Friday, November 30, 2007

Random Music…

So I finally decided to open up the folder of music that another volunteer transferred to my pen drive…aptly named “Latin Music” for what I had asked for…and I found some oldies but goodies that I feel I need to remind you guys of. Does anyone out there remember Poe? Such classics as “Hello” and “Angry Johnny”…haha, was that like middle school or what? And I hardly believe that Ludacris’ “Shake Your Money Maker” can be classified as Latin music, but hey whatever goes, when I get the urge to practice my dance moves, now I have something to flail my lanky limbs around to. Also, there was a song in this folder called “Las Chicas Quieren Chorizo”…hmm…if you don’t know what that means I’ll leave you to look it up. Whoever’s music this is I am having some serious doubts about their taste…

With that I will leave you with my favorite profound quote from Ludacris: “…took yo momma 9 months to make ya…might as well shake what your momma gave ya…” And isn’t that quite the truth.

My War vs. The Creepy Crawlies

One of the factors that might make me move houses once my two months are up here (when you’re allowed to find other housing if you want) are the bugs. My aluminum/tin creaky crap roof is pretty lame compared to what I’ve seen other people with and it sucks because it’s so loud when it rains, when the wind blows, when random animals run across it (pigeons, cats, etc.)…plus it’s kind of stinky around my house with all the chickens running around free and the pigs next door. I could sacrifice some of my space to have a little nicer place. I guess that’s the problem with not having a hardcore site without electricity and running water…then you want more things that are like what you had in the U.S. and before you know it you’re like, hey, this place is not like 35 1st Street in Stamford…when you should be thankful for the ridiculous amount of space and privacy you have and the reliable running water.

Anyways, back to the bugs…I think the roof might be a place where they’re getting in but I’m not quite sure. All I know is that I’ve identified and classified several groups of them and I live in fear that they’re going to end up in my bed crawling all over me during my sleep. I’ve always been squeamish when it comes to bugs (aka asking people to kill them for me) but I’ve already killed so many bugs here that I can’t count. The fumigation guy did come today (they fumigate your house 3x a year) but I doubt in my case it’ll make that much of a difference.

Flies – at first these were my biggest problem because there were literally like 50 of them at any given time in my house, but once I kept the door closed and not so many got in…but enough where a few would buzz around my head and really annoy me so I started killing them (I probably killed 10 the other day); I’ve designated a special piece of corrugated cardboard that was from the packaging for my bedsheets that is my fly-killing apparatus. My fear with the flies is that they are carrying some kind of horrid disease from the farm animals and then crawling on my dishes and food. I also noticed that some of these flies actually bled when I killed them. Is that possible?
Spiders – I’ve noticed two different types…one that is light brown and a little furry looking with longer legs and bigger sized, then the baby ones that are black and one hopped onto my shirt today to my horror. Spiders always kind of gross me out but just because they can move quickly and get away from me. I use the “Speaking Italian Made Easy” book that the volunteer before me left to kill these.
Pill Bugs – these are the least offensive although the most numerous, I generally just go around stomping on any that I see and then go back and clean them up when I sweep the floor. Kind of gross but I don’t mind them all that much.
Wasps – you already know my first experience with these. I think they have a nest in a tree outside my door that kind of scares me…plus when I throw water from dish washing or whatever else out my door from my wash basin I’m afraid that they’ll attack me. I generally don’t try to kill these unless they’re in my bed obviously. Or somehow managed to get in my house and are buzzing around ominously. Then the most effective method is squashing between “Life of Pi” and “CultureShock! Bolivia” or any other two solid books will probably do.
Cricket/the MSB (massive scary bug) – these are my least favorite (enemy #1) because they appear on the walls and are quite large, definitely more than an inch in length and it puzzles me how they get in. I once again use the “Speaking Italian Made Easy” book to kill them and then hop on the book a few times for good measure. The worst part of these bugs is that they have a surprising amount of slimy guts that end up splattered all over the floor after killing them. This requires me to use cleaning spray to spray down the book and the floor after each killing to scrape up as much of the guts as possible…but no matter how thorough the cleaning is, it always leaves a bug-gut stain on the floor wherever it got splattered. I’ve killed three of these since I’ve been in my house. Grossssss. Wah Mommy.
Miscellaneous others – includes fruit fly types, ants, and itty bitty reddish spiders. Clearly these are not memorable enough to warrant their own categories but are annoying nonetheless and I would prefer to live without them.

So I think that in essence…I’ll either be desensitized to it all in two months where I’ll just accept bug killing as a part of my daily routine like eating breakfast…or I’ll move out. I’m trying not to be scared of the bugs since I don’t really have any other option but I don’t like the idea of bugs popping out at me from random places like bags and whatnot so I try to keep bags that I have zipped up (don’t want any surprises in my bookbag) and I try to shake out clothes before I put them on (apparently the result of that can be bugs shaken out onto your body as what happened with the spider today).

Thanks Mom!

For the magazines (and cute note, I´ll be sure to keep on moving on up!), dried fruit (esp. the dried berry mix) and nuts, and most of all the yummy yummy YUMMY jar of peanut butter!!!! T´was a lovely surprise to get while I was in the city last week!

Festival de San Severino

Another Tarata festival has come and gone…this one is the biggest one of the year in the town, complete with dancing, marching, bands, food and more than enough chicha. I participated in this festival as a dancer in the morenada…requiring me to wear a sparkly skimpy outfit and dance for 5 hours in the cobblestone streets in platform thigh high boots. I had long braids woven into my hair (ew gross, real hair, when I had it in my house I would look over at it and get scared because it would remind me of that horror movie where you watch the video and then the girl with the hair covering her face comes out of the TV…for some reason the name is not coming to me right now) and I felt the pain of someone French braiding my hair that I had not since a dance recital many years ago. Some other interesting things that I observed…although it’s much more acceptable to urinate in public here (especially during festivals…you always have to watch out for the wet spots in the street because during festivals a lot more of those are attributable to people rather than dogs)…I did see an interesting sight: a man peeing on the side of the road against a building…while a young infant was perched on his shoulders. And throughout our dancing through the streets I came across more than a normal amount of women’s sanitary products (pads)…now these pads were just lying in the street along the way and luckily they had not been used for the appropriate purpose as of yet, so I have two theories of what people were using them for. One was as insoles for the ridiculously uncomfortable boots that both men and women had to wear (I haven’t felt that much foot pain ever…near the end I could barely stand much less dance…and that’s coming from a person that has done pointe before)…the other theory is that they were used as shoulder pads because in the morenada the men have to wear these ridiculously heavy outfits made out of this really solid cardboard (by their weight I might even think it was some kind of light plywood). Most of the men had pieces of foam for padding on the shoulders or shawls or towels layered in order to provide some sort of comfort. I guess I will never know though…

I definitely recommend anyone that wants to come visit me to come during this time since I could see the festival being pretty fun…I enjoyed minor celebrity status while we were dancing since I was like 8 feet tall and not Bolivian…got my picture taken several times along the way and of course we were invited to a lot of chicha and beer which of course made dancing more enjoyable. My most amusing moment was probably when we were taking a break and Nelly and the other two girls in my group were talking to this guy that Nelly went to university with (I’m not quite sure if they knew each other or whatever) and then the guy’s (cute but young) friend came up to me. Here’s the gist of the dialogue but of course this was in Spanish:

Guy: How did my friend end up with you guys?Me: Oh, he has beer and we wanted a drink (sarcastically).
Guy: Oh…where are you from, blah blah.
Me: The US, here as a volunteer, etc. etc. Are you from Tarata?
Guy: No, I’m from Cochabamba…just here for the festival. It’s my birthday!
Me: Oh happy birthday, how old are you turning?
Guy: 23…
Me: Oh, you’re a baby! I’m old…25.
Guy: No you’re not.
Me: I have lots of white hairs.
Guy: I have white hairs too.
Me: So what do you do for work?
Guy: I work in business doing budgeting/planning (I didn’t totally get this part…)
Me: Oh, so for the government or for a company or what?
Guy: In the private sector for a company.
Me: What does the company make?
Guy: Sugar.
(And then…I couldn’t resist…)
Me: Oh, you must be very sweet then. (har har, slapping him on the arm)
Guy: Umm…okay. Heh?

At that point I changed the topic back to his birthday just long enough so he could run away. Clearly he did not appreciate my sense of humor. Either that or he was scared. Most likely a combination of the both. Plus I know I need to work on my humor in Spanish…I don’t think people are all that into the puns around here.

I also attended a “dance” which totally reminded me of the one we went to during Tech Week. Conti – this one’s for you, the place was pretty much all high schoolers (high school boys!) I went with Nelly, who’s actually 23, but her brother was also there (who’s probably like 15) with his friends as well. The dancing actually was decently fun, but definitely having a beer helped in the process. If you’ve never been to a Bolivian dance, one thing you should know is that people don’t dance in circles…or in random groups scattered around. Everyone lines up in two lines facing each other…and when those lines get too long then they start another two lines next to it with people facing each other. One of the other girls that was in the morenada was dancing across from me for awhile while Nelly was dancing with one of her friends…and this girl across from me was actually a good dancer…but for some reason when I looked at her all I could think of based on her style of dancing was someone riding a horse. So I attempted not to look at her…but then she kept on invading my personal space and dancing closer and closer to me so I kept on having to move back lest I would be soon riding a horse as well. Giddyup.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Blast from the Past…Gas Scheduling…

I was just cleaning up my desktop and I came across an old gas scheduling spreadsheet that was leftover. I opened it up and when I took a look at it I got an odd chill and thought, man, that was kind of a fun job to have…as much button pushing and Excel work as it was…for a person that thrives on exhibiting my efficiency at mindless tasks, I’d have to say it fit my skill set very well. Looking at all those net outs and book outs and contracts…oh man! I will go as far to say that I kind of miss it…after all, even though there were those days that I was so bored out of my mind…but then there were those exhilarating days when you had so much to do and were down to the last minute before the 12:30 pm deadline that made it exciting to be a scheduler. Who knows, I always said that I’d leave it open and if I come back in two years and I want to schedule gas (is there any demand for bilingual gas schedulers? or does gas scheduling exist in the non-profit realm?)…then by golly, I’ll schedule gas. Of course on the West that is…since high volume and fewer pipes is more my thing. Absence does make the heart grown fonder and I think that you have to not be working in a particular job to appreciate the best parts of it…like how when I left OTC I realized how much I enjoyed the camaraderie of the group (which had fueled my baking insanity). When it comes down to it I’d say that I really did enjoy scheduling considering the circumstances and whatever I said about it earlier was true…that my reasons for leaving had nothing to do with the job, after all I think it was probably the most enjoyable for me job-wise that I had in my three years.

I think it’s really hard in this world to find a career path where you use the technical product knowledge that you already know from past jobs but then build on it to be able to perform your new job successfully…more often than not (at least in banking), it seems like you hop from one company to another performing basically the same job but maybe in a little different context. More realistically, I’ve seen that the “soft skills” are the ones that are really important and it doesn’t matter what product area you’re working in…if you’re a quick learner, analytical and have decent interpersonal skills (along with being semi-competent on the computer), you’ll be fine wherever you go. After all, in most jobs they do teach you everything you need to know on the job. Or you could go down the different path of dropping everything that you knew before in terms of technical knowledge (have I used anything to do with energy or credit derivatives yet? and trust me, nobody has been knocking on my door to learn what I know about gas pipelines) and starting over again. I guess that’s another prerequisite of signing up for the Peace Corps…not only do you have to be okay with showering once a week, but you also have to be okay with feeling incompetent and like a recent college graduate with no work experience from the day you arrive at your PC staging/orientation. In that case I think it’s a good thing I prefer to be the kind of person that knows the least in a group of people that can learn from everyone around him/her rather than being the subject matter expert (not that I would consider myself that in anything but sometimes it seemed like I gave off that vibe at work when people would come to me with the most random questions that were like…umm…how should I know?). Some days I look around me and wish I had a clue what was going on (esp. after someone rambles off something in Spanish to me that I totally didn’t catch and then gives me a look and I can’t tell if it’s because they asked me a question and I’m supposed to answer or if a nod and smile is sufficient)…but other days I just sit back and enjoy the ride. After all, I’m a VOLUNTEER and half the battle is figuring out how to help people and how they want to be helped before you can do anything useful. Patience. Have another cup of coffee (with powdered milk), chill out, and we’ll figure it out mañana…

Anyways, enough of living in the past three years. I’m ready to move on and fake it until I make it around here…no, I am neither an expert on tourism nor small business consulting, but heck, I will give it a shot at keeping my wits about me and using common sense in my approach and will try to learn quickly…

English Class is Therapeutic

I guess what they say is true about English classes as secondary projects being good stress relievers. Earlier today I was ready to throw a computer monitor out a window due to the ridiculously slow internet…and then I ate like 1/3 of a pan of brownies that I made supposedly for Turkey Day potluck dinner tomorrow…and 4 oreos and 4 cremositas (tasty sandwich cookies that are half the price of oreos)…so maybe it’s just PMS. Anyways, I literally sat in the internet café scheming to delete all the games on the computer I was at like Warcraft, etc. downloads…thinking that if I deleted them all then the computer would operate at a normal pace. I did sit at a computer for literally 15 minutes and was not able to pull up a single webpage (email, news, nor facebook!). So after that I decided to give up and pay my 1 boliviano for sitting in front of the useless piece of junk. Alas…I’ll try again another day. But then after that I had English class and although only two students were there…I did manage to spend some quality time with them. The first student is actually a teacher at the place where I teach…and we went over a little English then I spoke to him about the NGO that is where most of the students in the class are students. It’s a pretty neat concept actually…students that have to work during the week so they had to drop out of school but these students are over 18 (not eligible to be enrolled in the local school) so they’re working to get their high school degrees by going to classes Thursday – Saturday. Then the other student that came actually lives in a community close to Tarata and is going to university in Coch and she’s a linguistics major…working on not only her English, but French as well and later will be studying Quechua. I managed to help her a bit with her homework that she had for school as well as teaching her a few words in Chinese at her request…now she knows “ni hao” and “zai jian” along with my name in Chinese. Haha, that’s the second request I’ve had for learning some Chinese here…if I were actually any good at Chinese I would have started a Chinese class by now. So all in all, by the time I left English class I was much calmer and didn’t want to destroy any electronic equipment so I’d say that’s pretty good therapy considering the facts.

Tomorrow is Turkey Day! Pat and I are quite excited about going into the city to get some good grub and stay overnight and watch CABLE TV. Woohoo! It’s kind of like when I would go into the city from Stamford and go over to “assume the position” at Steph’s…as much as you might try to get me to leave the apartment…a quality weekend in my opinion involves plenty of DVR’ed episodes of good shows along with a fair share of Food Network and a little MTV thrown in and of course a late breakfast of bagels with cream cheese. Man oh man, I wish I could see some episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and Ugly Betty right now though…

La Cancha…

In español it means field…as in basketball or soccer…but in Cochabamba it also is synonymous with massive open air market to buy anything and everything under the sun. It’s a must-see tourist attraction if you’re here and it puts any other open air market I’ve experienced to shame, including the one in Shanghai (at least during the daytime…at nighttime Shilin in Taipei is better, but maybe that’s because I’m partial to the food there). I’ve bought anything from fruit to furniture to accessories to fabric to cleaning supplies and yes, real hair (for the dance that I’m in I have to wear long fake braids…and when I found out the hair I was buying was real I did have the gag / I want to vomit a bit reflex) there. The experience of being in the Cancha is basically a sensory overload. I’ve been there more times than I can count since being here in Bolivia but each time I go, once I’m in the thick of it, I get completely disoriented and have no idea where I am. When I’m there with other volunteers or by myself, I tend to stay on the edge of things so I can find my way out, but when I’m with someone (aka a Bolivian) that knows where they’re going, I basically run after the person trying not to get my eye poked out by the low hanging tent poles, getting caught behind slow-moving old people carrying ridiculously heavy loads of stuff, and trying not to get too distracted by the tasty food stalls. I couldn’t tell you really where anything is located in there…you’d have to ask a Bolivian for that information, but I do know that the meat section is definitely NOT for the faint of heart. Yes, I know some of you out there had some issues with the little sardines looking at you from my freezer while we were growing up or some get squeamish with whole fish or shrimp where the eyes look at you or a full duck hanging in a window…you can forget about surviving the meat section at the Cancha. They don’t hold anything back there and your nose tells you that. There are plenty of tasty choices though, such as the slices of fresh pineapple (risky), jello or flan served in little plastic cups (risky as well), and my personal favorite is the smorgasborg of bakery delights which are probably safest followed by anything fried. I’d have to say bread here in Bolivia rivals that in Taiwan…I’m partial to the cuñapes (yucca and cheese yumminess), empanadas (when they’re fresh and soft with cheesy goodness and onions on the inside), and humitas (a delectable slightly sweet cornmeal pastry).

Rain, Rain, Go away…in 4 months if we’re lucky…

I believe the rainy season here has officially started. I woke up last night to a thunderstorm…not the thunder or lightning, but the deafening sound of the rain on my tin/alumninum/whatever-metal-it-is roof. It’s virtually impossible to sleep with the sounds of the rain so I’m looking to get myself some earplugs ASAP to deal with it. My front yard has become somewhat of a mud pit already (hopefully they’ll build me a little pathway of rocks and cement to walk on to get to the bathroom and the rest of the world) and when I did venture out today to attempt a meeting at the tourism office I encountered my fair share of massive puddles in the cobblestone streets, avoiding getting splashed on by the cars going by, and splattering mud pretty much everywhere.

There is hope though…first of all I’m planning on hunkering down in my house for the rest of the day until this evening when I have to go to Coch to get my costume for the festival this weekend and trying to get some work done on fixing up a pamphlet in Publisher. Then I did see a man wearing those rubber rain boots that go up to your knees in the street today…so I figure if the gramps I saw wearing them can find them around here, I can as well. Plus I consider myself very lucky that the road from here to Coch is completely paved so if nothing else I will still be able to go into the city during rainy season…I’ve heard numerous horror (or maybe not since you get to be lazy for several months in a row) stories of volunteers during rainy season in campo sites where the roads to their closest city are washed out so they can’t travel at all and just hang out in their site on whatever provisions they have until it dries up and the roads are passable again.

Happy Thanksgiving / Turkey Day / Día de Acción de Gracias to all! I’ll be headed into the city on Thursday for a turkey dindin with some other volunteers and staff; Pat and I are cooking up a casserole (some combo of powdered soup mixes and cheesy rice with any veggies we can find thrown in) and some brownies for the potluck portion of the evening. And on Thursday I will indeed be thankful for some yummy food!

Reflections on Hand-Washing Laundry

After three months of doing my laundry by hand…I’ve come to realize a love-hate relationship with it. The pros are evident…when considering other options in Bolivia, it’s much cheaper than having someone else hand wash it for you and pay them for it (like my sitemate Pat does) or lugging it into the city to take it to a laundromat where you can *gasp* machine wash! I’d say that somewhere along the line I’m going to give in and choose one of those options for washing certain things like sweaters and sweatshirts and jeans, the things that are the biggest pains to wash because they retain so much water when you’re trying to rinse it out. Another merit of hand-washing is the superior effectiveness of spot cleaning compared to machine washing. I’ve found that in all my laundering experience that hand washing undergarments and clothes with stains is much more successful than merely throwing it into the machine for a cycle. There’s also a certain personal satisfaction that you get from hand-washing your clothes…you get a little exercise (I give myself my upper body workout by washing clothes) and you feel like you’re competent.

This being said…there are some clear disadvantages along with the time that it takes to hand-wash. Firstly is the major pain of things like jeans where they’re so hard to wring out and when you put them on the drying line you’re afraid they’re so water-logged and heavy that they’re just going to pull the whole line down. Secondly, for me is the location of where I wash the clothes…using plastic bins and buckets by my house…which also happens to be located in between the chickens and pigs and swarming with flies and wasps of some sort that buzz in my ear because there’s a nest in a tree somewhere close by. Then there is always your two majors fears of what is going to happen to your laundry in the process of washing…the worst things that can happen due to the amount of time that you’ve put into the act. There’s the fear that it’s going to rain while your laundry is out on the line and of course after it rains you just have to do your laundry again because in my belief rain water makes the clothes dirty again. And then there’s the worse one, that in transit from bucket to bucket or while the clothes are drying on the line a gust of wind will come and soon your newly washed clothes will be wet…and in the dirt…even dirtier than before you started washing them and you’ll have to wash them all over again. Of course this one can be remedied by using clothes pins on the line…but then again with the unpredictability of the weather…random gusts of wind can come and when you just assumed it was safe to hang your lightweight little seamless tank top from Gap on the line without a clothespin…*bam*…it’s in the dirt. And you’re washing it again tomorrow.

Getting Over the Guilt…

It’s noon and I still haven’t done much real “work” today. But I’m getting better at not feeling guilty about it! I did go running, take my first hot shower in the past two weeks, and did a massive and difficult load of laundry and did the dishes. Along with a little Excel work for figuring out codes for the alpaca products along with thinking about meeting up with Sonia today and other stuff I have to do in town. Ah yes, well I will be off to do my real work after lunch…it’s quite annoying actually because even though now I have two cell phones…for some reason it keeps on prompting me to make a long distance call when I’m not making a long distance call! Sheesharoni.

In other extremely important news, I did go “shopping” yesterday. Catalina, Nelly’s mom (the 24 year old girl that I’m friends with that invited me to be in their dance), sells Avon so I decided to treat myself after looking at the catalog and I placed a nice little order. I will be receiving exfoliating body wash, citrus body splash, face lotion with SPF 15, and a lovely shade of pink nail polish at the end of this month. As I’ve mentioned before, Bolivia is turning me into more of a girly-girl since the majority of the time I’m pretty gross (aka until this morning I didn’t take a shower for 6 days). Who knows, I’m even considering growing out my hair while I’m here. Maybe miracles do happen.


If there’s one thing you are supposed to learn in the Peace Corps it’s supposed to be patience according to all the stories that I’ve read. So today my dance practice consisted of sitting around for an hour and a half watching the other group dance…while supposedly the rest of the girls that I’m dancing with were in the city getting our costumes. Only later did I realize that there is a part of our group that is dancing tomorrow and for that they need different costumes than the ones that we’re wearing for San Severino (the biggest festival in Tarata that happens next weekend). Then I sat around and listened to them discuss how the other group is going to get their costumes for tomorrow for another half hour. Basically mass confusion (okay just Pat and I, the non-fluent Spanish speakers). I guess the one productive thing I did was teaching a six year old girl, Nayra (which means eyes in Quechua), a few words in English like “my name is” and “lightbulb” among others…along with playing this “let me guess what we’re going to roll on the dice game” as well.

The most amusing part of the night had to be when the little 3 year old boy who has been labeled by Pat as a future bully of the schoolyard was misbehaving. I knew it was time to leave when he started beating me up…first he threw a rock at me…so his dad or some other male figure in his family brought out the belt to “teach him a lesson” which was more like threatening him with a belt. Then the boy took the belt and started hitting me with it (Kim and Helen, this was no fun game of belt in the ear, fyi). Later on he resorted to more brute force without weaponry and started kicking Nayra and me. And this boy is pretty big for a 3 year old and then he decided to tackle me in the legs unexpectedly and I almost fell down and had to hold on to Nayra, a 6 year old, so I wouldn’t fall over. It was definitely time to leave when the 3 year olds are beating you up. Reminds me of when Pat’s dog was stolen by the 4 year old girl. Man. We are not doing too well with the young children here.

Working in Bolivia…

After less than two weeks as a working volunteer, I’ve come to the definite conclusion that things just take longer here. I went into Coch today to get a bunch of stuff done and only accomplished half of what I set out to do (although I did receive a very nice phone call courtesy of UBS from Kelley to hear all the updates on the sh*t that is going down). I did get myself a nice “sin chip” cell phone that I will put into use as soon as I get the man in the store to activate my Entel number and I’ll pass it out to y’all. And I did purchase a nice nonstick pot, casserole dish (so Pat and I can make our side dish for Turkey Day that we’re bringing into the city) and bread pan (banana bread here I come!). I once again overindulged myself on the “Casablanca” breakfast…where you get a ridiculous amount of food for the equivalent of $2.50. 4 pieces of bread with jam and butter, fresh squeezed OJ, café con leche, yogurt with muesli, big mixed fruit bowl and nice fried piece of campo cheese. Man oh man, even I couldn’t finish it all and then I felt like barfing all over myself afterwards…I didn’t have anyone to share the moment with since I was eating breakfast by myself (hey, you gotta treat yourself sometimes) while reading Los Tiempos (Coch’s newspaper).

“Can you step on the battery?” Sometimes the randomness of it all just makes you smile. So I had a meeting with Sonia and her husband Rene and got her some business with one of the sister’s of one of the PC employees who has a store in La Paz…and then accomplished other things like checking out books from the library…woohoo! Although I can already tell they’re not going to be useful since I wanted ESL lesson plans and all I am getting is strategies and fluffiness for teaching ESL. *Sigh* I need that Stand Out! book that I used for Literacy Volunteers! So we were heading home to Tarata in their van and we stopped to get a refresco…we always randomly stop and get soda on the way home from Coch…still trying to figure it out. So after we stopped, the exposed battery for the van in the back of the car near the foot of the backseat apparently needs to be stepped on for the car to start due to some kind of faulty connection…what a fun little trick. Not sure if that’s one of those things you probably don’t want to do if you don’t want to get seriously electrocuted (umm…electric showers here anyone? I’ve heard that every volunteer during their service gets a serious shock at least once). I got to do it once then Sonia took over when we made the other stops…which included the Bolivian randomness (which I love) where we stopped at their field of peach trees on the way home! Tarata is known for their peaches (duraznos) and they have a big festival for them in March…I can’t wait until they’re ripe (around Carnaval in February) because I’m going to definitely overindulge…peach smoothies, peach juice, peach bread (a spin on the banana bread), peach cobbler, peach with yogurt…everything’s going to be peachy keen! Har har. I recommend anyone that is planning on visiting to come during that time to eat some...I’ll hook ya up. Then as we were driving back we saw a game of fubito (not sure how that’s spelled) which is basically indoor yet outdoor soccer…soccer played on a basketball court. What was special about this game was that it was a bunch of women in cholita skirts (these beautiful velvety pleated skirts that make everyone look extremely full-figured until you look at their skinny little chicken legs sticking out from underneath) along with their jerseys for their teams. Ah yes. I will have to try to get a picture of that. Man oh man. And they wear their stockings under them too! Way too cute for words. Anyways, gotta run and get ready for dance practice…and then also hopefully get my cell phone set up. Along with prepping for my English class tomorrow and getting ready to go back into the city tomorrow as well for printing pamphlets, etc. and having other meetings. Who says the whole first year of your service is slow? I definitely have enough stuff to keep me occupied and I actually wish I had time to do my laundry and fix up my house and cook with the 10 lbs of vegetables that are sitting in my fridge! All I could muster up for dinner today was two fried eggs with my leftover fresh guacamole and two brownies. Guacamole and eggs aren’t a bad combo…kind of a like an alternative omelette. I guess as they say around here…those other things will wait until manana…

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Entries from the past few weeks…

Yes, I’ve been blogging on my laptop a bit to keep you informed but I’m not reliably somewhere that I can upload using a USB port every week anymore so I’ve been saving them all up to upload at once and overwhelm you with the sheer quantity of writing that I am capable of. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of emails, especially in mass email lists, with me, you understand. I type quickly, enjoy sharing the sordid details and thoughts of my life, and am skilled at rambling on about randomness…which most people consider annoying and pointless. So here they are for your enjoyment…

Festivals and Productivity

Currently listening to: Snow Patrol…reminds me of cold nighttime runs through the streets of Stamford in the winter

Spanish Words of the Day: imprimir (to print) and comprobar (to check – email!)

So the past few days (since Monday night until Wednesday) have been filled with partying Taratenos…today, November 14th, is Tarata’s anniversary…I believe the 197th from what I picked up from a discussion. That meant that on Monday night there was a parade with masses of people in the square of all the schools and various other organizations. Then on Tuesday more of the same…tons of people and vendors in the plaza…Pat and I took advantage of that and had our fair share of popcorn, hot dogs and fries (these are not your NYC hot dogs…they’re sliced hot dogs on top of fries in a little plastic bowls with mayo on top to be eaten with a toothpick), ice cream and random bags of mini peaches and plums. Too bad I forgot my camera so I have no pictures…but I figure the same thing happens year after year so I can just take some snapshots next year. It’s really interesting how the plaza comes alive when there is a festival or parade though...Tarata definitely is not a tranquilo pueblo when it comes to November, the month of the anniversary and San Severino. Then there were parties until very late where I heard the booming music until 3 am (I was snuggled deep under my covers)…apparently there was dogfighting at our neighbor’s house as well but from what I heard I just thought that was normal barking dogs, another night in Tarata. Wednesday was the military parade with all the soldiers from Coch…interestingly enough, somehow my host family was supposed to be throwing a big party for all the soldiers so basically they were cleaning house and then they had all these tables set up…of course this being Bolivia, once it started to rain the parade was postponed for a few hours and I don’t think all the soldiers were able to show up because there was a paro civico/bloqueo which is basically a protest where people were blockading the transportation into or out of Coch. Eventually the parade did go on (although I didn’t catch any of it…even though it started from within my house)…I was off doing work actually! I had a lovely two hour meeting with Sonia today about all of the logistics for our trip to La Paz as well as learning a bit more about her work and doing a cost analysis. I’m a business consultant! Haha…it was kind of fun to do work actually and we did a bunch of calculations for her costs for weaving her products and other things associated with it. I think I’m going to try to make a basic model in Excel for her to use and when her costs change, such as the price of yarn going up, she can just change one number and get her breakeven point. She makes some really nice stuff though…I was looking at all of it and am definitely going to buy a bunch of stuff for gifts and whatnot. And another of her strengths not only is the quality of her product but also her designs…she actually is really good at putting together color combinations and she was starting this manta (shawl) that was in different shades of blue and gray and I am definitely eager to see how it turns out because I want to buy it! I also got a chance to go to lunch with Pat today and enjoy some home-cooked Bolivian food. We went to her friend Cora’s house who is this little old super cute woman. She was having all these people over for the festival and it turned out to be her childhood friends. It totally reminded me of my dad during Chinese New Year when he gathers with all his friends once a year to chat and dine. All of Cora’s friends live in Coch now but they come back to Tarata each year and have lunch together and hang out on the anniversary of Tarata…and they were talking about things such as so-and-so’s aunt is 97 now and still walks through the streets of Tarata, etc. etc. Sooo cute. Cute old people. Hehehe. Plus I got to try the chicha morado! It was actually pretty tasty…chicha is pretty delicious considering it is an alcoholic drink. It isn’t as fizzy as beer but still has a little fizz but is sweeter and tastier. Well I guess there is a time and place for each drink but I think I will take a liking to chicha during festivals.

In other productive news…I finished re-covering my stools with pinstripe and polka dotted cloth and also baked brownies that I shared with my host family and Sonia’s family. And I have a date for the upcoming holidays! I’ll be in Coch spending Turkey Day with my fellow volunteers (we’re doing a potluck) and then for Navidad I’m going to go back to my host family during training and we’re going to make lasagna and some kind of dessert. Yay, I have family here! Speaking of family…the volunteer that I’m replacing, Patti, is leaving tomorrow with her fiancée, Huber, whose family I am living with. So they’re both moving out and heading off to the good U.S. of A.! Crazy crazy…Huber will be in for a shock in terms of the weather since Patti is from Chicago and I’m sure it’s gonna get pretty cold in just a few weeks but it’s definitely an exciting time for them both and we’re wishing them the best of luck!

I also painted my toenails today. I know, you really care about these details of my life. But I feel so much better when I look down and see my pretty toenails on the ends of my long skinny finger-toes painted with this pearly white polish. Much better than the hot pink nail polish that was like a month old and half chipped off that I had on earlier today. Although my feet still smell a bit but what can you do. I just need to start wearing shoes more instead of sandals which I think will happen ASAP as the rainy season gets into full gear. I also have run for the past two days in the morning which I’m quite proud of. Yes, it was around a dirt field and each day only for 20 minutes but it’s better than nothing…plus I don’t want to run that long because that means I get sweaty and have to take a shower. This is Bolivia…you have to take into consideration things like that. Plus when I tried to take a shower yesterday after I ran the water cut off halfway through when I was still massively soapy and I had to only semi-rinse off with water from the sink. Good thing I’m not too particular about hygiene or else I’d be screwed.

Okay, I’m off to read some old Newsweek mags that Patti gave to me…that’s one perk of PC…every volunteer gets issues of Newsweek every week so we manage to stay slightly informed with current events. I did read today on CNN that the price of crude went over $94 and Matt Damon was named world’s sexiest man by People this year. And there was an earthquake in Chile of 7.7 magnitude. Hey, I’m pretty well informed considering the circumstances.


Although it is rumored that during the first few months of service (which are btw dedicated to the volunteer diagnostic assignment where you’re supposed to be figuring out what you’re going to be working on for the next two years that aligns with both your PC project goals (in my case microenterprise and tourism) and the community needs) volunteers don’t have much to do and spend lots of time catching up on sleep, reading, figuring out the ins and outs of the pueblo that they’re going to be living in for the next two years…I have found in my first week that there is no lack of stuff for me to do. I started my English class on Friday which will require more planning than my Lit Volunteers class in Stamford required…I go to dance practice for the upcoming festival everyday…I worry about my supposedly “advanced low” level of Spanish…and I do a bit of work with Sonia, the artisan woman I am working with, on our upcoming trip to La Paz to the feria. And in my so-called free time I am settling into my cute little house. I’ve gone to several markets in the past week to get home goods…plates, feather duster, toilet brush, nonstick pan, clothespins, a variety of cloth to cover various pieces of furniture, etc. The list goes on. Some of the things I want to accomplish in the next month (or maybe these are more like in the next two year goals) have nothing to do with microenterprise nor tourism though. These include:

* Re-covering a set of 4 stools with cute navy and white fabric (two pinstriped, two mini polka dotted)
* Sorting through all the kitchen tools bequeathed to me by the volunteer I am replacing
* Figuring out what I do with all the vegetables I find in the market that are foreign to me (what the heck do I do with achotche? I can’t even spell it much less cook with it)
* Really cleaning out and mopping out my house (which is a pretty useless task being that it gets dusty within one hour of sweeping)
* Organizing my bookshelf and reading all the material that PC gave to us (note: when we were packing up to move to our sites they gave us a whole separate cardboard box for our books and manuals if that’s any indication of what a daunting task this is going to be)
* Studying a bit of Quechua…I figured out the practical use for this is in the market in Cliza that I went to today to buy food…with Dona Catalina (a lovely woman that is the mother of Nelly who’s the girl I’m friends with and am dancing with in the festival) she seemed to know every person in the market and greeted them by name, in Quechua…while I stood there clueless and nodding, punctuated by a few “Ari”s which means “Yes” in Quechua
* Learning to play basketball…it’s very popular with the ladies around here and I should use my gargantuan height towards some purpose
* Interior decorating…if I’m going to be here for two years I should make this house scream “Joy is here”
* 101 uses for potatoes. I know they’re out there.
* Becoming knowledgeable about the history of Tarata…3 of Bolivia’s presidents were from here, definitely is worthy of appreciation of the cultural and historical significance
* Not forgetting how to speak/write/read English (at an adult level)…the improvement of your Spanish seems to be inversely proportional to the rate at which your English is improving or getting worse
* Peeling fruit/veggies at a rate faster than a snail…clearly my ability has been affected by my lack of practice in early childhood
* Running…one thing that might be a constant thread between my life in the U.S. and Bolivia (okay, appreciation of food is also a given)…albeit it will be done around a dirt field in laps and thus only for half an hour perhaps twice a week if I’m lucky…
* Learning to walk on the cobblestone streets without the fear that I’m going to fall and break an ankle
* Learning how to make chicha (a Bolivian fermented alcoholic corn drink) that I don’t particularly enjoy but is very popular in Coch and especially in Tarata and observing a cock fight in person (two activities which take place in my house! well not in MY house, but on the land with my host family)

In other notes, I cooked dinner for Pat (sitemate) and myself tonight…we tend to eat like how I eat in the U.S…a smorgasborg of randomness. We had sautéed chicken breast with salt and pepper, fresh bread that I bought in the market in Cliza this morning with Danbo cheese from San Javier and mustard, fresh guacamole (seems to be the most popular way to eat veggies during palta (avocado) season) with chips, and some red wine. Followed by some glasses of warm milk with sugar that Huber brought us (are we babies?). Lovely evening of chatting and eating. Other positive news includes that it seems like I have rid myself of my fly problem. I haven’t seen very many in my house lately…maybe they’re all hanging out up at the main house where the family lives (they definitely seemed to be up there yesterday during the despedida parillada (farewell bbq) that they had, attacking the ridiculous amounts of meat that were cooked and eaten) and if that’s the case all I have to say is good riddance to them.

I Sat on a Wasp.

So I experienced my first wasp/bee sting tonight. I was getting ready for bed ready to crawl into my little travel mosquito net and I opened up the side and sat down on the bed when I felt a sharp pain in my right buttcheek. Yes, that was because I sat on a wasp like creature that stung me…I have no idea how it got INTO my mosquito net but I definitely crushed it (although not to death) when I sat down and was getting ready to swing my legs into the net. When I got up I saw a little wasp like creature squirming inside of the net (at least it’s what I thought a wasp would look like but not that yellowjackets that take over decks in the U.S.)…I assume I’m okay since it’s not a vinchuca that could give me a deadly disease like Chagas and I don’t feel my airway closing up yet so I’m not allergic (although are people only allergic to bee stings and not wasp stings?) So after I got up and noticed a characteristic sting mark with puffy surrounding not unlike other bug bites except more painful…and then I proceeded to take my copy of Life of Pi that was on the nightstand and smother the wasp to smithereens for the next 5 minutes between the book and mattress. But it wouldn’t die. Surprisingly…since I thought the mattress was pretty darn hard, this is not even close to my lovely pillowtop mattress that everyone I know that has slept in it loves so much. So I took my copy of CultureShock! Bolivia and put that on top and smothered it a bit more. And then jumped up and down on it for a bit. Still not dead. Finally I gave up and uncovered the wasp and took the edge of my book and applied all the pressure to the little point where he was squirming and killed the little sucker. Too much excitement for one night I think. Tomorrow I’m off to the Cancha (which means field in Spanish but it’s also the name of the big open market in Cochabamba) to buy a new mattress since the one I currently have is rock hard and smells like dog breath since the volunteer that left it to me let her dog sleep in bed with her. At one point I was considering getting a pet…but after I lost the cat that I was asked to cat-sit for this week (just by putting food out in a bowl for it…unsuccessfully the dog ended up eating all the food I put out) and then I can’t stand animal fur and smell…I’ve decided that the Dog in my middle name is all for show and I really don’t like pets. That and small children too. I think we’re in trouble here. Not sure how this life plan to have kids is going to work. Anyways, if anyone wants to send me a pillowtop mattress that is wasp free and some say…1000 count Egyptian cotton sheets (or flannel does just fine for me too), a down pillow and down comforter…it would be much appreciated. Thanks. And if not, just freaking…umm…yeah. Okay, I’m outtie. Night night!

Random Ramblings…

Sometimes it’s more interesting to read things that aren’t a daily account of what I’ve been doing everyday and right now it’s 1:30 am and I woke up from the crazy barking dogs outside and snorting pigs so I figured I’d do a little writing to keep you guys busy since I haven’t been very good about keeping you updated since I went on my site visit several weeks ago.

Things I miss in Bolivia…was just reading, yes, I said reading, my cookbook that my lovely mother sent me. You know the one, Better Homes and Gardens, red checked cover, lots of practical recipes and tips. And I miss food! The food here isn’t bad actually and I can find stuff that is appetizing to me always, but I miss the grand old days of the dinner parties…fondue parties…the successful recipes, and the attempts at not so successful recipes (tiramisu Evie?) I was just telling my site mate, Pat, today about how I used to scavenge in the clearance home goods section of Macy’s and buy random platters to serve my spinach dip and steaks on. I miss the fondue of gruyere, swiss and emmenthaler, the brie in puffed pastry with walnuts and honey on top served with granny smith apples, the simplicity of the Toll House chocolate chip cookie. I crave sugar snap peas straight out of the bag (might I mention ridiculously overpriced at Stop & Shop at I believe $3.69 for a teeny little bag) served with Hidden Valley ranch dressing, Vlassic bread and butter pickles by the jar, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, microwave bacon (microwaved Evie!), and even Stouffer’s frozen dinners (chicken a la king is my favorite). I yearn for Pio Pio (full out dinner Steph – all the way with maduras, salchipapas, avocado salad, chicken, and sangria – please, let’s eat it in the restaurant and not set off any smoke alarms), dim sum, seafood (any kind! maybe shrimp cocktail though…), and some of that tasty Stamford food like Kit’s Thai Kitchen (drunken noodle!), Hope Street Pizza, and of course Grand’s cheeseburgers with fries. Enough though. Before I curl up in my bed and cry myself to sleep. Only consolation is that I bought 3 regular sized avocados in the market for 1 bs (about $0.13) the other day…the pits are much larger in these avocados but that means guacamole any day I want it!

There are Bolivia moments that make me laugh everyday though…the other day Pat had her dog stolen by a 4 year old girl. No, I’m not kidding. Apparently she went to one of the preschool centers that she is working at and this little girl that she had bought the puppy from (actually bought it from the girl’s mother) took her dog and wouldn’t give it back. So when Pat was getting ready to leave she asked the girl for the dog and tried to take it…but the girl started to cry so she tried to bribe her with ice cream from a tienda. Yeah, that didn’t work so well…so she left the dog and figured she would go back to get it later. So later she enlisted my help and we hiked back over to get her dog…and we asked the girl for it, and she still wouldn’t give it back so we went to find her mother…and finally the girl went into the house and got the puppy out and gave it back to Pat (but she definitely was not happy about it). Only in Bolivia would a young child steal your dog and make a grown woman angry about it. Okay, maybe you had to be there. But in the market the other day Pat and I were buying some veggies and the woman was like, is she your mother? This is conclusive evidence that all gringos look alike. Whether or not they’re chinitos (I guess their version of Chinese/Asian gringos? Or maybe just Chinese people) or the regular everyday white gringo. Let me remind you that Pat is a short, blond, white woman. I asked the vegetable selling woman if we looked alike…then she got it. Just have to look a little closer I guess…hehe. Then again, during training I was mistaken for Tammy (the only other Asian girl volunteer in our group) on occasion (who just happens to be literally 8 inches shorter than me and with long hair). Another thing that I’m enjoying about Bolivia is that fact that you’re not expected to go outside when it’s raining. Which is pretty freaking awesome since I hate rain. And right outside my door turns into a mud wrestling pit when it rains. Please, can someone send me those rubber rain boots? Yeah, like those cute J.Crew ones that everyone wears, with little critters on them…I actually have a practical purpose for those around here. Anyways, the expectation when it rains is that every event is canceled so you can just sit inside and stay dry…although my roof in my house is soooo loud when it rains, even sprinkles, since it’s corrugated tin. I think the game plan during rainy season (which is quickly approaching) is that Pat and I are going to sit inside all day long at my house in front of my fireplace or at her place at her lovely kitchen table that’s well stocked with snacks and drink coffee, hot chocolate, or tea. And of course we’re using powdered milk in those beverages because that’s what we do around here! Fortifying our diets with vitamins. Did you know that Pil brand milk down here even makes a lactose free version? I thought that was pretty nifty…and they sell all their beverages in plastic sacks down here…juice in a sack, milk in a sack, yogurt in a sack.

Oh yeah, and any newspaper in English rocks when we get it down here. I recently discovered a stash of NY Times that a friend of another volunteer brought down here and whoever took the rest of them (late October editions) apparently did not like reading the business section so I have the business section of the Times for like a week along with one day of the WSJ too. I’m pretty happy about this because it’s probably one of my favorite sections anyways. I don’t think the majority of PC volunteers are too concerned about NYC business dealings…but I find the fact that they just opened a new Tiffany’s store down by Wall Street very exciting. That along with seeing where the price of oil is going…and if it will ever stop. Must be very exciting times in the energy industry right now.

In other news I just scored myself my own English class today! That begins tomorrow actually…I kind of stole a few of Pat’s students that wanted an earlier class so I told them I had free time to teach. I have absolutely no materials on hand, which sucks in comparison to the massive library of resources I had when teaching for Literacy Volunteers, so I’m going to wing it tomorrow and see if I can print out a bunch of stuff in Coch over the weekend for upcoming classes. That and ordering some books to get sent down here…where are my Easy True Stories? And Beginning Stories from the Heart? Haha, those were some great books that required virtually no preparation for class. Stand Out series not so much my thing, but oh did I love those books with short stories. If anyone wants to give me a hand with that just let me know.

And I wouldn’t mind if people start planning their vacations down here to visit me either! Friendly reminder…I am ready to receive visitors starting in February and if you make it down here I’ll take a few days to travel or we can just hang out in my site and go into Coch (first come, first served since I can only use vacation as I accumulate it so in February I’ll have 6 days).

Officially a Volunteer!

So after a fun week of B-46 bonding in the hotel in Coch and finishing up training along with several crazy consecutive party days for Halloween, Swear-In, and just because we were together in the city…all 20 of us B-46ers made it! Unlike many prior groups who have had people ET (early termination) during training, every single one of us made it to Swear-In and became official Peace Corps volunteers. Funny to think that we’ve been here…hmm…months now, and just now we’re becoming volunteers. One of the special parts before we swore in was Commitment Day where we each had to read something, whether it be a poem, essay, or pledge, that expressed why we were here and why we should be sworn in as volunteers that would carry out our service for the entire two years (until November 2009! Yikesaroni!) It was nice hearing what everyone had to say and it really did help to remind us of how we felt through the whole application process and when we first arrived in Bolivia…the hopes that we had and the true reasons we’re here, all the stuff that was kind of lost along the way once we got into training and were having 8 hours of class a day and barely time to think about what was going on, much less the big picture of why we’re here and how each of us fits into the mission of the Peace Corps.

After swear-in we spent a few lovely days tying up loose ends and saying goodbye to our group (we’ll be back in Coch for a reconnect meeting where we present what we’ve been doing for the past three months in our sites at the end of January), we all headed off! I actually had a meeting with Sonia, the artisan woman that I’m going to be working with, and Patti, the volunteer that I’m going to be replacing in the PC office to speak to some of the women that work there that are familiar with La Paz and the market for alpaca products there. Sonia makes these awesome 100% alpaca scarves, shawls, ponchos, and blankets and we’re trying to expand her business and find her new markets. Anyone thinking about lovely Christmas presents for their family and friends that would like to place some kind of order? Cool part is that there’s a fair in La Paz with people from the embassy that people within the mission get to sell their products at the end of November that has potential to sell a lot of product since it’s right before Christmas so it seems like I’m going to get to travel with her to La Paz for it! I’m pretty psyched for this opportunity to do actual work in my primary project (usually the first three months in site are used for getting to know the community and project planning for the rest of your service along with some minor secondary projects) and a chance to go see La Paz! But it also means that I really have to get my butt in gear in terms of improving my Spanish and really getting some work done with Sonia in terms of cost and price analysis of her product and preparing materials for the fair (what type of product she is going to bring, making sure she’s all set with business cards and pamphlets, etc.), and other activities in La Paz for scoping out other markets for her products. I’m also going to be working with tourism but will probably use the first three months to discuss with my official counterpart (the director of tourism in Tarata) what she would like to see in terms of what projects she would like me to work on. I know there’s potential for working with the newly formed tour guide association (anyone want to help me remember what we did in oral communications so I can duplicate the class for the guides?), improving the museum in the Cultural House, working with businesses on the plaza (think postcards, souvenirs, restaurants), working with the tourism office in Coch to promote tourism in Tarata…and the list goes on and on.

The possibilities seem pretty fun, if not scary as well. Being here makes me realize how structured my school and work environment has been for the past…well…all my life? Peace Corps service is really what you make of it and my biggest fear now is being able to structure my work and be motivated to get things done everyday. As a Volunteer you don’t have a boss that you see everyday and it’s pretty easy to be lazy and realize it’s nighttime and you haven’t done anything really all that productive but that’s also the beauty of being a PC volunteer. You basically set your own work schedule, schedule your own meetings, and figure out along the way how things work. Unfortunately since I don’t have much experience with that (umm…where’s my 12:30 gas scheduling deadline?) that will probably be my biggest challenge. I was talking with my site mate, Pat, who is working with Integrated Education in the preschools in Tarata, and she was saying that she retired just two weeks before coming to Bolivia so the lack of a full day drives her nuts, but then again…I quit work just a week before coming…and so far am having no problem (in the past two days) adjusting to not really having lots of stuff to do. Haha, I think it’s just my overall perezosa-ness (laziness) and I’m a little worried that it might be my downfall in Bolivia. After all, if you know me, you know I have no problem with sleeping 12+ hours in a day, napping when I’m bored, or wasting time on non-productive matters. Another volunteer did say, and I quote, “well if you are sleeping 12 hours a day you only end up serving one year in PC instead of two.” Interesting thought, but I read somewhere that I’m supposed to be spending 20-40 hours working on my primary project (which is tourism and with Sonia’s business) so I figured I’d better make a little schedule for myself to stick to (and put on my refrigerator next to all my pretty little pictures of you folk!). Probably will read something like…

7 – 8 am: Get up and have breakfast (use my gas stove that runs on a canister of gas that I have to light with a match to make tea or instant coffee!)
8 – 9 am: Study Spanish or read some kind of material in Spanish to get my brain functioning
9 am – noon: Do PC work like reading over tourism manuals, planning for stuff with Sonia, meetings, etc.
Noon – 1 pm: Lunch! Big Lunch! (I’m planning on eating big meals at noon time and then just snacking for dinner) and of course the obligatory 20 minute power nap
1 – 5 pm: Working again…if I can find stuff to do, includes getting little errands done and hopefully finding a Spanish tutor that I can practice with for an hour each day, doing laundry since it freaking takes forever to do it by hand
5 – 10 pm: Miscellaneous stuff…dance practice, reading in English and relaxing, dinner or whatever…playing with the kids in my host family

Okay, so that doesn’t sound all that scheduled…but at least the thought of an hour when I will get up and have my first few hours of my day planned will make me get out of bed (which is clearly the hardest part for me). Also, I’ll try to work some working out and running into the schedule once I’m totally settled into my place…I did go to the gym in Coch with Claire, our new PCVL who’s a third-year volunteer that is our Tech Specialist that will help support us on the finer points of what the heck we should be doing when we’re clueless…and it felt sooo good to work out. First time I’ve used weights since I’ve been here and let me tell you, the gym is a bit ridiculous. We went to this super-nice one that actually uses fingerprint identification for access into the different rooms for classes, cardio, weights, etc! I mean, come on, sometimes you forget you’re in Bolivia when you’re in a place like that…it was like 20 bs (around $2.75) for a day pass but it was totally worth it and I could see myself getting into a little weekly (if I’m treating myself) or bi-weekly routine of heading into Coch for a few hours to go to the gym and do a little grocery shopping. Also, for whoever is coming to visit me, there are some pretty nice restaurants that were discovered this past weekend…this really swanky place called Suiza and then we went to this wine bar (that looked like they had some pretty tasty cheese plates and tapas) called Vinoppolis…also I heard rumors that there’s a tasty Indian food restaurant somewhere along with another Asian café that I would like to try. Not to mention that I went back to this Chinese restaurant that we went to on Orientation Day with our work counterparts and it was quite yummy as well (if not MSG and sodium filled). Oh yeah, and for swear-in we had Brazilian BBQ! Similar as in Shanghai, you can get Brazilian BBQ for around $6 here…not a bad deal…and may I recommend the turkey wrapped bacon.

As for my house here in Tarata, I have a ridiculous amount of space that I need to work on filling up with stuff. Luckily Patti, the volunteer that I’m replacing, left the major items that I would need to buy with my settling-in allowance such as a stove and refrigerator and bed so I’m okay with that…but I could use some new things and definitely need to pick up things such as dish towels, a few more cooking utensils and pans, and sheets and blankets. As of now I’m using my travel mosquito net to ward of the vinchucas that could give me Chagas’ disease and sleeping in my sleeping bag. Also, I have a fireplace! Haha, not that it’s really necessary in Bolivia since it doesn’t get that cold, but I guess it’s more for the ambiance…I’m actually living with Patti’s fiancee’s family…yes, she’s marrying a Bolivian and bringing him back to the States in like…a week, and he built the house for her when she moved in a few months ago and she wanted a fireplace so she got a fireplace. Overall I’m pretty happy with the situation but it definitely has some issues that I need to deal with. Number one being that I have this ridiculous fly problem. It’s actually pretty gross…at any given point (especially in the morning when I wake up), I probably have at least 50 flies in my house, buzzing around my table, windows, food, everything. Kind of gross when you think about it because the neighbors have pigs and my host family has chickens and other birds…ewww. I need to work on sealing up the roof in my house (which is corrugated tin and has gaps and is ridiculously loud when it rains) and probably the fireplace so the freaking flies can’t get in. If anyone has any suggestions for getting rid of flies please let me know. Oh yeah, and I think that fly paper would have to be replaced everyday in my case and I haven’t seen any venus fly traps around so that’s out of the question as well. I figure once I seal up the roof and whatnot it will also help my dust problem which accumulates on everything in my house and makes me need to sweep several times a day. Also, another thing that sucks is that my bathroom is WAY far away from my house. Of course in Bolivia you always have to walk outside to get to the bathroom, but I have to hike across the dirt lawn that has all the animals, probably about 100 m, to get to my bathroom. I am most definitely buying a bucket to use as a chamber pot in the event that I have gastrointestinal problems and don’t feel like I can make it all the way there. Also it’s not too fun walking there in the pitch black when it’s nighttime since the pathway is still in progress that Huber (Patti’s fiancée) is building so I don’t have to trudge through mud when the rainy season really gets here in a few weeks since the current situation is that it’s just dirt in between the patio of the main house (where my bathroom is) and my house in the back of the compound. In terms of who I’m going to be living with, it’s going to be Huber’s mom and dad, two of the grandkids (Aron and Maya), Huber’s sister Johanna that’s in high school, and then two renters who are students at the local music school (and at least one of them plays the accordion from what I’ve heard). My house is nice because it’s at the back of the compound so I have my own space (way different than my homestay during training which was a teeny tiny little place but a house with much better construction) but there are definitely things that I could work on to make it more comfortable here. I guess that will come in time though and I should probably start investigating how to get my door fixed and my roof patched up before anything else.

In other news, last night I had my first practice for the morenada, this dance that I’m doing in the festival of San Severino at the end of November. I’m going to be wearing this ridiculously sparkly and skimpy outfit (think dance recitals when you were a kid but worse) and these platform boots that come up to your thighs and dancing through the cobblestone streets of Tarata with a group of ladies and gentlemen in the biggest festival for this town. Apparently, similar to the llamerada during training, we will be having practice every single night from now until the festival. Also, what worries me is that this dance actually requires a certain Bolivian rhythm which I am finding difficult to find so I’m going to be looking quite awkward in my outfit and platform boots and just praying that I don’t fall over since I’m already a head taller than the other two girls in my mini-group within the dance group that I’m going to be dancing with.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Cell number is only one 7...011-591-7-228-3054. Thanks Mom!

And new address is on right hand side toolbar for letters and packages if needed :)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Moving into the 21st Century...Cell Phone!

Hi All - Long´s my cell. Buy your phone cards or figure out a cheap way to call me and gimme a call and see if I pick up (service is questionable in my site, or if I am in my mosquito net like I was last night when my mom called, I might not get to the phone in time so you can try twice?) From the U.S. dial 011-591-7-722-83054. 011 intl, 591 bolivia, 7 cell in bolivia, the last 7 digits are my number. You can also try texting me...I tried texting you (that´s Helen, Steph, Evie) but I received no response so I guess that didn´t work. Show me some love! Okay, that is all. You can also call me on the landline at my house (I believe it doesn´t cost anything to receive calls either on my cell or the landline) which has the same 011-591...then 4-457-8219. Sorry I haven´t been updating blog lately...apparently Tarata with it´s turtle-slow internet does not have functioning USB ports so I will do that next time I get into the city. Hope to hear from you soon!

*And belated happy HAPPY birthday to my best buds Eviekins and Stepharoni!

xoxo, Joy