What Bolivia Showed Me

by holli on May 8, 2015

I’ve been back from my trip to Bolivia for almost 2 weeks! While I wrote in my journal much of the way home, I have had a hard time figuring out how to share the deep shift in my perspective that Bolivia showed me. When I left, I wondered what would happen or how the trip with shape my hopes or even if I would discover that my dreams were real or lasting.

The best part of the trip was composed of the company - the people who made it an unforgettable experience: here's a few hamming it up for me at one of the many view points on the road to ToroToro.

The best part of the trip was composed of the company – the people who made it an unforgettable experience: here’s a few hamming it up for me at one of the many view points on the road to ToroToro.

I discovered that photography is a powerful tool to connect us across language and social status, almost as if it’s a form of communication all it’s own. It starts with a smile. And that moment in photography where you can feel the connection in a person’s eyes exists no matter the conditions.


A sweet lady along the road who grinned from ear to ear to have her portrait captured.

It doesn’t have to happen in a studio to be stunning.

Classmate Tina showing a sweet farmer his portrait.

Classmate Tina showing a sweet farmer his portrait.

Every person is beautiful. Sometimes you just have to show them so that they can see.

. . .

Even though the trip was humanitarian in nature to support Food For The Hungry in the fight against childhood malnutrition, it was a chance to grow as a photographer through Workshops With Purpose. And, to look into the lives of children who were happy no matter their growth chart, or circumstances.

Food For The Hungry helping families to fight malnutrition with family farms.

Food For The Hungry helping families to fight malnutrition with family farms.

I first saw poverty (unlike what you see in America) when I traveled to Bolivia at 16 as my Grandma’s traveling companion.  Going back and seeing it through my eyes as a wife and mother was a deeper experience. I saw how rich in spirit the kids were despite living in mud brick houses. I saw the same struggles with snotty noses and shy kids that we see at my house. And, I saw the strength of mothers and fathers working to grow a better future for their children…from the very basic of necessities…

The youngest of four, this little one's family is growing healthy kids with support of The Little Ones Project.

The youngest of four, this little one’s family is growing healthy kids with support of The Little Ones Project.

Food For The Hungry is working to eradicated childhood malnutrition, and the title Bolivia holds as having the second highest infant mortality rate. It was an honor to help them AND learn about how non-profit photography work looks in practice.

I had the pleasure of being able to ask many, many questions about how they work to engage the community, train local leaders to become advocates as well as learn about such things like irrigation and nutrition. Through a few of my fellow workshop companions (and Teachers), I saw what sponsoring a child looks like. It’s not just money given every month to the parents. It’s a support network and basic materials to grow and thrive. From some school supplies to funds that benefit the village to grow more food, sponsoring one kid can change a community.

The thing that impressed me the most about the many ways that Food For The Hungry works is that they have an exit plan. They don’t just put up a building to hand things out. They have a plan for empowering the community and letting them fill the roles needed for sustainability.

I asked Cristian to show me his favorite veggie out of the garden, and he chose Carrots (my son's favorite too)!

I asked Cristian to show me his favorite veggie out of the garden, and he chose Carrots (my son’s favorite too)!

The trip was such a growing experience as I personally have a deeper appreciation for my home and American life. At the same time, cliche though it sounds, want more of the simplicity that a life in rural Bolivia holds. I came home painfully aware of the shift that happened in my heart to be more present and grateful. It’s so easy to get sucked into the standard routine and connectivity to the Internet through various channels of social media. And yet, life here is so easy.

Ironically, I gave up our P-Patch plot last winter so that I could work more for funds to explore more of the world and to provide more for our family. We’d love a bigger house with land to grow our own food that we don’t have to share or that has produce stolen at random. I found that slightly funny as I photographed gardens in Bolivia. I gave up mine to go see theirs. And yet, I don’t need to have a garden of my own.

My children can grow up healthy and strong because we live in a country with a complex food system, one with choices. Again, ironically, we live in the “food desert” neighborhood because a grocery store is more than 2 bus rides away. But, that’s easy compared to a village outside ToroToro, Bolivia. It is these types of observations that I’m still wrestling with in that part of me that wants justice and fairness in the world.

Since that isn’t possible, I take photographs. We are not that much different from each other. We just have different opportunities. I hope that I make the most of mine, to do my part to help where and how I can.

There’s much more to share, but for now, my heartfelt gratitude for the experience and the support of my family and friends who helped make the trip possible!




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I finally feel like I’ve figured out my MTHFR gene mutation solution to avoid constant muscle spasms and great voids of energy.  And, the topic is finally hitting mainstream sites like The Stir’s “Why Some Moms Should Skip Prenatal Vitamins.” The article brings MTHFR to light, but is dangerously negligent in providing useful information and leads any headline skimmers grossly astray.

The fact is that we all need more vitamins and minerals than we can eat in a healthy diet. And, we know just enough to consume vitamins and supplements that may do more harm than good. That’s why it’s vital to consult with a doctor or health care provider AND to pay attention to how your body is feeling.

When I say that we know enough to do more harm than good, I’m talking about such articles like the one The Stir published. We now know that the Mother’s health is vital to a healthy kid, so not taking vitamins seems neglectful, to be perfectly honest. The frustrating thing is that the medical community is still arguing about the MTHFR gene thing. Not all of them are in agreement about what and how having one or all copies of the MTHFR mutation affect the body and pregnancy. So, yeah, the standard over-the-counter Prenatal vitamin may not be good for everyone, specifically those with MTHFR.

Some people are claiming that essential oils will heal the body’s ability to absorb vital vitamins like Folic Acid, and others claim you can do it by making your own liver pills. While I’m a huge proponent of natural, plant based medicine, I’ve personally found that lab created vitamins are what my body needs.

And, I have had a number of readers ask me to specifically share with them which vitamins I take. The problem I have with sharing that information is that no two bodies are the same. My MTHFR mutation is a single copy of C677T is coupled with Endometriosis. Many others with MTHFR have other health issues with Thyroid and Adrenals or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I think it’s vital for us to encourage each other, but also to do so with caution. What works for me may not be what will work for you. We all need to ask more questions and be our own advocate.

All that said, I will share what vitamins and minerals I’m taking (BUT PLEASE REMEMBER THIS IS WHAT WORKS FOR ME, AND I’M NOT A DOCTOR NOR DO I PLAY ONE ON TV):

Methyl Guard Plus (methylated B-vitamins) – I alternate between taking 2 capsules or just 1, depending on my period (If I take two on my period I get headaches). With that, I take 50mg (over the counter store brand) Zinc in the mornings. I always take those before noon, because otherwise, I have trouble sleeping, which is probably due to the Methyl Guard and nothing to do with the Zinc.
At night, before bed, I take 2 capsules Magnesium Glycinate (120mg) includes 10mg Vit. C, and 2 Potassium Citrate (99mg each tablet). What I have found is that if I don’t take the Methyl Guard in the mornings, it seems like my body doesn’t absorb the Magnesium at all and I get muscle spasms again in my arms and legs.
Also, I have found that if I drink more than 2 cups of coffee or have more than 2 cups of wine or servings of alcohol that it affects me badly. I have had to find this out the hard way and usually avoid drinking more than a cup of either stimulant.
And, I am happy to share that it sounds like getting tested is becoming more accepted and less costly since I started this journey almost 2 years ago!



p.s. Here’s the source article from The Stirs dangerously short post, which links to the research paper. And, a reminder that it’s important to do the research and talk with your doctor/health care provider!

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