Wanderlust and Wonders in Bolivia: A Day in the Life of an Experteer

Petra Barbu

Petra is a content marketer passionate about social enterprise, impact investing, and microfinance.

Laurie Greig has over 45 years of experience in education, mental health care, and professional training & coaching. She was paired recently with UpClose Bolivia, a family-run, social impact organization working to protect local culture and customs. Laurie is working to develop teacher training in the Children’s Center in a nearby town, and consult on program improvements to support children with special needs. Laurie has been keeping us updated with her travels, sharing engaging travel diaries that offer an amazing window in the day to day life of an Experteer, including breathtaking views, amazing food, and the delicious luxury of not keeping up with US politics. She shared another story recently about her experience, which you can read here to follow her full story. Below, Laurie shares a day in her life Experteering in Bolivia.

Editors note: Instead of formatting a blog post in our normal Q&A style, we love Laurie’s update emails so much, we’re just sharing it as written :)

Laurie is a world traveler and her urge to travel is insatiable.
Laurie is a world traveler and her urge to travel is insatiable.

Afternoon greetings!

Lest you worry I am not eating much, here is a photo of me earlier today at a cafe I discovered in La Paz. It is actually one of the few times I have eaten in a restaurant in the last five weeks—but gosh the Quinoa soup was amazing! Most of the time I cook at home….lots of veggies and LOTS of bread, rice, pasta, quinoa (although with the altitude the pasta can be a bit like chewing gum but hey, I am not in Italy).

I wanted to fill you in on the last few weeks of life in Bolivia. I taught two psychology classes at the University in La Paz. There were 80-100 students in attendance at each and the subject was Montessori Methodology and Philosophy. The two hour lectures were very well received and included three online videos to supplement my speaking. These lectures I conducted in English and the volunteer coordinator translated. I also facilitated, in Spanish, a three day Montessori teacher training at The Centro de Infantil, a community preschool. There were 9 staff members and teachers in attendance and each two hour workshop covered various theoretical, experiential and practical lessons. In addition, I served as a consultant at the Centro and after observing I gave feedback on individual children to teachers and parents. Lastly, I facilitated a two-hour workshop at a home for children whose parents had been involved in domestic violence situations. There were twenty-four teachers in attendance and the two hour workshop focused on communication in the workplace and stress reduction and self-care for teachers. This was conducted in English with translation. It was a combination of practical and experiential information.

I also worked in other settings with children in group situations. This included helping prepare the school classrooms, assisting teachers, facilitating play groups, and aiding in the kitchen.

Laurie hiking the beautiful mountains of Bolivia.
Laurie hiking the beautiful mountains of Bolivia.

There is so much—and maybe the most important part is I am still thrilled to have made the choice to come here and have this experience. The Bolivian people are so nice, kind, gentle and very welcoming in every way. I love seeing the women in their derbies and big skirts and they blend into the landscape so easily.

The last two days I have had a few days off and spent the time in La Paz—a grand and slightly complicated city with four “telefericos” ( gondolas) transporting people up and down the sides of the crammed and mostly brick city. I spent time “shopping till I dropped” in the black market, witches’s market and even an electrical market. Small minivans run everywhere and cost about 30 cents for rides that can take anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour or more. When people get on the bus they always say “Buenos dias” or “Buenos tardes”—very nice gestures. Opening and closing the van door is an important part of the ritual too.

The rest of this week I spent at the children’s center—where 60 children ranging in age from six months to four years go every weekday from 8:30AM-4PM. It was the first week of school so they ended at 1PM, but I have to say it broke my heart to see these small children wrenched from their parents to go into the classrooms. For the most part, they do quite well although there is one little 14 month old girl who never stops crying and while I do what I can to help and intervene it is not my culture, not my country, not my school. On Tuesday, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen helping the cook—which included going into the village and buying a watermelon, cutting it into exactly 58 slices, and taking out each seed in each slice. A wonderful meditation.

Laurie exploring Lake Titicaca.
Laurie exploring Lake Titicaca.

Two weeks ago I went with two young women to Lake Titicaca which is huge and the highest lake in the world. This photo is me on the warm boat trip! It is also quite beautiful. It was so cold going out to Isla Del Sol in the open boat for an hour and half boat ride—thankfully it cleared when we reached the island and started the 200 meter hike to the top. Mind you, I was with an 18 and 28 year old but did quite well, if I do say so myself. Next Friday I get on an 11-hour all night bus to go to the salt flats which are supposed to be quite incredible and will spend 3 days there. I am on the fence because of timing about going to the Amazon.

This next week I to give a lecture on Montessori teaching at the University and then a training for caretakers at a center for children and mothers who are victims of domestic violence. I have been taking some Spanish lessons and while my Spanish is of course improving it is still not good enough for me! I love speaking the language and thankfully I really don’t get intimidated, no matter what I sound like.

Today is a gorgeous sunny Sunday and I just finished preparing my lecture. All is well, and it has been a selfish relief to not be engaged in the daily American political news. I keep up enough to know I am going to have to be very mindful on return not to spin out—and to sign up to help people register to vote.