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Day 16: June 1, 2016 – More press and some worms

Wow I can’t believe it’s already June, time really flies in Bolivia. Today I woke up after having slept 11 hours the night before and I definitely felt a lot better. We had a surprise TV interview that was supposed to be at 9:30am – surprise because neither Akshay nor I knew about it. Anyway this TV channel was pretty jank, the set was falling to pieces and Akshay confirmed that his high school theater was better funded than this channel. But! We are extremely grateful to be on TV and on all these different media outlets –thanks again Rodrigo! Rodrigo is literally like a mom to us, he takes care of us and is always worrying about us. Anyway the TV interview didn’t happen until 10:15pm. Before us this dance group from Hughes school went on, that was a super nice surprise because we used to work with them and those kids are just great. We met and saw the director of the school Dalcy Hughes so that was great. The interview went well and the lady even gave us her contact info if we wanted to do more TV interviews – with that one done we have done 5 interviews in the past 2 days, so I think we’re all set on the interviews for now / we really have to focus on finishing up our work in the bathrooms, public health workshops and our research efforts this Friday.

After the interview –which by the way was the first one that me and Akshay did alone without Rodrigo, big steps—Rodrigo picked us up and we quickly went to the bathroom site with reporters from the largest newspaper in Bolivia “La Razon” with us. We got the site and talked to them about our work. They even sent a photographer so I hope he sends us all the pictures he took. The newspaper reporter was nice and gave us plenty of time to talk about our work. She even interviewed Sandra who gave a nice reply of “I’m so happy to have the bathroom because before the adults would have to go to the river and the kids would just go on the ground” something that me and Harsh witnessed first hand, more than once. By this point it was 11:30pm and Rodrigo was highly stressed because we had booked a talk with Univalle (largest university in Bolivia) for that time and we were all the way on the other side of the city. When we put in the time it would take to get to Univalle into our GPS it said 92 minutes…. Rodrigo called the university every 10 minutes or so with a new story about how our car had broken down, the taxi had gotten lost, the taxi had gotten into a car accident and finally how we magically picked up his own car and made it to the university at 12:20pm. Only 50 minutes late. The talk went pretty well we all presented what we did to a crowd of about 30 kids. We asked for questions at the end they had some good ones. We had lunch with them (Akshay’s meal was a solid Bolivian 5, American 3). And then 3-4 of them gave us a tour of the medical school. We got to go into a museum that had a bunch of preserved body parts and they brought out a cadaver for us to see so that was pretty cool. Definitely brought back memories for Akshay from his days working in the morgue. There were 3 students that took a particular shine to us – one was a masters student in public health who had just finished medical school, the other was the president of a science association 120 members strong at Univalle and the last was a 3rd year medical student interested in nutrition. We gave them all our contact information and told them to email us if they actually wanted to work with us in the future. It would definitely be cool if we could start RB chapters at Univalle and it seems feasible given their high levels of interest.

After this we went to Procasha –a group that Dr. Mecca had trained in his toilet design, some place we hoped would know where to get worms. Reminder: the bathroom is finished except for worms, I told Harsh to figure the worms out repeatedly but he obviously didn’t and it has been a constant, numb source of stress for Akshay and I the past week. The Procasha people were pretty untrustworthy at first and essentially told us to go to the river and dig up the worms ourselves. Like okay. That is just not happening. Then the director of the organization came in and recognized us from one of our many TV interviews – the late night one that is supposed to be watched by more than 100,000 Bolivians every night. They were definitely nicer then and said they had been wanting to contact us. We asked her about the worms and she said that the school of agriculture sold them for 20 bucks a pound of worms, seems expensive for worms. It was around 4pm by this time but we still went to the school to look for the worms. We found the place that they were sold but it was closed because apparently 4pm is no longer the working day… Unclear when people work in Bolivia. It was hot and we were tired by this point. I was dying once again even though I had done a decent job at staying alive during the day. I fell asleep in the taxi ride back.

Once we got back home Akshay went to the Quechua school at 6pm and I went to the gym at 5:30pm. The gym is like half gym half church for me because my spinning instructor likes to talk to me about God so that’s always fun (no like really, I love God a lot). When I got back home I got a very unemotional message from Akshay saying “We got the Ford grant” no exclamation mark, no nothing. The ford grant is a $25,000 for groups who want to do a public service project, today they had to announce the top 20 finalists and we made it!!!! I almost cried of joy. But Akshay and Harsh’s responses were ridiculously unemotional. Now that we’re in the top 20 finalists we have to come up with another proposal and a 2 minute video highlighting the stuff our NGO does. We do a lot so 2 minutes just isn’t enough time. But it will assure that we have a pretty awesome video filled with great information and content. Akshay and I planned the setup of the video last night and we are pretty hyped about it/ think we have a chance at winning. Just in case they read this, for the record, Akshay and Harsh wrote all of the grant so thanks to them – they are actually amazing human beings, and I’m so happy I met them/ have the opportunity to work with them.

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