June 2 - June 17, 2013. Palca, Bolivia.

"U-M Bridge Fiesta"

As fortune would have it, the University of Michigan team was staying in the same hostel as me. I caught them an hour before they were to head out to Palca, their bridge building site, and told them about my cross-cultural preparation project with Bridges to Prosperity. They seemed keen to idea of me joining them at site and agreed to sit down for a couple interviews once I arrived. I spent another day or two in Cochabamba to take care of Internet duties before catching a ride with Netta to go out and visit them. The ride was long but beautiful as we drove for hours through winding hills with farmsteads dotting the countryside.


The next week was intense. Though I wasn’t building the bridge I was in full documentation mode and spent every last moment trying to capture life in Palca, schedule interviews with the team, and figure out the last remaining kinks in my newly purchased camera gear. The team had been granted a house right in the middle of the village and the bridge site was only a short five-minute walk away. We had plenty of community interaction, a big school with at least a hundred kids, electricity, an outhouse, and even a shower for those who could take the cold. I squeezed in four interviews and plenty of timelapse footage before the bridge was completed. On the last day I even strapped on some construction gear and helped hammer home the last remaining nails for the decking, all so I could get in enough time for one more interview before the festivities got under way.


The celebration was beautiful. The whole school came out and the community dressed the bridge in flowers, bandeleras, and harvest vegetables. Various community leaders and the engineering team made speeches before everyone made a procession across the bridge for a ribbon cutting. We then all gathered in the neighboring field for food, drink and dancing. The buckets of chicha and music soon came out and the festivities went late into the night. The next morning we packed up all our things, bid our friends farewell, and made our way back to Cochabamba.


It was obvious the shared experience of working together for so long, sharing in meals, dancing and celebration, had made an impact on everyone on the team. We went out for a final dinner together before saying our goodbyes. I took the next couple days to visit friends in the city and rest in my comfortable hostel bed before getting ready to head out to the CU team’s site for their bridge completion.

Photos: U-M Bridge Completion Celebration
Timelapse: Stars over el puente de Palca
Timelapse: Moon over el puente de Palca

Read about the Palca bridge on B2P's site HERE.

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Blog Archive

Chari Chari, Bolivia
"Una Vez Más"

2013.06.30: Cochabamba, Bolivia

Las Cruces, Bolivia
"Seguro Travesía"

2013.06.21: Copachuncho, Bolivia
"Duke/CU Bridge Fiesta"


Palca, Bolivia
"U-M Bridge Fiesta"

Rodeo Chico, Bolivia

2013.05.31: Copachuncho, Bolivia
"Regresar a Bolivia"

La Paz, Bolivia
"Bridging Cultures"