The adventure begins...

Trip Start Feb 12, 2010
Trip End May 05, 2010

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

The Spring 2010 South America team is off to a great start in Bolivia! 

I just got off of the phone (Thursday Feb. 18 at noon) with team leaders Andrew Fraser, and Jess Brown. All is well!

I will continue to be in regular contact, every few days on average, with Jess and Andrew throughout the course of the semester.

We will be sending these blog updates to you generally about every 10 to 14 days throughout the course of this team’s journey. You are on this list at the request of a member of this team. If you would like to be removed from this list, or if you would like to add any e-mail addresses to this list, please let me know (at: and I would be happy to add or subtract any e-mail addresses at any time.

If anyone ever has any questions or concerns at any time during the course of the semester, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at the same e-mail address, or by phone at 1-416-538-0152. That is the same phone number you should use to reach us at any time in the case of an emergency.

For anyone who does not have it, here is my full contact information:

Brad Gillings, Director
Youth International (Experience the World), Inc.
232 Wright Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M6R 1L3
Phone: 1-416-538-0152
Fax: 1-416-538-7189

There are only two photos in this first blog entry. Photos are challenging and very time consuming to download from where they are right now. Andrew will do his best to get more photos on the site when possible.

Please note that the team has very easy access to phone and internet during this week in Cochabamba.  However, in next week's homestay in the village of Malcorancho (Feb. 22 to March 3)  access to internet and phone, alhtough possible, will not be quite as easy.

I had the pleasure of getting to know everyone during our orientation in Miami last Thursday and Friday. It is a great group!

Everyone is now settled in to their first home stay in the city of Cochabamba, and are off to a good start, as of yesterday (Wednesday) with their Spanish language lessons. And, here is the rest of the blog update from Andrew, to bring you up to date..................................

Welcome to the first in a series of entries narrating our new South American adventure! The Youth International Spring 2010 team first came to meet one another last week in Miami, where we had a day and a half crash course introduction and orientation in preparation for our journey south of the equator. After much discussion and program theory, it seemed all were excited to board the midnight plane and get this show on the road.
  We arrived early in the morning on the high plains of La Paz, Bolivia to sunny skies and promises of new experience. While descending from the altiplano into the city center  we were rewarded with views of towering Andean peaks in the distance and a bustling and sprawling metropolis at our feet. At this point many also felt some physical effects of the altitude, as we’d transitioned from Miami’s sea level to an airy 12,000 feet!
   The city was already alive with activity as we’d arrived just in time for Carnaval – one of Latin America’s biggest annual parties. After settling into our hostel, many embarked on some nearby exploration of the city center, marveling at the chaotic street markets and festivities beginning to take place. We soon realized, too, that Bolivians like to celebrate – and for this particular holiday, in the form of widespread water fights. Children roamed the streets with high-powered squirt guns and foam spray cans, and water balloons were launched from passing cars and rooftops at unsuspecting pedestrians. Gringo backpackers, we quickly discovered, were a favorite target of the water balloon-wielding assailants, and so we had to don our raincoats in the sunny weather to avoid being soaked everywhere we went. Some of our team weren’t content simply to be victims all day, and sought vengeance with their own foam spray cans. Most everywhere we went, hilarity ensued.
   After a short-lived introduction to La Paz and Latin American life, we boarded a southbound  bus the following morning to Cochabamba, our first home base on the three-month itinerary. We had a solid three nights to collect ourselves in a pleasant downtown hostel, and spent another full day continuing our group orientation, including 'get to know you' activities, cultural sensitivity talks and general preparation for life in Bolivia.
 In Cochabamba, too, the city-wide water fights continued during the four-day Carnaval celebration, and thus we had to tiptoe the streets while on guard for water-bearing misfits, finding ourselves soaked even on short walks to nearby tiendas (stores) and restaurants only two blocks away. Luckily the weather was gorgeous and the team was in good humor about the aquatic assaults…
   Yesterday we did a brief hike into the hills of Parque Tunari, a beautiful nature reserve that sits at 9,500 feet (~3000m) above sea level, which offered stunning panoramic views of the city of Cochabamba below. Though not a long hike, the steepness and altitude proved a challenge for most as the air became increasingly thin. We were all rewarded with beautiful vistas and healthy snacks, and found motivation to do some cross-training before attacking Peru’s infamous Inca Trail.
  We are now gearing up for the first home stay segment with local families, and the academic challenge of two Spanish language classes per day with our local tutor, Toni. The team is getting along famously and seems to be quite motivated for the upcoming challenge ahead, so keep an eye out for the next blog in another week or two to find out what happens!
Best to all, and hasta luego,
Andrew, and the YI South America team
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