Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Hey All! Been awhile since my last entry...I spent all last week in Tarata (my site for the next two years) and then this is our last week of training in Coch! Really busy this week wrapping things up (and of course a little partying for Halloween and then Swear In where we actually become volunteers!) but will give you an update with pics of my site when I get it.

Big thank you to Blue Barry and Lau-ster! I got the Christmas card yesterday....haha, just two months early, don't worry about it. Was a really nice surprise to see a UBS envelope...hahaha, and filled with trashy mags (and a climbing mag!) plus a card from Bazza card designs! (although...I have to say the animal card still tops them all) Hehe...and of course the coolest carabiner picture frame...who knew they even sold things like that...ok, hope everyone is having an awesome Halloween! We're all dressed up here at the training center for our last day of training here (Swear In tomorrow!!!!) Will post some pics later...Sarah, Lindsay and I look reaaaaally amazingly hot in our potatoes of Bolivia costumes. Hehe, everyone thought they were pretty creative and I definitely am grateful to my host mom for sewing them up for us, she's definitely a professional.

Alrighty, talk to y'all later! xoxo, alegria ( little host brother in Tarata that's 4 yrs old already knows my name as alegria!)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

New Pics!

Check them out...complete with descriptions...


¡Adios Marquina!

So after Tech Week we had our despedida (farewell party) with our families in the community which consisted of a lovely lunch of mushroom chicken and then the presentation of certificates to the families for hosting us…this was then followed by a musical performance by some of the staff and then our presentation to the families of our special surprise which was the electric slide…or the tobogan electrico en espanol. The last part of the party was the cueca (a Bolivian dance) competition where I was Sarah’s partner and we were one of the three groups that won (out of the 9 groups)! We learned the dance in Spanish class the day before and I’d have to say our gimmicky plan where Sarah dressed up as the man in her host grandpa’s hat and suit jacket (albeit wearing a floral dress underneath with lace) allowed us an advantage…

Yesterday we finally left Marquina (the community where our homestay was) after our two-month stay there for training. It was a bittersweet moment because my host family was AWESOME (they gave Sarah and me these tinku (from one of the traditional Bolivian dances) scarves) but I think it was time for us to finally move on and get ready to head out to our sites which we’ll be staying in for the next two years! The last week with my family I spent cooking and hanging out…we had tests all week for the technical, cultural, and PC policies stuff we had learned and also had to finish up our big project and turn in our paper so that kept us occupied and then on Friday, Sarah and I started learned Quechua with our language teacher…it’s a pretty cool language that has some of these clicking noises in it and in both of our sites lots of people speak it so we’re trying to get a head start so at least we can greet people and say “Joy sutiy” which means I am Joy and know the difference between tanta (which means old thing) and t’anta (which has a clicky noise in it and means bread!)…with my family I made apple crisp last Sunday, brownies on Thursday (which were sooo yummy), chocolate chip pancakes with peaches and bananas on top in Spanish class on Friday, and then I took the family out to dinner to a pizza restaurant on Friday night. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better host family for my first two months and they’re already planning on coming out to visit me in my site sometime in January when the host son that was at college in Oruro gets back for vacation…I am really hoping I have my own kitchen in my site to cook! And I also want to start a kitchen garden (huerto familiar as they call it around here) since Christa (one of the trainers) taught a bunch of us last Saturday how we prepare the land for the garden and what are good things to plant and how to care for it…hopefully by the time some of you come down and visit me I’ll be plucking vegetables out of a garden to cook a nice little meal for you!

So the next two weeks the plans are for everyone to go off to their sites for a week on the official Site Visit where we get to see our housing, meet our counterparts and get an idea of the pueblo where we’ll be for the next two years…some people headed off to Sucre last night, others to Santa Cruz this morning, a few to Tarija via plane this afternoon, and then Sarah, 3 other volunteers, and I are hanging in Coch until tomorrow morning when we have an orientation meeting with our counterparts at a hotel somewhere around here. It’s nice being able to be in the city for a few days though and staying in a hostel…I finally got to shower! Woohoo…we were having a water problem in Marquina and for the last 4 days there wasn’t any water so it meant my host dad going around trying to find some to fill up some kind of tank where we could flush the toilet and use the sink…and that meant no showers at all so basically until this morning I hadn’t washed my hair for 6 days…was trying to go for the week long but had to give in. Last night we were walking around and happened to go to the plaza where there were this awesome capoeira (sp.?) group performing…totally reminded me of being in Salvador on Semester at Sea…it’s definitely one of the coolest art forms there is out there…requires a lot of coordination with another person (I think it’s some form of shadow boxing), the athletic ability of a gymnast (definitely they threw in some back handsprings in there), and the grace of a dancer. I’m psyched to finally get to see where I’m living in Tarata…some people are getting lots of surprises this weekend because they haven’t seen their regional cities yet (Santa Cruz, Tarija, or Sucre), nor their sites, nor met their counterparties or seen their housing. For me and some others, we don’t have many surprises because we already traveled to Tarata for Tech Weekend a few weekends ago, I met my counterpart at the Tourism Fair that we had a booth at, and well…I’m here in Coch right now! I definitely like Coch as a city though…it’s pretty metropolitan and we’re finding all the good places to get food (although not so much experiencing any nightlife at this point)…and of course we have our favorite ice cream (or frozen yogurt) place that we go to called Flavor Burst. Yesterday Sarah and I got these yummy java freeze things that were like icy coffee (think frappucino) with vanilla frozen yogurt on top! And my lovely purchase for today was when we went to the awesomest grocery store in Coch and I got this peppermint foot scrub that I am very excited to use since my feet are kind of gross (somehow being in Bolivia has made my feet smell bad whereas I never had a problem with foot odor before) and I need to exfoliate!

So after we get back from our Site Visits we basically have one more week together with B-46 before we all head out to our sites for good and we probably won’t see a lot of the people for three months until we have our reconnect conference where we all come back to Coch to see how everything is going…our last week we have lots of fun stuff going on like our last bits of training and then swear in! (which is when we FINALLY become volunteers and no longer trainees! Yeehaw! Next week is also Halloween which will be fun because Lindsay, Sarah and I are doing a group costume as “Potatoes of Bolivia” which is a tribute to the number of potatoes that we’ve eaten since we’ve been here since it’s quite the popular food (along with rice and noodles)…Lindsay is going as a chuno (basically a black hard little freeze dried potato), Sarah as a papalisa (this yellow colored potato that has pinkish-red splotches or veins running through it), and I’m going as a yucca (the potato substitute that is most popular in the department of Santa Cruz…oh to be a fried yucca or yucca used in a cunape…that delicious little pastry of yucca and cheese)…best part is that my host mom (who is quite the seamstress along with being an amazing cook) made all of our costumes and we have matching gorros (hats) for them which are so freaking cute! Hehe…I will definitely post some pictures after Halloween…and Steph, don’t worry, although this was a good idea, we’re not nuts and the Almond Joy is definitely more clever! It was also fun this week because we finally got our Cuerpo de Paz (PC) fleece jackets that we had ordered and then we also got our B-46 poleras (t-shirts) which Kasia designed so they have the PC logo on the sleeve and the cutest llama on the back with a little blankie over it’s back that says B-46…hehe.

Ok everyone, that’s all I have for now…hope all is well in the U.S. or wherever you are (seems like everyone has been doing some ridiculous traveling lately…Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Ireland, Cyprus, Switzerland, Greek Islands, Turkey…or maybe that’s mostly just Kelley being ridiculous with her traveling as usual…jealousy! For real!). Miss you and love you all!

Friday, October 12, 2007

¡Muchas Gracias Eviekins!

Just wanted to give a shout out to Evie for the ridiculously cool care package she sent me (that finally got here after more than a month of being in transit!) There´s nothing like reading trashy articles from Cosmo while you stuff your face full of cookies, gummi bears and goldfish. Ah yes. Nothing beats that. :)

Also, apologies to those who I owe emails and you´re seething about the fact that I am writing blog entries but haven´t responded to your emails yet...that includes Kelley (first and foremost for her bullet pointed, well organized letter about you, me, and UBS), Lau-ster, and most recently Steph (who I have to give major props to for missing her flight coming back from Munich...definitely got a kick out of that when I read it knowing your anal retentive nature...I have to say...if Steph misses a flight due to oversleeping, the rest of the world is screwed).

Only one more week with our host families! Then we head out for a week of Site Visit where everyone travels to the place where they´re going to be spending the next two years of their lives and gets to familiarize themselves with their counterpart that they´re going to be working with and the town they are going to be living in...for me, not so much a surprise since I already met my counterpart and have been to Tarata...but others are pretty psyched. After the Site Visits we´ll spend one more week in a hotel in Coch living it up and enjoying the last few days with B46 and then we´re off on our own! I have to say I´m pretty excited to finally get to be starting work soon and being in my site...we´ve had a few good tech training classes lately on micro-credit and exportation of goods that have gotten me psyched up for working! This weekend we have a ceremony with our host families in our communities (complete with dancing...we learned the cueca in our Spanish classes today) so hopefully I´ll have some more good pictures to post. Arggghh...I keep on forgetting to download pics to my flash drive so I can bring them with me. Actually it´s just the total lack of time for anything recently but I´ll definitely try to get on that soon! Laters kiddos!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Tech Week = Fun Week!

First of all, thanks Mary for the magazines! Got them right before I left for Tech Week so I had some nice reading material on the bus ride and was able to share with my fellow trainees…

So I spent the last week and a bit more (Sept 28th to Oct 6th) on Tech Week which is basically the capstone of our training where we get to put what we learned into action. We traveled to Semaipata (gorgeous little tourist town), Pucara (little pueblo in the middle of nowhere without electricity but is on the way to La Higuera which is the place where Che Guevara died/was captured) and spent most of the week in Vallegrande (awesome awesome town with great food). There were definitely some pretty classic moments along the way and within our group of trainees we really got to know each other a lot better which was definitely worthwhile. The fun began even before we left the training center (where we slept overnight in our Spanish classrooms and Tammy and I learned the art of how to set up a travel mosquito net)…Colin was eager to get a haircut so we all took turns at hacking at pieces of his hair and giving him a mohawk with his purple bikini line trimmer (which he claims is exactly the same as the beard trimmer that is the same model but just in black…coming from the guy that has the pink digital camera…do we sense a pattern here?)…eventually we managed to give him a decent buzz cut and then convinced Tyler to also get his hair buzzed for the first time in his life. Hey, Peace Corps, you’re experiencing a bunch of things for the first time, why not a nice short haircut? I was almost tempted to give the head shave another try too since it would be much easier to maintain greasy hair if it were only a centimeter long but I held myself back. The next morning we hopped in Moby Dick (the PC bus) and headed on our 10 hour ride to Semaipata…only to be stopped on one of the roads in what seemed like a traffic jam, but actually was a potato jam (only in Bolivia, man…) which was these massive bags of potatoes that were in the middle of the road so no cars could pass…Armando asked a bunch of the guys in our group to get out and help and move the sacks of potatoes but we just had to laugh when they went out there and all they did was stand there and even with their lame attempts to move the sacks of potatoes…in the end it was probably some cholitas (the women in Bolivia with traditional dress and seem to have superhuman strength with the amount of stuff they can carry on their backs) that finally cleared up the problems and then we were on our way again… On the night we stayed in a hostel in Semaipata, a few of the Santa Cruz volunteers came out and decided it was time to go out and have some fun. Sarah, Lindsay and I decided after a nice dinner and ice cream (yum!!!) it was time to head to bed so we went back to the hostel and I set up my lovely travel mosquito net and hopped in ready for bed. It was later that night after Sarah and I had some good laughs about Don Roque finding stool samples in paper bags in his mailbox at the training center (apparently that is what happens when someone is sick and needs their sample analyzed in the lab in Coch) that Jonathan (one crazy loud dude that is one of the current volunteers getting ready to end his service) decided to rouse everyone left in the hostel and get them to go out to Discoteca Che Wilson (apparently THE hot spot in Semaipata, definitely not saying much)…classic lines of him knocking on the doors and calling people “poopyfaces” and asking “Bill, are you awake? Bill, do you like FUN?” in attempts to get people to come out…we eventually did get out of bed and go out for a bit. A few of us headed back early and I would have been pissed (had it not been so amusing) when I was woken up several hours later when Sarah came in with Jonathan and Jonathan’s taunting that I was using my lame mosquito net and threatening to elbow drop me through the mosquito net. Ah yes, another WWE fan. Brings me back to those good old high school days of watching Stone Cold Steve Austin on the tele and flipping the channel really quickly when my mom would walk into the room when I was watching RAW on Monday nights. The next day in Semaipata we went to Las Cuevas which were these waterfalls (with barely any water at the bottom) but people stood under the waterfalls and got knocked down by them and all sorts of exciting fun…after that it was back into the bus on the way to Pucara…complete with iTrip so we had some Snoop Dogg and then Disney song sing-a-longs. Things you never thought would happen in Bolivia…other selections along the way were stand-up by Dane Cook (very amusing) and Margaret Cho (Asian-American humor that was lost on everyone except Tammy and I). In Pucara, we went on this hike to put up these tourist signs that we painted and then we also went to see La Higuera which is where a massive bust of Che is located (which was also pretty neat because this past Monday, Oct 7th) was the anniversary of the death of Che so Vallegrande was crawling with tourists when we were there. It was pretty classic when we were coming down one of the hills during the hike because some of the volunteers had gotten down more quickly and there was this part where it was kind of slippery with rocks…they were taking bets on who would fall…and some of them were surprisingly accurate with Lindsay in front of me falling once…then about two feet in front of where everyone was…falling again, and someone managed to call it.

When we finally got to Vallegrande where we spent most of Tech Week we went to the school do to a business simulation…which was actually real businesses where we taught (in Spanish!) about starting your own business and principles like a market study and cost analysis and calculating profits…and then unleashed groups of students on the town to run their businesses which ranged from making jello or chicken sandwiches to holding a dance (full dancing! which apparently full means “cool” around here and they use the word dancing instead of baile or danza like how we use French words when we’re talking in English) and making and selling friendship bracelets. Highlights of Vallegrande were definitely the licuados (whole milk with fruit), bread (one day I ate like 15 rolls no joke, cunapes which are these delicious little chewy goodness rolls of yucca and cheese, empanadas, and whatever other little desserts I could get my grubby little hands on), watching the high school gym class (which was basically these students jumping off this springboard and doing forward rolls onto these mats which ended up as face-plants for some of them), playing catch phrase and going out to a karaoke bar on the last night that we were in Vallegrande. The most ridiculous part of the trip was probably when Claire’s dog apparently ran a marathon (no joke, over 40 km) from Pucara to Vallegrande following a pair of German tourists on their bicycles…usually her dog just follows the bus or whatever for a mile and then goes back…but she just happened to see a dog in the plaza of Vallegrande and was like, hey, that looks like my dog…and she called to it and it came over! Crazy stuff man…coincidence that she just happened to see the dog in the plaza or else it would have been gone for good…

Anyways, tomorrow we have a parillada (yay bbq!) and site announcement day (which we basically already know…I’m going to be staying close to Coch). And I’ve come to the conclusion that contrary to popular belief, PC is going to make me more girly…tonight I went over to Tammy’s place with Lindsay and Brittanie for a toenail painting party (they are now a lovely shade of hot pink…and I finally took off the remnants of the nail polish from the pedicure from Mary’s wedding!) and I’ve been hankering for getting dressed up for something and making myself look pretty even though I am pretty filthy all the time. There is still hope for me yet!

Also, I can start having people come visit me pretty much anytime after I get into my site for a few months (around the new year) but I can’t take vacation until February so if you just want to hang out with me while I integrate into my community be my guest, but if you want to travel with me around Bolivia, you’ll have to wait a bit. It’ll be worth it, I promise! So start toughening up your stomach and get ready for some crazy fun experiences! Chao chicos!

P.S. Will try to post some more pics of stuff from Tech Week, etc. when I get a chance to load some stuff up on the computadora...until then hopefully my descriptions are sufficient!