Bolivia or Bust!

Cochabamba, Bolivia

Hello all, and SO SORRY for not blogging this entire month! My time so far in Bolivia has absolutely flown by, and in combination with a terrible and most often non-existent internet connection, I have not been able to update.

But thank you so much for your love, patience, curiosity & support… and I hope my upcoming posts don’t disappoint!

So to give some backdrop: I am serving two months in the rural outskirts of Cochabamba, Bolivia, the third biggest city in the country.

The sights and sounds are similar to those described in my Ecuador posts, except that things tend to feel more…raw here. Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, whose bumpy roads and street-working children can attest to. But every concrete building, every tin roof and adobe pueblo is back dropped by this gorgeous, mountainous view, complete with an eternal mid-summer’s perfect day kind of weather.


I arrived late on a Tuesday last February, disheveled and sleep-deprived after 33 hours of car, bus, and plane travel. I was greeted by the friendly Neco and Rosemary, my volunteer guesthouse hosts for the next two months. I met my roomie Kristen, a fourth-year med student from Reno. I got the tour, the low-down on how to use the gas oven, and tips on keeping the shower water hot. (That’s right… hot showers!! Oh, the glory).

My Home Away from Home 
 Photo courtesy of my buddy, Cass. She likes to Instagram things. :)

As you can see, I am hardly roughing it here. The familiar bed-bugs and bath buckets of Ecuador feel a thousand light-years away as I learn a new transportation system, (trufees instead of buses), new foods, (Bolivia is known for its peaches and peanuts), and a whole new culture.

Peach Juice (Not to be confused with small brains)

 A Cholita in her traditional everyday dress at the market.

My first few days with Hospitals of Hope (the organization that I’m serving with while here), consisted mainly of shadowing the doctors and learning how to get around town. The guesthouse is located about 30 yards from the hospital, which is very nice. I assisted a couple EKGs with the cardio doc and sat in on a laparoscopic gall-bladder removal surgery. It was all very good and interesting, but I was starting to wonder how God was going to use me here. I prayed for opportunities to serve and to be His loving hands and feet in this place.

Well…be careful what you pray for because one morning Neco asked Kristen and I if we would be willing to help organize the storeroom. He explained that the hospital had a lot of donated equipment, but wasn’t really utilizing any of it due to lack of organization and inventory in Spanish. “Sure!” we said.

Well, check out this beast:


After several days of sweat, dust, and Google translator, we conquered the storeroom attic.


Later in the week, Neco and I were having a conversation over breakfast about culture differences when he mentioned that there are a lot of accidents here, (burns, trufee accidents, poisonings), but nobody knows how to respond to them. Moreover, nothing is changed to prevent them. Bolivians are quick to blame the child for drinking the caustic substance, rather than the fact that kerosene shouldn’t have been stored in a Coke-a-Cola bottle to begin with.

He asked if I would be willing to teach basic first-aid and prevention to patients waiting in the hospital lobby, and if Kristen would teach about nutrition. I was excited to serve in this way and quickly got to planning good topics when I realized: this would all have to be done in Spanish. …Weh-heh-ell, talk about a curveball! I had barely mastered conversational Spanish last month in Ecuador, let alone medical terminology. (How do you say cardiopulmonary resuscitation in Spanish, again??) I knew God intended to grow me as I stepped outside of my comfort zone and taught some thirty Bolivians how to do the Heimlich. Spanish and all.

“Cual tiene mas fiber, una manzana o brocoli?”

 Little did I know that this was just the beginning of God’s leading me far beyond my comfort’s borders…

…and straight into the pediatric burn unit of a downtown Bolivian hospital.

—to be continued—


One response to “Bolivia or Bust!

  1. Awesome Stef, you get to learn more in the hospital setting type of work, the pediatric unit. So grateful to God that He gave you all sorts of amazing experiences between Ecuador and Bolivia. After taking care of those little niñas from Las Tolas, now you ended up working in pediatrics in Cochabamba.

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