Home > Awareness > “This thrill about the unexpected is what I like”

Finishing high school after long twelve years is something to be proud of. But instead of reflecting your achievements and enjoying the youth- less responsibilities, more freedom- we tend to put ourselves under pressure. There are the applications for college, looking for a job, sleepless nights… STOP! Break! Gap Year!

Right now I`m spending eight months in Bolivia. Why exactly there? Actually it happened by accident, but by now I´ve fallen in love with the most pristine and least Western influenced South American country. Examples: There is no McDonald´s, people have never heard of Europe and my host dad gets excited about airplane tracks but not about a tarantula.

After a three week Spanish course in the colonial city Sucre I travelled (of course by bus) to the tropical border with Brazil in the East. Bolivia is quite an adventure with the people partly not even speaking Spanish, but their indigenous tongues. Also the busses regularly break down… But this thrill about the unexpected is what I like.

Puerto Quijarro counts about 20,000 inhabitants, possesses one asphalted street and has a mean annual temperature of 27°C. Also, it lies directly at the Pantanal, a huge wetland protected by the UNESCO. The biodiversity with more animal species than in whole Europe is incredible. From the locals I learnt a lot about dealing with the wildlife: take care about Dengue, carry a rock against street dogs and don`t be afraid of the hand sized bugs.

First I taught English in the public school “Pinocho”. When the kids came running to hug you, they were cute. In the classroom, though, this changed and they challenged my patience. It is difficult teaching when always somebody is running around, chatting or fighting. Oh well, with the other volunteers I could organize events like a toothbrush- and hand washing- workshop. This sounds simple, but some kids saw a toothbrush for the first time. Doing good feels good :D.

When summer vacation started in the end of Nov. ´11 I organized a voluntary summer course in four different schools. Me and another volunteer first taught one hour English, then worked in the school garden that we had built before together with the kids and finished with playing games. It was a lot of fun! Also I saw the course not only as teaching them English, but to also broaden their horizon. Because of the lack of the financial possibilities most have never left their country, so we could show them: There is a world outside of your town!

I also told them about the importance of the environment and that we have to take care about it. So we painted signs against garbage and went to the Pantanal to pick up the trash. Some of the kids had never been there, but once down there loved the nature.

A gap year is not only to give you knowledge and time, but also to take and learn. The Bolivian culture with more than half of the population being Indian is still quite untouched and fascinating. I could write pages about the food, the clothes and the traditions, and still you`d have to come here to experience the country.

What have I learnt for myself? In Europe we tend to think quite materialistic. Here I´ve experienced the importance of family and friends! It really doesn´t matter what kind of car you drive or what brand of clothes you wear. Furthermore I´ve learnt to be independent. There is no mummy or daddy, who cooks for you or washes the clothes. But like this I have grown personally. Last, but not least: although Bolivia is a completely different spot on earth than Austria there are a lot of similarities that are just human. Girlfriend issues or the fear of exams for example.

I`ve finished working in Puerto Quijarro now and will start teaching on the Isla del Sol in the Lake Titicaca. Interested? – www.ansgarenbolivia.blogspot.com

Everybody who feels confident enough and can afford it: Do a gap year! It´s not always easy but you gain so much!

Saludos Cordiales 😀

Quick Info:
  • Date: February 2012
  • Location: Puerto Quijarro, Bolivia

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