Student Trip to an Inauguration
By Tom Stilwell
In early March of 2013, a group of agriculture students from Wilmington College in Ohio traveled to Bolivia during spring break to learn about Andean agriculture. True to their expectations, things were different in Bolivia. Their first experience was arriving in the La Paz airport. The air was so thin they had to pause halfway up the stairs to catch their breath. Fortunately, after several days they had acclimatized to the altitude and were able to walk several blocks without resting!
The highlight of the trip was a visit to a QBL irrigation project for the final signing of documents. After riding across the dry altiplano for two hours we arrived in the village to start the festivities. There were several speeches (all in Spanish or Aymara) to recognize the work of the QBL technicians and the community members to install a small-scale irrigation project in their village. After the obligatory toast to the “Pachamama” attention turned to signing official documents giving the villagers total responsibility of the new system.
After the official speeches and documents, everyone was served a true farm-level meal. There were roasted ears of Andean corn, bits of farm cheese, pieces of roasted guinea pig, and of course, boiled potatoes in all shapes and sizes. Fortunately for the students, there was lots of Inca Cola to drink.
Finally, the band started playing and everyone danced. And danced. And danced some more. After more than an hour, the students had to sit down to recover. They were quiet, but impressed, on the ride back to La Paz. They had participated in an event of village life they could not have imagined a few hours before.