Saturday, April 18, 2009

Back and off again... Last post

I figured I had to write a last post on this blog, as a conclusion to the Bolivian experience. I went back to Vancouver on February 19th and found it difficult to leave La Paz and readjust in Vancouver. But I came back rich of an amazing life experience and great friendships.

The work experience at ANED was interesting and it confirmed my interest for microinsurance. It was a great way to learn about the topic but as well to understand the way people live and work in Bolivia. That was an eye-opening experience and I hope the product I developed in collaboration with ANED will be successful.

It was also a great adventure on the personal level: being immerse in a different culture, work environment, language, with more time for myself (for introspection and thoughts). I also met a few amazing people in Bolivia and will look back at my time in Bolivia as a turning point.

I described the experience as a sweet torture: hard at times but very enriching…

Thanks a lot to those who have followed the story online, contributed financially to CCI’s projects and kept in touch.

Now off to the next adventure, after a few ski runs and more socializing in BC, in Chennai, India…

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Jungle Trip... Wild

I decided to spend my last recreational week-end in Northern Bolivia. I headed to the department of Beni on Friday for a three-day week-end. After a nice 45-minute flight above the Cordillera Real and the rainforest, the plane landed in a “pasto” (pasture field), or should I say the small aircraft was skidding on the grass until full stop in front of a building that was the airport(no luggage check and high security here!).

The view from the plane had given a foretaste of the landscape but as soon as I got out I realized how different from other parts of Bolivia, this experience would be. It was hot and very humid, everything around was green. I left the airport on moto-taxi and the breezy ride was really agreeable. I felt I had arrived in new world.My driver left me in front of ANED’s office where I met the local staff. They took me to a hotel on the riverbanks: clean, no crawling creatures and a fan, all I needed for a night. I then met Constantino at his office where I signed for a three-day trip with the community of San Miguel del Bala. The first contact was very friendly and I was already looking forward to taking the boat along the river Beni to enter the jungle and share natives’ culture.I strolled around Rurrenabaque, bought water and snacks and was in my room, laying on my bed as the temperature was still 32 degrees at 7pm(Montrealers, this does not include Humidex…!). The night was not my most confortable experience but a cold shower and the low-speed fan still helped. There is Denge fever in this department now, so the absence of any hitching sensation on my body at 7am was making me already happy…

I met my guides (Sandro and Wilmer) and a group of 12 American students who’d spend a day and half at San Miguel del Bala as well. They were Agriculture students from Arizona, who were following a one-month field course in Bolivia, not bad for them!
We got on the boats and less than an hour later arrived at the community-run ‘albergue’ upstream from Rurre, before the entrance of Parque Madidi. I was yet impressed at the vegetation and width of the Rio Beni, the butterflies and birds flying around the boat.
I read Rouge Brésil not long ago and I just felt I had fallen into the récit of a novel taking place in the Amazon…
We first went for a walk to the village, discussing agriculture practices. Sandro named plants and crops, explained what they ‘sembran’, that they practice chaqueo, they do not till. I now know what a yuka plant looks like, tasted wild cacao pulp, realized at age 30 that rice does not only grow in wet fields…Interesting info along the way about food and agriculture. We arrived at the village: about 45 families regrouped as they lived dispersed in the forest when they decided to set up a potable water system. There is still no electricity in the village, except for the three-class school. Sandro mentioned it had not been easy to get used to living together, close to each other. We were offered sugar cane juice with lemon before lunch: but were shown how to make it as well. Sugar canes are squeezed by a hard-wood mill, called Trapiche. So the deli drink had to be deserved, as some of us had to “power” the mill. At that point I had noticed the DTT product was leaving spot on my skin, another skin allergy… and anyway “bichos”, insects of all kinds had already bitten me and enjoyed some bloody feats! So we went back to the albergue by boat, having a yummie lunch in the main building and I was to put on long sleeves for the next three days, no repellent and a my cotton scarf would be used to chase the unimaginably high number of insects flying round my head.
We started the afternoon by a siesta in the cabaña we had been attributed, avoiding the hottest hours of the day. I discovered a nice cabaña hidden in thick vegetation: simple but very comfortable. The San Miguel del Bala community, Tacana ethnic group, spent three years organizing and building the albergue complex.They did an amazing job, not only because they did not earn anything meanwhile but built very nice structures. They used wood from the forest around (carried out on their shoulders!) for the structure, walls and floor, used palm leaves and wove them to make roofs, added solar panels, mosquito nets, and simple bathrooms. Just a perfect place when it’s hot and humid all the time. I really enjoyed the sustainable way they used their environment resources, and created these nice environment-friendly huts. Roofs can last up to 15 years. The whole cabaña will simply rot if you don’t maintain it so it’s incredibly environment-friendly: footprint almost null! We, Westerns consumers, have to learn from the Tacana! After the siesta we went for another walk in the jungle to reach a natural pool. We were glad to dip in the luke warm water, get a massage from the waterfall and escape the hoards of mosquito’s. We however learnt more about trees and plants on the way, as well as animals. I am amazed at their knowledge of their environment. Wilmer mentioned a plant in which you can find water, a small bird that always lives by streams so that you can find water source and orient yourself if lost in this thick forest!
We returned by boat to the albergue and went for another stroll, with the theme of medicinal plants. What to crush and apply on a burn, if bleeding heavily, when you have rheumatisms, if you’re bitten by a snake or a giant ant. Of course my two-neurons will never remember the details of this since I can already barely recognize a cedar from an helm J… but they collected all this info from the elderly and it’s in a book! Walking around all these huge trees, with huge insects and being to be careful if I touched bark or stepped on dead leaves that could hide insects/snake, I felt like a kid discovering a new world… Quite something.At night after dinner, Wilmer and Sandro explained us how the San Miguel Eco-lodge’s project had started, they also filled us more on the community’s history and called for jaguars thanks to drum-like objects. Which may explain why I heard (For real! No mentira!) ronronnement at 4am around my hut!!! Anyway the mosquito net was protecting me from any biting creature and the door was closed… I slept at the sound of thousands of insects, frogs, birds, monkeys… sweet dreams.

Day 2 meant an almost-alpine start at 6am for a visit in Parque Madidi, an amazing national park for its biodiversity and ecosystems. There are % of South American mammal species in the park, numerous parrots/birds types, not to mention zillions of insects!We observed capybaras on the riverbanks as the boat passed by, as well as a spider-monkey hanging on plants above the water, toucans flying around, thousands of spider nets on cliffs… 1.5 hours better any zoo visit of course!We had another interpretative walk until we reached the base of a cliff to observe parrots nesting in the rock… Quite noisy birdies with incredible colours! And more lianes, big trees and insects. We returned to the albergue for a fish lunch: fried, cooked in bamboo sticks, or palm leaves. Maybe that was the turning point… if I come back to Bolivia, I want to stay with the Tacana for two months! In the afternoon, I took advantage of the boat ride to Rurre for the group of students leaving for Alto Beni. It was Rurre’s annual fiesta, quite a few boats mooring and hundreds of people in the streets. Sandro and I waited in town in order to see the different ethnic group dancing: Los Macheteros, El Sembrador… It was great to see traditional dance and costumes and on top of it be with locals for that event.

There are “a lot” of tourists in Rurre but people looked at me, curious, since I was chatting and hanging out with the San Miguel folks. I took tons of shots and videos…

Then I enjoyed another boat ride back to the albergue, peaceful moments on the wide river… observing this incredible wilderness, which the Tacana realize they have to protect and care for. Finally at night Sandro took me for a short night-walk (which I would have never done by myself!!!), just to listen to the forest sounds… lively noises… all around from under the leaves to the canopy.

Day 3… Beside the fight against mosquitoes, I do remember the 3.5km hike in the rainforest, the footprints, the huge leaves/ants/bats… on the way to a nice green canyon. Another opportunity to learn from and discuss with Sandro… We were comparing wildlife in Canada and Bolivia and I realized Sandro had never seen a bear as I showed him one on my camera (from Banff’s museum… no live one!). It was great to notice once again that although we come from such different worlds, we can connect, share and learn a lot from one another. What a wonderful world… sometimes.

In the afternoon Sandro attempted to teach me how to make rings and necklaces out of seeds, nuts and other natural materials… Some of you know I have two left-hands, and this was once again confirmed: I tried my best for almost an hour to make a ring out of a fruit seed… well it never shined and finally broke, whereas in ten minutes Sandro had made me a nice dark wood-made ring and later a necklace. I guess I am missing two essential skills: patience and handicraft. I might revise the idea of living with the Tacana for two months if they don’t help me survive in the jungle... :-)

I felt so welcome and great during these three days, plus I knew the end of my Bolivian time was coming, that the boat trip back to Rurre was a bit saddening but still awesome… I definitely preferred the huts to Rurre’s hotel and had a great time in San Miguel del Bala, all thanks to Sandro and the community members.
I will go back… I know it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


After spending a couple days in Potosí, I arrived in Sucre for a two-day visit. I was quite surprised to see the green valley along a river between the two towns: fertile land and lots of plants growing along that road, but poor pueblos... But then night came and I only discovered Sucre the next day.

I spent my first morning walking down the streets of downtown Sucre, noticing the architecture, quite impressed by the heritage buildings. I went around the market, the main plaza... Two things struck me that morning: the incredible propaganda for the NO and closed churches.

I saw NO posters just everywhere(shop windows, taxis, cars, buildings...), some pretty pathetic.

I tried to visit a few churches but found closed doors...

After a lunch with Karen, I visited a museum recreating a colonial house... and I understood! I entered the 4-room museum and first thought I had been transported to a French castle... but Sucre's 10000km from the Loire valley!?

Sucre grew on the Potosí mining extraction... so wealthy Spaniard descent families who would not live in Potosi(cold and high) settled down in Sucre, 2500m of altitude, milder climate, green city.
They built their mansions, bought fancy furniture from Europe, strove in Sucre while hundreds of thousands of miners were working to death in the mines of Potosí. That seemed unreal, but saddly true.

So the Sucre elite is still well-off, very Catholic and wants Sucre, which is a beautiful city in terms of architecture, to be the Capital of Bolivia, is against the new Constitution... They can't imagine losing their glory and power. But they seemed to live in the past, a little bubble. It seemed to me they did not realize what was going on around them in most of the country nor were asking themselves much about their past... ... ...

I now understand the grafiti in La Paz: Sucre Capital del Racismo.

Specially when I saw this one on a white Sucre wall... !!!

Karen told me people were afraid to speak out and say they were for the MAS in Sucre, as the rector of the university, the prefet are all conservative, right-wing and powerful people... Incredible.

Anyway... I visited the very interesting Museos Universitarios in the afternoon, the Cathedral and its museum and then joined Karen, Kate and Sherry for a nice dinner.

I learnt churches were closed for fear of thieves as some hide treasures(precious stones, relics...). Only a couple churches are open for visitors... and prayers. Odd.

The next day, the sun was out and I was stunned at the white walls/blue sky. I went to the Etnography Museum, walked more, admired views from La Recoleta and the roof of a convent. All visits were interesting, I can now make the difference between Aqsu, Llijallas, Unku... and wish I had had time to visit the Frailes, mountains close to Sucre where they make amazing 'tejidos', hand-woven textiles. But also enclose archeoligy and geology treasures... another trip to the department of Chuquisaca should be planned!

I was glad I visited both Potosí and Sucre on this trip, the paralell was very informative!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Referendum for a new Constitution... Si o No!?

Just a few links to articles about the Referendum which takes place today in Bolivia, the approval or not of a New Constitution(

(Note the amazingly stupid comments on this article...)


I spent an extended week-end in the Central Highlands, visiting two historical Bolivian cities: Potosi and Sucre.

After a 10-hour “semi-cama” bus ride, I arrived in Potosi around 6am: activities were starting in the streets but I headed to a hotel to get a couple hours of real sleep. Once up, I had to decide where to start my visits: not an easy task in a city that counts 80 churches, quite a few convents and a museum which all my paceños colleagues had praised. Without any plan in mind, I started walking down and up the narrow streets, enjoying the architecture, the colors. I was about to discover the amazing past and sad present of the highest city in the world...

I first visited a church/convent and a museum, from which I had a great view of the city, founded in the 16th century(1546). Kept walking and walking... turning back from time to time to look at Cerro Rico. This volcanic mountain made the wealth of the Spanish empire. It said that a llama herder lost some cattle on the mountain and discovered the mountains contained silver as it melted from the fire he had started overnight on the flank of the cerro. This discovery lured thousand of Spaniards to the current location of Potosi. The city used to be the 2nd in size after Napoli during the 16th century. Tens of thousands of tons of silver have been extracted of the cerro so far, which made the wealth of mine owners and the Spanish crown.

After lunch I met Karen(another CCI cooperant who works in Sucre)and her family. We visited La Casa de la Moneda(mint), a museum which shows the silver-bound history of Potosi.
The highlights of my visit would be:
- la Virgen del Cerro, a painting representing Cerro Rico as a Virgen, kind of a Pachamama-Virgen representation
- the amazing machinery used to laminate the silver(mules would only last a couple months doing that job, not to mention humans...)
- the tools to melt the precious metals
- the death toll... 8 million miners died between 1550 and 1850 in Potosi

So on Sunday, I had to go see for myself and visit a mine. I remembered the two kids featured in the documentary Devil’s Miner ( and the appalling facts exposed at the Casa de la Moneda.

I joined a group on a guided tour. I was lucky to join a small group of 4 led by Rolando, a former miner who was very enthusiastic to share miners’ life and give us another perspective on miners’ reality. We first had to put on over-clothes and plastic boots as the journey underground would turn pretty dirty...

We actually first stopped at the miners’ market, where mine workers buy their tools, hard hats, explosive devices, coca and alcohol! Rolando gave us a Terrorism 101 course as he called it. He mentioned anyone could purchase dynamite there and showed us different types of dynamite, he bought one set to either offer a miner or try out(18 Bolivianos = 3 C$).

He also explained that due to the harshness of the job, miners would spend an hour preparing the coca pelota: a bunch of coca leaves they will keep for 4 hours in their mouths while working. At lunch break they repeat the operation so that the effects last until the end of their workday, i.e. your hunger and fatigue “disappear”.
There are still 450 mines in Potosi, run by 30-40 cooperatives, miner-owned operations that currently provide work and meager wages to 4000 miners(down from 15000 before the financial crisis, just a few months back). The current miners apparently have to keep working as they contribute to health funds and other taxes. Prices have soared and so have miners’ incomes: we met Don Simon in the mine and he said he earned 370Bs for the last two weeks of work... yes 370 Bs = 57 C$ and his son,13, who’s on summer vacations had helped him in the mine!

We then went to an ‘ingenio’, a transforming plant that extract the silver and other minerals from the piles of rock miners extract from the mountain veins. The process involve chemicals and heavy water use. I was glad to hear from Rolando that the German government had helped out set up a water cleaning station outside the city to collect used water and depollute it in order to minimize impact of mercury and lead among other products used in the process.

We met a group of miners, including a 10-year-old kid, at the entrance of the Candeleria Baja mine, getting ready to enter their daily inferno... This mine counts 80 active miners today but as we visited the mine over the week-end there was little activity. We walked into the 1st tunnel, where the air was still cool and got to a room the miners and the guides have set up to explain facts about the Tio, the techniques, the history of the mines, the diseases, etc...
Rolando was eager to answer our questions before we entered the mine any further. Maybe as a result of being so conditioned by my job, I was interested in working conditions and illnesses. Most miners will get silicosis(a deadly lung disease) after 7 to 10 years in the mine, which will prevent them from working. Miners’ life expectancy is only 45 to 55... when Bolivia’s already poor life expectancy is 61 for men. They’re exposed to several noxious substances(will have to look for these... amiante and... more).

So working in the mine is not only exhausting, little-paying but also quite dangerous for their health. According to a survey, more than 80% of the miners say they work in the mine because there is no other work opportunity for them in the region.

So to make themselves ‘stronger’, fearless and more hard-working, miners drink 96% alcohol(no error there, better than grandpa’s distilated apple drink!), chew coca leaves, and make offerings to the Tio. The Tio is a surnatural being, which, in the imaginary of Bolivian miners, will bring them good luck or bad luck. It is symbolized in every mine by a devil-like statue. Miners offer him coca leaves, cigarettes, drinks to show respect and please him.

Having all that info about the life in the mine, we closed the door of the little museum yet 350m into the mountain to go down to the fourth level of the mine. The tunnel split up and we kept on going left and down, through narrow tunnels and sketchy ladders. The temperature was raising as we went further in the mine. I had to protect my mouth and nose with my scarf as the dust was triggering coughing. At no time was I scared, but the dust, the complete darkness if we had no headlamps, the limited space to move around and the altitude make even a short visit in the mine a physical effort. We finally got to the fourth level, where Don Simon was working. He showed us how he works: manual repetitive work: a hammer, a steel bar and explosive... 12 hours a day, almost everyday. So much effort to earn so little(110$/month now), if you don’t get sick: on daily survival mode!
I asked Rolando later how working conditions could be improved, made safer. He answered the solution would be to have an open-pit mine. That way, the miners could work outside,reducing health issues; working with heavy-duty machinery and making their work physically easier. BUT... a few years back UNESCO made the Cerro Rico, World Heritage Site. So... this open-pit solution will never happen as it would make the Cerro disappear. On the other hand, the Cerro is a piece of gruyere which will eventually collapse... International policies... ... ...

I got out of the mine quite impressed and certain that I could not even give a hand to Don Simon for 15 minutes in this inferno!

Rolando had kept the (stable) dynamite and surprised us with an explosion before we headed back to town. The explosion will resonate as much as the visit in my head for a while...

Short History of Potosi:

In the afternoon, I visited a Carmelite Convent... built thanks to the millions of dollars of two rich Basque families. Another odd place. Rich Potosi families were sending their 2nd daughter at the age of 15 to the convent... from which they would never come out again, dedicating their lives to God.
At the entrance of the convent was their last contact with their relatives, who had paid 100000$ for them to get in and given kind of a dowry.
Nuns were allowed... 2 hours of conversation/recreation a day, minimal food, one family visit a month(although no contact and no sight!), Spartan living conditions and a tomb... in the convent.

After these two stunning visits, I jumped on a bus to Potosi, three hours away...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

She has not come back…

I had written in a previous post that I would give you more info on my host family’s maid, Emiliana… The last couple weeks’ events will unfortunately give me the opportunity to tell you a bit more.

Emiliana has been working for Pao for a year and a half, since she arrived in La Paz, from her hometown in the countryside.

Her workday starts with Pao’s shouting at her from upstairs that she would like her breakfast served. Then once Pao is gone, Emilian takes care of the “wawa”(word for kid), Luciana and takes her to the kindergarten around 9.00am. She then has to wash the dishes, clean the house, wash clothes and prepare lunch for us. In the afternoon, she looks after Luciana and around 7pm takes off for her classes.
In order to finish high school, she takes continuing education courses every night during the school year (Math, English…). She comes home at 10pm or later and is probably up the next day at 6am.

I have a real hard time having someone around doing these manual tedious tasks for the family. Although I know Emiliana’s well treated by my host family(by Bolivian standards), I don’t like the house employee – boss relation and the way they talk to her sometimes. Also she does not have lunch at the family table and I don’t get why… anyway…

I asked Emiliana after not even a week to let me do my dishes and bed. And I really do not want to know how much she’s paid, although she has free accommodation/food. Accomodation being an alcove under the stairs in the kitchen, poor bed and very little space and privacy… and have never seen her using the bathroom when I am home.

Emiliana’s a super sweet person, she is 21, has a few brothers and sisters, some of whom she raised. She used to be very shy with me, would talk little but after a couple months in the house she’d chat a bit more on occasions(about my dictionary, work, food…). She even got home slitghtly drunk a couple times and was laughing about it the next day with me.

Her parents live I a little village 8 hours by bus from La Paz. She left to visit them two weeks ago and… has not come back. Her family probably won’t let her come back…
One of her brothers lives in the city and is a tailor, married with two kids. Emiliana spends here week-ends(2-3pm on Saturday until 8am on Monday) at his place, which I thought was a good break for her.

But… before Xmas, Lucia suggested Emiliana opened a bank account to save her money and earn some interests, with the possibility of withdrawing her cash whenever she needs it. We discovered that the problem was that her older brother was “keeping” the money for her. He won’t allow her to have a bank account. Of course…
Then Lucia told me what is Emiliana’s program when she gets to her brother: she cooks for him and his family, has to pay for her food and theirs, wash their clothes, take care of her nephews, etc… Plus she’s not allowed to get out. She’s been here more than a year and does not know La Paz yet!

Her brother called Pao a few weeks ago and said that he did not like the ideas she had put in his sister’s head. He had found her another job in a “pension” and wanted her to leave Pao’s house. Pao replied that Emiliana was 21, legally major, had rights and could choose for herself what was best.

I could tell over the next couple days Emiliana was sad and did not sleep well. She told Pao that if he forced her to quit, she’d flee and her family would not see her anymore!!!
She left the house to visit her family 10 days ago, saying she’d leave her notebooks, books and some clothes ‘cause she would be back…

As I come back from my extended week-end… she’s not there. That’s not a good sign, she should have come back last Thursday…

It’s so hard for me to imagine that a young woman could be treated like this nowadays. It's very frustrating and I feel helpless. I understand there are many changes operating in campesinos families in Bolivia, that one generation's life is quite different from the next. But to see that situation in my host family, it's like a drama.

More news on Emiliana and a picture... when she eventually gets back. :-(

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Bolivian Christmas time… Navidad Boliviana…

As Christmas approached, streets got filled with even more vending stalls and christmas decorations flourished everywhere. Anything could be found on the street: from Xmas tree lights to wrapping paper, and all that could be wrapped and put down under a Xmas tree(plastic of course, no pine trees in abundance here!), it did look like Christmas… in summer.
I went to the Mercado Negro last week-end with Alejandro, in search of a few presents… it was amazing to see all the counterfeit merchandise we could encounter: DVDs of The Che, a movie that has not yet come out in the theater here, fake high-tech gear(or maybe not so high-tech) and toys. Alejo also bought a Rubiscube… which broke after 5 minutes playing that night! ... Fake stuff!
Of course both of us ended up with books… for ourselves and no present, overwhelmed by so many cheap goods… from China.

I also walked down the streets (ferias) at night with colleagues who were still looking for gifts and I realized most were offering useful stuff to their friends and relatives. Fabian bought shoes for his brother for example. We noticed poor campesinos had also filled the streets, begging for money with their kids playing around as people were shopping…

At work we celebrated Christmas: a dinner/party at a local hangout, a gift exchange and we all received “canestones”. Canestones are baskets of goods your company offers you during the Holidays: mine was composed of lentils, flour, canned peaches, cereals, dulce de leche, condensed milk, biscuits, sweets, a bottle of cider, one panettone, and a few more things… simple useful things, nothing superfluous.

For Christmas Eve, I was invited by Miguel and his wife, who live in Chasquipampa, a suburb of Zona Sur. We had a nice evening: Miguel and Marleny, Cesar and Keiko(their kids), Pastoral(their maid) and Yu (Marleny’s younger sister). Dinner was yummie though simpler than the French 5-dish version: chicken with Basque veggies, salad and fruits. Then excited kids opened their presents. I got a nice mobile in ceramics from Marleny. We listened to music and chatted late.

On Christmas Day, at 8am, Miguel and I went for a walk in the Vallee de las Animas, behind their house. We had a lengthy as-always-interesting conversation on Bolivian society and culture. Walking up the “rio”, we saw people working at this early time on a holiday: collecting stones and sand, their daily job. We also saw well-dressed families (countryside migrants) and a man and his two donkeys walking up the path along the river. Views from La Paz/El Alto were neat. I cannot get used to the social class differences and living conditions… it’s like a punch in the stomach every day, even after being here three months.

After breakfast, Marleny and Miguel showed me some pictures. Their childhood: Miguel’s in La Paz and Marleny’s in the Lowlands. Marleny’s family is from a village around (4-hour trip…) Oruro and they were part of a government-organized migration to the department of Beni, in the Amazon Basin. Her family received land to cultivate. She was therefore working as a kid/teen and had to walk a couple hours to go to school. On the other hand, Miguel grew in La Paz: his dad still has cattle near Pucarani (between La Paz and Lake Titicaca… we had milk from his production) and his mum worked as a maid for 30 years for a German family. He thinks he had a pleasant childhood: reading and practicing martial arts in town. Then working, university, wedding, babies’ pictures... It was interesting listening to their two “life ways”.

Marleny also showed me pictures from fiestas in her village. It was amazing to see her in traditional clothes for special occasions: her dad becoming corregidor at the beginning of the year a couple years back for example. It seemed two different people and underlined the still prevalent aymara culture. These events looked very festive and colorful!

Then Miguel suggested I joined them for lunch at his Mum’s. Another nice meal with his brother Juan, sister Beatriz, Mum Manuella and 94-year-old grand-mother(all living in the same house but different appartments). For the 1st time I had the opportunity to listen to conversations in Aymara, as his grand-mother barely speaks Spanish. You can tell that’s a transition: jobs, language, way of life, even if traditional culture (music, dance) is still very present.

It was a different Christmas: different from Holidays in Vancouver last year skiing and eating oysters with Ana and Ant, different from the traditional foie-gras/oyster/lamb/cheese/bûche/wine dinner at home in France, different from my ultra-cold-and-snowy Christmas spent with Brigitte and Jacek in St-Jean-Port-Joli, Québec…
Next Christmas...!??!?!