My name is Pieter and I am from Belgium. After completing my Bachelor of Science in economics/ finances, I switched up my academic story for a Master’s of Science in economics: international governance. After the academic part of life, I decided to spend a few years abroad working, volunteering, and traveling and that was how I spent time working with CHOICE Bolivia.
I spent my time in the beautiful, but the harsh area of Viacha in the Altiplano. Viacha is cold enough to freeze the tap water until midday, not the biggest city, the internet is slow, and perhaps 3 people speak English. But honestly, none of that mattered. Considering the cold you get some extra blankets, you prepare water the night before. When you need goods or services that Viacha cannot provide, you take a 40-minute bus ride and you´re in La Paz, the touristic and commercial center of Bolivia. The Internet is slow but do you really need to watch those YouTube videos in HD? English might not be commonly spoken in Bolivia but the Bolivians harness an incredible amount of patience when it comes to understanding broken Spanish. Viacha seems an odd place the first 15 minutes but afterward, it becomes perfectly clear how complete it is.
While working with CHOICE Bolivia, one of my main responsibilities was helping to create a business plan for a local milk factory. From this business plan followed specific advice considering new investments and human resources management.
While this was my main duty, I also helped out in many other areas. I worked with local artisans on setting up a clothing shop in La Paz. I taught basic economy classes and explored the feasibility of exporting lama fiber.
When it came time to leave, I was surprised to find that it was much more difficult than I had anticipated. It was the social integration that made leaving so difficult. The integration was simply incredible. I am not talking about Facebook pictures with smiling children, I am talking about how much the Bolivianos want to get invested in your story, care about someone who´s basically a stranger at first. I can only say that I feel truly accepted. At first, it feels a little odd, but after a while, you learn that it is common to express friendship much more openly in Bolivia. Once you get used to it, it feels great. It is incredible how fast and genuine they accept a stranger as family. Despite the superficial differences, it was natural to feel at home in Bolivia.
Thank you, CHOICE Bolivia for a fantastic opportunity!