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(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aL0xUvZAixg) 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, death...in 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. ;)