Thursday, November 24, 2005

Well after everyone spent the afternoon fighting with recipes, ingredients, and “different” ovens, we all gathered at the Instituto around 7ish PM. Everyone brought something to our potluck Thanksgiving Fest.

Before everyone arrived, we realized that we didn’t have cups, plates, or silver ware. So instead of using our hands to eat, we all ransacked the Instituto to find something that would help us eat our food more civil. We were able to find plates in the kitchen, and I struck gold by finding a bag of plastic ware (consisting of spoons and forks…no knives). Then someone else found plastic cups. So needless to say our plates were quite funny. Using plastic spoons and forks to cut the turkey into sizes that fit into our mouths, and plastic cup to drink vine…it was pretty “ghetto.”

Once the table was prepared, we all said grace and the fest began. The funniest thing was when our friend Naunja (that is spelt wrong) came in. Not being from the states, this was his first Thanksgiving to ever be a part of. So he asked us, what he should bring. One of my friends told him to bring “something green…a vegetable. Something like broccoli.” He quickly accepted this, and was completely excited about bringing broccoli to his first Thanksgiving Fest. Naunja arrived about 30 minutes late, and brought his steamed broccoli in a very original container. It was the funniest thing to see.

Altogether, this was an awesome Thanksgiving. I mean it was different to be away from all my friends and family in the states, but I was thankful to “break bread” with some of my closest friends in South America. This will be one Thanksgiving for the books.


Photo from Roy Pequeno.

Last Tuesday, the North Americans decided that we should celebrate Thanksgiving together. A list was quickly drafted of who was coming and was plates were being made. As we started making the list, we realized that a turkey would probably be way too hard to actually cook. However, in my book Thanksgiving is all about TURKEY (I mean besides all that thankfulness and family/friends thing). I didn’t want to hear anything about us having a Thanksgiving dinner and no turkey, so I got “volunteered” to make the turkey.

So on Wednesday, Caitlin and I went to Santa Rosa’s to buy a turkey. We got a turkey that was about 6 kilos. I defrosted it and started cooking the stupid bird, early Thursday morning. Along with the help of my Bolivian brother, Pablo, the several hour ordeal commenced.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

City of Champions

Photo from Roy Pequeno.
So right now Ryan and I are a little bitter, that for some strange reason, it takes our letters from our families/friends like 18 times longer to get to Bolivia, vs. Emily and Caitlin who get their letters within a week. So on Tuesday, Caitlin got a package and noticed that it was from the Brockton House (one of the cities that has HCA: Domestic Volunteers). So excitedly, Ryan opens the package, and we find all this really cool stuff. I mean this package was awesome. The contents consisted of:
• Starbursts
• Hershey Bars
• Jolly Rancher Lollypops
• Trident gum
• A supermarket tabloid
• CD
The package was awesome. We are all really stoked about the package and are still on a sweet high from all the candy. Right now it’s easy to say that in our eyes the Brockton is not only “the city of champions” but “the HOUSE of champions.”


Monday, November 21, 2005

Pop goes the Andrea

So after I got home from playing volleyball with my friends, I walked into an emotional battlefield. Just about everyone was loopy and couldn’t speak. Carolina and Ceci (Andrea’s daughters) were jumping up and down the walls. Of course I had no idea, what was happening, so I went to find someone who could help me. I finally found Don Teddy and Andrea, whom told me that the doctor said that Andrea was going to have her son tonight. That explained why everyone was excited.

Since everyone wanted to go to the hospital and wait for the baby, I volunteered to watch my “Bolivian nieces.” I did this for two reasons:
I figured I would be bored just sitting in the waiting room. And if for some reason I was allowed in the delivery room, which would be just weird. I mean we are close and everything down here…but I wasn’t even in the room during my sister’s (my “real” sister) delivery
I would be taking care of 3 young girls, who would have to listen to me, since I am older and left in charge. Basically I would have 3 little slaves to do my biding. How could I pass that offer up?

To make a long story short, Andrea had her son around 11:20ish PM. The funny thing is that the Baby still doesn’t have a name. Her husband, Javi, is currently working in the states for like two more weeks, and she doesn’t want to name the Baby without her husband. So right now, we are calling the little dude, Baby.

Our Greatest Cheerleader

Photo from Roy Pequeno.
Well the results are in for the volleyball tournament. Unfortunately, we did not “earn” the right to challenge the first place team for the championship, but its all good. After a tough 10 weeks of volleyball, the results are in. From what I understand these were the results:
1. Los Tigres
2. Oblatos*
3. Siempre Listos*
4. Olasem
5. Group 10 (Las Profesoras)
6. Amanecer

As a “runner-up” or what I figure to be an honorary prize for playing (kinda like the award for Most Improved) each team received a prize. We received 8 pens (one for each of the players) and a really nice volleyball. Yes, ONE volleyball between the 8 of us. I still don’t know what we are gonna do with the stupid thing, cause splitting it into 8 pieces would be pointless. So I think Ryan and I are gonna go “Mission Impossible” style to steal the ball and take it with us to Chile. And what I mean by “Mission Impossible style” is just walk into the Instituto and take the ball. It really shouldn’t be that hard, but it just sounds more dangerous and cool using the proper terminology “Mission Impossible style.”

The picture is of Sr. Francis, who was at the majority of our games, cheering us on, when no one else did. She is great.

* I am not really sure what places both these teams came in, so I just guessed. Thus my results are not binding and I withhold the right to change them whenever I please. Especially just to make it seem like my team did a lot better. So if you check my blog and it say that Siempre Listos won the whole thing…I don’t want to get random comments about me being biased.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Lunch is served!

Photo from Roy Pequeno.
Well I know that I in some of my e-mails…actually most of them…I mention how lunch in Bolivia rocks. I know this is like the millionth time I have mentioned it…but they are like 5 course lunches. Since I am still not use to eating such a huge meal during lunch, my Bolivian mother always yells at me. She claims that I have lost some kilos and thus I need to eat more. Lunchtime has become a battle of wits. I try to put up a good fight when I am full, but most of the time I lose the battles, and have to eat seconds.

Anyway, instead of yall just taking my words and believing that my lunch is awesome. I have decided to post a picture of what we ate today. It has to be one of my favorite dishes here in Bolivia. Now I just need to learn how to cook it.

Today I lost the battle, and had to eat seconds...but as you probably assumed, I didnt mind too much!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Good Advice

Photo from Roy Pequeno.
After a long and hard week of “class” a few of us decided to go bowling. One of our profesoras invited us, and of course we accepted the invite. It was awesome. Here we are bowling, and I think that I can speak for the Americans, that we felt like we could have been in our hometowns if only for a brief period. Of course, we all kind of sucked it up. But hey, it’s all good.

As we left, I caught a glimpse of a sign that attracted my attention. So since I really liked the message the sign was saying, I had Caitlin take a picture of me and the sign. As you can see the sign says “Don’t drink too much.” I found it really humorous how the sign has a traffic light and instead of saying “don’t drink and drive” the advice is “don’t drink too much!” Friends, seriously this is great advice, please take it seriously...cause I am not. I found this to be freaking hilarious.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Full House

So over the past two weeks, the family dynamics in the house have changed. Usually at any given point I live with with 5 others in the house: Sra. Lilian (Bolivian mother), Pablo (Bolivian bother), Jessi (Pablo’s wife), Natalia (their daughter), and Don Victor (Sra. Lilian’s dad).

What has changed is now there are currently four other people who are living in the house. The first to arrive was Don Teddy (Bolivian father). Don Teddy works in Santa Cruz, and is usually gone for months at a time. However, when he doesn’t have any contract, he is allowed to come back home, until his company settles the contracts. Sometimes he is able to finish the work quick and returns in a few days, or sometimes the contacts are long and tedious and take months to finish. So he is back, which is a good thing.

The next person to move back into the house was Andrea (my Bolivian sister). Andrea is married to Javi and they live just a few houses down the street. However, currently Javi is in Minnesota for a month at some work conference. So instead of Andrea staying in her home by herself and her two girls, they moved in. Carolina (9) and Ceci (4) are a hoot. The only downfall to this whole thing, is that when I want to take a nap in the mid-afternoon (after my elephant portioned lunch), I can’t. I usually make my way to my bed, only to get attacked by all my “nieces.” I swear that they think that I am huge toy, some along the “My Buddy” but life-size and real. This is actually really cool and makes me feel like I am at home playing with my cousins.

The surprise guest who moved in was Shirley (my youngest Bolivian sister). Shirley is married to Gonzalo, and she moved in with us for a short period. It sounded like she had a lot of homework to do, and was using the computer and stuff in our house. The second advantage was that “our house” is closer to her university, which is why she will be living with us for a short while.

With all these people living in the house, patience is key. Fighting for the shower in the morning, chairs at the table, and the TV are fun. When we all go to bed, I can’t help but feel like the Bolivian equivalent of the Waltons.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Siempre Listos

Photo from Roy Pequeno.
Well, once again Siempre Listos (the volleyball team that I am a part of) played this past Monday. Lately we have actually gotten our game together, and we have beaten just about every team we have faced. Currently we are “ranked” in the upper division but no one really knows. This tournament has been fairly organized, but for the most part the players have no idea what is happening. We just show up, in the hopes that we get to play on Mondays. I believe we are currently in second place, and are hoping for a chance to duke it out with Los Tigres. Time will only tell. Keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Snack time Roni

Yesterday, my hermanas and I were in a huge debate over the words ingenuo (navie) vs ignorant. After about an hour and a half of debating, the conversation ended…and everyone was still talking to each other. I was surprised, because my familia can be very “passionate” when it comes to their opinions. After the debate I thought of my sister.

For those of you who don’t know my sister, you’re missing out. I will just say she is a character. However, one characteristic that I will always remember my sister by is her compulsive need to eat cereal at random hours. I mean there were times she would sneak down in the middle of the night (around 3 in the morning) to eat cereal. And that was before she was pregnant! And cereal is what made me think of her.

Anyway, yesterday my hermanas offered me a bocado (snack). Of course I offered, cause who am I to pass up food? My snack ended up being the Bolivian equivalent to yogurt and garonla, however ours was cornflakes (either plain or chocolate flavored) with yogurt. It was awesome and has now become one of my favorite snacks.

So Roni the next time you get hungry…try this…I think you might like it.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Answered Prayers?

So after hitting up that stupid mountain that almost got us killed, we all went home to rest. That evening, Ryan, Caitlin and I all went to visit an ex HCAer from Portland (Kim), who just happens to be in Cochabamba. So since we are a close group, we got together with her to show some HCA love. She offered us dinner and then also took us to a live telemarthon, where her friend was playing in a band. After the experience yesterday, at Nuestra Casa, I still had these girls…or these ANGELS…on my mind. Kim’s friend went on stage with his band, and their lyrics were amazing. They helped bring a smile to my face.

Nuestro Jesus Cristo
Padre de este mundo
Te pedimos
Que recuerdas a tus hijos.

I believe this to be a sign that the Angels I met yesterday will be fine.

Mountains Suck

As I wake up every morning and walk to the Instituto, I still can’t get over the fact that I have mountains a few kilometers away. I am blown away everyday, and I am trying my hardest not to take for granted this beautiful scenery. However, I felt that in order to truly take in the scenery, I should climb the mountain. Of course, I didn’t want to climb this mountain by myself, so I suckered…I mean…asked my great friends, Ryan and Caitlin (I would have asked Emily…but she went on a trip this weekend), to climb the mountain with me. Since they are pretty “tranquil” people, they agreed. The only catch was that Caitlin wanted to beat the heat and meet up at her place around 6:15 in the FREAKIN’ MORNING!

Saturday morning, Ryan comes over to my place and we hitch a ride with a taxi to Caitlin’s crib. She hops in the taxi and off we go to face Mt. Tunari. After about a 30 minute drive we finally get to the park entrance. We pay the taxi driver, and about 6:45, still half asleep, we start following a trail.

After about 15 minutes, we really don’t know where the trail is leading, and ask for directions. (You would think we would take this as a sign of what might happen in the future, but we didn’t even think of it.) After getting pointed in the right direction, we come to a fork in the road. On one side, there are five barking dogs and the other side a nice house. Being all in agreement that we don’t need another dog incident, we don’t pay any attention to the dogs and take the path to the house. Then we hear “No hay camino alla!” Now we are like “Crap, we have to back track and face those dogs, because there isn’t a path this way. Good going us!” We go back a half of kilometer and find a path. We take the path and finally begin to find steps. We start making our way up the stairs and get really tired, really fast. We take several breaks, and drink a lot of water. After about two hours of hiking up these natural stairs, we decide that it would be easier to take the road. The only bad thing about the road is that it has several zig-zags, instead of going straight up. After about another hour or so (around 10 kilometer marker) we reach a really cool playground.

Instead of conserving our energy, we play around. I decide to go down the biggest slide that I have gone down in a while, and Ryan anxiously waiting for a partner to play on the teeter-totter. After sliding down the slide, and hitting an invisible hump on the slide (that hurt like no other) I joined Ryan. We start playing around on the teeter-totter and had a blast. (Side note: If any of y’all have the opportunity to play on one of those things DO IT. I bet you have already forgotten how much fun they are.) Caitlin took some pictures of us, and then I switched out with her and got some pictures of them. After goofing off for a while, we started up the mountain again.

Now it’s about 10:20, we have been hiking for about 4 hours, and we are dying. I don’t know what is keeping us going but we miraculously continue to put one foot in front of the other. Around 10:40, we swear we have found the peak, only to be fooled and realize that there is no way we are ever going to reach the peak. So we pick the highest spot that we are at, and claim its one of the peaks of Mt. Tunari. We get some great pictures and then peace out of there.

Our way down is where the fun began. Instead of following the road (that zig-zagged) we decided to cut corners. This worked the first few times, but on the third or fourth try, we found the flaw in our plan. After about 15 minutes of hiking down the side of a mountain, we realized that we weren’t going to intersect with the path. By this time Caitlin is mocking our idea and we are all getting tired. However, Ryan keeps an optimistic point of view saying “Don’t worry Caitlin we are going in the right direction…DOWN…and making great time!” After another 10 minutes, Ryan and I see the path; however, we realize that it’s on the mountain to our left. Somehow we crossed mountains and we knew that there was no way we would intersect the path. To make matters worse, or to add a sense of adventure, the clouds behind us look really black and we know there is a storm on the way. I don’t know how, but in less than an hour we find ourselves walking through a small village. The people are really helpful and then we end up passing the same little shack where six hours earlier we asked directions to find the mountain path. Needless to say, we took the first taxi turfi to town, and walked home from there.

Altogether it was a great experience, and I feel a lot closer to Caitlin and Ryan. Mainly cause we didn’t kill each other on that mountain.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Nuestra Casa

After two months of Spanish classes, our profesores decided that it was about time that we, the students, finally put our training to practice. So, today, each student was given the opportunity to pick a Cochabamba visitation site. Some of my colleagues went to: the hospital, the campo, women shelters, and other various places.

Ryan and I chose to visit “Nuestra Casa” an orphanage for girls, along with three of our profesores (Teresita, Oscar, and Karla). This house opened its doors to 8 wonderful little girls on October 7, which range from ages 6 to 14. We arrived at 8:30 AM, while the girls where cleaning the house. Each individual had their respective household chore. Between the 8 of them, they finished in no time. Then the games began.

The first game we played was called (my SLT buddies should know this) All My Neighbors. Basically you have one less chair than the number of people playing the game, and one individual in the middle. Then person in the middle then say something along the lines of “I love all my neighbors who have shoes on.” Then everyone with shoes gets up and runs to another chair, and the person without a chair goes in the middle and it starts all over. However, once you got stuck in the middle three times you had to give up something that you had as a bribe to keep playing. After about half an hour of playing, we were all anxious to retrieve our items. However, before each person received their item, they had to pay a punishment (which the girls chose) in order to retrieve it. Ryan had to act like a roach to earn his watch, whereas I was given “las siete cruzes.” Basically, someone went around making the sign of the cross on 7 areas, and I had to kiss them.

Our second game we played something like hot potato, but of course with a Bolivian twist. Basically in our group of 10 people, two individuals had a scarf. One scarf had one knot, and the second scarf had two knots. Then on the count of three, both individuals had to undo the knots and then tie the number of knots their scarf had at the beginning. The unlucky individual who got caught with both scarves had to do some punishment.

Between games, the dining area transformed into a dance club and the place was bouncing. These girls would put music on and the dances started coming out. Three of the girls even put on a dance performance for us. We all danced for at least an hour. Ryan and I got some really dance lessons and by the end of the day we were felt like professionals. We are currently thinking of skipping the Thursday afternoon dance classes at the Instituto and just go to Nuestra Casa for our lessons.

Today was an awesome experience. I haven’t had this much fun in a while. However, about an hour before I left, I was reminded of the purpose of this Hogar. Unlike other hogares (that are more like orphanages) this place, Nueatra Casa, was different. These 8 beautiful and sweet girls were sent here because they were all victims of some type of abuse. This KILLED me. As I looked at one of the girls, I suddenly realized that the marks on her arms weren’t marks at all, but scars. I lost my breath and felt a pain in my chest, as if someone was stabbing my heart. I didn’t, and still don’t, understand who would hurt these wonderful girls. The only thing that kept me together was knowing that in this place, Nuestra Casa, these girls are protected and loved. Here these girls are loved by 7 other sisters and their Tio (used more as a title) Edward. They are part of a loving caring sweet family.

As we left, the girls latched on to us five visitors. Each one of them asked us to stay a little longer, or to come back tomorrow. Unfortunately I won’t be able to go back tomorrow, but I am going to try my hardest to stop by on a weekly basis to visit these little ANGELS.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Me and the Big JC

The other day, my hermano Pablo took Jessi (his wife), Natalia (his daughter) and me to visit the CRISTO. The CRISTO stands on a mountain/hill to the west of Cochabamba. HE is a landmark that helps me orient myself, when walking through Cochabamba. The funny thing is that there is also a CRISTO in Brazil, but since the one in Cochabamba was completed only ten years ago, it’s BIGGER than the one in Brazil.

Rumor has that the first blueprints of the CRISTO had various positions. Some that were considered were: CRISTO with one had over his heart, CRISTO with both hands extended in front of him, and finally, CRISTO with his arms open. I am not sure if the Cochabambinos were able to vote, or solely the architects, but the final decision was CRISTO with has arms open. Mainly because Cochabamba isn’t just in front of CRISTO but there are some houses behind him, and by having HIS arms open, HE is hugging everyone.

Day of the Dead table

Photo from Ryan Greenberg.
Día de Los Muertos

So Halloween came and passed, and since I am in Bolivia, no one really made a big deal about it. I think that in the whole month of October I saw maybe one store that had Halloween decorations. It was weird not to have a Halloween party, no Halloween candy, any trick-or-treaters, or a scary movie marathon. But I was able to participate in several Día de Los Muertos celebrations.

Día de Los Muertos (as described to me…and will probably vary from person to person, especially between Ryan, Caitlin, Emily and me) is as Sra. Lilian (mi madre boliviana) says “is the one day that GOD allows the departed souls to go back down to the earth, and visit their families.”

This celebration begins on November 1 with the preparation of “la mesa.” La mesa has five main components to it. The first component is pictures of the family’s relatives who have past away. These pictures could be of relatives who have past away recently or those who past away several years ago. The significance of the pictures is that these are the individuals or souls that will come to visit the family. The second component is food and drinks. Seeing as how this is the only day of the year that the souls can come visit, it is a tradition to prepare the favorite foods/drinks for the visiting souls. Glasses of water can also be found on the table, so the souls can have a drink after their long voyage back to their families. The third component is candles. The candles are lit exactly at noon on November 1, to welcome the souls to the house/mesa. The fourth component is a cross. The fifth component is a ladder. The ladder plays a huge significance in helping the souls get back to the clouds. Let me explain.

After a full day (from noon of Nov.1 to noon of Nov. 2) the souls must go back to where they came from. So the souls climb the ladder and make their way to the clouds. While in the clouds they help produce rain. Then when it finally rains, the souls (from what I gather) hold on to the raindrops and enter the ground.

Altogether this was an awesome experience. Families have huge “parties” and invite friends and family to join in the celebration of the dead. I found it truly amazing how people view death, not as an ending to life, but as the beginning of a new one. One interesting thing is the traditional drink Cicha. Cicha is basically an alcoholic drink made from some type of alcohol and corn. Whenever, you serve yourself a drink on Día de Los Muertos, you should always pour the first few drops on the ground in respect for your family members who have past away.

This is just a brief segment of the tradition (even though I really didn’t tell you what happened. But send me questions and I will answer them ASAP). I am sure that Ryan, Emily, and Caitlin will have more to tell. So, don’t forget to check out their blogs too. (They paid me to say that.)

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