Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Oh my goodness I just had the most amazing Christmas Eve of my life!

December in general has been the tamest December I can recall. My first December with absolutely no snow, and the temperatures have been mild to warm with the occasional rainy day. Instead of stepping carefully through the streets as not to slip on ice, I found myself running to my favorite cafe to get out of the pouring rain. That was quite fun. I was soaked. This month has flown by, and that means I only have 5-6 months left here. Wow. My Spanish skills have gotten loads better just over this last month. I understand much better when amongst groups, and I can hold my own in a one-on-one discussion. I have gotten past the hard part of homesickness for the most part, and now it has really hit me just how short one year really is. I feel like I wasted a lot of time missing home. Sorry Mom and Dad, but you know what I mean. I just let it get in the way of the whole experience. But that is alright, because we all knew that would happen. At least I have that extra 6 months now to make up for it.

So Christmas itself was amazing. Instead of gathering the entire family from all around the world in at the Casa Rodriguez this year, we had a 'quiet Christmas.' Well, I guess I wouldn't call it quiet, but for this family it most certainly is. My Aunt Rosario that also has a home and family in New York decided to hold the Christmas Eve festivities in her home here. At 8:00 at night, all the family and I went to mass. Sorry, but this one turned out to be quite boring. Whatever. After mass, we all greeted eachother in front of the church. In total, there were only about 30 family members, but that is a whole lot in my mind. I met my Uncle José for the first time; he is from Cochabamba. He had his wife and their children. Also there were my favorite Uncle Juan Carlos with his wife Elena and their children that I also met for the first time. My Aunt Rosario had a friend with here and there were various other cousins I had never met. So after handing out 30 kisses/'besitos' we all met up at Elena's house to transport all the food and treats.

With a box of cookies in my hands, we headed back to my neighborhood , which happens to be where my Aunt Rosario lives as well. The mayhem began as soon as we stepped out of the cars. Typical family Christmas. People scrambling all over helping to get everything ready and lounging in the kitchen much to our host's dislike. After getting alcohol in everyone's hands, the crowd settled down and gathered in the living room. Well, packed into the living room. There was way too much craziness, so I kind of zoned out for the majority of that section of the evening. I was happy to finally be seated at the kitchen table with the rest of the cousins.

Rosario is an amazing cook, and all the cousins were beyond excited for the meal she prepared. Picana. It is a traditional Bolivian Christmas dinner. Very good. Not at all spicy either like I anticipated. It is a beef broth with chicken and beef, potatoes, and a piece of chocla. Delicious. We devoured that and headed outside to digest while the adults chatted. I was so happy to walk outside in my bare feet! A gorgeous starry night with a storm coming in from the east. All I could think about is how horrible the weather was back in Iowa at that moment. There you all are stuck inside with no electricity, and I am walking around barefoot. I love it! So we acted as reunited cousins always do...crazy. I would love to have another Christmas with all the relatives in Iowa sometime. I miss those days. We finally got called inside for a Christmas toast, which I was unaware of at the moment. In all the mayhem I called Mom, thanks to my Aunt Rosario! As I was talking at the top of my lungs I noticed that everyone behind me was incredibly quiet. They were doing the toast! Ahhh. I felt horrible, and then felt equally horrible as I hung up on Mom. :) Oh well. I ended up having to say something and, in typical Hayley-fashion, I did it while teary-eyed. I was just so happy and caught up in the evening that I couldn't help it. I loved everything about that evening. But that turned out in some nice 'aaawwwwwwwws' which made me feel not so ridiculous. Everybody understood how I felt. Everyone finished toasting and we ran around for a little more mayhem while Rosario organized.

Before returning outdoors with the cousins, my wonderful uncle Juan Carlos was elected photographer for the evening. That is him to the right. And the picture above him is of most of the cousins. He is hilarious. He hates my camera. :) I don't. But ya, the cousins were all really welcoming, though quite some years older than me. I still get to be among the youngest of cousins even in my second family. Geez.

Eventually, we made it around to the best part. Everyone gathered again in the living room for gift opening, but before opening the gifts everyone had to do a somersault. When I say everyone, I mean everyone. There was one woman that had to be at least 65 years young and she even did it. My uncle José explained the Bolivian tradition; once the music stops, everyone in the room has to do a somersault. I did mine without any hesitation, but my left shoulder hurt a little bit afterward...and I am only 19! So we got through with that, opened gifts, and walked over to Sandra and Lucho's house. Not as fun there, but there were a lot more people. I suppose we remained at their home until about 1:30 in the morning before going home to wait for 'Papa Noél.' Jorgito ran straight to bed all happy and such, but Vivi and I had some last-minute wrapping to do. That is Bolivia for you. I ran all over town with Vivi on the afternoon of Christmas Eve to do shopping. The stores were absolutely packed with last-minute shoppers. I was surprised to see that all the stores were open all day on the 24th! More of Bolivia--they can't afford to not work. I woke up on the 24th expecting to be a lazy bum all day like we would do in the states, but that was not the case. The same goes for Christmas morning.

I woke up to an 8:30-knock on my bedroom door. My family was ready to open the very quaint amount of gifts we had prepared some time before then. I love that about Christmas here. There were hardly any gifts under the tree. Apparently only the kiddies get gifts, but I guess I count as a 'kiddie' since I also received a few gifts. I was incredibly happy to receive the Twilight books in Spanish. Sorry everyone, for my lameness, but that just made my day. I am currently on page 37 and proud to admit that it is equally delightful in Spanish as in English. A sucker for romance....which is even better in Spanish. haha. Anyway, Jorgito got the Wii he wished for. He is a horrible liar too. He saw the box in the storage room one day, but he decided to keep it secret from Jorge and Vivi. Of course, they are aware he knows, but Jorgito doesn't know that. ;) Jorgito opened his boxes Christmas morning knowing exactly what they contained. He didn't even jump up and down screaming in happiness. He acted like a perfectly guilty young boy. It was pretty funny.

So we finished gifts and got ready for some more festivities at Faviola's home. She is the sister of my Aunt Sandra. That was a nice, peaceful afternoon. The food was delicious and the home was absolutely phenomenal. The same goes for Rosario's home. She has New York right in the middle of Bolivia. She is a very classy woman and it matches her amazing home. Faviola owns an interior design store, and it shows in her home. Stunning. We probably left there around 5:00 and played Wii until bedtime. :)

All in all, a magnificent holiday break...with power. Well, we actually did have power problems last night during the magnificent storm we got upon returning home from the Valley. I will blog about 'The Valley' later. Maybe this afternoon, as it is a lazy Bolivian Sunday and it is storming again. Gee that makes me happy. I will also try and post a couple new albums on picasaweb if wifi starts functioning again. If not, I will write again after January 7th. We are going to be leaving tomorrow morning for vacation in Iquique, Chile. yay.


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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wow. What a great December. I managed to get past the homesickness I was feeling just after Thanksgiving and I have been insanely busy this month. Busy in the good way.

Jorgito and I were feeling extra Christmasy one day, so we took a morning to put up the Christmas tree and that afternoon to bake Nana's Sugar Cookies. Jorgito decided to get started with the tree on his own, and by the time I stepped in to put the top pieces on, the whole tree was trying to fall over. After taking a look at the base, I noticed he had used a can filled with sand. My guess was that Jorgito, in all his eagerness, just slammed the base of the tree in as deep as he could and called it good. At that, we pulled the tree out of its can, and I sent Jorgito to get a bowl to hold the sand while I held up the tree. He came back with some plastic bags and layed them neatly on the floor, thinking that we cold just dump the sand onto the floor. Well, that idea didn't go over too well with me, so we opted for dumping the sand into the bags. The bags had holes, of course, so we ended up with a sand-covered floor anyway. We managed to contain most of the sand in one bag as I held the tree up in the can. Jorgito, with the bag in his lap, got the duty of refilling the can. Well, 9-year-olds aren't very logical when it comes to that kind of thing. He sat about a foot and a half away from the tree with the bag in his hands, and this is how it went: Jorgito cups his hands together in a calculated manner. He grabs sand and stares at the base of the tree as though he is aiming. Suddenly, out of nowhere, he just whips his hands out and releases the sand, only hoping it will reach the can. It didn't reach the can. I took over after that and completed the task with minimal sand-spillage. We went back to decorating and the tree just wanted to fall over again. :) Jorgito and I settled for leaning it against the wall. Aren't we clever. As my family always says, book smart but lacks common sense. Jorgito and I are just two book-smart peas in a pod.

We took care of sweeping up the sand and waited until after lunch to make the cookies. I finally got fed up of the monotony of smashing dough, waiting ten minutes, and removing cookies, so we called it quits with a little remaining dough. Jorgito, being the 9-year-old that he is, chose to dig in. Literally. His hands were covered in dough, but that adorable, little, devilish grin kept me from rolling my eyes. That warranted some Kodak Moments that will be posted in their entirety on picasaweb at the rapidly approaching end of the month. The cookies were a hit. My family quite likes them, but I might have to retry someday. They just weren't the same. Anyone who has ever eaten one of Nana's sugar cookies can understand that.

One day, I went to catch a movie with Laura--something with Bruce Willis that was so dumb it made me laugh quite hysterically at the end. Anyway, upon purchasing tickets I noticed flyers for some cake decorating classes. I always told myself that if I ever had the opportunity to work at a cake decorating business I would totally take it, no questions. Well, of course I had to take the three-day course being offered! So Laura and I randomly decided to go to these classes. It was pretty fun. We learned to make a million different decorations from Goma Pasta and we ended up baking fruitcake. The fruitcake actually wasn't as terrible as I always imagined it would be, but still not my favorite thing in the world. We learned how to make fondant and decorated a bunch of different cake forms. It was fun to watch, but we didn't actually get to participate. The best part was learning all kinds of new baking terms in Spanish. I laughed hysterically when she prepared something using a 'Baño María.' Earlier that week Dad had emailed me a cheesecake recipe telling me to prepare it with a Bane Marie water bath. I never knew there was actually a name for that technique, but I did know what he was referring to. So I found it quite amusing that our teacher would use that technique just after I had learned its name. Maybe that isn't funny, but whatever. It made me smile. :) On the second day I met a nice woman named Nelly and chatted with her while walking a few blocks. I ended up forgetting my cookbook on the last day, but luckily we had exchanged emails on the second day. Nelly wrote me saying that she would like to return it to me. Hopefully we can meet up for tea and treats this week to get that done. There are some recipes I would like to prepare before Christmas. I am on a baking craze now. I made Rice Krispy Bars the other day with CocoaKrispies. They were a hit here, and I just found out that Maria Jose LOVES eating them in the states. Now I found another sugar cookie recipe and I want to decorate them with Jorgito for our family Christmas. I am a nut. But ya, the decorating class was something random and fun. I am glad I did it. My favorite was the cake pictured here that looks like a gift. It is so cute! If anyone ever sees the form for a square cake, buy it for me and I will pay you a million dollars.

My birthday was on December 12, and I really enjoyed it. We just had a nice little lunch of Chicharron, potatoes, and chocla at the house in the company of a few family members and family friends. It was my ideal weather and nothing grand. Just relaxing. I have said this enough, but I will say it again; I love the way adults party. We sat around outside talking for a couple hours and finally got to the cake. Vivi ordered a beautiful chocolate cake from Las Delicias, a popular little cafe in town, and I was just dying to cut into it. For the first time in my life, I really enjoyed having a group of people stand around me and sing. It felt good to turn 19. I have grown up a bit, and it felt nice to have people recognize my growth. That moment passed and I remembered I would have to participate in the tradition of taking a no-handed bite out of my cake. My uncle's hand was rested suspiciously on my back as I did so, but he only managed to get chocolate around my mouth as he tried to smash my face into the cake. After that I got the duty of slicing the cake. Vivi wanted me to cut it since we cut cakes differently in the states. The cake was absolutely delicious. Refrigerated cakes here are incredibly moist with this milky goo throughout the entire center. I LOVE IT!!! After eating cake with family, I met up with Cecilia and Fercha in the plaza. Of course, we had to go eat at Las Delicias though I had no desire to eat. We met up with Isabel there and ran into Ericka and Chelito. It was an hour well spent in good company. A great Saturday. A great birthday. I really enjoyed my 19th birthday. It was an important one for me. Way more important than 18 or 16. I feel a lot more like an adult as far as my thought processes are concerned.

Just this last week I started Spanish lessons in this great international Spanish school. I have two-hour lessons every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This place offers all kinds of activities and volunteerism opportunities. I was thrilled to see that they had a cooking class last Wednesday, so I signed up right away. When I got there at 6:45 Wednesday evening, I stood awkwardly amongst a group of foreigners I'd never met while waiting for our teacher. We finally got moving once the teachers arrived and not one person in that tiny room could quit talking. The plan was to bake a traditional Bolivian Christmas dessert of sopapillas, bunuelos and api, but we accomplished more talking than baking. Maybe that was the reason we didn't leave until 10:30? Either way, I had an absolute blast. I have never met so many amazing people all at once. It makes me want to do some serious traveling some day. I got to talking quite a bit with Rebekka from New York and she had some very interesting stories about her travels. She started out in Ghana and contracted some super funky infection, so had to stay in some hoo-haw specialty foreign disease hospital for a month in London. They never figured out what it was. I also talked a bit with some woman from Germany. She was just a great person to talk to. Elena was with her spouse and they are from Cyprus. Tessyl was a 19-year-old from the Netherlands(I think) traveling alone! Almost couldn't believe that. She was a sweety. One of the guys was from Switzerland and he was just a hoot. A couple other super tall blond guys and a woman whose name I could not even imagine how to write nor remember how to say joined in on the fun as well. What I found amusing is that we all talked in English! People from all corners of the world in a Spanish school talking English. I love it. It was just an all-around great time. I loved it and will continue to participate in the school's activities. It is a real eye-opener to the real world being able to learn from so many different people. Amazing.

What else. Well, I have been doing all kinds of fun things with friends this month. The other night I went to see a ballet with Cecilia. She and I are exactly alike, so I am my crazy hyper self when in her company. We waited for it to start for about a half hour, in which I was bouncing off the walls. Just hyper as could be. I finally decided to calm myself down with a huge sigh and threw a "scheisse" on the end for good measure. For my Rotarians and all good readers that don't use profanity, you may understand that the word 'scheisse' is my whole-hearted attempt at ceasing to use profanity. It is German, and that is all the information I will tell you. Not exactly a horrible word, but not polite either. Used loosely by the young population. Anyway, just after I said it these two blonde women turned their heads and grinned obnoxiously. I am pretty sure I turned beet-red at that moment. Of course they had to be Germans. Of course! So thank goodness they spoke English, because we dealt with my rudeness right then and there. After I apologized they were actually quite happy. One said it was nice to hear German, and especially that word in specific because people always say it differently. So that set Cecilia and I to tears in laughter, but I think I will knock the volume of my 'scheisses' down a notch. :)

I went to see Avatar with Oriana the other night. I had been exhausted all that day, and I had expected to fall asleep in the middle of the movie. Of course, I loved the movie and was happy I didn't even think about sleeping at one point. Great film. And afterward, Ori and I had yet another great discussion that still puts a grin on my face when I think about it. So I left the theatre at 10:30 wide awake, but prepared to sleep like a big fat rock after being so exhausted all day. So I get home and shut my brain off in order to stop being so ecstatically happy and thus be able to sleep. Man, I slept. I slept like a big fat rock. Until one of the neighborhood dogs decided to bark hysterically for 15 minutes nonstop at 3:00 in the morning. That made me REAL happy. Real happy. There was another dog right outside my bedroom window growling viciously the entire time as well. Thank goodness for my newfound calmness and understanding, because I managed to zone it out and fall happily back asleep as soon as they decided their throats were sore. That was almost too much irony for me to handle in one night. Exhausted all day. Thrilled to go to sleep. Sleeping like rock. Bogs dark obnoxiously on the one night that I want most to sleep. They have never barked like that before. Ugh.

I was going to go on the Rotary trip, but I opted against it for my own awesome reasons. All the exchange students will be in Sucre for the first part of the trip so I am anxious to participate then and finally get acquainted with all of them. I talked with Rotary and my parents here and they said that I am free to travel Bolivia on my own or with a friend if I so please. Of course, I am going to take full advantage of that much cheaper opportunity. I have a friend that is hoping to travel with me in January to visit Lake Titicaca for a few days. I am hoping to line that up with the Rotary trip also and spend more time with all the exchangees. You all are reading the thoughts of a very very happy young woman right now. I really hope everything falls into place, but we will have to wait and see.

I had a really weird dream the other night that is sort of a recurring dream. Torty, I will leave the interpreting to you. It better be good. :) So I am on the dock at a lake that isn't really Spirit Lake, but it holds the same feeling for me somehow. I am with family and friends, but the only person I really remember clearly is Mom. We are getting the boat ready to go out, but these waves come up all of a sudden. This storm rolls in from nowhere and things just start going nuts. For some ridiculous reason, we jump into the water to secure the boat properly. For yet another ridiculous reason, I have my beloved camera in hand. Well, a huge swell comes up and knocks the camera right out of my hand and into the water. I start balling hysterically as though I had lost a family member just then. Mom has to pull me out of the water via shore as I am just limp and weakened by my anguish. If anybody can interpret that, please let me know. I don't get it. But I have always had recurring dreams that include dangerous waters. The dreams are always different, but they include that theme. I have always had a certain fear/respect for the dangerous ocean waters, but I don't know. I am goofy.

I want to go make frosting right now. I don't know why. I just feel this really strong urge to bake, but we have no ingredients and frosting is probably the only thing I can make.

My host mom got mad at me the other day when I told the family my stomach hurt and all I wanted for lunch was soup. She accused me of eating too much chocolate that I in fact did not eat. Of course, Moms are always right, so I just agreed and went on with life. So 45 minutes later I go upstairs with 1 cherry in my hand. Abu laughs thinking it is a piece of chocolate and says, "And you continue eating chocolate!" I immediately defend myself and Vivi gets mad at me all over again because cherries are hard on the stomach and that 1 healthy, lone cherry is going to make my stomach even worse. Again, I agree with her and leave to finish eating my 1 cherry in privacy. Mom's are always right. There is no winning. Whatever. Sorry RealMom, but some small part of you must know what I say has some truth to it.

I am excited for Christmas here. We go to church on Christmas Eve and that is all I really know. We will get together as an entire family in the Casa Rodriguez at some point, but I am not sure when exactly. We will be vacationing to Iquique, Chile, and will leave on the 26th probably. Very happy woman right now. Very happy woman.

Had lunch today at El Huerto, a great little restaurant that is a favorite of mine. El Huerto means The Orchard, so consequently they have an amazing salad bar that I could just make a meal out of. We ate with my Aunt Sandra, Uncle Lucho, and their three boys. I always love their company. That family knows how to laugh. Even when I don't have a clue what they are laughing about I laugh hysterically. Great people.

I am getting fat. Fatter. December in Bolivia makes for some serious weight gain. Plus my newfound desire to bake and my lack of exercise here. I love it here, but I REALLY will be happy next summer when I can just whip out the bike and bike to and around yellowsmoke all day long. REALLY happy. City life is just not good for my health. I am about to my breaking point when it comes to breathing in toxic black bus fumes.

I just started participating on a great little photography project of Brad Bonner's. If you go to you can look at all my fotos for this project called SeeVida. Basically, Brad is trying to get photographers from each country of the world to take a photograph per day and post it on his SeeVida set. That way you can see the whole world from the seat of your computer desk. Very cool idea. Yay BBonner yet again for your awesomeness. To see the project in all its entirety you can go to, but remember it is just getting started and there are not many photographers or photos yet. It has proven to be a learning experience for me as far as figuring out yet another program(flickr) and gaining a bit more insight into all that Picasa can do. It is fun and reminds me to keep my eyes open. I am no photographer, but it sure is fun acting like I know what I am doing. Thanks BBonner.

I am really glad I found JetPuffed marshmallows the other day to make Rice Krispy Bars. That made me happy.

For a birthday gift my parents got me a book by Paulo Coelho titled El Alquimista. That translates to The Alchemist. I am thrilled to report that I understand it almost entirely. I ran out of books to read in English, so I am moving on to reading in Spanish and it is much easier now. I love reading in Spanish. Way easier than speaking or listening.

Geez, I think that is all I've got. I will try and get one more post in December right after Christmas, but that depends on when we travel. If not, then I will write in January. Have a great holiday season, everyone. Merry Christmas, and I love you all dearly. You can't even understand how much I have changed and how much more I appreciate you all. Thanks Rotary, family, and friends. You rock my socks right off. I mean, they are like dancing off of my feet as we speak. Holy goodness, one just rocked all the way off. It's because you all rock so much. :) I will log off now. I have spent a good five seconds debating whether or not I should delete the sock-rocking part, but hey that's me folks. :) Shelby Jentz, you are laughing right now. I think I can hear it. :)

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Passing Puberty!!!

I always kind of knew I was a quiet person deep down, but I am proving it here. Maybe 'proving' isn't the right word, because I can always change that quality if I so choose. I have become quieter here at least. I struggle with opening up to people entirely, and yet I have always preached that such honesty is the best policy. I know it is. If Truth were revealed in every heart, life would be so easy to endure. We wouldn't have to play the mind games. Everyone in my life would have an honest insight to my mind and my manner of being. They may not understand or appreciate my manner of being, but at least it would be honest and we could end the game right then and there. No guesswork in life. Everything just plain as daylight. I have only been so honest with three or four people in my life, and even that is debatable and often has to be forced out of me. I thank those people that are capable of extracting the real me. I am pretty sure you know who you are. You are the people I miss most.

I have always claimed to hate a lot of things when in fact, or so I believe at the moment, I might love them and really want them in my life. I believed my own theories for so long in order to endure the crap life throws at us-- if you really want to call it crap. I am a cynic deep down, but I often contradict myself with a very hopeful heart. Or maybe it isn't that I am a cynic deep down, but rather that I have a hopeful heart deep down and the cynic is the exterior-- the sarcastic part that appeals to the witty side in everyone, thus encouraging laughter which creates only the illusion of hope. That is the side that I once believed was a way to open up to people, but I believe now that is all wrong. It is a fake exterior. An easy way out. I always try to emphasize the negatives of certain things in the hopes of preventing any heart-breaks or chances at failure. I would rather just avoid something entirely if the risk of sadness is involved. Dating, love, marriage, debating with good reason, drinking, trying something new, letting loose on a dance floor, looking like a total fool, breaking the law. All those things and more I now desire and want to enjoy, but I have spent the last 7 years of my life convincing myself to hate them. I deny myself these pleasures, and yet I literally yearn for them. I have lived a contradiction for the last 7 years judging happy people all the time while living my life in secrecy and morose solitude. It is a sick habit one loves to justify, and so I will argue that this marked solitude does have its pros along with its cons. My mind is a constant rollercoaster always thrashing with new thoughts, and with all that thinking I recognize a lot of life's oddities in ways that my peers don't recognize too often, but at the same time I am not always good company. I may appreciate the things that go on in my mind, but I always fail to express those things so that people may enjoy them. I return yet again to my favorite quote, “Happiness is best when shared.” I have been a walking contradiction, and that is very hard on the soul.

I have been denying myself of specific pleasures and desires for a long time now, and, had I lived honest to my heart and fulfilled those basest desires, I imagine I would be a much happier and succcessful person right now. That which one desires must come naturally, right? Maybe not. I made decisions to avoid all those human desires in the hopes that such decisions would eventually pay off some day. When did I think they would pay off? I have been waiting for seven years, and I think I am finally fed up. I could wait around for 40 more years and probably find some good in my reasoning, but I just don't have the patience. And so I would love to now give into my desires even though I still have that little tug of inhibitions hindering me. That tug is me giving up an entire 7 years of highly-valued thoughts. One strong tug, let me tell you. I am trying to give up on all I have stood for in the past; however, I shall not pursue the exact opposite of what I have believed. I shall merely change. Take a new route in life—if I truly have the guts. I say this all now. Easier said than done, but I think that is only true if you live in lies. If we all lived in honesty, 'said' and 'done' woud be of equal easiness. But life keeps going down its funky path, and we will all continue to live in our little worlds of lies—myself included. Life goes.

I am reminded of the oh-so-clever thoughts of Dorian Walker, a Rotary exchange student whose writing I find to be quite amusing. He wrote that living in a foreign country isn't so much about changing to fit in with the natives, but rather about about being comfortable enough to shine in your own skin. I was questioning this one morning on my class trip to Rio Selva Resort. I am pretty much settled in here as far as friendships are concerned; I have friends I trust, and I can be my goofy self around them if I so choose. This would apply well to Dorian's philosophy; however, I was struggling with this after the third night of watching the majority of my classmates party themselves into a drunken stupor. I am all good with the fact that pretty much everyone my age here drinks—a lot. That is all part of the culture, and I personally find it amusing to watch them stumble around laughing at nothing. I do that without alcohol. However, when I participate in the festivities and get bombarded by drunkards demanding that I sing karaoke, I freeze. It would take a hell of a lot of alcohol for me to sing willingly for anyone. After refusing, I managed to ignore their anger and all my lameness was forgotten within ten minutes as they continued screaming and dancing and drinking. The surprising thing is that I didn't pull a super-freak and walk out crying. In that sense I have matured. My tear ducts have somehow malfunctioned since my arrival here, and I consider that a miracle as they once functioned on a daily basis in the States. Instead of blaming everyone else for my discomfort, I just endured it and moved on. I knew everything would be forgotten, and that it didn't matter if they were mad or not. I didn't have time to worry about what everyone else thought. So in that instance at that moment, I was comfortable enough with myself to say no and sincerely mean it.

What bothered me the morning after though, is the fact that I really wanted to sing. I really wish I had it in me to sing for people without trembling to the point of tears. I really wanted to be as comfortable as the rest of my peers to sing obnoxiously and not care what everyone else thinks. This applies to the whole week of partying. Each time I attempted to enjoy their forms of entertainment, I just got tense and angry and annoyed inside. That isn't good right? If I am not comfortable enough to break loose in my own skin, I should oppose Dorian's philosophy and become one of the natives, I thought. What the hell is it that keeps me from enjoying the same things as them?! Well, I finally realized it. The alcohol. Everyone else was so liquored up that they didn't have a care in the world. Everything's fun with alcohol! So I got to thinking a little more. If I need to be intoxicated to do certain things, why would I want to do them at all? I guess I just don't think I should need a false high to enjoy my life. So I waited 7 years of my life to drink alcohol because I convinced myself it was just the nastiest and most vile thing on Earth. That delusion turned out true for me. And you can't say I haven't tried it, because I most definitely have. My curiosity took over recently, so I asked permission to drink at my graduation party. I did not like it. Alcohol is some pretty nasty stuff. In this instance, I am glad I grew up convincing myself that alcohol is an evil thing. It stopped me from doing anything stupid and regrettable in high school. Those seven years of contradictions set my head level. I think twice about doing things, but I now at least am open to them. I am comfortable enough in my own skin to say no to alcohol, but I can also loosen up enough to have a few sips and not judge everyone else that is falling over in the bushes.

I hope I will always remain the quiet, pensive young woman I am, but I can do that and be a happy person at the same time. I don't have to hate things to stop myself from enjoying them, but I also don't have to pull a one-eighty and try everything. I can stop and think hard about things before making any decisions. And I can choose to sit on the sidelines while everyone else is out on the dance floor begging me to cut loose. I enjoy sitting back and watching everyone else party. Quiet observance. I have learned to not judge those that participate in the fun. Now I can appreciate their enjoyment while enjoying my quiet peace at the same time. I have found this new sense of peace. I really am comfortable in my own boring skin here. Dorian was right.

I think I just got through a part of the teenage phase. No going back to change it, so I just as well find some good in it. I learned some stuff along the way, but just when we think we are prepared for the next phase in life we get all confused and the catharsis starts over. Life goes. Holy smokes. I am about to turn 19. Thank goodness I got through puberty. I never want to go through childhood again.

By the way, if you would like to check into Dorian's blog here is the address: He is an incredible writer. Tina, you would absolutely love to read his stuff.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Los Bolivarianos

Where to begin. How about the beginning? Since before my arrival in Bolivia, Sucre has been preparing for the Bolivarianos. The Bolivarianos are basically the Olympics for 6 countries of South America that were liberated by Simón Bolívar. So I have mentioned this all before, but this week has finally come and we have officially started the Bolivarianos. The opening ceremonies were last Saturday the 14th, and I got a front row seat. Actually, I was in on the action.

All the high schools in Sucre were selected to perform acts for the opening ceremonies. I don't know how Laura and I got so lucky, but our high school got to be one of the most important acts, and on top of that, Laura and I were front and center...probably 45 feet or so from the president, Evo Morales. We practiced non-stop for over two weeks before. Our routine included hula hoops and ribbons and would actually have been kind of cool if we would have worked together and followed the music. I thought Bolivians had rhythm. I am starting to think otherwise. We were to perform to a beautiful song that was comissioned specially for this event. Being the strict percussionist that I am(sorry drumline), I nearly went insane in practices. So the music has this nice beat that would have been very nice to follow with the routine, but instead, our teachers just counted for us with a loud-speaker. Even though it was not in time with the music, that was nice at first...until the actual performance! Basically we all kind of counted in our heads and hoped that we were all counting the same rhythm. That drove me NUTS! Rhythm people. Rhythm. That is all I am asking for. So it was quite amusing to me in the end. It was cool-looking, but could have been way cooler. Rhythm. Please. So we got done with the hula hoops and we started the ribbon routine. It was equally frustrating for me, but amusing all the same. I will say that I miss the precision and perfectionism that band class demanded of me in Denison High School. I was well-suited for that. Either way, Laura and I were completely thrilled to be a part of such an important event, and we made some cool friends in the process. I loved being goofy at practices. It was a chance for me to loosen up and really be myself. Laura and I are probably 2 in a select few of the foreign world that got the chance to perform in this event, and for that I am greatful. After the performance, we all stuck around to finish out the celebration. The lighting of the torch and the march of the athletes. It was good fun and in good company. On top of the fun, we received really nice t-shirts and passes to enter free to all the events.

A week or so before the ceremonies I met a man from Venezuela. Julio. We met in a shoe store, and I hardly understood any of the many eager words he had to say to me. He left and I sort of brushed off the confusing discussion while realizing I would probably never see him again. Well, a few days later we spotted each other walking in town. I decided to put a little more effort into the discussion and it turned out great. I learned that he was here for fencing--a sport I had never really seen before. He told me his life story in five minutes and told me where fencing would be taking place and the best days and times to go. I left at that and was pretty excited. I got to meet a man from Venezuela while living in Sucre, and on top of that he is inviting me to come check out what he does best. Kind of cool, I would say. I was all giddy and happy after that, and became even giddier a few nights later. That was when I ran into him and a bunch of his Venezuelan buddies at my favorite restaurant. Of course, being the enthusiastic blabber that Julio is, he grabbed a chair next to me and continued with his life story and then some. It was amusing. I got to set eyes on one of his buddies who also happens to be the 6th best fencer in the world. So we parted and I decided I would certainly be going to see fencing at 1:00 on Tuesday afternoon. The third acquaintance was the last acquaintance until that Tuesday.

That Tuesday, Laura and I decided to grab a bite to eat in town with a friend, Ericka, and then head to the fencing site. This was in the same building as gymnastics, so we checked them both out. I ran into Julio and introduced him to my girls as we were leaving fencing to scope out gymnastics. He told us to be back at 3:00 to see the final fencing match for the gold medal. That match was to be with the 7th best fencer in the world, so I was surely going to return. We watched gymnastics and learned the names for all the events in Spanish, which are either similar to their English equivalents or just really easy and obvious to remember(even for non-Spanish speakers). The gymnasts weren't too phenomenal, but it was fun none-the-less. Ericka is absolutely adorable, so she was great company. There was always something to talk about with her. Laura and I decided that she needs to learn English and go live in Eugene. She so does not fit with Bolivia. We headed back to fencing a little before 3:00 and ran into Julio again. Of course, we got a Kodak Moment. A great picture actually, which I will post on Picasaweb as soon as my computer is up and running again. We got to hold his sword, which was pretty cool. The match ended and he got us a picture with the winner(yes, the the 7th best in the world). So that was a great day getting to meet people from Venezuela. Fun stories to tell. We hit the road afterward and called it a day.

Tennis started this morning, so I stopped by around 2:00 with Jorge, Jorgito, and Laura. Very fun to see a game with professionals. I have only ever watched the players at DHS, and even then I didn't really watch. I preferred chatting with Shelby and picking the grass. It is way more fun to watch at a professional level.

Jorgito also got a chance to participate in the events. The boys in his class get to go to all the fútbol games. They enter with the teams before the games to sing the national anthems. Completely adorable. He definitely enjoys that.

All-in-all, a great and once-in-a-lifetime experience. I almost can't believe I get to tell this stuff to my grandchildren someday. Thanks Rotary. Thanks Mom and Dad. Thanks everyone I love.

How amazing. By the way, sorry for my excessive and probably incorrect usage of hyphens in this post. I can't help it. Tina, you are probably cringing(I think I spelled that wrong, too) as you watch my writing skills go down the drain. My English is horrid now. Should you feel a need to teach me about the proper use of hyphens, I would eagerly accept your knowledge. ;) I just like hyphens.


I'm Baaaack.

Sorry for the break, everyone. I finally got back in the mood to write, and I will make up for my absence with two posts. This post will cover all the randomness that is not worthy of one full post.

Halloween. Yes, I know it is November, but Halloween is the 31st and I wasn't going to write a post on the 31st just so it would fit in the right month. Deal with it. Well, Halloween was never really a holiday in Bolivia, but it is gaining appreciation--in my neighborhood, anyway. I live in a small neighborhood on the outskirts of Sucre, and they started celebrating Halloween quite a few years ago. This year, Jorgito ran around dressed as a soccer player with his good friend. Somehow, I ended up with the task of handing out candy. I guess I just assumed the duty when Vivi and Jorge went to bed upstairs and no longer felt a need to get the door. What relaxing fun it was to hand out candy to a bunch of screaming kids that I didn't understand. Definitely not my cup of tea. I finally just started chucking the candy at them so they would go away. I hit this one little boy in the eye and felt kind of bad, but it got him off my case. Rotary, I am kidding. Relax. I am a decent person. I did enjoy myself, but it was a little awkward. Anyway, a couple days after the 31st, Bolivians celebrate Todos Santos Day, a day spent in remembrance of their loved family members that have passed on. It is a celebration, but I understand it is rather melancholy. A lot of people don't celebrate it anymore. I read in the paper that the amount of people that celebrated this year decreased by 40 percent. Astounding. I think so anyway. So, I can see how Bolivians might confuse the two days. I mean, running around pretending to be someone/thing else while demanding candy and all the while being greedy because the old woman on the corner only gave you one small sucker is very similar to sitting around and feasting with your family members while you graciously reflect on the greatness of their lives and all they have done for you. I definitely understand how one could mistake one day for the other. Not. The whole thing kind of disappoints me almost. The world is becoming Americanized. Why does the world keep trying to mimic a nation that is so confused and lost right now? Whatever. I guess it isn't as if all Bolivia is celebrating Halloween, and I suppose I shouldn't judge the entire Republic of Bolivia for one holiday. Really though, you must admit it is a bit of a bummer. The loss of true culture. And for my friends back in the states that remember last year's Halloween, Bolivian Halloween could never compare anyway. :)

FEXPO! Sucre's fair was in town early this month. Had plans to go to a reggae group one night with a friend one night, but I gave up on those plans and tagged along with some girlfriends when he decided to be over an hour late. About that. Well, Bolivians have a sort of inside joke. Hora Boliviana. This translates as Bolivian Hour or Bolivian Time. Pretty much, Bolivians are always late. One hour after the discussed meeting time is actually rather early. So, being the American girl that I am, I struggled with this at first. I actually broke down in Viviana's arms over it one evening. I was so sad and offended that someone could keep the lonely American girl waiting all alone for so long. I now realize what a petty feeling that was. Geez! Am I really so lame that I can't find sDDomething useful to do with that hour? Am I so lame that I couldn't just go in to the fair alone and find some great new adventure by myself? Am I really so lame that I could waste time being mad at someone who actually has a life to live that doesn't run like clockwork? The answers to those questions were yes. But now I am adjusted. Mr. Klaver would hate the Bolivian me as far as punctuality is concerned. More or less, I have grown accustomed to Hora Boliviana. I am even starting to show up late to things myself. What an accomplishment, huh? Really though, it is an accomplishment. I can start to live life without so much rushing and panicking. Now, I am guessing this newly acquired trait will go with me to the states. I beg you all now not to hate me too much when I run in late to your party or keep you waiting for over 30 minutes in the coffee shop. Just find something better to do until I show up, or show up late. Live free.

The Nice, Honest People of Sucre. Well, Laura Bainbridge might feel differently about that phrase. Sorry, Laura, but I warned you I was going to write about you and your 'learning experiences.' In case you all fail to remember who Laura is, she is the other exchange student to Sucre. And she is from Canada! Not the United States. But she lives in Oregon, and is an addict of American patriotism. To the extreme. Just thought I would get that clear and set the record straight, as I continue to tell people she is from the U.S in introductions. Anyway, Laura has, more or less, been the victim of three robberies. Almost four. The first one was legit. The typical tourist robbery that we are all warned about. Laura rides the city buses everywhere. One day on a crowded bus, she was doing something with her cellphone and proceeded to put it away. Soon after, the man behind her 'accidentally' spilled something chocolatey all over her back. Being the nice, innocent American/Canadian girl that Laura is, she dealt with it in a pleasant manner. I am sure you can all imagine the nice exchange of smiles and apologies. Well, after that, her phone was missing. It took her a week to really realize that the spilling of chocolatey gooo was not really an accident. Anyone who has read about traveling in South America knows that is the most basic tourist trap.

Just as I was starting to tire of giving her a hard time for her learning experience, another one came around. There is an area in the market that sells all kinds of silver jewelry. This is legit silver from the mines of Potosí, mind you, and not total touristy crap. Anyway, we both wanted rings and decided to go hunting there. I had checked them out the previous day, but didn't buy anything. One woman priced a ring at 40 bolivianos, which is a typical price. Not at all the 'tourist price.' So Laura and I were inspecting all the stands for the rings that we were looking for when we arrived at the last stand. Once she found the perfect ring, it was as if she wasn't even going to really listen to the man after she asked the price. As soon as he closed his lips she hammered out an instant yes. She walked away beaming with the ring she wanted after eagerly paying 70 bolivianos. Almost twice what I would have had to pay. It was a few minutes later that she realized she payed way too much for it. The ring was cheap for American money, but WAY too much in Bolivia. She got the tourist price. She robbed herself. Once again, I got the delight of giving her a hard time. Hehe. Tourists. Anyway, she now adores that 70-boliviano ring. Learning experiences. Aren't those fun?

It gets better. I told you there was a third one coming. Laura actually managed to get ripped off in a professional business. Laura had been wanting to call her good friend in the states, so she walked across the street from her home to an internet café. These business are everywhere in Sucre. On almost every block, you can enter these cafés to either use the internet for only 2 bolivianos(15 cents) per hour or call to foreign countries for. 80 bolivianos(6 cents) per minute. Súper cheap. Laura entered and asked how much it was to call to the U.S. per minute. From what I understand, the woman kind of avoided answering her, but Laura entered the booth anyway and made the call. When I called Courtney and talked for 30 minutes, it cost me around 25 bolivianos. Something like that. Laura talked to her friend for one hour and was charged 152 bolivianos. And she paid it! Learning experiences.

Laura, I apologize for dramatizing the experiences that probably aggravate you, but I warned you. This is just too priceless. I promise you now, that when my first learning experience pops up, you are free to make fun of me. At least you weren't robbed of anything dear to you. And your learning experiences have reminded me to be cautious. Just when I was starting to feel comfortable, you reminded me to be careful. Thank you....for getting robbed three times. ;)

"School's out for the summer!" Yay! I am finally free from sitting in a room doing nothing all morning every morning. Honestly, school was not that great. I was not required to do anything, so I ended up not having anything in common with my friends. I was bored. It seems now that the only common ground I had with my classmates in the States was whining about homework. That is not a good thing. Either way, now we are all free from thinking about homework and we can go out and have fun. I am súper-psyched about summer break here. I graduate on the 28th of this month and we have a big party that evening together as a class with our families. I guess it is the equivalent of prom in the States but with family. Then, on the 29th, a small group of my classmates and I will be traveling to Coroico. It is a small town near La Paz in the Yungas(the jungly part of Bolivia). If you check out this link( to the 5-star resort we will be staying at for 5 days, you will understand just how excited I am. Hahahahahaha. Evil laugh. I love the splendor of cheap Bolivian awesomeness. School is out, and I am happy. Time to dominate Bolivia.

Randomness. With my free time this week, I took advantage of the bright Bolivian sun. Well, it ended up taking advantage of me. I forget that I am way closer to the sun here, and it likes reminding pale, American girls of that fact. I am fried. Getting a tan in Sucre takes way less time than it would in Denison, Iowa. This all coming from the girl that yelled at anyone that stepped near a tanning bed. Not a good situation, but at least I won't be the palest girl at the poolside for our class trip. Wait. Yeah I will.

I was sitting in bed watching television in English yesterday, and I was completely oblivious to the fact that I was in Bolivia. My grandma was walking outside my windows and let out this crazy sneeze. I thought it was Mom. As in Juli-Mom. Freaked me out. I had to remind myself to not start getting homesick. Over a sneeze. Mom's sneeze is very distinct. Now I have the desire to sneeze. It feels good to sneeze, doesn't it?

I got a haircut yesterday. It was meant to be just a nice little trim to get rid of my split ends. I have been so excited about my hair. It was getting much longer and healthier. And thick and curly. I loved my hair here. Well, that all changed. I told her to chop off only about the width of two fingers. Well, when I looked down on my lap and saw the length of literally four fingers, I about started crying over my hair for the second time in my life. I couldn't believe it. I kept telling myself to quit being so American and to just go with it. Maybe it would turn out really cool and different...? I was freaking out and the scissors-chick could tell. She left and the stylist took over. It actually looked pretty cute afterward. It is entirely different from any style I have ever had. It is growing on me. Excuse the pun, Laura. ;) So once again it was proven just how Americn I am. I gotta learn to chill out a bit.

Laura and I were invited to a tea party with all the women of Rotary. Way fun. Laura and I laughed our way through the entire afternoon while sipping tea and eating Bolivian sweets. Loved it. At the end, I got lucky once more. Rotary must love me here. As you may remember, I was the shocked winner of a bottle of whiskey at my first Rotary meeting here. Well, at my first women's Rotary event, I won something else. Something interesting. A bit amusing if you have my same sense of humor. A fat massage. I wasn't sure how to down that. Really? You can pay someone to readjust your fat?! I suppose it ought to be interesting, so I will probably get that done next week. I am winning whiskey and fat massages. Amusing. I will be sure and keep you all informed as to the status of my body fat. (Side Note: I actually wrote this post yesterday morning and saved it for editing this morning. Last night, after writing this post, I attended a Rotary meeting and technically won another bottle of whiskey, but they recently decided to start paying money to participate in the drawing and now Laura and I can't win it.) Rotary loves me. ;)

On my last day of school, there was a church service for the graduating class in the evening. Ironically, I was the first one there. I think there were only 12 students there out of the 90+ in my class. Now, we all know I am not the most religious person in the world, but that made me sad. I love going to church here. It is interesting. And this particular service was meant for my class. I enjoyed it. The pastor guy(I don't really remember what they are referred to in Catholicism) reminded me of the Busbees in the Presbyterian church. I loved them. Great people. He was a very warm man. Church here is funny, too. It applies to Hora Boliviana. Relaxed. People walk in late dressed in normal street clothes while gabbing on their cell phones. It is like church here is tailored to their needs. You aren't frowned upon if you wear blue jeans and a t-shirt. Everyone seems welcome.

Well, that is all I got. Check out my other post on Los Bolivarianos.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tarcos, History, Puzzles, Musicals...? I don't know.

Not too much too say right now. At least not too much of anything specific.

The first image you see is of a Tarco Tree. They are very popular in Sucre, and I understand why. Absolutely gorgeous. They are everywhere and it seems like they are constantly flowering. For at least the last month they have been in bloom, and flowers fall every day. I can't seem to figure it out. When I come home every night and see a new blanket of purple flowers under this tree, I am always amazed to see it just as full again the next morning. These trees must be magical. I am serious. Like the Energizer Bunny, they just keep going and going and going. My little brother, Jorgito, begs Jorge for his sunglasses every time we drive toward this tree. The tint in the lense makes the flowers' colors even more vibrant. How cute.

Also, I was observant enough to note some very strange plant. It grows at an astounding rate, and it is the funniest plant I have ever seen in my life. It is like an aloe plant on testosterone with a giant asparagus in the middle. Again, totally not kidding. I noticed the plant a long time ago, but I noticed the other day that it had sprouted a giant asparagus in its center. I will post a picture of it on picasaweb at the end of this month. It is the funniest thing. I actually am chuckling right now. ;) Enough of that randomness.

Last weekend was Jorge's birthday. 52, but he claims to be only 2 years old. Because Vivi was out of town until Saturday morning, we only had a very small celebration with some of Jorge's siblings on Sunday. It was quite nice and relaxing. We have a sauna(yay!), and Jorge took his celebration as an opportunity to get it running for the summer. Most of the family came with swimsuits and we made a great time of it. I honestly had never used a sauna in my life before that weekend. I loved it. Mostly because it worked miracles for my disgusting teenager-skin in just one night. Also, I must say that I love the Bolivian attitude of pride and confidence about their bodies. For the first time in my life, I didn't particularly care that my thighs are a little freaky lookin'. Nobody else cares, so why in Mother Earth's name should I? Bolivians got it figured out.

I called it quits once the majority of the guests began to leave. A few of my aunts remained while Jorge and the boys watched a futbol game in the house. I took that as an opportunity to whip out the dessert I had baked as a surprise for Jorge's birthday gift. Lucy Norelius' Strawberry Shortcake! I attempted baking it that saturday, but I was super nervous. Apparently, Bolivians don't like thermometers with their ovens. That freaked me out, as I had already been panicking about making conversions for the extreme altitude, but it actually turned out alright. The shortcake baked in just under 20 minutes, but it is supposed to bake for 30 minutes. It was a little "burny," too, but actually edible. Also, half-&-half is nonexistent here. So, I found sweetened condensed milk and mixed a little in with milk. I know that is so not a substitute that makes sense, but it tasted pretty darn good so I went with it. Also, I found some beautiful fresh strawberries in the Central Market on Saturday that tasted just delightful. After preparing a heaping portion for Jorge, I fixed up the remainder to share with my aunts. It was a hit with everyone, thank goodness. I still can't believe it turned out alright. I can't even bake chocolate chip cookies in Denison, so to do cake at altitude without a thermometer seemed nigh impossible. I was pretty happy with myself. My dessert was the perfect topper to a great day.

Randomness. Because Viviana works with the government, she was required to take language classes in Quechua. Quechua is the native language of the "indigenous" peoples of Bolivia(wink, wink, Nana). Evo Morales, being Bolivia's first indigenous president, is generally hated by anyone who DOESN'T speak Quechua. And because Viviana was required to take these classes, she hates him even more. Every day for two hours. In the end, she was a good sport. We spent the afternoon before her final exam going over her vocabulary. She kept telling me all these words, and I only remembered one. Information Overload. Anyway, now I keep asking Olga, our maid, new words in Quechua. Cachita means pretty. Cachi means salt. Unku means poncho. So I will keep that up, but I will stick to Spanish. ;) Quechua is a strange and beautiful language. Very difficult to pronounce properly, and even harder to write. So in short, now Viviana can understand the basics of Quechuan. Super cool. If you go to this page( you can listen to a girl singing in Quechuan. Very unique.

More randomness? We were playing basketball in gym last week and I made a glorious shot, but it was for the wrong team. That made for a good laugh. Wow.

So you are probably wondering why I have a picture of a bunch of castles in the middle of this post. Well, I have been dying to find a puzzle, and I finally did. St. Basil's Castles, it was called. Good puzzle. Finished it with all Saturday morning and one hour of this morning. The weather is gorgeous here, so I worked on it outside on the patio. I just left it sitting outside all day and knew I wouldn't have to worry about the wind or anything. What a great way to spend a beautiful morning outdoors. By the way, the Spanish word for puzzle is 'rompacabeza.' This translates directly as 'headbreaker.' I know I am goofy, but I just love that. Is that not the cutest thing ever? Also, when you cross your fingers for luck here, you say "conejitos!." This translates as 'little rabbits.' That just makes me feel all cute and playful inside. I don't know why.

And now a segue into an actual story.

Yesterday for lunch, Vivi drove Jorgito and me to a construction site. After getting lost numerous times, we reached the destination. Apparently, it is Bolivian tradition to feast and fest at the site of construction when it is first getting started. This party is referred to as a "challa" in Quechua, and is a superstion for good luck. This building and the land on which it lies actually make this specific party very important for Jorge. This will be Jorge's first personal project with his construction company, as opposed to building bridges and tennis courts and other such things for the city. It is critical that this project is a success. Also, Jorge's family once owned a massive portion of land on the outskirts of Sucre. That land is very special to him, and it is where he has chosen to build. While we were eating, he took a while to explain all the history to me. As we sat on an unfinished deck overlooking the valley, he showed me the vastness of their property. The land on which we stood was once the family farm. And it had to have been a big one with five mountainsides to its name. The mountainside was covered in peaches, chocla(massive Bolivian corn), pears, avocadoes, artichokes and more. Besides crops, they owned dairy cows, horses, chickens, pigs, rabbits, a dog, and I am certain there were more animals also. Jorge remembers spending two months or more of each year on the family farm when he was a young boy. He has so much pride in his family's history. Besides just imagining the no-longer-existent beauty of this ancient family homestead, I actually got a tour of their home that has been standing since 1820. I couldn't believe it. I must return with my camera soon. A huge white colonial home complete with arcs and stunning, original murals that are still visible today, despite their exposure to the elements for the last 180+ years. This home is packed with history. It sits right at the top of the hill overlooking the valley that was once covered in crops. It survived an earthquake, and the damage can be seen in a nice crack running sort of diagonal from top to bottom in one corner of the house. Also, the adjacent mountain was once home to the family chocolate factory that was the first such factory of its kind in Bolivia. Jorge also remembers the long walk through the valley to get to the factory. I am charmed by the extensive history of this family. Jorge and his brother, Fernando, plan to restore the home to its original state and turn it into a sort of clubhouse that will be adjacent to a pool and tennis courts. This will be literally right next to the apartments. I really can't imagine being a true Rodriguez, and having the honor of being a part of that history. Amazing.

That was just a phenomenal day. So relaxing and yet fascinating. I know this project is a big deal for Jorge and his family. I wish him well. Perhaps I can return someday to see the home restored. Fernando knows an artist that plans to restore all the murals to their original beauty. I just am thrilled for the whole project, and the party was delightful. I was honored to be a part of it.

I need to learn some more 'enticing' adjectives. ;) Nana, help me out here.

After that splendidifrous afternoon, I prepared to meet up with Ori, her brother Pedro, and Nicole. We had plans to see a musical titled Hoy No Me Puedo Levantar. This translates as 'today I can not rise'. Though I didn't understand exactly, I still quite enjoyed it. Pretty much, it was the equivalent of Rent, but placed in Spain. I think. :) Struggling musicians, love, drugs, sex, Spanish. Ori, feel free to correct me if I am way off the mark. ;) The musical was based on the music of a great 80's band whose name I can't recall. Moneco, or something like that. It was enjoyable.

So that was a late night, but a night well spent. I slept like a rock and now today I am lazing around. Finished the puzzle this morning, ate at El Huerto(The Orchard in English) with my aunt Elena and uncle Juan Carlos, and afterward chilled in my bed watching Top Gun in Spanish. Yayah. That movie never gets old. Now I must go, because my family must think i am a recluse for sitting at the computer for the better half of the afternoon.

By the way, I would like to apologize for any spelling errors I have managed to committ in this post and others. My writing is going down the drain. A shame too, since I used to be Little Miss Spelling Champion. I find myself making the goofiest errors. Please be nice to me, Summer. I know you will probably have a few choice words to say to me if I keep destroying the English language. ;)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

This is Not a Blog.

I am kind of going out on a limb here. I hope noone finds my words too foolish, but I guess that is life. "What have I got to lose" in expressing all this anyway. I would absolutely love to hear some words of wisdom if you should have any to offer. I am always up for a hearty discussion. I advise you to read with patience and an open mind. My mind is confusing, and it gets worse when put to paper. Good luck.

A couple days ago, sadness struck. And it struck hard. I wanted a hug. A hug from a certain Someone. A certain Someone of the very few Someones who try to understand what really goes on in my warped little brain. I wanted so badly to curl up in the arms of Someone so I could cry for fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes to express myself--in English. I thought I needed those fifteen minutes of weakness until I sat teary-eyed through two depressing hours of class the next morning. It was then that I started writing(expressing my Self in English!), and I am not sure how I ended up with all of the following, but it just kind of happened.

In my sadness, I decided I did not need that love. I thought, "love is weak." If all I crave is that physical hug--that moment of weakness--then I do not need that love. That weakness that is love would only prevent me from accomplishing what I came to accomplish. Isn't love supposed to strengthen two people? That's how I always envisioned it. But then, this vision is coming from a girl who has never been in a relationship, been kissed, or been loved(by another boy of similar age, mind you, Mother), so how could my vision possibly be correct? Well, it probably isn't correct, but who defines 'correct' in today's goofy world?

So here I am, a romantic yet loveless girl, thinking way too much about love. I asked myself, what if 'soul mates' don't exist? I mean this in the non-cheesy way, of course. Why should two people stay together until their death? I will gladly claim the following and, in turn, accept any criticism you all may have to offer: No two people, as a faithful couple, can remain together for the entirety of their lives in complete bliss. No way. When I get annoyed with a friend, I can take a different direction and forget about that annoyance. And I can always return later to that friendship acting as though such an annoyance never happened. A day to clear my head. A break. We all need that sometimes, right? So why in Mother Earth's Name would we want to commit to a marriage?! I can't imagine telling someone I want to spend the rest of my life with them and truly meaning it. Seems like a pretty hefty promise to me. No breaks for a fracken eternity?! Well, if you think about it, what was that 'break' really from in the first place? A break from working on a relationship? A break from putting up with something I didn't try hard enough to understand? A break from growing as a person? What?

I once thought I would be a better person if I stood with the support of just my own two feet. Why not be a strong person without all those weakening hugs I always seem to want? Why not 'take a break' from all those little annoyances in my life? Annoyances cause stress, right? WRONG! I am the cause of my own stress. My weakness lies in failing to understand the annoyances, and from my weakness grows stress. So maybe we need to promise our commitment to another person. Maybe we need to work through those annoyances.

I have lived eighteen years under my parents' roof, and with that I have also been able to watch their marriage and life together from an outsider's perspective. If I could graph their life together with a scale of sadness to happiness, there would be many peaks and valleys. I have witnessed their good times and bad times--both together and as individuals. From my observance of their lives, I have proof that "annoyances" and unhappy times in a marriage can in fact lead to happiness. Maybe, in the end, a relationship with a rocky road is the best kind. Maybe, with all that struggling you both do grow stronger in the end. Maybe you can have the best of both worlds--weak moments with an occasional hug, and, after having worked through those weak moments, strength. Together.

I could choose to go through my life alone and strong, but maybe we really do need that hug--that 'weakness' that isn't really a weakness in the end. Or maybe we actually grow through a lifetime of 'weakness' only to learn in the end that we could, in fact, have been strong on our own. I don't know. But then, atleast you will have learned that lesson with someone at your side as opposed to only thinking you might know the lesson from the start and going through life alone. Someone to "witness your existence." "Happiness is best when shared." Happiness sucks when no one else is there to feel it with you. I say that from experience. Lots of experience. Maybe you just gotta go through the whole long cycle. Maybe that's how we get through life without being bored. We gotta work on our character. We gotta try to be better people. Why not complete that hard task with someone at your side to help you learn in ways you never even imagined?

I definitely don't think any two people are perfect for each other. I think people gotta work really hard to make their lives work together. I have friends--each with certain qualities I have come to adore. If I could put all those qualities into one body, I would not love that body. There would be no flaws for me to hate. Nothing to change. Nothing to work on. Nothing to get me through life's tedium. We need 'flaws'--if that's what you choose to call them. Those 'flaws' are the building blocks whose presence we must not just knock out of our way, but rather work around and adapt to. Flaws are Goodness in Disguise.

I am not saying I want to get married any time soon. Heck, I am not even saying I am in love. I was just sad in loneliness, and on such a down day my mind searches for inspiration. My romantic personality finds inspiration in love. All kinds of love. I don't know why inspiration is more easily found in sadness than in happiness, but that is how I function. I am a thinker.

So this is where I begin wrapping things up. As the romantic and dramatic young woman we now all know I am, we realize that I love to love. I am about as emotional as they come. In many cases, I am offended far too easily. In other cases, I don't let a silly offense get in my way. Taking care of people delights me. Random acts of Kindness inspire me. On the other hand, I am equally good at being mean. I have a way with words when I am angry, and they can really damage a person's livelihood. They have damaged a person. Many. Do I like all this about myself? Ya. I think I really do for the most part. I let my passions lead me. Everything I do is sincere. Am I sincere when I talk down someone's esteem? Well, my anger and pain are sincere, and I wouldn't feel them so strongly if I didn't really love the person toward whom the words were directed. I can always change the way I deal with those feelings. Thankfully, I have. My passion--my 'flaw'--is a building block I have used to my advantage. I learned how to become a better person by realizing and working with my 'flaw.' My passion. I can't change the feelings. Only how I react to them. I am passionate. Dramatic. Inspired by love and its many forms. War and death really put a damper on my delight, and I truly believe in the power of "love, love love." The Beatles were on to something.

So perhaps all that is why I am so impassioned on the subject of love. When I love and hate(which is really just another form of love), I do it with passion. I don't think many people love in the same way I do. People love in different ways. Ways I don't understand. Ways I haven't felt before. I am just too sentimental and self-absorbed to recognize these forms of love. I know I am. I am too much of a stubborn ass to appreciate love even when I DO recognize it. For example, a prayer. When someone tells me they will pray for me, I honestly get a little annoyed, but I know now what they mean. That is how they love. How they feel it. I get so giddy when I do something sentimental for someone, but sometimes that person doesn't seem to understand it. And if they do understand it, sometimes they don't seem to appreciate it. I think, maybe, this is because people really do love in different ways. If one has never expressed their love in a manner similar to mine, how could they understand it? So now, through understanding, I can appreciate the love, power, and feeling behind a prayer and other forms of love. I can recognize other forms of love now, and I won't get too hung up when a receiver of my sentimental rewards is a little confused.

So, I can't have that hug, but I can keep on spreading the love I have to give. I thrive on that. I decided that a hug can make a couple strong. In the end. But I am not A Couple. I am A Lone. This year is one big exercise for my Way of Being. I have to find the strength to be strong on my own, because no matter how bad I want a hug from that Someone that understands me, Someone will not ge able to fly to Bolivia and hug me. Even if Someone wanted to do so. I gotta tough it out and learn a lot about myself. I have to love myself before I can love another. I have my own life to live, and if I haven't figured out my own life, why waste time trying to figure out someone else's?

So that's all I got. That's me. Though I was pretty sad, I am now ecstatic. I found creative inspiration in my sadness. Anyone who has ever been lucky enough to feel that will understand me right now. It is sad to think that many people have never felt so. Either way, I am happy now. I can't stop buying myself flowers in the market and walking alone down the streets with a certain sense of happiness and bounce to my step. Inspiration hits and it just sets me off. Without access to the artistic materials I desire, I have resorted to writing for the expression of my inspiration.

Happy day to all.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Filling In the Blanks

This could get lengthy, but I will try my hardest to streamline it.

Last Sunday marked the 53rd birthday of my Uncle Fernando. Because he lives in La Paz with his wife, Ximena, and was in Sucre all week, we ended up throwing a party in our home. A huge portion of the family was there, and I am pretty sure I was the only person below the age of 30. It sure was nice. Adults know how to party. Just a nice, breezy afternoon spent feasting under umbrellas and enjoying the company of family is as good a party as any. I much prefer that over a dark room, high heels, blaring music, sweaty people grinding other sweaty people, and trying to avoid stepping in vomit thanks to all those that find it fun to get completely wasted. The party started at 1:00 in the afternoon and everyone was out of the house by 8:00. I thoroughly enjoy watching a family be happy together. It is something I haven't seen too much of in the states. We seem to neglect our family members because we know they will still love us when we treat them horribly. We treat new friends amazingly in the hopes that we will have another person to call when we want to complain about the family or cry about our problems. Friends are the only people that understand us, right? I realize now it should be opposite. Friends come and go, and family is always tied to you. Family always comes first. Bolivians just seem to get that.

Next on the list of Randomness. Student Day, Valentine's Day, and the first day of Spring all occur on the same day in Bolivia. My morning started out as a big party at my school. All the teachers and students participated in various skits, dances, and musical performances. The day was most special for me and my graduating class. After the performances, my class continued the party as the younger children left to attend class. As my classmates sat before the school's stage, various groups of very young students entered the stage to perform traditional Bolivian dances for us. All my friends were remembering when they were young and had performed for the graduating class. After the adorable performances, we lined up to enter the stage. As we stepped on stage, each child greeted us with a hug and a kiss as they gave each of us a flower and a pin. At this point, my class started singing some sentimental song. I grinned cluelessly at the front of the stage as all my girlfriends started getting teary-eyed. Thankfully, that ended quickly, and we returned to our seats to feast on empanadas and Fanta while Chompas and various other wicked-awesome teachers toasted to OUR awesomeness. I was deeply greatful for a direct address from Chompas, my art teacher, and Leche, the class president. They are really trying hard to make Laura and me feel at home. From teary-eyed speeches we headed back to the main plaza for a dance in the fresh air until lunch time. It was at this time that Valentine's Day flowers, chocolates, and balloons were passed out. It is the equivalent of Ho-Ho Grams for Christmas at DHS. Very fun, and I received a flower from Chesko, the class clown. The festivities finally wound down that morning, but I was prepared for a little more fun in the afternoon.

I offered to take Jorgito to see a movie since we were both free. I don't know the title, but it was a great comedy with Eddie Murphy. We were both alone in the theatre while waiting for the film to start when "Thriller" started playing. Jorgito is absolutely obsessed with "El Rey de Pop," so we decided to have a little fun. I walked him to the front of the theatre and we started dancing like maniacs. Cory and Carl, only you two would know how fun that could possibly be. ;) When we caught our breath, the movie began, and Jorgito just loved it. Surprisingly, I understood all the Spanish, more or less, and I loved it as well. We both left the theatre laughing as we walked to Abu's home a couple blocks away.
From there, we all took a nice long walk. Our hope was to find a vendor of futbol jerseys, and we were successful. Jorgito and I are now looking quite lovely in our matching Sucre University futbol jerseys every time we cheer before the television. "Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool! " On the way back to la Casa Rodriguez, the three of us stopped for a gyro. Abu is a regular in the restaurant, as she lives right above it. She was insistent that I try a gyro. It was tasty. I shall return. Nana, nobody could ever take your place, but Abu really makes a great substitute when in need of a little grandmotherly love. So that was the end to a great day. I returned home that evening and slept like a baby. "Como tronco," as Jorge puts it. Jorgito and I still chuckle about the movie. He just gets cuter by the minute. His birthday is this Friday, so I am sure I will have a nice blog about that soon.

Next on the chain of events is a birthday party of two of my friends, Fercha and Cecilia. Two very unique girls that I have come to love. I got all dolled up that evening and arrived with Ori at Cecilia's home by 9:30. I wasn't entirely prepared for such a party. It was like right out of an American film where all the kids are crowding in the kitchen trying to get at all the liquor. The table was packed, and the booze kept coming. As soon as everyone walked in the door, alcohol was the first thing on the mind. Laura and I finally found a comfortable seat so we could just watch everyone rapidly grow dumb. After chatting for a good two hours, I was thrilled to visit with two girls. Because they too do not enjoy grinding with a bunch of drunk people, they made plans for a midnight trip to a concert in town. Of course, I was all on top of that. We made it to the concert by midnight and I was in heaven. Hippies, tourists, great Blues music from a local band, graffiti, and good sober company in Sucre, Bolivia. I don't think it gets any better than that. Does it? It does.
We were accompanied by William, a completely adorable classmate of mine. The last time I had talked to him was when he was stuffing his mouth full of coca leaves on our trip to Potosí. I was a little put off then, but last night was just adorable. All the boys are such gentlemen here. As I was the only one in high heels that night, and we had to do a bit of walking, William was always at my side ready to catch me in case of a fall. And, of course, I nearly fell. He stood by my side the whole concert and kept staring at me because he and the girls were so thrilled that I was loving the music. Every time I smiled at the music, I looked at him and he was already staring at me. How funny and completely adorable. Now if only I wasn't 5 inches taller than him. In the middle of the concert, he asked me if my friend Bernarda knew where I was. I was confused. I am a big girl now and can go have a little fun on my own. He sensed my attitude and explained that he didn't want Bernarda to worry about me. Does that get any cuter?! It isn't as if he is entirely unique in his gentlemanliness though. All the boys are generally the same. I will miss that. And this is coming from the girl that used to hate all that gentlemanly conduct bullhonky. I can fend for myself, but I certainly don't mind if someone else wants to step in and do the fending. I am a sucker for a gentleman. Hint, hint. :)

So we made it back alive and happy, and that was pretty much the end of my night. I reentered the party to say goodbye while Jorge was on his way to pick me up. Everybody was nuts and one was passed out on the couch inside the door. Definitely amusing. I don't know if I will ever adjust to such partying, but I can sit there and laugh at least. I am going to end this blog finally, and go make a delightful fruit salad for dinner while the rest of my family eats burgers and fries. By the way, I got sick one more time. Hopefully the last time, though I am happy because it has given me a good excuse to not eat hamburgers anymore. Maybe I will get skinny after all.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Where to begin. Well, I am way too exhausted to have any thoughts for the day, so I will settle for a nice narration of my incredibly chaotic week.

What started as a nice Friday afternoon in the plaza, ended as a very eye-opening and frightening one. So far in my life, I have been lucky enough to avoid any major suffering or hardship. I realized for the millionth time just how lucky I have been in life when I watched a taxi run over a very young boy that Friday afternoon. I heard what sounded like a popped tire, and I turned my head in time to see the rear tire resting square on the child's chest. What am I supposed to do as the people shout and wave the clueless driver forward? What am I supposed to do as the mother picks up his limp body in her arms? What am I supposed to do as the people instantly crowd around the scene? How am I supposed to feel as I watch all the terrified girls reach out to their boyfriends looking for comfort? How am I supposed to feel as I watch a band and a parade of dancers LITERALLY march through the scene as the police move the incident to the other side of the street?! What am I supposed to do? Well, I sat there glued to my bench crying like a coward and repeatedly murmuring, "Oh, my God. Oh my God." What was I supposed to do? After putting on a happy face for the clueless Jorge the rest of the afternoon, I eventually burst as we left the office that evening. I don't know what ended up of the little boy's life, but mostly I was preoccupied thinking about all the onlookers. I still can't seem to understand how people can see something so eye-opening and just move on with their lives in such a quick and seemingly tidy fashion. Life moves on. I have always struggled with that concept. When the time comes that I shall lose someone very close to me, I imagine I will have a very hard time coping. I don't like the concept of 'moving on.' Well, life does move on, but now it moves with a worry every time I walk the streets with Jorgito. He ALWAYS walks on the part of the sidewalk closest to the building now, and his back is never without the touch of my hand prepared to yank him out of the way. Life moves on, but just a little differently for me.

Last Friday afternoon also marked the start of La Entrada, which explains why there was a parade marching through the scene of the accident. La Entrada is a festival which occurs in the cities of La Paz, Oruro and Sucre, and it is basically an incredibly gargantuine parade which consists of hundreds of historic and folkloric dances and music of Bolivia. All kinds of people come together, wealthy and poor, to participate in the dances. The real festival starts Saturday morning and lasts all hours of the night. I was out until 4:00 Sunday morning and thought that meant the end of it all; however, I was shocked, and a little irked, to hear music blaring still as my family and I drove to lunch on Sunday afternoon. I can only handle so much partying, and I normally am not one for parties at all anyway. I had had enough partying for one weekend, but it certainly was an unforgettable and marvelous experience.

The fun really started in the late afternoon. My family and I stationed ourselves in the main plaza where all the action is. By 7:00, all my aunts and some crazy uncle were beyond drunk. This resulted in some serious fun and great pictures. My uncle was screaming at every beautiful woman that danced past, and if she didn't respond he simply chased after her and started dancing. Or was that more like stumbling? Hmm. Every time the band for each dance passed us, he felt some urge to attack the drummers. He just ripped the bass drum mallet out of someone's hand and started hammering the heck out of the drum as if it were perfectly normal.

After seeing an uncountable number of dances, we decided to wrap it up and head to la Casa Rodriguez(my family's wicked-awesome home in the plaza) for a party. It was there that my migraine started. Yay! So, at 11:30 I popped a pill and ran upstairs to shut my eyes in the hope that it would pass in time to enjoy the party. Luckily, I was functioning by 12:30 and finished out the remainder of the party getting hit on by drunkards in the street and dancing like a maniac with my aunts and uncles until 4:00 in the morning. The Rodriguez family definitely knows how to party. My writing expertise fails to convey how much I truly loved that night, but I do believe the pictures I posted on will do the evening justice. Bolivia kind of stole my heart that day. The people are so happy despite their obvious hardships, and they have so much pride in their history. Please go check out the pictures!!!!

And you thought that was the end of my "chaotic" week? Yeah right. Somehow, I manage to get all rested up for school on Monday. The day is going well, and that afternoon I return to town with Jorge. Because I have no classes this afternoon, we get to work on dealing with extending my visa! Fun. After running errands all over town in the heat of the day, I take a break to go chill at the supermarket and start writing this exact post among other things. I am feeling a little dizzy, and finally I realize I am really just not feeling well. After rudely and abruptly ending all my facebook discussions, I ran outside in time to puke in the populated streets of Sucre, Bolivia. So, now I am standing all alone with just myself and my blond hair getting stared at by what feels like a million people as I puke and cry in the streets. Why aren't romantic love stories ever true? Why couldn't some gorgeous man just come pull back my hair and sweep me off my feet to dash me to safety? Come on, people! Instead of relying on my fairy-tale ending, I start traipsing back to Jorge's office. Once there, I managed to be sick 4 more times. Never in my life have I had so many people worried about me all at once. On top of all the office staff, I even had aunts and uncles there to fret over me! Besides help from Mom, I have always been kind of good at taking care of myself when I am sick. I wasn't sure if I was crying that afternoon because I was scared, or because I felt so incredibly loved. That is not to imply that I do not feel loved by my family in the states. :)

So, I made it home alive, though that was the longest car ride of my life. I would rather fly to Bolivia and back ten times than take that car ride while sick. Bolivian driving is already atrocious, and the addition of a miserable stomach and spinning head certainly don't make it any more bearable. I made it up to Jorgito's bedroom with the help of Jorge's arm and continued my labored breathing. I swear I am never having children. I can't even handle an upset stomach. Bolivians doctors are all gung-ho for house calls, because after more vomitlicious fun the doctor arrived and jabbed my belly a bunch of times. I swear he just got some sick pleasure out of seeing me wince in pain. Once he had enough fun with that, he jabbed me with an IV and I crashed a short while later. I stayed home from school the next day to recuperate and was feeling much better. And the day after that even better, but with a little bit of pain in my gut. It felt like someone punched me right in my gut below the ribs. Ugh. Today, I am up and running. I finally got to pass on chicken broth, and I ate pizza for dinner tonight. Heaven.

In short, this last week has been a long one. Long and interesting. Finally, I have finished this post, and now I must leave the comfort of my bed to stay out late on a school night. Definitely sleeping in physics tomorrow.

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