“I’ve wanted to live in Latin America for a long time and Bolivia was clearly the place to be”
We would like to introduce you to the founder of Casa!
She doesn’t like mushy fries, loves the smell of pine trees and founded Casa de la Alegría 10 years ago. What keeps her awake at night and how did she settle in Bolivia? You can read that and more in the full interview.
“When I was here for my master’s degree, it became very clear that I wanted to live in Bolivia. And decided if I’m going to live here, then I really want to do something useful with my European network and experience I gained during my studies.
I asked Bolivian people, who were in my network thanks to my master’s research, what do you need? On that basis, and from what I have seen myself, I decided to set up the Casa de la Alegría foundation.”
Was it difficult with the language to settle in Bolivia?
“I now speak very good Spanish. But believe me, I don’t have a knack for languages, so I’ve suffered a lot. Especially because of the local slang and nuances. For example, in the beginning I told the theater teachers that I wanted the classes to be more like a therapy. Only to find out after half a year that the word therapy here mainly means manual labour. So important nuances.”
Do you have a relationship? And children?
“From a previous relationship with an American I have a daughter who is now six. I’ve had a Bolivian boyfriend for six months, so that’s hot off the press. I got lucky with my boyfriend, he is really the opposite of a macho, but when he met me he couldn’t fry an egg yet! He is forty and he still lives with his parents, just like all other men of forty. I can joke with him about it, but it’s very normal here. Of course it also has to do with poverty: living on your own is simply not affordable.”
Do you and your daughter ever go back to the Netherlands?
“Once, when she was three, I had been living in Bolivia for eight years. I thought it was important to do, because of her Dutch roots. It was weird for her, for example she said: “Mommy, all the kids here are blonde” and she’s really super blond herself, isn’t it. It was really weird for her. Normal things like the train and goats in the petting zoo, it was all a total culture shock for her”
What do you miss from the Netherlands?
“I miss my friends and the food. I think the food here is really terrible. I like a war potato, a croquette sandwich. But also Turkish pizzas, Lebanese or Afghan food, Arabic or Mexican. I gained 4 kilos when I was in the Netherlands last time. Fries, they don’t understand about that. They are all limp”
Do you prefer the forest or the beach?
“I have to say that I really miss the Kralingse Bos in Rotterdam, where I grew up, and the beach in The Hague. Those are such nice places. But still I am more of a forest person. I also love a breath of fresh air on the beach, but those pine trees… when I see them here, I always try to smell them.”
What keeps you awake?
“I am still too often awake from the amount of work. The amount of work on my desk is really a lot. And especially the amount of responsibility and things for which people can only turn to me, that is really enormous. I still wake up about that. “
“I have learned to delegate and I am still working very hard on it.”
– Laurie IJzerman, 2021