Friday, April 18, 2008

New Photos...Finally!

Click on link on pics under "Bolivia" of my house, etc. and also new set "Artesania Rojas - Bolivia" with some samples of what the artisan woman that I am working with makes...

Friday, April 11, 2008

¿Mashkha pilipintusta munanki?

How many butterflies do you want? I’ve discovered that my favorite part of learning a new language is being able to say nonsense phrases. I take pride in having a little creativity when it comes to randomness and with practicing Quechua I don’t hold back. It is especially useful when you have a limited vocabulary and want to practice what you have at your disposal (as I do with my 10 sheets of picture vocabulary and 3 pages of verbs). Anyways, I was able to understand that the answer to my question that she wanted 10 butterflies so it was a useful form of practice. I have the feeling that if someone came across my blog they might think I’m slightly insane going around asking people how many butterflies they want and saying I believe in aliens, but you need to trust me, I haven’t gone crazy, I’m in the Peace Corps and this is what volunteers do. I was also able to get the idea across when I was practicing Quechua to ask Erlinda if she believes in life on other planets…and FYI, yes, she does.

My motivation to improve my language skills has recently been at an all-time high (I might ask Sarah to create a graph of that for me – x-axis for time, y-axis for language motivation) so I am trying to do a self-imposed language program of an hour per day each of independent studying (grammar, vocabulary, reading, etc.) of Spanish, Quechua and Chinese. I figure being able to discipline myself will actually come in handy when (if) I end up back in school when I go back to the States.

I Believe in Aliens

I like looking up at the sky here since you can see the stars so well. It’s unfortunate that I don’t remember any of the constellations from Advanced Earth Science but I still appreciate the beauty of the nighttime sky. Or maybe it’s because I never thought to stargaze until I was blessed with the enormous amount of free time that I currently have. Either way, I find myself always thinking when I look up at the stars that there must be life somewhere else in the universe. I believe that the universe is way too big not to have some kind of living being (and intelligent life) somewhere else and that it would be really really cool to make contact with them. But alas, that might be reserved for some far away time in the future or maybe just the movies (Contact is one of my favorite movies after all, not just for the fact that it includes Jodie Foster, one of my favorite actresses, and Matthew McConaughey – what’s not to like about him right?). Hypothetically, if I were to speak to someone from another planet, in another solar system, somewhere way far out, what would I ask them? I think it would be much like when you travel to another country and want to see how they live, what it looks like, what do they eat (do they even need to eat to sustain life?), and certainly they must have some really spiffy advanced technology that we could learn from. Until I meet those creatures from far away though, I will be content learning about the cultures of homo sapiens from the planet that we call Earth.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Beauty on the Run

So I was walking to the plaza this morning behind a cholita (Bolivian woman in traditional dress) and another man and from behind me I heard a taxi honking for the cholita to move back since she was standing quite close to the street. Her exact location was near a large puddle. She moved back to let the car pass and then proceeded to swoop down and scoop water out of the puddle on the ground with her hands. For a second there (in horror) I thought she was going to drink it...but *whew* she took the water from the puddle to wet down her long hair, and then whipped out her little plastic comb to comb it and put it into braids. Well wonders never cease, I guess when you need some water in a jiffy a puddle on the side of the road will do just as well as any sink. What really puzzled mean was the fact that it was also raining at that time and I was wondering why she wouldn't just get her hair wet from the "uncontaminated" rainwater. Some things I guess I will never know. Ah, the things women do for beauty.

¿Estás hablando chino?

Are you speaking Chinese? It’s a universal joke. I think I may have heard of it when I was in the States, but I think Bolivians find it much funnier, or maybe I’m just exposed to more awkward / I have no idea what you’re saying moments when I’m here. Anyways, I find myself using that phrase whenever I am trying to sound out something in Quechua that I know makes no sense and someone just jabbers something that I totally don’t comprehend, or it’s also useful when we are trying to say something in Spanish and we find ourselves horrendously mispronouncing it (Pat’s nemesis is “ojalá” which means “only if / I hope!” I think 90% of the time it comes out as “aloha” for her, I think subconsciously she may be missing the beach in Florida and thus projects some type of Hawaiian vacation fantasy on her Spanish). I had one particularly funny incident today when I was chilling with Vivian in the tourism office and she showed me a solicitud from a web design company that they are considering going with for designing their website for tourism (woohoo! work for me, I’m supposed to translate it into English!) and there was a whole listing of services that the fees included. I have realized, for going to such a nerdy computer-oriented school like CMU, I am pitifully uninformed when it comes to computer matters. All I could really distinguish was that it included something with Dreamweaver, Linux and Flash…and I know vaguely what those are…and the rest…I have no clue. Note, if any of you computer science, web-designing (I mean beyond a website with like 3 frames about ice cream, Steph) friendly friends out there want to help me, I would like to send you the list if you can tell me what it all means (send me an email! Por favor!) Anyways, so Vivian is not too up-to-date on computer jargon either so she said something about “it’s in Chinese” and at that point I think I had gotten a little lost in my “you’re speaking too fast so I catch every other word” haze so of course my immediate reaction was…I speak a little Chinese, maybe I can figure out what it says. And then I realized she was using the “it’s in Chinese” saying…I think the phrase is so much more useful down here because it is very unlikely that the person that you are talking to knows any Chinese. I think I’ll start using “are you speaking Quechua?” when I go back to the States because that will be my obscure language equivalent. Anyways, we had a good laugh and then I taught her to say a few things in Chinese and my one Taiwanese phrase “jia beng” (umm…can you use pingyin for Taiwanese?) that I know. Very useful. I should just run around town speaking some Chinese and when people don’t understand they will say, are you speaking Chinese? And I can say, why yes, I am speaking Chinese!

I could go for some Starbucks right about now.

Pat and I were discussing the other day heading over to Starbucks around the corner to get a Frappucino for me and a cappuccino for her. And then we woke up from our dream. But we did decide that it would be a good idea to get jobs there once we got back since supposedly they offer benefits if you work at least 25 hours a week, plus a pound of coffee per week and seemingly lots of free beverages while you work (and hopefully a discount on some of those pastries?!). And then I decided to torture myself by thinking about bubble tea. The iced black or green tea variety (addition of jasmine or passion fruit preferably) with tapioca…never was much a fan of the milk tea, but I could make an exception right now. Mmm…I think I’ll head over to Flushing this weekend to go to that bubble tea place and Taiwanese restaurant on the same street. Or maybe that buffet. BUFFET. Hungryyyy. I also have had some longings lately for Rachael Ray. Oh those 30 minute meals, $40 a day, and her “yum-o!”s. I didn’t get to see much of her in the last year since I didn’t have cable TV in my last apartment…but I miss her and her perkiness and her tasty looking food. And I have occasional yearnings for Alton Brown and his Good Eats as well. I think this is the appropriate time for a “wah mommy wah” interjection about the Food Network. And somehow one thing leads to another and I’m craving a chocolate cupcake from Crumb (or is it Crumbs?) on the Upper East Side. Preceded by some Thai food (Drunken Noodle with beef from Kit’s Thai Kitchen), a sushi regular combo from that place by the Stamford library, or even a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese Extra Value Meal (super-sized of course). I’ll follow that up with some banana bread french toast from Annie’s and a pizza from Totono’s (white with spinach and mushroom) or maybe a pizza from Papa John’s…how I do love that garlic dipping sauce. And for a break I’ll have to head somewhere that serves dim sum so I can pick up some turnip cake and sticky rice. And finally, for my grande finale, I will time it just right, so it will be the day that UBS’ cafeteria has those giant chocolate chip cookies and I will get one for take-out, run over to Stop and Shop to get a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (that one that has the peanut butter filled pretzels and fudge swirl in it), and go jump into my lovely bed with pillow-top mattress and eat it all. That is my dream for the perfect indulgence that I hope to someday achieve. But until then I shall eat potatoes and rice.