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 www.flickr.com/hmnelson12 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 www.flickr.com/groups/seevida, 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. :)