In all honestly, I felt pretty alone in La Paz. Although I had a group of students with me on the program I didn’t feel like we were necessarily compatible. Don’t get me wrong, the people in our program were nice individuals but we just happened to have our differences and thats ok. In fact, that’s just life. In claremont, its almost impossible to feel as alone as I did in Bolivia because my family is always an hour away from campus and my best friends were just a 2 minute walk away. However in a foreign country where the main language spoken is your second language and your friends and family are more than 4,000 miles away its more than lonely. Yet, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by amazing people in Cordoba who always put a smile on my face. All of us on the CFHI program had a natural chemistry with one another. We were able to accept and even joke about our differences rather than get frustrated or complain about it (something I had encountered in Bolivia quite often.) We all listened to one another, respected and valued one another’s thoughts and opinions even if we didn’t agree.
Not only were the people from our group like that, but so were la gente de Cordoba. They were much more open-minded and understanding of differences than the people I encountered in Bolivia both in the student group and the general public. People were much more interested in what I had to say, they were much more interested in learning about the states and our culture as I was of Argentina. In Argentina, they pride themselves in being of immigrant descent (from Italy, Germany, or Israel, etc…) just as Americans do, therefore they were always intrigued by international affairs, people, and cultures. However, in Bolivia for the most part, they believed their mentality and way of life was the only kind of way of life. Whenever I mentioned being American or having parents that were Peruvian I didn’t get a follow up question but rather a one sided conversation telling me how Bolivia was unique to other countries and that the Aymara and Quechua culture was one of a kind. In a sense this makes sense since the government at the moment is under Evo Morales, a democratic socialist from the indigenous population. As much as I did appreciate learning about Bolivian customs during my time there, I didn’t think that there was necessarily an exchange of ideas or opinions as I had hoped for. For instance, when watching the world cup we cheered with fellow Argentines and even became friends with them and hung out around Cordoba after the game, or some of the CFHI participants would play soccer with the anesthesiologist on weekday nights, something I was never close to experiencing in Bolivia. For the most part, Argentines loved being inclusive and welcoming to extranjeros (tourists.) Nonetheless, this difference in social interactions I came across was part of the experience and I’m grateful for it. What I found most fascinating about both was that although Argentina and Bolivia were only a border apart, the people and the traditions and beliefs were vastly different. As one moves further up towards Salta and Jujuy however, one sees more indigenous people and traditions practiced as I saw in La Paz much unlike the city of Cordoba which was a more developed metropolis.
All in all I learned vastly different things from both Latin American countries cultures. My experiences were different in both countries as well and I very much learned that part of it was due to the differences in people I was surrounded by during my time there. Although there were some rough times in Bolivia and some great moments in Argentina I appreciated them both equally for different reasons. I ultimately learned from this aspect of my experience, that people make all the difference when traveling and that it will have a significant effect on your time there.