Cell Phones, Classes, and Trufis

by Amizade Global Service-Learning

Today, Monday Sept. 12, was another beautiful day in Cochabamba. It was also an important day; today was the first day of classes. The four of us from Amizade met at 9 AM to meet our new Spanish instructor, Toni. I had heard very good things about her from many people, so I was excited to meet and work with her. We met at her beautiful house where our class will be. Meeting Toni also meant that she was going to evaluate our Spanish in order to determine what level each of our classes will be. Evaluation seemed like a scary word, but the actual evaluation was not scary at all. It was much more like a conversation where I talked about myself, my experience with learning Spanish, and what we would be covering in class. Toni is exciting and caring. Class with her is going to be a lot of work and challenging, but I am willing to accept that because I really want to take advantage of my time here and improve my Spanish.

After Spanish class, Jean Carla took the four of us downtown to buy cell phones. We all ended up buying basic LG phones for 180 Bolivianos, which is less than $30. It is actually a pretty long (or slow) process to get a simple prepaid cell phone in Bolivia. I was expecting it to be almost as easy as getting a prepaid phone in the US. In Bolivia, however, the person buying the phone needs to have ID so the cell phone company can register the cell phone to the buyer. It took at least 30 minutes to go through that whole process. Despite that, I am glad to have a phone that I can at least use for calls and texts.

During the evening, we had our Bolivian politics class with Vivian in the downtown area of Cochabamba. It would be a ridiculously long walk from my house to downtown, so I needed transportation. My host mom gave me a ride to class, but I was going to be on my own getting home. When I got in the car, she gave me a little sheet of paper that said what trufi to take and where to get off. This would be the first time I had to use the trufi. Trufis are cars or vans that drive routes through the city like a bus, but passengers can get on and off the trufi at whatever location along the route. One important thing that makes trufis better than busses is that they come much more frequently. The downside is that unlike busses, trufis cannot hold a lot of people.

The only students in my Bolivian politics class are the four of us from Amizade. It is an extremely small class! Vivian is very nice and very interested in the course material. This is also going to be a challenging class, but I am excited about it because I want to learn much more about Bolivia. The class was short. It was basically like any first day of class back at WVU. Normally though, this class is two hours long, lasting from 5-7 in the evening Monday and Thursday (We also have a 5-7 Global Service Learning class with Vivian on Wednesdays).

The end of class meant I had to catch a trufi home. The thought of it seemed frightening because I wasn’t sure what to expect.  One thing that made it more manageable was that Mark and I were going to take the same trufi. We waited and saw a few that we needed go by, but they were all full. After about five minutes, we found one with seats for both of us. It was really easy. All we had to do was tell the driver to stop once he got near our houses and pay him 1.70 Bolivianos. My first trufi ride was pretty successful.