In Colorado, USA

My first week back to the US has been interesting.  I’ve lived here most of my life, I know the routine, I know the area (Colorado), but it still all feels so strange!  I guess this is part of my re-assimilation from being out of the country for the last 13 months or so.  Two things got me these first few days: the grocery store and radio advertisements.  Both, in my humble opinion, are pretty absurd. 

Colorado mountain called Capitol

Even though I’m back in the States, we’re still doing work down in Bolivia.  The biggest and most exciting updates are from one of our site visits in Villa Tunari back in April.  Our solar panel installers visited La Mision last week and are developing a final budget and specification report for us.  Once that’s completed, we’ll just need to raise the funds to start and complete the project!

Another area of excitement, at least for me, is from a location we visited last week; Carmen Florida near Rurrenabaque.  They are celebrating their 85th anniversary this weekend of being a community!  Pidola donated some food supplies, new soccer balls and supplies for their school house to help them celebrate.  If and when we get some photos, we’ll surely share with you.

As we mentioned last week, our up-coming event on the 25th is confirmed at Diebolt Brewery here in Denver.  We hope that you can join us, and I personally would love to see everyone!

In Rurrenabaque

Well, I just finished my last two site visits before heading back Stateside.  And I think these last two were both my favorites, and potentially the best candidates for Pidola.  From La Paz, I flew to a town called Rurrenabaque (aka Rurre).  Rurre is vastly different than La Paz.  While you’re still in Bolivia, you’re going from the high Andian Mountains to the Amazon River Basin.  Temperature, altitude, and culture are different between these two areas! Similar political conversations can be found in both, though.

Our first location we visited was a village called Carmen Florida, which is about a 40-minute boat ride from the town of Rurre.  The community is small, with only about 13 school children and about 100 people total in the village.  But, they would love both power and internet for their school room and would drastically help their educational resources.  We had good conversations with the community leaders, started building those all-important relationships, and even started planning for their anniversary party in mid-July… Carmen Florida will be 85 years old!

School room in Carmen Florida
Carmen Florida’s meeting building
Had some Pacu (Piranha) for lunch!

The second community we visited during our trip to Rurrenabaque is called Torewa.  This was a 2.5-hour boat ride from Rurre, with a 30-minute hike to the village.  As with our pilot project Pampa Jasi, this village is very remote.  It’s so remote, and so prone to being flooded by the Beni River, that the local government doesn’t even acknowledge the community exists. There are 45 school-aged children and over 50 families that would love Pidola’s assistance.  They specifically spoke about improved healthcare and avenues of communication that our resources could provide.  Amazing place, amazing people.

Welcome to Torewa!
On our way to Torewa
School buildings in Torewa

Keep an eye out for your July 25thinvite to Diebolt Brewery for a Pidola happy hour; I would love to see everyone!  

In Santa Cruz

It’s been a very busy, but a good week here in Bolivia.  As I’ve been mentioning over the last few updates, Pidola (aka Accendo) had been invited to a July 4th event in Santa Cruz, which was hosted by the US Embassy/State Department.  This event not only celebrated the July 4th Holiday, it was also a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the moon landing.  So, double the drinks!

Pidola sponsored this event, which not only got us an invite to the party, but we also increased our exposure with the Accendo logo presented in a number of different places.  Note, our non-profit entity in the US is Pidola, but we also have an entity (company) here in Bolivia called Accendo.  This allows us to operate and get business completed here… hence, why you see Accendo instead of Pidola.

Bird’s eye view of the presentation area
Accendo’s banner right near the event entrance
Accendo on the big screen!

We did some networking as well, and we met a ton of great people from all over.  Not only folks from the Embassy, but other partners and people affiliated with the State Department.  That was one of our main goals; to network and potentially find some new sponsors.  Hopefully the people we met, and the conversations we had, will become fruitful in the future!

We also took part in Habitat for Humanity the morning before the event. I definitely didn’t mind getting my hands dirty. 🙂

Building bathrooms for new houses

This week will be just as busy, with a trip to Rurrenabaque to visit two new site locations: Torewa Campesina and Corte (in the Department of Beni).  It’s always good to build our list communities where Pidola’s resources may be a good fit.  We’re also sending our contractors to La Mision to continue specification work, which will lead to the development of our final project plan.

Fingers crossed for a safe trip to Rurrenabaque, and I’ll keep everyone posted with our progress!

In El Alto

It was another morning that I was up painfully early.  So I figured I would go to El Alto, the sister city of La Paz, and see the sunrise before work got started.  Plus, for one of the larger indigenous groups here in Bolivia, the Aymara, June 21st is their New Year.  Many will go to different spiritual locations (i.e. Tiwanaku) all throughout the country for the sunrise, for the Winter Solstice.  As you can see, it was a crisp, clear morning… the chickens and I were the only ones up!

Huayna Potosi with some alpenglow
A few chickens looking for breakfast
Some Aymara enjoying the sunrise

This week was primarily a preparation week for Pidola.  The first event we’re preparing for is our US Embassy/July 4th event in Santa Cruz.  As I mentioned last week, we received our formal invite for next weekend’s activities.  I say activities since there’s not only the networking event, but Pidola was also invited to sponsor and participate in the Habitat for Humanity efforts the morning before!  We gladly accepted… and lots of pictures to follow.

The second event over the next few weeks is another trip back into the jungle.  On July 3rd, I’ll be traveling to Rurrenabaque (aka Rurre) to visit two more site locations.  These locations were generated from the trip with my brother to Madidi, where our guide mentioned he may have some ideal project locations for Pidola.  It will be a three-hour boat trip to get there!  Yes, more pictures will be taken.

The last “larger” effort we’re preparing for is our event in Colorado during the month of July.  It was originally planned for July 11th, but we’re changing this date to either July 22nd or July 25th.  Formal notices will be shared with everyone once the day and venue are finalized.  I’m personally excited since it will be great to see people I haven’t seen in over a year.

Whenever you read this post, we hope it finds you doing well!  More to come next week.

In El Prado

This was the first week in almost six that I spent the entire time in La Paz!  It was nice for the routine, but it’s always a grind getting back into the swing of things.  I spent most of the time in an area of La Paz called El Prado, which translates into “The Meadow”.  It’s essentially the area of town with most of the main commercial buildings; the down-town, if you will.  There are plenty of zebras to help you across the busy streets!

When spending time in El Prado, I usually have lots of in-person meetings.  The Ministry of Education is there, the school where I take my Spanish classes is nearby, our bank we use (BNB), etc.  This week, the key meeting was with the US Embassy.  I will say it’s always nice (and less pressure!) to simply speak in English.  

Pidola received our formal invite to the Embassy event in Santa Cruz, which allows US-based multi-national companies with a presence in Bolivia, to celebrate the July 4th Holiday.  Little ole Pidola will be there to network and hopefully make some strong donor/sponsor connections.  Fingers crossed that yours truly can make it work!

Other highlights from this week:

  • We’ve made arrangements to return to a town called Rurrenabaque, and to visit a couple new, potential project locations.  That will happen early July
  • We had our monthly Board of Directors meeting on the 12th, which as you know, is always productive.  This month our focus was mainly on fundraising
  • Our project budget framework for La Mision is being developed; we’re getting close. The project plan will be developed shortly thereafter
  • Our July 11th event back in Denver is coming together.  Please watch your inboxes for your invite!

We have a lot going on in July, so the planning and preparation efforts are well underway.  As always, I’ll share updates next week; have a nice weekend!

In Madidi, Tiwanaku & Sajama

Well, it’s been a whirlwind the last few weeks with Vegas, Colorado, Utah, and then the last couple. Many of you know that one of my brothers came down to Bolivia to visit for about 10 days.  We had a great time visiting the rainforest (Madidi), some old ruins (Tiwanaku) and some mountains (Sajama).  All of these places I had never visited, so it was great to see other places in the country. We packed a lot in, in just a short period of time!

Larry and I in Madidi, with our guide Raul
An old statue at the ruins of Tiwanku
Sajama, the highest mountain in Bolivia

Now that the travel is winding down, we’re back to the grind.  One of the bi-products of traveling in Bolivia, is speaking about Pidola with Bolivians.  We actually may have found another site that our resources would be aligned with their needs!  The community is called Torewa Campesina, and it’s deep in the Bolivia rainforest; about an hour boat-ride from Rurrenabaque, the closest city.  More to follow on this…

Other than the new potential site, we’re focusing on the following:

  • We’re getting closer with finalizing the budget for La Mision, which will directly affect our fundraising plans this summer.  
  • I’m working on getting Pidola’s invite to a July 4th event here in Santa Cruz, which is thrown by the US Embassy out of La Paz.  Should be a good networking event.
  • The “Accendo Summit” is being planned as well, which will bring our Bolivian partners (Ministry of Education, ABE, FH) together to see how our efforts can align better.
  • We’re also working on an event, in Denver, on July 11th.  We’ll share more on this when we get into the middle of June.

That’s it for now. More to come in the next few weeks, and we hope this post finds everyone well!

In Moab

It’s been a great week for the Pidola Team.  First and foremost, Michelle is now officially married!  A group of us went to Moab (a town in Utah) to help her, Jeff and many friends and family celebrate their wedding.  They did a wonderful job with the event, and everyone had a great time… including yours truly.  Congrats to Michelle and Jeff!

Also, the Pidola Team had our monthly Board of Directors meeting on the 21st.  For me, it was great to attend in person!  One of the reasons for me to be in the US over the last few weeks was to participate and get some much-needed face-time with the rest of the team.  As always, it was productive, and we got a lot accomplished in just a quick two hours.

A few of those updates and discussions from the last Board meeting were about:

  • We are planning another party on July 11th (in Denver), which we’ll be able to share the latest updates with our sponsors and donors.  More to follow here shortly.
  • I provided an update on the July 4thevent in Santa Cruz (Bolivia), and Pidola will be in attendance!  Fingers crossed my networking skills are strong.
  • The team continued to work on planning and budgeting for both La Mision and San Jose, the two communities we visited in April.
  • Discussions were also held on additional avenues for the Pidola Team to fundraise and bring-in project funds.

The next few weeks will be busy for all of us, so we’ll keep you posted with the progress.  Also, my brother Larry will be visiting Bolivia, so hopefully he’ll have a fun and exciting trip!

In Las Vegas

Oh, Vegas.  I’m back in the Silver State for a website development conference.  It’s been a good, but long week already with lots of meetings, sessions, and a few phone calls sprinkled in.  For me personally, it’s always nice to catch up with people that I work with on daily/weekly basis.  When working remote, I never get that all-important face-time.  Plus, zero time spent in the hospital so far!  Yeah, that’s an entirely different blog post…

Here’s a photo of me on-stage during one of the sessions; the stick figure on the right.

Pidola is moving right along, just a bit slower this week than the previous weeks.  That necessary, albeit “boring” admin work gobbled up some of our time last week.  We’re always looking to save money and streamline costs, which we’ve accomplished by cleaning up some of our website operations and requirements.  Always looking to pinch those pennies!

A few other notes and follow-ups from last week:

  • We have our Board of Director’s meeting on Tuesday, which I’m excited to see everyone!
  • We’re still working on the 4thof July networking party in Santa Cruz (Bolivia); hoping the invite is in the mail.
  • Over the next 7-10 days, we’re working to finish spec development of our La Mision project location.  That way, we can get our budget and project plan together.
  • Michelle and I have some investor meetings lined up here in the coming weeks, so send us good vibes!

Next week is our big week in Moab for Michelle’s wedding.  All of us are super excited to celebrate, and I’ll share some of those activities ASAP!

In Conifer

Well, I’ve made the long trip back States’ side, and enjoying my first few days in Colorado.  I’m actually staying at my aunt’s house in Conifer, which is a beautiful corner of the world.  It’s always nice to spend time here and soothe the soul a bit… can’t beat the views for your morning coffee!

We are marching right along with all of Pidola’s efforts; both in the US and in Bolivia.  One of the activities that I mentioned last week was to get the key Bolivian partners together and participate in a roundtable discussion surrounding our projects (specifically in Villa Tunari).  As usual, that process is taking a bit of time, but still hopeful to have that meeting and discussions in mid-June.  Coordinating a meeting is never easy, no matter what country you’re in!

A few other updates with Pidola are:

  • We have our monthly Board of Directors meeting on the 21st, which I always enjoy. Especially now that I can attend in person!
  • We’ve received some good feedback from our teacher friends in Pampa Jasi.  They could use some more computers, which we’ll be on the hunt for in the coming weeks
  • Surrounding the Villa Tunari locations, we’re continuing to “spec” the projects out, which will help budget and planning
  • I’m working to get Pidola invited to a 4thof July party in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. That would be a great networking event for us to attend, and find potential investors
  • Lots and lots of admin work (accounting, legal, formation), which I won’t bore you with. 🙂

Last but not least, Michelle is getting married in a few weeks!  That’s one of the reasons why I’m back in the US, and we’re all thrilled for the wedding… it’s going to be fantastic.  That post will be entertaining, for sure!

In Pinaya (Illimani)

It’s been a good week, both professionally and personally here in Bolivia.  Let’s start with the most important…

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be coordinating a meeting with ABE (our internet provider), Food for the Hungry (a Bolivian partner) and the Ministry of Education.  Our goal is to determine how we can align these organizations and maximize the impact of our work.  Currently, Pidola uses all three (3) of these companies, and we feel strongly about increasing the benefits of our work when we’re all “singing from the same hymn sheet”.  It’s going to be interesting!

On a personal note, I took a couple days and waddled my way up a peak called Illimani.  Being on mountains is always a humbling experience, and I was able to complete 2/4 of my goals (new altitude PR, and over 6,000 meters).  It’s always good to get into nature and unplug, even if it’s only for a day or so.

I also got to spend some time in a little village called Pinaya; a town of about 120 people, right at the base of Illimani.  It’s a reminder for me of how good and easy I have it, and how unique these experiences are that I have in Bolivia.   The entire time spend on/around Illimani was fantastic… I’ll be going back!