Friday, September 22, 2006


Since February, a fellow volunteer of the La Paz Red Cross, Mauricio, had been working in Reyes on a project called “the rehabilitation of living conditions of those affected by the floods”. Reyes is a small town in Beni, north of the country, where the weather is warm all year around and the fauna and flora are stunning. Volunteers had been sent on a weekly basis as of early July to help with workshops and logistics, and a mere two days after we finished the PPPD course, I was invited to go with the next group!

Luisa, Adriana, Rosario and I (see photo on the left) took off Sunday and were meant to stay a week, but Adriana and I – because we could and there was work left to do – ended up staying for two. Upon arrival we met up with Alejandro, Victor and Pepe and immediately got to work to prepare and carry out the operative of distribution of humanitarian assistance - on the right you can see me at my table during the operative, checking someone's ID to make sure they were on the community list before giving the go-ahead for them to get the buckets full of schtuff (i.e. humanitarian assistance). Then over the course of the following week (or in Adri and my case, two weeks) we went into communities to teach Basic First Aid, Education in Community Health, and Prevention and Preparation for Disasters, did inventory, helped Mauricio with some administrative work, and enjoyed the hammocks during the mandatory 2h30 lunch breaks.

We also made time – mostly on weekends – to go to Copaiba, San Buen Aventura, and Rurrenabaque. That area of the country is absolutely stunning, and the Madidi National Park is around the corner… Must go back.

Ooh and on our way back to La Paz, Adri and I bought a little chick-bird. Named it Yatzo-Camilo-San. He did very well during the 18h busride and adapted beautifully to his new environment at the La Paz Red Cross… until, under mysterious circumstances, the normally slow, passive, toothless dog apparently snapped his neck. Tragic! But his memory lives on. *Moment of silence*

[Will try to post more pictures later but Blogger seems to have reached it's limit for this post... If you want pics of me teaching in communities, Yatzo Camilo San or just more field work, let me know!]

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


On Friday, once I had showered, unpacked, made a few calls and rested a bit, my first instinct was – of course – to head to the La Paz Red Cross to say hi and see what was going on. It was fun seeing everyone again, and before I knew it I had signed up for a weekend course on Preparation and Prevention of Disasters, starting in the morning at 8am and going for three days (Monday was a holiday)! It was a very interesting course, especially because being aimed at communities, it uses a highly participative and interactive teaching methodology which I much prefered to the CPI approach to things. I actually did not qualify as a PPPD instructor, but the real test wasn’t the one we had to undergo in the classroom on Monday, it was yet to come... [insert tense music here]

Geneva – Zurich – Madrid – Santiago – La Paz

After a long period of uncertainty, I finally got on a plane to head back South West to my beloved Bolivia. It was tempting to stay a while longer, but I knew that much work lay ahead and that the desire to stay was in too big a part due to the luxuries and comforts of Geneva trying to hook me. Evil! So I flew from Geneva to Zurich, Zurich to Madrid, Madrid to Santiago and finally, after 23h in Chile, back to La Paz. I mean, where is the fun in doing things the simple way? Cough, cough, ahem. Santiago de Chile was fun even though I really didn’t do much but stroll around downtown (which I later found out was not the nicest area of town nor the safest), eat a glazed Dunkin’ Donut, visit a museum of pre-colombian art, go see the new Superman movie (mildly entertaining yet somewhat disappointing) and zapping between movies before catching some shut-eye and heading back to the airport before dawn.

The fact that I have no pictures to share for this trip says it all. Actually, I did take one picture of the airport from the plane, but it's not even worth uploading so just take my word for it - the trip was long, there were some interesting things to see but nothing truly worth writing home about. Shame I didn't get to meet up with JJ and Valeska, raincheck.


Although I ended up not being in Geneva for that many days in a row at all, I still had a grand time when I was in town. Got to catch up with a lot of friends and family, I loitered at the ILO and enjoyed their free internet, I ran errands like a schizophrenic headless chicken, I swung by the Federation and UNAIDS to begin work on my super secret plan for world domination… and I even got to participate in John’s end of year party, making only one obvious mistake while we performed our cello duet! STA Travel and Iberia gave me a few pseudo-heart attacks with the strike and flight cancelations, which was a shame because when you are home for so little time (see photo on left for a visual on "home" - good old Bouchet... I heart you!) the last thing you want to do is spend hours at the travel agent figuring out when you are leaving! *shakes fist in air and fake-swears* At least that got me to spend more transit time with mom, which even when it involves grumbling and jams, is quite entertaining and enjoyable. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Zurich, my axis of insanity (in the best possible way)

From Heidelberg, I headed to Zurich to meet up with my big brother for the weekend. Arrived Friday afternoon and as usual we had a great time… Friday night we had a huuuuuuge dinner, a 1kg cordon bleu (breaded meat with ham and cheese inside) accompanied by french fries (photo on left: my brother about to attack the giant meal). I finished before my brother, much to the other boys’ amazement, and it was delicious! Think I could’ve fit in some dessert, but we decided it wasn’t worth risking it. From there we went to Indochine, the traditional clubbing spot in Zurich. I admit that for the first half hour all I could do was digest, but after that came the dancing, weeeee! Once home I decided to watch “Underworld” because it was about time, and Saturday was a day of rest, a burger lunch, watching movies (the fact that I forget which movies we rented and watched does not mean I am turning into my father… or does it?!), turkish baths, and in the evening we had drinks with Lex’s father before going to an outstanding Spanish dinner (see photo on the right) and calling it a night. Sunday I hitched a ride back to Geneva with Christian Kessler (thankee!) and made it just in time to watch what turned out to be quite a disappointing World Cup Final. Except for Zidane of course, hehe.

Me and Mister T at Indochine on Friday night.


After talking about it every since we met in summer 2004, I finally made it to Heidelberg to visit Florian. It was a flash visit which lasted just about 24h but we managed to fit a lot in – upon arrival I got a tour of the house and met the parents, then we went for a walk which took us up Philosopher’s Alley to a viewpoint from which all of Heidelberg can be seen and then back down to the old town and up again to The Castle (seen in the picture on the left, from the aforementioned vewpoint). Here, we saw the World’s Biggest Wine Barrel (see photo below right - that little fleshcoloured line at the bottom of the picture is a human arm... attached to a person who didn't come out in the photo, in case you were wondering)! The wine barrel was the size of a small house, madness! Food was had, we went home to change, and then in the evening we went to Mannheim to a party. The plan was actually to stop by the apartment of a friend of Flo’s, Naomi, to have a drink before heading to a big open air student party. Then the sky fell, and we decided we were quite happy where we were, namely between the kitchen and balcony of Naomi’s apartment. We had some drinks, ate pizza and spring rolls, I started speaking German and Italian, and finally it was time to go home. In the morning, after a smoked salmon sandwich breakfast (mhmmm!), we went to a park whose name I have misplaced, had lunch nearby, and then I had to catch my train, just like that! Whoosh, went Time. It was great catching up with Florian a bit, and I have to say that my inner dork quite enjoyed all the train-riding because boy are Swiss trains pretty and clean and on time! Enjoying life is in the details, hehe.

Florian and I in the cab on the way home from Naomi's place.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Valais with Dad

After spending quality time with mom, it was only fair to also hang out with dad for a bit. A weekend was reserved and I was given instructions to pack for hiking and swimming, and I have to say I am impressed because dad kept our destination a secret until we were nearly there! Turns out the “there” was the Thermal Baths of Ovronnay, deep in the heart of Switzerland (well, close enough!). For two days we kicked back and relaxed, discovered various spa treatments such as the hydromassage and the algae wrap (see photo on the right for what we looked like post-spa treatments), went on a hike, had yummy Swiss mountain food (veal sausage with french fries, chocolate mousse, “croute au fromage” - depicted on the left, "coupe romanoff" - depicted on the right…) and enjoyed the view. We also – of course – tried out the thermal baths, although my overly romanticized image of a rock pool on the side of a mountain was shattered and replaced by a much more standard image of a relatively shallow pool filled with special water that has medicinal effects and a natural temperature of “nearly soupishly warm”. Cherry on the cake? On the road, I made my dad discover Bolivian rock music! Hehe. Deszaire, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Quirquina, the whole shabang. Think he sort of liked it…

Mersi baba, twas most original and yummy!

Andalucia with Mom

Took five days off with my mom to head down South to Andalucia via Madrid (where we hung out with aunt-cousin Isabel and her daughter Erica), where aside from lots of driving around and some getting lost, we got to discover some cute spots just off the Atlantic Ocean and catch up without too many distractions. All cultural tourism took a raincheck, which means we both caught up on sleep, read a lot, and then I also managed to squeeze in some kite-surfing (did you know you can actually have sore eyebrows from looking up for too long and with too much concentration? yeah, neither did I) and golf (see photo on the left to see what the end of my swing looks like), hehe. Next time I swear I will actually manage to get to the surfing part of kite surfing though, ahem. Damn wind, it failed me! Photo above left: my supercool instructor Santi and I; photo above right: me battling with the kite in the water, trying to make it look like it's easy. Other than that, we nearly missed our flight back due to the absolutely pathetic road signs (and our taking half an hour for breakfast when we were already a bit late, sheepish grin) and getting stuck behind trucks on the national road, oops. Everything worked out in the end though, and mother and daughter got back to Geneva on June 29th in time to see the sunset on Lake Geneva.

Thanks mom for a stunning week of vacation, thou dost spoil me too much (but who is complaining?! Grin.)

ICRC conference

From the morning of Monday June 19th to the wee hours of Wednesday June 21st (technically Thursday) took place the annual Red Cross conference in Geneva. I reported in for duty at 8am on Monday, after having gone by the Federation the previous week to get my snazzy red conference tshirts and conference ID. On the team for document distribution, I was in charge of making sure the Spanish-speaking countries located in the main conference room (see photo on the left) had all availble documents in Spanish waiting for them at their desks before the sessions began. The job was relatively stress-free and allowed me to not only attend the conference (see photo on the right, a bit blurry because using a flash seemed inappropriate), but also meet some interesting people (Jeanine, Maggi, Carl, Ramia and Rene, just to name a few) and touch base with people I hadn’t seen in a while. The main topic this year was the adoption of the third emblem, which caused heated discussions but ended up coming through just in time to make Thursday a day off. Don't think I will ever aim to become a conference delegate, but I do enjoy the logistic backstage aspect of such big conferences...

Saturday June 17th

On Saturday, my plan was to take Tiarnach to the airport, go to a family friend’s house for lunch and to watch the Iran-Portugal game, rest up at home and finally go out to dinner with my big bro who was back in town for the weekend. Sleep deprived, I tried to skip the soccer game and go home for a nap, but my father bizarrely refused to let me go and insisted that I take a nap at the family friends’ house! Odd, to say the least, but I didn’t have the energy to argue. After the game I woke up and was excited to go home to my bed for a better nap, but apparently there was no hot water at home so I had to go take a shower at my dad’s. I didn’t even want a shower! Again, I didn’t have the energy to argue. Finally, post-shower I am ready to go home for a nap (I became obsessed with taking a nap at home, I admit) but my mother came to pick me up to take me to my godmother’s house across town to say hi. I was fuming! Not to mention that the clothes my mother had picked out for me made me feel like Little Bo-Beep (see photo above right)! At long last, I make it home. I walk into a suspiciously dark and quiet house and see my brother dressed all in white. In theory, the plan was to go out to a country pub for dinner, so his style didn’t match up at all! And sure enough, I was asked into the sitting room and SURPRISE (see photo above right again)! Some 40 people were crammed in there waiting for me, to welcome me back!!! It was amazing. The crowd was a mix of my friends and my brother’s friends, and the party was a blast. Went on to the wee hours of the morning, and on Sunday we continued with a brunch that extended to tea and finished with a movie viewing. Being a hostess for 24h is exhausting, but a lot of fun.

Lex (my brother's flatmate) and three Bolivian beauties - Daniela, Viviana, and Daniela's younger sister whose name currently eludes me (oops).

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Back to Switzerland

I left bright and early on the morning of Monday June 12th, Pepe drove me to the airport and the view left me breathless. I had a long trip ahead, as I was flying La Paz to Lima, and staying in Lima for the day before flying to Madrid and finally to Geneva.

Lima was cloudy and struck me as a city with very little energy. I had a driver pick me up at the airport and take me around (photo on left: me at a mirador on the edge of town... the haze makes it hard to see much, but it was a nice spot, take my word for it), stopped at the ICRC to drop off some chocolates for a friend of Mauri’s and then seeked out the ILO to see if I could get information on regional programs. They didn’t let me in but did give me a brochure with some contact information on it, guess that’s better than nothing!

I arrived in Geneva Tuesday late afternoon, and barely had time to start catching up with Mom and JL before Tiarnach walked in the door (he had arrived in Geneva the day before and was staying at home for a week, on his way to Kenya and Southern Soudan to work for Oxfam GB. Yes, the boy is insane, but in the best possible way). We had a drink in the garden and decided to go say hi to grandpa on our way to a filet de perches dinner by the lake… What a first night back! The first week flew by, I saw friends and family, ran errands, caught up with Tiarnach, walked around town for Fete de la Musique… it was good to be home. On Saturday, before taking Tiarnach to the airport, we went to the posh area of town and Byron’s Rock to see the Bol d’Or, an annual sailboat race around Lake Geneva.

Tiarnach, me and JL at a hotspot to see the Bol D'Or (hidden by us, oops... t'was a stunning view though, I promise!)