Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I´m here...and I´m alive!

Here goes for my first post from Bolivia…I’ve only been here a week but it feels like a lot longer. We left DC last week on the 21st and I took my birthday flight to Bolivia with the 19 other people that are in B46 (B stands for Bolivia, 46 stands for the 46th group that has been here). In the group there are two couples, one older (like my parents’ age) and then another couple that is my age and has been married for two years. The rest of the group consists of lots of recent college grads and a few people like me that have been working for a few years. Everyone is really nice (hah…such a lame word to use but they are) and laid back so we’ve gotten to know each other pretty quickly. Mostly people are from the Midwest (think Ohio, Indiana) but there’s a few from the West Coast (Cali…my roomie during our first few days in Bolivia went to Berkeley) and both the couples are from Colorado. The next closest person to New England/Mid Atlantic is a guy from Allentown, PA.

After two days of college orientation-like activities in DC, we flew into La Paz where we were hurried off by the PC staff to hop on our connecting flight to Coch (what the other PC volunteers/people around here shorten Cochabamba to). When we arrived at the Coch airport we were greeted by really loud screaming people on the roof of the airport as we got off the plane…apparently there’s such thing to be involved with as a welcoming committee of current volunteers that come to welcome the new group to the country that scream at the top of their lungs when each new group arrives (3x per year) and then when we get into the airport they form a bridge/line thing (think CMU playfair) complete with welcome sign at the front that you have to run through while they’re screaming like the crazy Americans that we are. The first few days we spent at a “retreat” which was basically where we lived in a hotel, hung out with current volunteers (most of which have been here near the two years) and went to dinners with them, and then had a bunch of seminars/training from the country director and rest of the PC staff. We had interviews to figure out what we wanted in our sites and where our Spanish was at (I am in low intermediate I believe, thank you very much…even after 7 years) Those first few days we lived in luxury…just think, hot water from a shower and electricity that doesn’t go out when the wind blows too hard!

Then Saturday came and we found out who our host families were and we moved in and said bye to the other volunteers…we’re all living in the same community outside of Coch and see each other at training, language classes, etc but it’s definitely the beginning of the real PC experience. I’m living with probably the nicest family possible. Mom (Elvira…that’s El-vee-ra), Dad (Willy), and their three kids (Wilbur, 18, Katherine, 16, and Cristian, 10)…plus the friendly doggie (es muy amable when you think about all the other dogs running around with rabies…the current volunteers actually taught us the bend-quickly-and-pretend-you’re-picking-up-a-rock move to scare away the rabid stray dogs in the streets)…anyways, the dog’s name is Randall (after the character in Monsters Inc.!) and he’s a boxer. He kind of just sits there…very chill in comparison to other dogs around here. I live across the street from another trainee, Sarah, and we’re in language classes together.

We’ve had some fun moments so far in classes and whatnot, haha…horrible, but funny at the same time…we had a technical class at Dona Nancy’s casa yesterday and we were all there (15 MED or microenterprise trainees…the other 5 are agri-business and have technical classes separate from us…apparently learning about beekeeping or fish farms is not pertinent to what I’m going to be doing) and we were getting on the bus to go to visit a small business in the area. Well we got there and the guy wasn’t at home b/c there was an emergencia…but then as we got back on the bus one of the current volunteers Claire (that is helping with our training) was like, donde esta Sarah? Uh oh! It was kind of horrible…but we were laughing b/c it was only like 10 min from where Dona Nancy’s house was and we were going to swing back to pick her up…lo and behold, we get back (she had been in the bathroom when we left)…to our surprise and horror, she wasn’t the first person that walked out the door…it was another guy Chris! Horrendous…I guess at least we remembered that we forgot Sarah…I think now we’re instituting a count-off before we go anywhere. Bolivia, Bolivia…today we were supposed to go into Coch (which takes like an hour and a half by micro (bus) or trufi (van like bus)) but there was a para civico (basically a political demonstration) so all the transport into Coch (along with 5 of the other departamentos or states) was not running…it was nice though to get an afternoon to chill out (although we did have an assignment to do going around talking to people in the community…which ended up being just Sarah and I hanging out in my host family’s kitchen chatting with my host mom and dad) since we’ve been running around a bit. Tomorrow we’re heading into the city though with our language teachers (we learned all about the public transportation here…it’s slooow in general…I can’t wait to have to take those 18 hr bus rides across Bolivia when we get into our sites and are in the middle of nowhere) and then we’re going to the PC training center (complete with fish farms, both pit and dry latrines so you can take your pick, fishery, mini-greenhouse, and a menagerie of animals) for classes which we do every Wednesday.

In general things have been going alright, I’m working on getting adjusted to everything. I’ve had some really good/fun conversations with my host family and they’re so up to date on American TV/film…they saw the Simpsons movie already! And I watched Ghost in Spanish with them the other night and it was quite enjoyable. In the not so fun news, last night/today I’m dealing with the inevitable…my first bout of diarrhea and it’s lovely. Don’t worry, you’ll get to hear a lot about my bodily functions b/c half the time we talk about getting sick…we have a doctor here that we call Dr. Death b/c he tells us all about the ominous diseases we can catch from malaria to Chagas disease. I’m just hoping that my diarrhea is gone by tomorrow when I’m sitting on the 2 hr bus ride to get to the training center. And you know how I love to not shower…yeah, in my first (ok, 2nd week) I’m going on 4 days sin ducha! (that means w/o shower) My minimum level of hygiene has dropped since I’ve been here…and you know what my standards were like before so we’re def in trouble. I think that I’m going to adopt the once a week shower plan just to keep things interesting…I’ve already told my friends to tell me if I start to smell so I can shower, but I might actually start wearing deodorant (when I’m not working out)! Lovely lovely lovely. I know you wish you were sitting right next to me now!

Ok, enough about gross things and time to get to bed…going to upload this little bloggy blog at the training center manana (they actually have a computadora with internet!)….

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Staging Day 1

So far so good...made it to DC with all my luggage and started orientation today. Everyone seems nice and we've done fun things like draw pictures of llamas so far so it seems like if this is an indication of things to come everything will be alright :) At Mary's place right now...and after pigging out for dinner I'm definitely ready for a nap after getting 3 hrs of sleep last night and just a few quick snoozies on the plane and in the hotel lobby...zzzz...time to head back to the hotel and hop in bed (although not with a bag of potato chips as I usually do...eating potato chips while lying in bed is a hobby that I will have to give up when get down to Bolivia so I'd better stop it now while I can...) Adios!

On my way!

Flight leaves for DC in 2 hrs for staging! In customary fashion prior to a trip I only got 3 hours of sleep because I was doing last minute packing (I know I'm going to forget something important...) I went nuts right before I went to sleep though because somehow all the words on this page got translated to Chinese and I couldn't figure out how to create a new post, etc because I couldn't read the links to click on them! Oh well. As promised here's my address in Bolivia for the next 3 months.

Rules of sending things: under 4 lbs, articles listed on the mailing slip should be magazines, candy or even better as other people have noted "religious articles" and the total value of these things should be $0...this is so they don't get opened up by the post office and I don't have to pay to pick up the pkg...

Joy Lee, PCT
Cuerpo de Paz
Casilla #1603
Cochabamba, Bolivia
South America

Umm...that's about all I have for now. I have one hour to scramble around doing things that I forgot to do but can't remember I should be doing. Adios!