Posted by: HelenRortvedt | 7 February 2009

369 Days in South America

One year and three days after I touched down on the South American continent’s highest commercial airport in La Paz, Bolivia, I went wheels up from Buenos Aires’ sea-level international airport bound for an icy Washington, DC.

And what a year it was. It took place predominantly in Bolivia, but with geographical cameos from Peru, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay as well. Largely unpredictable, but altogether fulfilling, January 30, 2008 to February 2, 2009 meant a lot to me.

I want to take a moment to say thank you to all of you who have supported and followed me through the adventures and trials of my South American sojourn. Gracias. Pachi. Thank you.

Life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect it to.  In fact, it never does.  And this year was certainly proof of that.

Bottom line: I am infinitely grateful for my experience in Bolivia.

I am inspired by the many people I met along the way.

My dreams are forever colored by the awesome landscapes, traditions and people of my beloved Bolivia. Thank you, Bolivia, for that invaluable gift.

In the spirit of recognizing the passage of time, I have chosen 12 images which I feel represent the passage of one year in my life. Please enjoy.



Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Arriving mid-rainy season, the Cochabmaba Valley was awash with green. A breathtaking first impression of a country I would grow to love immensely

MARCH 2008


Camiri, Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Our “Tech Week” travels brought us to the Chaco Boliviano. And we met some incredible kids along the way.

APRIL 2008


Cochabamba, Bolivia.

B-47 Swear In. Wish we hadn’t made all those jokes about being “the last training group in Bolivia”… Sometime you get what you wish for. Nevertheless, an honor to be a part of this crazy bunch of volunteers, now scattered across America and the Globe.

MAY 2008


La Palma, Chuquisaca, Bolivia.

Children of La Palma parade through town (the highway) on the 25th of May, which is the departmental holiday of Chuquisaca.

JUNE 2008


Tarvita, Chuquisaca, Bolivia.

I had the great fortune to travel with the teachers from my school in La Palma across the department to Tarvita. Here, the male teachers pose before beginning a friendly game of soccer. La Palma in red, Tarvita in blue. We got creamed…

JULY 2008


San Ignacio de Moxos, Beni, Bolivia.

Revelers wander through the crowded streets of town during their fiestas patronales, while trying to avoid the path of drunk men who careen through the crowds with fireworks alight atop their hats.



Comunidad Sotani, Chuquisaca, Bolivia

I finally got to visit one of the distant satellite schools under the La Palma jurisdiction. This, the closest of the 6, is a 17km hike (mostly uphill) from La Palma. I was the first foreigner to ever visit this school. I was so looking forward to working with these kids. And was practicing my Quechua so I could communicate with them.



Sucre, Chuquisaca, Bolivia.

The unanticipated events that unfurled less than a week after this photo was taken indirectly shaped the rest of my experience in Bolivia. Here, several Peace Corps volunteers and friends of Peace Corps pose with former US Ambassador, Phillip Goldberg, who had come to Sucre for an official Embassy event in early September. Days later, he was told by Bolivian President Evo Morales that he was considered a persona non grata, and was asked to leave the country.



Parque Provincial Aconcagua, Mendoza, Argentina.

After deciding to close my service with Peace Corps following the suspension of the program in Bolivia in September, I took a vacation to Argentina with dear friends.  Standing in the presence of Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas, was absolutely the highlight.



Salar de Uyuni, Potosi, Bolivia.

A simple, yet universal plea.



Sajama, Oruro, Bolivia.

Potentially my favorite place in all of Bolivia, the town and the peak of the same name (Sajama) are delicately washed with late afternoon altiplano light.  Sajama also happens to be the tallest peak in Bolivia.



Trinidad, Itapua, Paraguay

The Jesuits were expelled from Paraguay in the 1850s, but the ruins of their missions still remain.  The ruins of Trinidad, outside of the city of Encarnacion are one of the least visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world.




  1. What an beautiful journey you’ve been on, H! Thanks for sharing the pictures — they’re incredible 🙂

  2. What gorgeous pictures you have from your time there… I’m sorry it worked out how it did. What are your plans now that you are back in DC?

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