Where are they now…? Linda Gruneisen      (continued from p. 1)

ing (orientation) event for our group took place in Miami….just about a 30 minute drive from my parents home in Pompano Beach.   If I changed my mind in the three days before we were scheduled to fly out I could easily call hooo…just kidding!

Our group was named Bolivia 16  (B16) and there were forty of us, with about half serving in rural sanitation and the others (like myself) in micro-enterprise development. Though we'd come from all over the United States and all sorts of backgrounds, it was clear that we shared an appreciation for adventure - most of us had lived or been overseas at least one time or another in the past.   In fact, as we comfortably ventured out on a half-day trip to Miami 's Little Havana it felt like we'd left the country and we certainly felt ambitious! 

But the culture change really began when we touched down in the beautiful city of La Paz.   We arrived just as the sun was coming up and I will never forget the coolness of the high-Andes air when we stepped outside of the airport to watch a new day - and a new page in life - begin. 

From La Paz we traveled to the Cochabamba valley for 3 months of language and skills training. The fertile countryside did not have the surreal feeling that La Paz had….but the climate was much more agreeable and the families we resided with were kind, understanding and very hospitable. When we finally received our assignments my Bolivian 'parents' showed their caring nature - "Aye…Llica?….Pero no puedes, Linda….hace mucho frio!   Vas a morir!". Transla

tion….Linda, you can't go to Llica. It is so cold there you will die!!!   
Well, despite their urging me to request another posting….I went off to Llica, high in the windy, desert-like Andean altiplano.   On one count my Bolivian family was right - it was very, very cold, no place for a Florida girl! But I learned a valuable lesson in sustainable development AND am alive today to share it! Here is the story of how…

Off the Beaten Path

Bolivia is a country with just about every type of climate imaginable. During training in Cochabamba I had requested a site placement that would provide complete immersion in the local culture AND that would not be too cold. Well, the director of our program mentioned a 'fascinating' project that would be an excellent match my qualifications and interests…but it was in one of the more remote and extremely cold parts of the country!   With a spirit of adventure I accepted the offer to go off the beaten path to the extra-ordinary municipality of Llica.

In a mountainous county with very few paved roads, off the beaten path applies to most of the sites where volunteers live and work. In my case, getting from Cochabamba to my site in Llica meant taking a cross-county flight, plus a nine hour bus ride….followed by four hours in 'local transport' across a huge dried-up salt lake…aka the salt-flats of the Salar de Uyuni.   Needless to say, getting there was always an exciting and beautiful experience!!!

In fact, the municipality of Llica sits on the fringe of one of Bolivia's most significant tourist destinations.   Almost every leisure visitor to the country ventures off to see the very same salt flats that I crossed to get to my work site in Llica.   

The problem is that the jumping off point for travelers who are visiting the salt flats sits in one municipality - Uyuni - and the beautiful landscapes that people camp-out and visit pertain to another…Llica. Over years of increasing tourism this has resulted in degradation of the land and the garbage left behind by visitors has become a burden to Llica, while nearly all of the income generated in hospitality and tourism has been absorbed by the municipality of Uyuni.

According to my project plan, a solution to this situation was already in the works. Before I'd arrived, the town's leaders had secured funding from the World Bank and they were planning to develop a museum dedicated to the area's unique culture and history. To help in establishing Llica as a worthwhile tourist destination the town's representatives had requested a volunteer for assistance.

Shortly after my arrival I began venturing off with the town leaders and got to see the many beautiful sites the area had to offer. I gained a real appreciation for the area and the hospitable nature of the locals. Indeed, Llica was sur

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