La Paz has taught me more than I thought

Arriving in Cordoba made me reflect a lot on my time in La Paz and the uniqueness of La Paz that could only be found there. I also was able to realize how much I changed as well as my expectations from only living there for a month. First off, when flying the first thing I noticed was the Cordoba looked much more like a metropolis than La Paz, at least in the sense that Cordoba looked more familiar and like an American city than La Paz.

The view of Cordoba, Argentina from the plane

The view of Cordoba, Argentina from the plane

This visible difference automatically made me feel more at ease and at home. Then as I arrived to the airport, I met another student on the program and with one of the coordinators, Charly. He was very nice and automatically told us background information on Cordoba which made me excited to learn more about the city I’d be living in for the next four weeks. One of the first things I noticed in the cab ride was that the roads were paved and that drivers respected the painted lines on the floors and lanes. I was in shock and thought that Argentina was a different universe because of this fact alone since for the past four weeks all I could remember seeing outside our car window was the neighboring car’s side view mirror scraping ours. Then I realized how much my time in Bolivia has affected me and my perspective. Had I come directly to Argentina from the US I’m sure my thought process would’ve been along the lines of “Geez, the traffic in Argentina is crazy, people cut each other off all the time and drivers don’t care if pedestrians have the right of way!” However, since I came from Bolivia to Argentina I thought “Wow, people actually stay in their own lanes–those white lines actually mean something here, and drivers actually stop at red lights, and I can’t believe that car slowed down for me to cross the street rather than speed up to get me to run across!” Right then and there I knew that Bolivia had changed me. Bolivia had changed me in a way that I learned to find a greater appreciation for the smaller things. I learned that back at home, I’m more than lucky to have hot water everyday for a shower, to be able to brush my teeth and use the sink, to have Wi-Fi in every inch of my house. On a more substantial note, I’m more than lucky to live somewhere in which I have the freedom and security to walk down the street in peace. Back at home, I never had to consistently look over my shoulder to see no one’s following me, or check my purse every five minutes to see my wallet and iPhone still in tact, or avoid showing skin above the ankles to avoid harassment and looks on every block. In Bolivia, you couldn’t take a taxi at all unless it was a radio taxi because it was a very common practice for cab drivers to take tourists to the middle of nowhere to be stripped of all of their belongings and left stranded. This is something that doesn’t even run through one’s mind when waving a cab in the states. As I arrived to Cordoba, the lifestyle and habit changes I made in Bolivia were starting to become apparent to me. And although its as if my standards and expectations for everyday things  were lowered and more cautious and considerate, I couldn’t be happier with myself to say that I experienced the other side of the spectrum. Without knowing and experiencing these everyday customs, thoughts, and fears, I wouldn’t be able to better understand people. I would only be able to connect with people who lived in sheltered communities and suburbs. However, as an aspiring doctor who wants to work with less fortunate people, I need to understand this reality in order to work to the best of my abilities with patients from those populations. Even though I wouldn’t personally choose to live in La Paz, I can’t take away from the fact that I learned more than I imagined from my four weeks in Bolivia’s metropolis

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