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.