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Flight to Sucre

WP_20160408_08_38_10_ProI arrived here on Friday morning after a short 30 min flight from Santa Cruz. Spectacular scenery from the plane. I couldn’t resist taking a couple of photos from the plane and wondering if the roads below were ones that Tony and I motorcycled on. 5 years ago we rode from Sucre to Santa Cruz – it took 3 days and part of it was a stretch of 100 kms of road works. Looking down on the landscape I can understand a bit more about why it was so difficult. There are very few roads, an extremely hilly landscape and even from the air I can see that few of the roads are sealed. The view from the plane was wonderful and gave me quite a different perspective on this part of Bolivian landscape.

Pastel de Choclo

Cake of corn

Chilean cooking lesson.

Saute chopped onions and minced beef. Add black olives. Put in oven proof dish and add pieces of steamed chicken and chopped boiled eggs.

Make corn mixture by cutting corn from cobs and mincing in whiz with butter, salt, and basil. Spread on top.

Bake in oven until brown on top.

Serve with fresh tomatoes.

Muy muy delicioso,

Muchas gracias Carmen para la clase de cocina y comida maravillosa


On my way via Santiago

At long last I am finally on my way to Bolivia, having flown to Santiago in Chile three days ago.  This venture seems to have been a long time in the planning stages but actually it’s been less than a year since I decided to return to South America. It’s certainly a different trip this time. For the first time in a long time I’m travelling alone and that has it’s challenges. The first day in Santiago I had all the last minute panic thoughts of “how on earth am I going to last 3 months when I can’t understand what anyone is saying beyond “Hola” and “Como estas”. The first morning I woke up and realised I was in a house where English was barely understood and my espanol was muy puco. I wanted to crawl back under the covers and stay there for the whole day (or week). But I’m pleased to say I did get out of bed and day by day my Spanish is improving. Thanks in no small part to my Chilean friend Carmen and her 17 yr old daughters my language skills have steadily improved. And it’s amazing what topics of conversation you can have with a friend even when you don’t have many words in common.

I’ve had a lovely 3 days re-uniting with friends here. Being included in market trips,


preschool pickups for grandchildren, and dinners with extended family have all helped to make me feel welcome and my Spanish is improving rapidly. It’s amazing also how much you can learn by being part of small children’s play. It seems that boys and dogs and dinosaurs play the same no matter which country they are in.

I’m staying near San Bernardo, one of the suburbs of Santiago. It’s not one of the more salubrious suburbs but it’s still quite a shock to be surrounded by the constant noise of traffic 24 hrs a day, cars, cars and more cars, and then trucks, buses, bikes and every other imaginable form of transport (even a horse and cart yesterday), and with that the huge numbers of people every where. Despite having a couple of previous trips here it’s still a huge culture shock. The delightful  part of Chile is the warmth of the Chileans. The greetings with a kiss on the cheek from the youngest child to the oldest adult, and the willingness to communicate even when there’s very little common language is wonderful.

So,I’ve got a couple more days to enjoy Santiago before flying to Bolivia on Thursday. It will be 3 flights from Santiago – a couple of hrs to Iquique, another hour to Santa Cruz in Bolivia, and then 1/2 hr on a smaller plane to Sucre. I’m excited about finally getting to Bolivia but also somewhat nervous with thoughts of what the next 3 months will bring.


Reading Corners


One of Biblioworks more recent projects is introducing  Reading Corners in the libraries that they support.

Reading corners are cozy, supportive spaces within the libraries where children ages 4 to 8 enjoy age-appropriate, meaningful literacy experiences.

I’m really hoping that Biblioworks will be introducing one of the Reading Corners in the Tarabuco Municipal Library where I will be based for 3 months from April 2016. It’s always been one of my favourite activities to read to pre-schoolers and share with them the magic of books and reading.

Have a look at the video

Reading Corners



Tarabuco, the town where I will be living for 3 months next year.

From the photos I have seen it looks like a picturesque town set amongst the hills. It’s only 62 km from the city of Sucre but the bus trip to get there is 1 1/2 hrs. I have experienced the road conditions in rural areas of Bolivia so I can easily imagine the winding gravel and dirt road that will only allow slow vehicle speeds along it. It does look like there will be plenty of opportunity for walking in the surrounding countryside and plenty of hills close by to test my fitness. The town itself is at an altitude of 3,284 metres. Slightly higher than comfort levels but hopefully once I’ve had a couple of weeks to acclimatise I shouldn’t have too many problems with the altitude.

The town has a population of 19,000, described in the information I received from Biblioworks as 9,405 hombres y 10,149 mujeres. So I guess that will be 10,150 mujeres for the 3 months that I will be there. Tarabuco is the capital of the Yamparaez province in the Chuqisaca Department of Bolivia. It is the largest centre for the indigenous culture of Yampara and the local language is Quechua. I bought a Quechua phrasebook and dictionary this week. One quick look at the language and I decided I would stick to learning Español at the momento. I’m struggling enough with my studies of the Spanish language without needing to add another complicated language to the list. I think most Bolivians speak some Spanish along with their indigenous language.

Tarabuco is famous for it’s Sunday market. A very colourful market specialising in crafts, clothing, and musical instruments. I’m looking forward to experiencing this event every Sunday although my guess is it will be the complete opposite of a peaceful Sunday sleep in.

An abundance of colourful images of Tarabuco to be found through Google images:

Tarabuco market

Tarabucomarketproduce.jpg) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

International Literacy Day 8th September

Today is International Literacy Day so I’m commenting on literacy in Bolivia where I will be volunteering for 3 months in April 2016. In Bolivia literacy rates have improved significantly during the last 20 years but I am still confused by literacy statistics that say the rate of literacy is 97% but at the same time the statistics tell me that nearly 300,000 children of primary school age are not enrolled in school. UNICEF estimates that there are approximately 620,000 working children in Bolivia. Less than 2-in-5 of these children will continue with their education beyond primary level, and over 4% of them will not go to school.

In the city of Sucre Biblioworks are helping working children through their support of INTI. This organisation supports working children to continue their schooling. I find this an interesting concept – to support the working children rather than trying to ban all employment of children. During the last trip I had to Bolivia I was approached in the central city plaza in Sucre by a child who offered me a copy of the INTI magazine to buy. I remember I had what often happens when being approached by a child selling something. The first thought is that the child is begging and initially I declined to buy the magazine. But then when I had a closer look at what they were selling and later read the magazine I understood the philosophy of supporting these children rather than condemning them. As I have understood more about how INTI works I think it is a very caring and compassionate approach to what is a large problem. How to encourage and support these working children and provide some hope for their futures through ensuring they obtain some education.

Checkout the INTI magazine available online at it’s very interesting reading – particularly the children’s own stories about their lives.


My name is Karen and for 3 months next year I will be a voluntary worker in Bolivia for the organisation Biblioworks .

Biblioworks is a non-profit organisation that promotes education and literacy in communities in need. The organisation is founded on the principle that literacy and education are critical components for the creation and vitality of sustainable communities and cultures. They have built and equipped twelve libraries around the area of Sucre in the Chuiquisaca province of Bolivia.

Biblioworks is dedicated to improving literacy and opening educational doors so that young people will have opportunities to pursue studies and vocations that will allow them to serve their communities in order to develop strategies to eliminate poverty. Biblioworks has a philosophy that where knowledge, literacy, and learning exist, people have the resources they need to solve social issues, maintain and strengthen their cultural identities, as well as to grow their communities.

The library that I will be volunteering at is the Biblioteca Municipal de Tarabuco in a town of 10,000 people about 1½ hrs drive from the city of Sucre.

At Tarabuco I will be helping with reading clubs for children, organising activities that promote reading and literacy, and assisting with English classes.