Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Last week I was in Bolivia, South America doing some work for my nonprofit, Remember Nhu. I thought I'd share some photos from my time that was spent mostly in the city of Santa Cruz. This vibrant city is in the tropical lowlands east of the Andes Mountains and is a cosmopolitan hub for museums restaurants, and nightclubs. Because of Bolivia's poverty and also geographic position as a landlocked country, Bolivia has sadly become a south American hub for human trafficking hence why I was there doing some work for my organization. 

It was a jam-packed four days of work, however I did get to see some great friends and experience a bit of Bolivian culture and the buzzing life of Santa Cruz during my stay, and I thought I would share some photos from the trip!

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Santa Cruz is laid out like a lot of South American cities in 'rings,' where downtown is the central point and then each section of the city is organized in rings spreading out from there. When in downtown you see some beautiful local artwork, busy marketplaces, and classic South American and Spanish-influenced architecture. 

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The Bolivian food is really great, which I know from experiencing some of it at the food trucks in my home town of Portland : ). Bolivia cuisines features a lot of chicken and rice, vegetables, fun fresh juice beverages, and a few mouthwatering local favorites such as empanadas and salteñas. This was my first time trying salteñas, which are savory pastries filled with beef, pork or chicken mixed in a sweet, slightly spicy sauce and also sometimes pees, carrots, or other veggies. They're pretty good!

However all of the fresh produce kept catching my attention photography-wise. So colorful and delicious looking! Below are some of my faves from a Bolivian marketplace. 

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The Plaza downtown is a great place to hang out in Santa Cruz. There are beautiful flowering trees, statues, park benches for watching many passer by's, and a huge gorgeous cathedral / castle. I loved just walking around there and taking in the different scenes. 

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Some of the kids I was with in the plaza were chasing birds around, and then something shocking and awesome happened. One of the local Bolivian girls with us reached up and grabbed a pigeon out of the sky in mid flight! The bird just kept awkwardly flapping but she held on grinning ear to ear. It was hilarious and one of the most random things I'd ever seen! My photos of it weren't amazing because I was mostly laughing and looking at the strange spectacle with my own eyes, but you get the picture...

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Bolivia truly comes alive once the sun starts to set. The sky puts on a show of colors and people start to file out of shops and businesses onto the streets. Like most South American cultures, people eat dinner later than we do in North America and every night the social scene doesn't really get going until about 10pm! You'd be surprised how late people are out and how vibrant things are in Santa Cruz late at night. 

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Again, the real reason I was in Bolivia was to do some work for the children Remember Nhu helps. So naturally I have to include some of the smiling faces of these beautiful children. No matter how crazy things are for some human beings on earth, children are still children and every time I work with kids in impoverished settings I marvel at the joy, love, laughter, resilience, and playfulness I find. These are truly amazing human beings and being around them filled my soul again to overflowing. 

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Lastly, everywhere I go I can't help but photograph the local wildlife or pets I find around me. There were truly some gems this time, my favorite being a colorful parrot named Lauren who could repeat things I said in Spanish, such as "Agua, Por Favor!" hahahaha. Below is a few of the creatures I snapped some quick photos of. 

Bolivia is an amazing country with extremely friendly people, great food, culture and landscape. I want to go back to Santa Cruz again, and also next time go west to La Paz to experience Bolivia's mountainous region, which I hear is pretty epic. Maybe I'll see you there? 

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