Not in my Apartment

Well, the infinite insanity continues here in La Paz.  Most comes from the external environment, but sometimes it’s self-inflicted.  The other day, I was on my way to the bank and realized that I didn’t have my house keys.  I started checking my pockets, started back-tracking my route, but couldn’t find them.  I thought to myself, “they’re gone; there’s no way I’m finding them”.  So, after a few hours of searching and getting my spare set, I was finally able to get back into my apartment.

When I went to open my door, this is what I saw…

After that eventful afternoon, I did hear some of the best news we’ve heard in a while.  Pidola received our 501(3)(c) Determination Letter from the IRS!!  That means… we’re officially a non-profit organization in the eyes of the government.  It also means that we can start, in earnest, to approach Corporate Sponsors and Foundations. We’ve made amazing progress with our supporters so far, but these “big ticket” donations will really help take us to the next level.

Other than that big piece of news, we have a few other items going on:

  • We have our October campaign starting on the 23rd, which we’re excited about.  This will provide some details into our next project locations
  • Our October Board Meeting was earlier this week, which is always productive for us.  Campaign development and Accounting were the big discussion points
  • Partnership discussions continue with the various federal-level ministries here in Bolivia
  • The Pidola Team is also developing a newsletter for both our partners and supporters.  That will be another avenue to keep everyone posted with Pidola’s progress

On a personal note, my mom and aunt will be visiting me over the next couple weeks, as well as I have a trip to Mexico City… so, I’ll be a bit quiet.  But, more to come in late October and early November!

At the Ministry of Education

We had two key meetings this week.  We were initially planned for four, but as most of us know, scheduling conflicts happen. The first was with our legal team, Guevara & Gutierrez SC, or GG Lex for short.  As I’ve mentioned previously, they have graciously provided us with pro bono work for over a year.  As those initial efforts are winding down, we’re now finalizing our official partnership with them.  It’s a long story of how we crossed their paths, but I’m sure glad we did.  They’ve been excellent to work with.

Our second meeting was with our old friends at the Ministry of Education.  As we continue to build the framework for this partnership, the more excited we’re getting about the opportunity to work with them.  This week’s conversations were surrounding how Pidola can support and compliment their efforts to provide renewable energy (and subsequently internet) to school houses all across Bolivia.  Essentially, they have 100’s of locations that may be similar to our pilot project in Pampa Jasi.  Nothing has been formalized with the Ministry, but our direction is becoming much clearer.

The picture below is of this strange dog made of chains outside of the Ministry of Education’s building… I need to ask “why?”.

Other than that, just standard operation procedure here in La Paz:

  • I’m continuing to take Spanish classes almost every day.  Is it possible the more I learn, the worse I get?  Yes, it is…
  • I found a dynamite new kind of tea, called Sultana.  Look it up, it’s incredible… I don’t believe you can find it in the States, unfortunately.
  • I attended a BBQ with some friends last weekend, and it was my first time leaving the city since I moved here.  It was nice to get some fresh air, literally.
  • Plans to return to both PA and CO for a couple weeks over the Holidays are coming together. I’m looking forward to a good slice. 🙂

As always, more to follow in the coming days.  Especially with the launch of our new fundraising campaigns, which are starting in less than two weeks!

In Class

As I’ve mentioned previously, I take Spanish classes here in La Paz.  Every day, 8-10a, (almost) religiously.  Since I was basically starting from scratch with the language, it’s been painful at times. To be honest, it’s painful all day, every day.  Even just getting a haircut is stressful.  But, over the last couple of weeks, I’ve finally been able to toggle back and forth between past and future tenses, albeit very slowly.  I’m making progress, just not as fast as I would like. Someday I’ll get it… maybe in 2022.

From the business side of things, one of the exercises that the Pidola Team is working on is called a Feasibility Study.  It is essentially up-front work to ensure our project locations are a good fit for Pidola.  For example, we wouldn’t go into an area where the average individual has the same income level as someone in Manhattan.  Not that we’d find many places across the globe like New York, but you get the idea.

In addition to my Spanish work, I also think that I need to go back to my statistics class.  I’m still consistently amazed with the brainpower that is coming from our team and Board of Directors.  One of the members came up with a formula for our Feasibility Study.  During the development of this equation, we spoke about things like z-score, which I thought I’d never hear again after grad school!

I’ve had to replace our metrics with some Greek text (we don’t want to give away the secret sauce, now do we), but it’ll give you a sense of what we’re working with.  Totally crazy/awesome, IMHO.

———-

Future Site Predictor = ((Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet* (consectetur adipiscing elit)) – (Ut sed erat vitae)) + (odio elementum tincidunt) + (Suspendisse potenti/ Ut placerat quis tellus et blandit) + (Donec condimentum sapien, or sed elit aliquam mollis) + (Maecenas a augue dolor) + (Proin ut vulputate libero) + (Etiam ut tristique neque) + (Donec fringilla lacinia tincidunt) + (Duis dolor mauris) + (vestibulum non massa ut)

————

I think I’ll just stick with my Spanish classes for now… 🙂

At Home

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been a bit constricted to my little neighborhood; Sopocachi. The reason local travel hasn’t been very feasible is El Teleferico (the gondola that runs all over La Paz) was closed for servicing.  Which is okay but hinders getting to a few key places for work.  

Also, and the most un-nerving for me personally, is that I had to give both my passports to the immigration office here.  They took them because of SOP in getting my work visa.  If there was an emergency, or I needed to travel/fly within the country, I wouldn’t have been able to.  And with no vehicle, my mobility was very limited…

The good news is that I got my passports back, I have my two-year work visa, AND I’ll be getting my official Bolivian identification card… I’m now a legal immigrant!  With the Bolivian ID, I can actually travel anywhere in South America without my US passport; it’s similar to how the European Union operates.  Most importantly, I can get back to the States if there were any emergencies. Phew, what a couple weeks…

My personal activities are coming together.  Next is to get a personal bank account, and that Bolivian driver’s license I mentioned previously (oy vey).  Professionally, a few key updates for the week:

  • We submitted our first grant proposal last week!  Fingers crossed the give us, like, 50 million dollars
  • Our visits to the Federal-level ministries are becoming fruitful.  I’ll have more on this next week, but I’m pleased with the progress with these entities.  New discussions are happening almost weekly
  • We’ve found a new private organization here that we’re thinking of partnering with.  It’ll help to support our projects, and possibly find new site locations.  Again, more on this shortly
  • We have our Board of Directors meeting on the 18th, which is always productive, and I personally enjoy.  It’s nice to hear English every so often

That’s it from La Paz, and more to follow next week!

At the Immigration Office

I have taken a few additional steps this week surrounding all of my immigration paperwork.  The first step was that I hired myself.  With my Power of Attorney and Legal Team here, I became the CEO of Accendo Solutions SRL.  Pretty exciting news, other than the fact that I’m making Bolivia’s minimum wage, which is $1.82 an hour.  I may retire early.

The following day, we went to visit the Department of Immigration here in La Paz.  After good conversations and waiting my turn for three hours, I submitted all of my paperwork (and my passports!) to get my work visa. After that, I’ll work on getting my Bolivian ID card, then my driver’s license… that will be a whopper of a story for next month.

Other than that, it’s been a quiet week in Bolivia.  The main objective for next month is to start visiting our project sites to determine feasibility.  It’s been a bit of a challenge, but we have finally found some transportation through our partner ABE, and strategic scheduling just needs to take place. It’s been a slow process, but that’s how it goes sometimes.

As with many of you in North America, I’m going to also take a long Labor Day weekend.  Sajama has finally arrived; the weather looks good, and fingers crossed my guides are in one piece.  I’ll share the trip experience with you all; wish me luck!

Since I don’t have a picture from the Immigration Office, here’s a video of my local cows, just not caring about anything…

On a Slant

The reason for the title of this post is because I have a story.  Well, I usually have a story every day.  For example, I saw my three neighborhood cows today on my way to the gym. Or yesterday, I was proud of myself since I held a 10-minute conversation, all in Spanish, with Bolivia’s Vice Minister of Rural Development.  Sure, it was only to schedule another meeting, but I’m taking the points, nonetheless.

Being on a slant happened Sunday night.  I was sleeping away, terribly as usual, and one of the support arms broke on my bed. Needless to say, I didn’t have any of the tools necessary at 11:30 at night to fix it, hence I slept on a 40% angle for the night.  The only way I can think of to share the visual was it was like the movie Blind Date, back in the early 90’s… when Bruce Willis and Kim Bassinger broke their bed and kept sliding down.  Literally, what a nightmare.

Any who, the week went on. On Tuesday, we had our 6th Board of Directors meeting.  I have to say, our Board is an impressive group of people.  The skills, expertise and overall intellect that these people bring to the table is overwhelming at times; just that strong of a group.  Our meeting went well, as they typically do, and I’m just always thankful to have them supporting us.

Some other interesting news and updates:

  • One more month until my immigration paperwork is completed (finally!)
  • We have three more meetings scheduled with the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Rural Development, and the Ministry of Labor
  • We’re researching Impact Sourcing partners to help support our post-launch efforts surrounding economic development
  • Still waiting on our 5013C (non-profit) application approvals; hoping to receive that before the end of September
  • We’re also still working to find an automobile. If you know of anyone selling a 4×4 here in Bolivia, DM me

September is going to be a big month for us, especially with these potential new partnerships and site visits.  I’ll keep you posted with our progress!

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…