Bolivia, Week three: Los Divinos

Maya Lapp

The Divinos are ADORABLE! The Divinos are the kids of the youngest Casa of orphans. We speak one evening with them, just entertaining them and helping with dinner. I can imagine they’d get on your nerves after a few hours, but Bolivian kids are above average on the adorability scale. The youngest is named Pablo (not his real name), and he just melts your heart! One of the tias taught him how to flutter his eyelashes when someone blows him a kiss, and it just made me want to hug him so hard (although I didn’t want to break him).


Some of the people at NPH are breaking the speed limit with how fast they talk! I thought I was getting better at understanding them, but now I’m not too sure. Also, after listening for about ten minutes, my mind starts to wander, and that makes understanding a thousand times harder.


We brought a puzzle to the oldest girl’s house, and that was a lot of fun. We didn’t have to talk so much, so communication wasn’t a problem. We went back to help work on it more the next day, and they were only twenty pieces or so from completion! Out of a thousand!


We went on a few runs as a family, and that was fun, but I realized how out of shape I am. Also, Bolivia has high elevation, but where we’re staying it is FLAT. FLAT, all caps. FLAT like a tabletop. That’s great when you’re running, but it drives me crazy! You do a three sixty, and there’s not a single dip or hill in sight. I’m not used to looking at the horizon and seeing only what’s directly around me. Even a small building or tree blocks the view of everything behind it, because there’s no up. I don’t like it. At all.


We didn’t do much else, those first few days at NPH. It was a slow start to the week, but that was good, because I really needed to catch up on the homework output. In fact, I really need to catch up again, because the minute we left NPH we were hopping, again. We’ll be back!


As we made our way from NPH to the clinic I sat with my back on my lap on the bottom of the bus the orphans take to school. Then we transferred to the clinic’s car and made our way through mud pits, again. The four coordinators were obviously the same, and Miguel would stay another two weeks, but the other volunteers had been replaced, so it’s time to meet the new crew. First there’s a new Grace and her father, who are staying the week. Next is Carry, a third year resident.  And then there is Caroline. Don’t get me started on Caroline. I’ll try to keep my description short and not too opinionated. Caroline is an overly confident know-it-all. My mom can’t stand the sight of her.


I suppose I didn’t do to well on the un-opinionated, but I think I did okay not ranting. Although I guess I can’t just leave it at that. My problem with her, let’s see… My dad has been a practicing doctor for a long time. He has gained lots of experience over the years, and even if he says I’m fine when I’ve broken my arm, I still believe he’s a good doctor. Let me just say, if I were studying medicine I wouldn’t completely ignore his advice and think I knew better. Even if I was a third year resident.


Anyway, moving on… At the clinic I did much of the same work as the last week.


A list of the skills I’ve acquired so far:

  • Filing papers (this includes extracting staples, reading medical handwriting, etc.)
  • Washing dishes (I never knew volunteering could consist of so many dishes. I’ve gotten a lot faster, and the dishes probably a lot less clean)
  • Eating… tasty food
  • Avoiding torta de vaca that crowds the streets (the cows have free rein here, and they leave fresh gifts for unsuspecting feet wherever they go)
  • Huge improvement on my medical vocabulary (My medical knowledge has been vastly increased in general. It’s very interesting, but some of what I’ve learned makes me think I may want to avoid the medical profession.)
  • Re-bottling pills without shedding blood (I never knew the tabs you pull off on pill bottles could be so sharp! I had quite a few hours of re-bottling to rind out the best way to protect my fingers. While I was bottling pills, a hummingbird got stuck in our room, poor thing.)
  • Title of “Physical Therapist” (hah!)
  • Title of “Translator” (hahaha!)
  • Sue cheffing dinner


We also played some soccer, again. I think I forgot to mention that last week while we were playing soccer, Miguel and Josh (We also call him Josue, which I like better than Josh) hit heads really hard and both got black eyes. This week, Miguel got his by the ball in the face and Grace had to give him a stitch. If we were in the USA, he’d probably be diagnosed with a concussion, but not in Bolivia! He got back on the field the next day. We don’t go easy on our soccer play.


Quick lesson on language. The verb esperar can mean three things: to wait, to hope, and to expect. It makes it really hard to tell someone you expect them to do something, because it also means you hope they’ll do it. Zena pointed this out to me, and there isn’t a much better way to help someone understand the culture of Bolivia. There’s a perfect word for it in Spanish, but we don’t have much of an equivalent in English. Their word is tranquilo. It’s kind of a combination of calm and laidback. It’s also one of my new favorite words, and even though I knew what it meant before I came, now I’ve started to use it even when I speak in English. It just fits so well in so many different circumstances.