First 36 Hours, by Anton
The trip started as any good Canadian winter journey should, with a blizzard and an array of flight cancellations in Halifax. Upon arrival at the airport we (the Enactus Team from St. Mary's University) saw a sea of ominous red cancellations, and yellow delayed notifications for almost every flight leaving Halifax, except ours. By the time we were ready to depart, we were only 20 minutes behind schedule. After this potentially rocky start to our trip, the rest of it went very smoothly, with little delay, and no more fear of flight cancellations.
As we flew into La Paz, the beauty of the city’s surroundings was breathtaking. Surrounded by the snowcapped Andes, and the rolling green fields of the plateau, it is truly a sight to behold. The second most breathtaking aspect of landing in La Paz is the actual shortness of breath from the altitude sickness. I had never been to an altitude of over 2500m, and with La Paz sitting at over 4000m, it was a very new experience for me and the rest of the group. An experience which will surely make me more diligent with my altitude sickness medication prior to returning to La Paz at the end of our journey.
When we arrived at our final destination of Cochabamba, we were enthusiastically met by a large group of children from various Chalice Sponsor Sites around the city. Each child had a sign with one of the participant’s names on and an inviting smile. It was truly one of the most heartwarming welcomes I am sure any of us has ever received.
As we meandered our way through the city to the convent where we would be staying for the week, I was amazed by the mixed urban landscape, with traditional older homes next door to modern high-rise condos covered in coloured glass. This drive for me, however, was highlighted by the amazing street art. The graffiti ranged from being uniformed in colour and quickly produced, to unbelievably intricate works with a full palette of colours.
After we got to the convent which would be our home for the week, we were afforded some leisure time. Some took full advantage of this break to stroll through the beautiful gardens. This walk through nature and trellised walkways was a very welcome change to the flights of the last 24hrs.
The group highlight of the day came with the large scale rock star reception that we received when we met the children with whom we would be working with for the rest of the week. It was an overwhelming experience to enter a gymnasium full of people who were so welcoming and filled with joy and love. They shared many traditional dances with us from the various Bolivian cultures and heritages. Each member of our group was also given an incredibly, beautifully woven poncho which we wore for the remainder of the concert, and which will be a treasured reminder of a truly fantastic evening.
My most cherished memories of this day will definitely be from after the concert. At this time we were all swarmed by the children, and some of their families, to say hi, ask us our names, and take more photos with them. It was at this point that you could really interact with the children for the first time and see the unbridled joy as they ran around jumping from person to person and picture to picture and getting to meet us for the first time.
This first 36hrs was already an eye opening experience, filled with many fantastic memories. I cannot wait to see what the coming week has to offer for myself, and our group, but most importantly the children and families that we will be working with while we are in Cochabamba.