This past weekend Nitin and I traveled by bus to Copacabana, a small town on the shore of Lake Titicaca. Getting out of the city and breathing the fresh air of the country side was a welcomed change to the congested city of La Paz. The striking beauty of Bolivia is truly impossible to capture in words. Every landscape is a breathtaking view of snow capped mountains, green countryside dotted with llamas or sheep and sparking blue waters of lakes and rivers.
We arrived to Copacabana on Saturday in the early afternoon and checked into our hostel, Las Olas. I have never stayed in a place that was more magical. Every casita is uniquely built and all had incredible views of Lake Titicaca, private decks with hammocks and wood burning fireplaces for the cool evenings. It was an enchanting place complete with llamas hidden around every corner!
We then took a boat ride to Isla del Sol (Island of the sun) that legend defines as the birth place of the Sun God marking the beginning of the Inca empire. We trekked across the island and explored Inca ruins dating back to the 1300’s. It was an incredible experience of history and the sun made the entire island glisten in it’s presence.
The next day we ascended El Cavario (Calvary Hill) which is a beautiful hill overlooking Copacabana with stunning views of Lake Titicaca. The hill is lined with 14 stations of the cross and welcomes pilgrims for prayer and penance along it’s path. Our time in Copacabana was a beautiful walk through spirituality and understanding the juxtaposition of faith through the ages of the people in this region.
Our newest addition to the CFHI student crew for the Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine rotation arrived this weekend. Rachel Stayer is a nursing student from Otterbein University and we were so excited to meet her!
Monday marked our first day in the infectious disease department with Dr. Velasco. We said goodbye to Dr. Salete and thanked her for her incredible generosity last week. The Infectious disease department serves patients from all over Bolivia and cares for very unique cases of infectious disease. Most notably were 3 patients we saw with Leishmania. This is a parasitic infection spread by mosquitos or sand flies and is very common in the Yungas area which is the door to the amazon jungle about 2 hours from La Paz. Vector borne disease such as Leishmania, Malaria, Chagas, Chikinkunga and Dengue fever do not exist in La Paz due to it’s incredibly high altitude. However, patient’s that suffer from these illnesses are sent to La Paz to get care in Hospital del Nino and the altitude often helps immensely with their treatment course. It will be an incredible learning opportunity to be able to witness and learn from Dr. Velasco for this week.
I already feel this place changing me as the language and culture encompass every aspect of my day. One of the most beautiful parts of this culture that I have seen is the openness to be vulnerable. The desire to love and care for one another is so strong that even the language has changed meaning to fulfill this need. Today in Spanish class we learned the endings ita, ito, cita and cito. These endings convert normal words into endearing words to be able to express more broadly feelings of love and compassion for one another. Our professora told us that these endings exist outside of the Andean world but they don’t serve the same purpose. In places such as Argentina or Spain these endings just convert words into smaller versions and aren’t used as terms of endearment. Learning this fact today helped me to realize how deeply unique this area of the world is and how freely Bolivians welcome people of all walks of life.