As my time here comes to an end I thought I’d update a brief list of some of the more memorable moments among the Rotary Community. Among house dinners, regular meetings, small conferences, and workshops, these are a few I enjoyed the most
The President of Rotary Chuquiago Marka invited me one Wedneday for a day of offroading! He’s a member of a 4x4 group and they have excursions every once in a while. So around 10:00 on Saturday we left in a caravan of some 50 SUV’s of all varieties. We traveled up toward la cumbre which is a slowly fading glacier block. The region climbs from la Paz among jagged mountains that create a border between the altiplano and los yungos, a subtropical low-andes mountain region. A great day! I'll upload photos- hope the link works!
With Rotary San Jorge I visited the burn victim and cancer childrens unit to distribute blankets for visiting parents ( who sometimes traveled over 6 hours to be with their children and had little to no family or friend contacts in the city) and to spend some time with the kids. We had a great time but hard it was to see how much they were in need/pain. At least we were able to spend one afternoon and from what I understand, they received frequent visitors. After talking soccer with a number of the kids and their parents, I established my minority status in favor of The Strongest, long foe of Bolivar. A great Saturday afternoon!
Children’s Painting Festival
For months Rotary Sopocachi planned a childrens painting course in one of this cities main plazas along with a midday cookout. I visited 9 schools to meet with directors about the event and make sure as many students as possible could participate. We hosted over 150 children and their families along with many Rotarians from other clubs.
Students competed in different age groups and all were up to win a series of prizes at the end of the day. I converted myself into the MC, announcing time changes, helped distribute drawing materials, answered questions, and selling food tickets for the cookout. With my Rotary sopocachi cap and two posters taped to my front and back I corralled lost children and recruited new participants, as well.
Rotary National Conference
In May we had a four day conference which had been the central topic for most of the weekly rotary meetings I had been going to since I got here. It was a national conference and representatives from every part of the country were present- over 300 people. It was somewhat unsure what the turnout would be considering the political situation dividing the country here but was a great opportunity to exchange ideas, for me to plan trips to make presentations all over the country and to listen to varied accents. It featured inspirational speeches from Rotary International's regional representative and a number of informational speeches about Rotary's programs. One day was the orientation for new officers and involved sharing ideas about the district's goals for the next year. Got an idea of the heirarchy of the organization and some of the successes / challenges that face clubs in the next year.
One of the best days was when they invited reprensatives from the UN and the head of the Museum of Natural History to make presentations on The Effect of Climate Change and Climate/ Health Policy in Bolivia. From there we spent the afternoon discussing projects from all over the country and ended with a "rain of ideas" ( the spanish version of "brainstorm") about creating a national agenda for addressing those issues. One table was to be only english speaking- a large contigent from California, Oregon, and Canada were in attendance. The rest were to be loosely topic based- waters projects table 1, education table 2, etc. etc. What happened, however, was that all the tables converged into the English Speaking table and we presented over 60 projects in English- I was the in house translator. Basically we just read a profile of the project- sutainable water projects, malaria eradication 5 year plans in Beni, health policy in schools, etc. It was a great exchange although I'm not sure about how and if they'll come to fruition- each project would have to apply through the Rotary international matching grant program in which co-sponsor clubs in the U.S. France Japan etc. and the foundation provide the bulk of the funding.
On saturday we had a "dia del campo" which was a big ole cookout. A beautiful day and tons of fun after all day everyday Rotary for four days- One highlight was the talent show. On one level it was formal in that Rotarians danced traditional dances in traditional clothing typical from each region here to welcome all the guests. The other part was open mic. For those of you who know me or of me, I couldn't resist. Indeed it was my ambasadorial role! So I sang John Prine's Paradise/ Muhlenburg county on guitar- it's been a while so I was rusty but it was an overall success. Bluegrass was something a bit foreign to many in attendance.