south america

04/12/2014 // Principal’s Office // Orobayaya, Bolivia

DSC02969 edited

A middle school in the Bolivian Amazon. I asked if the photos were Bolívar and Sucre, the two generals who fought to free Bolivia from Spanish rule. “Yes,” the principal said, “but the most important one is the one in the middle.”

04/24/2014 // Students // Bella Vista, Bolivia

DSC03032 edited

A friend in Bolivia sent me into the jungle for a few weeks to volunteer with some nuns he knew who he said were doing health education work–teaching people about sanitation, boiling water, etc. I took a plane across Bolivia into the provincial capital of Trinidad, then another flight on a Cessna six-seater with no seatbelts to arrive at Bella Vista. The nuns greeted me warmly but it turns out they weren’t doing health education at all (and for their part, they thought I was going to be a doctor!) I ended up teaching English and chess at the boarding school the nuns run. Miss these kids.

04/11/2014 // River Crossing // Bella Vista, Bolivia

DSC02913 edited

Wet season. In the dry season, this Amazon tributary is reduced to just a trickle.

04/06/2014 // A Warning // La Paz, Bolivia

DSC02871 edited

“We’ve had a big problem with burglary in this neighborhood. We got together and decided that this would be the best way to send a message.”

03/31/2014 // Thin Air Flamingoes // Potosí, Bolivia

DSC_0495 edited

Well, these are some flamingoes. In the high desert of southwest Bolivia, the birds concentrate on small lagunas like this that dot the landscape.

3/30/2014 // Lithium Love // Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

DSC_0361 edited

Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt desert, takes up hundreds of square miles in southwest Bolivia and is visible from space. Underneath it is by far the world’s largest lithium deposit, containing somewhere between 40 and 70 percent of the world’s total reserves. The mineral is used to power a wide variety of consumer electronics, and this GlobalPost report argues that the metal will become increasingly important as climate change drives the search for alternative forms of energy.

The Bolivian government sees the potential for windfall profits from the resource, and already has a lab on the Salar to experiment with various extraction methods. But as one Bolivian pointed out to me, widespread extraction would mean potentially scarring the view of one of the world’s most unique natural features. Big money for Bolivia maybe, but it would make the scene a little less romantic for the Argentinean couple off in the distance here.

03/29/2014 // Under Construction // El Alto, Bolivia

el alto

El Alto, built on the plateau beyond the valley of La Paz. It’s often referred to as the capital of Aymara culture, and the city’s growth reflects the growing urbanization of Bolivia–El Alto’s population was 11,000 in 1952, 307,000 in 1985, and about 800,000 today. Its endless streets of cubic red brick buildings are filled with Bolivians who combine urban life with rural custom, taking the Aymara language and culture and adapting it to city life. It’s a symbol of the increased power and cosmopolitanism of Bolivia’s indigenous peoples. They are still building.

03/29/2014 // Stonefaced // Tiwanaku, Bolivia


From Tiwanaku, capital of the pre-Inca Tiwanaku empire centered mostly in Bolivia. This dude is about ten feet tall, and well over 1,000 years old.

03/27/2014 // Cross on a Hill // La Paz, Bolivia

DSC02822 edited

Overlooking La Paz from “La ceja,” the ridge that separates La Paz from sister city El Alto.