It’s been about a year since I wrote a blog post, and a lot has been going on at home. But for now, I’ll stick to telling you all about my recent travels to Bolivia. After some research, I connected with an organization dedicated to public health in rural Bolivia. They are located in the Amazon rainforest about 9km from a cute little town called Buena Vista. For a few weeks I spoke spanish, worked, cooked and hung out with other travelers from all over the world in a community called Tekoati. It was great little family and a total reset from everything musical in my life. Before leaving New York, I was worried that a month away would hurt my career. Now looking back, I think taking off for a while was exactly what I needed to get some perspective.
Somewhere over the Caribbean
Without being able to play much music, I started to listen to it…a lot. After a day of work in the gardens or moving wood from the forest, I would lie in bed, in the dark and JUST listen. I hadn’t done this since I was a kid, when music was much more of a mystery. But something cool happened in Bolivia, I started to really crave listening to music. I put on on Ben Folds, Lawrence, Kendrick Lamar (Good M.A.A.D City), El Residente, Mana, Jacob Collier, Jason Isbell, Dawes, Joni Mitchell, Matt Corby, Sufjan Stevens, Jason Robert Brown’s Last Five Years Soundtrack, and more.
Here’s a clip from one of my daily journals:
Anyway, back to Bolivia.
I was accepted to work at Tekoati on the basis that I would use my knowledge of botany and gardening I learned as a kid, and from my own studies to help out as much as I could. In exchange for my time, I was provided with food, a one room cabin with a bed, cold shower, (woooowee) and a four-tiered shelf. I brought the clothes I could fit into my backpack, some books, my melodica and phone.
Most mornings I woke up around 7am, and cooked two eggs on toast. On the side I’d have an avocado and banana from the trees outside. Our meals were always vegetarian and consisted of any combination of different types of rice and beans with various veggies. Cooking with everyone was one of my favorite parts of my time there.
All the volunteers (about 10 of us) worked 4 hours in the morning, ate lunch together/relaxed, then worked for 2 more hours in the afternoon. I quickly became friends with Marcos, an intern from the U.S. He showed me how he liked to work and taught me what I needed to know to help out in the gardens (love you man!) Marcos and I harvested avocados, peppers, amaranth grain, limes, and many herbs. We worked with tons of plants all over the property, and transplanted, watered or dug out anything that needed attention. Other volunteers worked on construction, cooking, artwork, cleaning etc. In our free time we would explore the local trails, visit Buena Vista, or neighboring larger cities to go out on the weekend.
From a late night, sharing some Sigani(a Bolivian Liquor)
One particular fun weekend we spent in Santa Cruz during pre-carnival and partied with some awesome Brazilians and others we met in our hostel, in the city center. I had a great dancing partner and soon forgot about the 8 hour stomach bug that wiped me out that morning. We all shared ice buckets of cold beer (probably Pacena) and danced to the live Brazilian music.
My friend Monse and I after a night of dancing
My gardening Maestro, Marcos, looking at the home-made DVD’s in town
Our late night trip back to Buena Vista was a packed-to-the-brim trufi ride. We drove past a raging wildfire in the fields along the main road, and into a long brilliant lightning storm. We found a hostel in town and waited the storm out before returning back to Tekoati.
Our city outings were only occasional, most of our time was spent in the jungle. During my stay I saw incredible plants and animals. Spiders, frogs, lizards and BUGS were everywhere. There was always something crawling somewhere. Life, death, decay and rebirth was happening at a wild pace. In the early evenings a large group of squirrel monkeys would come clambering through the trees looking for food above our cabins.
I often wrote in my journal at night in Spanish, and would occasionally recall in amazement the number or types of bugs and spiders I encountered.
“… Nunca he visto tan abejas, hormigas o saltamontes! Hay bichos de todos tipos en cada parte de este lugar” (I have never seen so many bees, ants, or grasshoppers. There are all types of bugs, in every part of this place)
My friend Catarina and I found this insect above near our cabins. It’s called an Oruga Peluche. If touched by its spines, excruciating pain, long lasting fevers, loss of limb mobility and death are all possible reactions to this seemingly cute caterpillar. Of course, we didn’t know this until later and for some foolish reason Catarina and I both touched it, but LUCKILY we came out unharmed 😳
Catarina and I in Sucre
After a few weeks living there I decided to leave with Catarina to travel by bus across the country. We took a 13 hour bus trip from Santa Cruz westward to the Capital, Sucre. From Santa Cruz the bus was stifling hot. I swam in and out of dreaming until I woke up to frigid night-time temperatures. For hours we had been slowing climbing up into the Andes. Once we arrived, we spent two days exploring the city and then took another long, westerly bus trip to the great Uyuni desert where we met our Chilean friends, Eduardo, Andrea and Rodrigo. From here we bargained to find a good tour guide for a couple days in the Uyuni desert.
Heading out to the desert
Rodrigo took a spill
My friends Eduardo and Andrea during our last night in the Desert
After the desert, I had one last weekend hurrah back in Sucre where Marcos met me. We stayed in a cheap hostel ($4 U.S a night) and hung out with some amazing people (hola Nadja y Oliver).
The Central Market
It’s incredible to learn about all the ways people travel. I met a number of travelers who were on year-long honeymoons, who had quit jobs, or broken up with boyfriends. Occasionally I’d even meet someone who had been traveling for most of their life hopping country to country.
Thanks so much to Amanda, the program director at Tekoati. She is a force of nature, wonderful to be around and the type of traveler with stories that belong in an Indiana Jones movie. If you are reading this, thank you for having me!
Amanda and Kavi hugging
Cheers to Beta and Cuba for keeping us all working together. And thanks to Marcos, Andrea, Eduardo, Rodrigo, Catarina, Jack, Rosa, David, Yanelle, Monse, Oliver, Nadja, Ed, Lizzie, and Yuliya for being my friends along the way. I felt such a connection and comradery that I’ve never experienced before.
I’ll miss the frogs that occasionally jumped out of the toilet on to my leg while I peed, motorcycle rides through the mountains, and speaking Spanish so much my tongue got tired.
If you are interested in learning more about Tekoati click the link below. They are an organization that help women in the local community, victims of domestic violence, provide education for children, plus a lot more. www.workaway.tekoati.com
Lastly, here is a video of an original song
Thanks for reading, I’m back to my monthly newsletter, so see you in June!