. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much soda in my life as I have in the past three days. Luckily, the Coca-Cola here tastes so much better than in the states because of the real sugar!

9. We have parrots here!

10. The fruit juice is unbelievable—peach juice, orange juice, mango juice. You name it. So wonderful. There’s a fruit called Tumbo, that makes a really great fruit drink…my host dad Raul made it for lunch today.

11. Whenever you say goodbye, you say “Chao.” Never adios.

12. Greetings always include at least one kiss on the cheek. I’ve learned that if you shake a person’s hand, you kiss the left cheek once. If you give a hug, you give a kiss on the cheek as you go in for the hug and one as you go out of the hug.

To read more about Kitzi’s mission, visit her blog Trials and Triumphs of a Songwriter…Serving in Bolivia