Today was our first entire day in La Paz! After flying into the city two previous times, it was nice to finally learn more about and explore one of the largest cities in Bolivia. The day started off with a short bus tour of La Paz and El Alto. El Alto is a city connected to La Paz. As we learned from Grace, our wonderful tour guide, El Alto and La Paz hold the world record for the highest elevated airport, ski lift, soccer field and golf course at approximately 13,500 feet above sea level. El Alto is also home to the largest flea market in South America which can be as large as 700 blocks.After the bus ride through the two cities and out into the country, we arrived at the main location for the day, the Universidad Catolica Boliviana. This private rural university is home to approximately 140 students with two different degree options, agricultural engineering and zoo-technical engineering. Being agricultural students ourselves, it was great hearing the focus the university placed on hands-on experience through research and their own production agriculture.
The university currently works with 10 separate modules, or areas of research. We were able to learn more in depth about 5 of their modules – crop rotation, compost and manure handling, greenhouse tomatoes, Guinea pig production, and earthworm research. Even though the university was on break, there were a few students who explained their research projects to us. It was amazing seeing the passion the students and professors displayed while showing their research off to us. They may not have the technology or funding that our universities in the United States are able to use, but they are working very hard to produce results that can be shared with farmers in Bolivia to improve farming in the country.
The next stop for today was the Tiwanaku ancient ruins and artifacts. The Tiwanaku were a group of indigenous people that lived from approximately 1200 BC to 1170 AD in western Bolivia. They were famous for their extensive stone pyramid structures and monolitos. A monolito is a human-like statue carved into a single large stone. The distinctive features of a monolito include large face features, both hands holding items on its chest, and a belt, all with intricate designs and hieroglyphics. It was very interesting learning about the history of Bolivia and how it still plays into the culture today.
We were able to end the day by enjoying traditional Bolivian cuisine, or as many of us called our entrees, “real food.” Everybody was full from our delicious beef steaks, pork chops and mixed vegetables. It was even to our surprise to hear American music as we walked into the restaurant. However, the food was not the best part of the night. To travel from our hotel to the restaurant, we used a new cable train system in La Paz. Made to provide an easier commute for workers, riding in these cable cars gave us some breathtaking views of the city. We were able to take pictures of La Paz both in the daylight before sunset and at night with the entire city lit up. Those views are something none of us will every forget.
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