At the Doctor’s Office

On August 16th (yesterday at the time of this post), I just had my two-month anniversary for being in Bolivia! Yes, I know, it sounds like I’m celebrating a new-born. But, it’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for two (2) months already. Most of the days it feels like I haven’t made enough progress, specifically with the project work. But I know that, when I look back on these first 60 days, I’ll have a better sense of how much has been accomplished… I hope.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had a doctor’s appointment, which is part of my immigration process. It was an experience, for sure. I received a drug test, chest x-ray, blood test, general physical, and saw the dentist… all in two hours, and all for $50! Not too shabby and builds the case for universal healthcare.

BUT, holy buckets, the experience. Blood tests with multiple people around. Walking through the office with your urine sample and placing it in a tray with dozens of other samples (no doctor present, by the way), giving answers about your health when you don’t understand the questions. Not good or bad, just “different” than anything in the US.

The funniest part, for me, was that all Americans, Pakistanis, Saudis and Israelis have to go through extra steps, just because our governments don’t get along. Unreal.

Anyway, a couple other key updates for the week:

  • Dropped off documents about Pidola to five (5) new government ministries. This will hopefully open up new partnership opportunities
  • Continued work with ABE and our up-coming projects (finalizing partnership terms)
  • Outlined potential terms and support efforts/activities with the Ministry of Education

Poco a poco, and they say in Spanish.

Eating Cheeseburgers

I believe a couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee.  Which, in itself isn’t too bad… especially since I drank a lot of coffee back in Colorado.  BUT, for some reason, I’ve been on a quest to find the best burger joint in my neighborhood (Sopocachi).  I’ve eaten more burgers in the last five weeks than I have in the last three years; easily.  So far, this place called Luigi’s is in the top spot.  The lady who runs the place can cook a mean burger.

Anyway, other than me adding inches to my waistband, we’re working away down here.  I haven’t made as much progress as I would’ve hoped for the last couple of weeks, but we can’t always be moving a lightning pace.  Any progress is still good, though.

 

A few key highlights below:

 

  • Our first site visits are planned for late August. We were going to go to Torotoro but postponed that trip until September.
  • For an example of one of our project sites, click here. This will take you to a Google Map of Colcha K; a small town in the state of Potosi.
  • We are on our 3rdround of revisions surrounding the proposal and potential partnership with ABE, our internet delivery service.
  • The next step surrounding me getting a Bolivian ID, I have a doctor’s appointment to get a health check. I guess I shouldn’t have eaten so many burgers…

 

Not too many other “big ticket” items from the professional side of things.  This weekend, I’m heading out of La Paz for the first time since I moved to Bolivia.  To say I’m excited to see some new things would be an understatement… wish me luck as I attempt to bag Sajama!

At a Coffee Shop

Over the last few weeks, it seems like I’m ALWAYS at a coffee shop.  Which I personally don’t mind, since it gets and keeps me out of the house.  But, I don’t think the volume of coffee I’m drinking is very healthy.  Oh well, I’ll worry about that later.

 

Another week, and like I always say, any progress is good.  Even though it doesn’t feel like we’re moving forward, it all adds up.  At some point after a few weeks/months, we’ll look back and be impressed with how much we’ve completed.

 

Just a few items from this week:

 

  • After a few weeks, and honestly a couple years, I’ve finally made it into the US Embassy here in La Paz (pictured below). It’s not difficult to do, it just always seemed that some new hassle came up.  Nothing exciting about my visit; just got some documents notarized.
  • As I continue to work with my legal team, I’m still in the process of getting my INTERPOL requirements completed. At some point, I’ll have an official Bolivian ID!
  • Spanish classes continue every day. I only have about five (5) more years until I can buy groceries without any trouble… L
  • A revised proposal was sent to our internet delivery partner, ABE, which we’re hoping to continue those conversations next week.
  • We postponed our trip to Torotoro since we determined it wasn’t very urgent at this point.I may be going down in September instead, which may be better since I’ll know a bit more Spanish.

Again, none of the above is very sexy, but it’ll all add up.  On a personal note, I think I’ve finally acclimatized, since I’m able to run six (6) miles at 11,600 feet.  I don’t mind putting in the exercise, since it always allows me to eat pretty much whatever I want.  And being “new” to Bolivia, it’s good to try out new food!

 

More to come next week…

In Limbo

Another week, another strike.  Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been wanting/waiting to visit a park about six hours from La Paz; called Sajama.  Of course, with that visit to the park, there’s a peak there that I’d like to bag.  BUT, they’ve closed the park entrance due to a strike, so we’re not able to get near the mountain.  Plus, they’ve received 60 inches of snow over the last week, which can cause issues with seeing crevasses… I sure am glad I have the flexibility, and not traveling just for this peak!

So, I wait a couple more weeks to try again.  Which, of course, gives me more time to work! We’ve made some progress on a few fronts over the last couple of weeks.  Some of the key areas:

 

  • Meetings with ABE, our internet delivery/service provider. They have been very accommodating and receptive to some of our ideas, and we’re excited about the opportunity to partner with them over the next 6-9 months.
  • We’ve made some solid progress in terms of all of our accounting procedures. As anyone in business knows, accounting practices are pretty important.  Especially when you have a mix of corporate formations and are transferring money between two countries.
  • I’m scheduling time to reconnect with our team in Torotoro, the place where our initial project sites are located. I’m hopefully going to head there in late July/early August to determine new project sites.

 

Of course, there are the daily challenges of being an expat.  For some reason, I always have difficulties at the super market; they love to hassle me there.  But with each passing day, things are SLOWLY getting better.  I love the public transportation here, finding new places to eat, getting more comfortable with the daily routine, et al.

 

I read a quote the other day; “Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moment of your life. Keep the faith.  It will all be worth it in the end”.  I sure hope so…

At the Bank

So, the reason for the title… like my mother always says, it’s an adventure.  I forgot my debit card in an ATM last week.  Yeah, I know, I’m not the brightest bulb.  To get my card back, I had to head to the bank to claim it from the customer service department.

 

The kicker… banks in La Paz are like going to the DMV in Center City Philadelphia.  Holy buckets, it’s awful!  You have to take a number, sit in line (six hours total), and sweat your tail off until they call you up.  Then HOPEFULLY the agent speaks a bit of English!  Oy vey… Pro Tip: DON’T leave your debit card in an ATM machine.

 

The good news, I got my debit card back.  But, that wasn’t the only good news for the week!  Every day, we’re progressing:

 

  • Met with a representative from the US Embassy here in La Paz, so that will be a nice connection, moving forward.
  • Continued with my immigration paperwork, and now finalizing my INTERPOL background check. Fingers crossed.
  • Scheduling a trip to our project site in Pampa Jasi in late July. It will be great to see the community!
  • I found a bouldering gym! There are two in all of Bolivia, and one is just five minutes away.

So, slowly but surely, I’m moving forward with both work and play.  I may be a bit silent in the coming weeks but will provide a bigger update in the middle of July.  Keep following along!

In a New World

Okay, week #2 is in the books… what a week.  I saw cows in my street, which in a city of 2.3 million people, I didn’t expect.  But, almost every day there’s a surprise; both good and bad.  Cows are fun. Forgetting your debit card in an ATM, not so much.  But, it’s all part of the journey, I guess.

Anyway, most of my posts and stories have been of the personal nature; hopefully there’s some entertainment value to it all.  But, we HAVE made some progress from a professional standpoint.  That’s why we’re here, right??

We had two very productive meetings this week.

 

The first was with our Legal Team here in La Paz.  They have been awesome, to say the least.  We’ve been receiving pro-bono work over the last year since our efforts have such a social component to it.  Now, we’ve formally started our partnership, and they are now helping me with my immigration paperwork.  Did I say not everything can be fun??  I kid, they are great people and definitely need them over the next few weeks.

 

The second meeting we had was with our internet service partner, Agencia Boliviana Especial, or ABE for short.  They gave us a list of 100 potential project sites that need Accendo’s help!  This includes installation of hardware and starting each community with internet service.  This is a wonderful opportunity, and we owe them a proposal in two weeks!

 

So, with all the “strikes and gutters”, we’re still moving along.  Some days more quickly than others, but forward nonetheless.  We have a LOT of work ahead of us, so I’ll keep everyone posted!

In Los Pinos

It’s been almost a week since I jumped on the plane to come to Bolivia.  And it’s been a good week.  I’ve struggled, mightily at times, but we’re also still taking steps forward. That’s the goal on a daily basis, to make progress here in Bolivia, both professionally AND personally.  Some strides are larger than others, but still moving forward…

 

As I type this post, I’m in a neighborhood of La Paz called Los Pinos.  I selected this neighborhood to live in for my first week, since it’s close to many of the places I’d need to visit.  Plus, it definitely helps that our Power of Attorney lives only three (3) blocks away!  Definitely a big help.  The picture below is the view of Illimani from his balcony.

 

 

I always like to use the Big Lebowski’s saying of, “strikes and gutters”.  This week was full of both, and here are just a few:

 

Strikes!

 

  • I met the Vice Minister of Education, and we’re going to submit a proposal surrounding how to partner with Pidola
  • I took my first Spanish class on Thursday, which is DEFINTELY needed
  • I love Sopocachi, the neighborhood that I’ll be living in, long-terms
  • I took the bus to and from meetings, which seems minor, but a big deal for me!

 

Gutters:

 

  • The language barrier is a big problem, and I have a long way to go
  • I was almost sold a $135 USB memory stick. Yes, $135 USD!  Unreal
  • I found out that no residential buildings have HVAC systems, so it’s pretty chilly at night
  • Yes, Sprint… the worst

 

It’s one week in, but we’re in a much better spot than a week ago.  Some of the uncertainties remain, but slowly getting removed.

 

Lots of work to be completed next week, so more to follow ASAP!

At Immersion School

Over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve been taking Spanish classes to help me, well, learn Spanish.  In the past, I’ve taken language courses in French, German, and even Japanese, but they’ll do me little good as I’m prepping for my move to Bolivia.  If I would have only known to make a different decision back in 7thgrade… c’est la vie.

 

I started with a school here in Denver, where my Spanish lessons were held at a local coffee shop, once a week.   It was good, and I learned the basics surrounding sentence structure and vocabulary.  They say that the older you get, the harder it is to learn a language.  I would have to agree with that comment; or maybe it’s just me.

 

Any who, that lasted for about four months, then I lapsed for about a year until we finalized our pilot project in November 2017.  After that project was completed, and we spoke about me moving to Bolivia, the classes started back up immediately!  I’ve been taking a private tutor (Edgar, who was my “profesor” the year before), which has helped me tremendously to take the next steps.  A picture of Edgar and his boys are below; he’s a good dude.

As far as I’ve come, I still have a WAYS to go.  I have the fundamentals down, but now have signed up for immersion classes when I get to Bolivia.  There are a few language schools in La Paz that are available to expats, and I plan on starting one pretty much the day I get in-country.  This work is A MUST, since the biggest barrier for me will be language.  As most people know, it’s difficult to build relationships when you can’t speak with them.

 

If I happen to see you before I leave, and you want to speak Spanish… please speak slowly.  🙂

In Sopocachi (soon)

One of the big pieces of moving to Bolivia, is trying to find a place to stay while I’m there! Short term accommodations are easy, since you can use hotels, AirBNB’s, crash at a friend’s place.  BUT, long-term is a different story. Questions come up around: can I sign a lease?  Will someone rent to a foreign national?  Do I need renter’s insurance?  How do I get connected with internet/electricity/TV?  Things we can easily do here as a citizen of the United States but may be challenging elsewhere.

 

Having been to La Paz a number of times, I knew the two (2) neighborhoods that I wanted to stay in; either Sopocachi or Calacoto.  Both had their pros and cons… Sopocachi was right in the middle of the city, high-energy, lots of restaurants and places to eat/drink.  While Calacoto was more of a “suburban” area, quieter, and many of our business partners have their offices there.  Decisions, decisions…

 

Well, it all came together sooner than I expected.  While I booked an AirBNB for the first week I’m here (in Calacoto), I’ve decided to stay in Sopocachi!  The main reason… the owner of the apartment is the mother-in-law of our Power of Attorney. I’d rather contribute money to someone I know versus someone I don’t!    I’ve shared some pictures below.

I’m thankful that our Power of Attorney thought of me when having this discussion with his mother-in-law. Keeping it “in the family” will be helpful for me, and there’s definitely a comfort level knowing who I’m renting from.  This move has a lot of moving parts, and checking this off my list is a big step.

 

Now, I just need to get there!

In the Colorado Mountains

As I get ready for my ONE-WAY trip to La Paz, I personally have a lot to get completed and accomplished before that happens in June.  Moving, renting out my place, getting meeting scheduled, things along those lines. BUT, there’s also un-finished climbing business.

 

As many people know, I moved to Colorado in 2010 for the lifestyle.  I came here for the winter sports, but quickly fell in love with mountaineering.  My Uncle Steve introduced me to this, and it really has had a major impact on me.  So, for the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be getting in some peaks that I’ve been working on for a few years!

 

May 26th– Snowmass

 

Snowmass… ah Snowmass. I initially attempted this peak back in April of 2017 but was about 400 feet from the summit before turning around due to avalanche conditions.  I haven’t been to every part of Colorado, but of the places I’ve been, this is the most beautiful.  PLUS, there’s 3,000’ of snow climbing!  Yes, I love being in the snow.  This is a great hike/climb for the long Memorial Day Weekend; can’t wait!

 

 

May 31st– Angel of Shavano

 

During my time as both a student and instructor at the Colorado Mountain Club, I found that snow climbing is one of my favorite things in life.  Having crampons on your feet, and an axe in your hand; there’s no feeling like it.  So, we have a couloir (aka snow gulley) climb on the Angel of Shavano.  I’m going to take a friend of mine up his first couloir, and this is a great peak for that.  Plus, we get two 14ers in one climb!

 

 

June 2nd– Little Bear

 

As with Snowmass, we have some un-finished business with another 14er; Little Bear.  Late in 2017, and friend of mine attempted this peak, which is rated the 2ndhardest 14er in Colorado.  We had a great day, but we couldn’t safely/comfortably get through the dreaded Hour Glass.  So, both of us are heading back down to the Sangres to tackle this peak again, with a renewed focus on the summit.  Going to be one last challenge before I start looking at Bolivia’s 6,000 meter peaks!

 

 

I know this wasn’t “work” related, but hopefully you enjoyed a quick view into what I’ll personally be doing before I head south!