Sunday, January 31, 2010

January Randomness

As promised in my previous blog, I am writing one more blog for the month of January. It has been an interesting month. I don't really know what happened when I sit down and think about it. Thank goodness I have a whole bunch of pictures to remind me. Time seems to have moved very quickly this month.

At the very beginning of January, the exchange students had their Rotary trip across Bolivia. I decided to not participate in this because I plan to do my own traveling with a friend and family here. This will be much cheaper and I will be able to stay in one place for a much longer amount of time. Anyway, the four students staying in Santa Cruz started their trip in Sucre. I definitely wanted to get to know them a little, so I spent the day touring Sucre with them and thoroughly enjoyed myself. All four were from the United States, so we enjoyed a day of speaking in English. Frances and Forest were the two I probably related to most, but Chaz and Kiana were interesting as well. We did all kinds of random things throughout the day. I finally got my touristy photo session with the lion statue in the Plaza 25 de Mayo. Something about having a big group of fellow non-Bolivians made me comfortable enough to finally do that. From there we made a trip to Parque Cretacica. This is a park that is home to some massive dinosaur tracks. I honestly didn't pay attention. I couldn't stop laughing at how touristy it felt. But I had fun anyway and bought a nice little dinosaur keychain to place proudly on my Rotary jacket. After the park everyone went to the Casa de Libertad. I opted out of that part as I had already visited before, and instead walked to the Recoleta where we planned to reunite. I met some random guy named Edwin there, and we worked on his English for a good hour and a half. At last my amigos made it to the Recoleta and we hung out there for a while until heading back down the hill for dinner. After dinner we stupidly walked through the Plaza to go check out the fancy fountain in Parque Bolívar. I say 'stupidly' because the festival Carnaval is nearing and it is celebrated by throwing water balloons. All the senior guys from my high school here saw us as the perfect targets. Luckily I got away with only a wet sandal and foot, and I saved a balloon and whipped it perfectly at Diego's chest. Payback is so sweet. Forest, the photographer of the group, was quite unhappy to discover his camera got wet. Luckily it was fine. So after escaping that situation we made it to the fountain that I had not yet seen previously. There I learned to waltz with Frances, I miraculously convinced Forest of a Kodak Moment, I congratulated a wedding couple, and I stared at lights and moving water. Woo-hoo! That was a fun day, and I am glad I got to meet all the students. The next morning they all headed off for the rest of their journey, and I hear they had an amazing time of it.

A few days after that I finally received my Christmas package from Nana and Papa! It was filled with three puzzles, pez, shoes, and lovely cards. I immediately got to work on one very difficult 750-piece puzzle. I started right after lunch one day and finished it the next day immediately before lunch. Vivi was astonished. The whole family was. I just love puzzles. And once you get me going, I don't stop. It must be finished as soon as possible. That puzzle was probably one of the most visually straining puzzles I have ever done. I will probably never do it again. Well, maybe I should. I am pretty sure I have the details of every piece memorized now. Hmmm. :)

The next weekend I took a walking trip with Oriana. I felt an urge to do some walking outside of the city's center, and I was not comfortable wandering alone. Plus, I was looking for some photographic inspiration. Walking the same exact spots day after day gets a little boring. Ori took me on a tour to the southern side of town until we came across the cemetary. We made a morning out of touring the cemetary, which turned out to be quite interesting. The place is HUGE, and surrounded by double walls. Those double walls are lined with square holes to place the bodies. People decorate the front of each space just like we would decorate a tombstone in the States. I will be posting pictures that go with this blog on as soon as wi-fi kicks back in so you can see just what I am talking about. Anyway, inside these walls are many many mausoleums for the wealthier families of Sucre. Politicians, Presidents, the Prince and Princess of the Glorieta, and all kinds of other famous people. Those were pretty cool and very well maintained. The whole center was just a giant garden with mausoleums in it. Surprising that I could find a cemetary beautiful. Very randomly, as I was walking the outer walls, I came across a tomb that said Juana Calvo de Rodriguez. I recognized the name to be of the family so I snapped a few fotos. Jorge got a nice thrill out of that when I showed him pictures later that evening. Amongst the millions of tombs I just happened to see that one. Interesting. At the very back of the cemetary there is space for the people that can't afford tombs among the walls. This spot is just like a cemetary in the States, but completely crammed. After curving back around to the front of the cemetary, we descended some steps. Along that wall we descended there were grated doors set in. A peek through showed more steps that actually led to underground tunnels to more tombs. Weird. That was super creepy. We left a bit after that to walk to Chula's nearby home and watched a very creepy movie that neither Oriana nor I enjoyed. :) From there I called a cab home and called it a good day. I spent the rest of the afternoon toying with fotos. Check them out in 'January Randomness' on picasaweb.

The next week Ori and I finally planned a trip to The Glorieta Castle. We met up at Chula's house and took a bus from there. Chula's friend, Victor, came along as well. We had never met, but he felt some need to pay the entry fees for all of us. Hey, I didn't mind. :) So I got the privilege of being the photographer for the trip, and I played the role well with my touristy blonde hair. The place was amazing. I am not going to explain it all here as you can see those fotos on picasa web as well. My favorite part was climbing the prince's tower. After the tour ended, I am pretty sure we did a little rule-breaking. There was no sign that said off-limits to climbing steps at the other end of the castle, but we were pretty sure it was off limits. Of course we didn't care. The steps led to a giant balcony overlooking the property, but then there was a little path that led all the way behind and around the castle to the other side. It was quite fun sneaking around there. I love feeling like a little rebel, even though it wasn't really rebellious at all. I am such a goody-two-shoes. That proved a fun morning as well, and I am glad I finally made it out there.

Next on the list of randomness is Haiti. Oriana is súper-excited to be studying medicine in the university, and she is already taking on the traits of a doctor. She was so excited for the blood drive here and was trying to convince every person she knew to go give blood. Well, she convinced me despite my fear of needles, and we made an afternoon of my giving blood. She is too young to donate blood, and she felt so devastated about that. I thought she was going to cry after I got done with the whole process. She had a huge hug built up for me afterward. Gosh that girly is great. She will be a very compassionate doctor. I got through the process quite quickly. The nurse jabbed me twice to get my blood sample and then went through the whole questioning process. She was a little put off when I laughed about all the questions involving sexually transmitted diseases. Sorry. I am immature. But I am pretty sure I don't have to worry about STDs at this point in my life. I learned that my blood type is O+, which is good and sucky. Anyone can take my blood, but I only get O blood. Whatever. I figure some kid in Haiti must be pretty happy about that right now. I only gave a half liter and it went quicker than normal according to the nurse. I spent more time resting in the chair afterwards than I did actually spewing blood out of my vein. And I felt fine afterward too. Hmm. I got a stress ball, cookies, and orange juice after that. I felt like a little kid at the bank when they give you suckers. I miss that. :) That was a good experience that I am glad I did. Thank you, Oriana, for raising awareness. I would never have done that if I had not heard about it from you. Yay!

That same afternoon we walked to the movie theatre to buy tickets for New Moon. We went the next day. I guess it was alright, but I still just could watch Twilight over and over and over. Nothing too thrilling. If there was more scenes with Jacob, I would definitely watch it over and over and over. :)

The next thing on my January agenda was volunteerism. I spent the week running all over town in search of an activity to do with the young boys of Hogar Mallorca. Finally, soccer came to mind. I was so excited to take the boys to play soccer, but the field got cancelled at the last minute. Thankfully the director found a different field. I went to the home to play with the boys a while before taking them to the field. There was a group of 15 travelers that planned to participate that afternoon as well. Some were from the States, others from England, and others from Belgium. It was nice having them there. It made the prospect of entertaining 30 little boys far less overwhelming. We all broke up into groups and Laura and I got grouped with Rory of England, Juli of France, and some girl of Belgium. It was a blast playing with the children. Eventually we all gave up on groups and played freeze tag. There was a group of young girls from a different home that came that afternoon to play with the boys. I was like a magnet to them. I was the girl they clung to and hid behind every second of the game. From there we all walked with the kids to the field about ten minutes away. I had about five girls stuck to my body as we crossed streets. We all talked and took photos of eachother with my camera at the field while the guys played soccer. Upon leaving, I thought they were all going to cry. I thought I was going to cry too, in all honesty.

I fell in love with those girls, so I promised to come over to their home the following week. I printed off all the photos the next day to give to them. This last week I went to their home and they were ecstatic. They loved their fotos and were begging for me to take more. I hung out with them for a morning, which proved to be quite interesting. They trusted me as someone to talk to, and they immediately started fighting with eachother. I was very uncomfortable with their taking sides and expecting me to defend them all. I really didn't know what to do, so I just decided to take them all downstairs to play. Of course they did not all want to play and I felt really bad for those that didn't want to play and la dee da dee da. It was a confusing morning. I just want everyone to be happy and get along, but that isn't how it works there. They don't have anyone to talk to, and they all wanted that from me. I left there promising them I would be returning to work on an almost-daily basis. I feel horrible now to have to break that promise. The director told me to get in contact with the Volunteerism Coordinator of places like that in Sucre. I searched her out the next day and was told that I would have to pay 60 dollars if I wanted to work with the children there. That just made aggravated me, so I told her I would get back to her. I love those girls and want to help them, but my donation will not be 60 dollars. My donation is my time, love, and a person to trust and talk to. That just boggles my mind, so I will be calling the home tomorrow and see if that is really necessary. Whatever. These people claim to be helping this home, but they are just turning me and my money away. Hmm. I will be looking into that this week, or I will be finding a different place to volunteer at. The most important thing for me is what I took away from the whole experience. I have never done any volunteering like that. It was an incredible feeling. I am so excited to do more volunteering here and in the States. I was a completely different person when I was with those young girls, and I was a person I liked. Now I am faced with the difficulty of having to choose who needs my time and love the most. That is hard. I want to help those girls, but there are so many other children out there too. We shouldn't have to choose who gets helped in this world. That is hard. Either way, I have some amazing photos of these children that will be posted on picasaweb as well. Just gorgeous.

Next on the list is my zampoña! I almost forgot. Upon my arrival from Iquique, I was searching for an activity to get involved in as I will not be returning to high school here. I stumbled across music lessons on a traditional ancient Bolivian wind instrument. I love it! The instrument is very much a part of the culture here, and I love being able to walk around the city and practice at the same time. I get looks from all kinds of people and I find that deeply amusing. Girls don't play traditional instruments, so it must be shocking to see some tall blonde chick doing so. My teacher is actually part of a group called Los Masis that is sort of famous. They travel all over the world playing traditional Bolivian music to raise money for their music school. This music school is great. I went one evening to listen to them play with their group of very young students and was simply amazed. The music is so lively and passionate. I started working on my first song and it sounds pretty decent now. Yay. I am happy with that.

That is all I have to say. I am going to bed now and I plan on sleeping on a rock. In the meantime, if anyone would care to search some college scholarships for me, please feel free to do so. Also, if you want to come up with some reasons as to why I am worthy of scholarships I would be forever in your debt. I shall go wallow in my misery right now. Good night.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Vacationing in Chile

I am almost a month late to post about my New Year's vacation to Iquique, Chile, but better late than never.

We left early the morning of the 27th, if I remember correctly, for an all-day drive across the gorgeous Bolivian countryside. The travel until Chile was probably the most amazing part of the entire trip for me. Of course, paved roads are nearly nonexistent for a trip like that, and Jorgito and Viviana were taking that the hardest. Drinking a big glass of strawberry milk before a day of rapidly swinging your body around sharp curves and being shaken to the point of headache due to bumps in the road is not exactly the smartest thing to do. Jorgito didn't know any better, and consequently, we stopped constantly throughout the morning for Jorgito to--well, I don't think I need to tell you what he had to do. Somehow, I did not feel sick even once. And I downed a big glass of strawberry milk as well. The scenery was simply too stunning to waste time on feeling sick. Sadly, I have zero photos of the scenery. Had we stopped every time I wanted to take fotos, we would have been traveling for over a week.

As we left Sucre, we spent a good hour and a half driving down through the mountains. After the descent, we remained at a somewhat-constant altitude until we met the bridge between Cochabamba and Chuquisaca--two of Bolivia's nine departments. From there we took an unpaved, dirt road for a good 1.5 hours throught the lower and warmer parts of Bolivia. There was one point on that leg of the journey in which I became teary-eyed. Jorge definitely likes to drive fast, and I was fine with that until we were swerving around the curve of a one-lane road atop a very steep and high cliff. At that point I just decided to loosen up and enjoy the ride. It was literally off-roading. Insane. I think I actually got some good exercise on that part from clenching my muscles and leaning left and right. It was interesting and fun. After that part of the trip, we started climbing back up through more mountains. These mountains were different. Much wetter, grander, and more impressive. When we reached the top of those mountains it was drizzling. The extensive view was just incredible. I was literally just flabbergasted(that is a great word). All you could see were mountain-tops until the haze erased them in the distance. And once again we made a descent from those mountains to our destination: The city of Cochabamba. During that descent we passed some tiny colonial town that was just right out of a movie. Well, I mean that quite literally. Jorge told me that some movie was actually made about this town. It was a pretty neat place. We finished the descent at last and pulled into Cochabamba around 4:00ish. Cochabamba had a very United States-ish feeling to it. A big and wealthy city...with a three-story shopping mall! Oh yeah, and a Burger King. That was the friendliest Burger King I have ever been to in my entire life. I found it strange that the city wasc completely absent of any signs of the english language. Sucre is full of English, yet it seems so incredibly South American. Weird. Anyway, we stayed the night in my Uncle's apartment and headed out early the next day to make it to Chile at about 8:30 at night. That drive was equally amazing, but I much prefer the Bolivian landscape. Enough of that waste of a paragraph, and onto better things of which I have photographic evidence.

We traveled in a group of 4 vehicles, and all the ladies got dropped off at the local supermarket. It was Chile's version Super WalMart. Exactly like WalMart. So we all run around like chickens with our heads cut off as the store is closing while the men go to confirm hotels and apartments and do all that manly stuff. For some reason, that task required 3 hours. When the ladies and children finally made it out of the supermarket, we ended up sitting on the curb for a good 2 hours. Of course, our cellphones don't work in Chile, so there was no way to call the men and scream at them like any good wife would do. So we relaxed and watched the boys race shopping carts around the vacant parking lot and smash 'cucharachas.' Cucharacha means cockroach. That was thrilling and amusing. At long last the menfolk arrived and we dragged ourselves to the car only to wait another hour in front of the hotel for reasons I will never understand. Somewhere in there I found a bed and fell asleep. La dee da.

We reconvened later the next morning in a little beachside café. It was perfect timing because all the paragliders were ending their flights and landing directly in front of us on the beach. Immediately I knew I wanted to do it, and a family friend was thinking just the same thing. At that, we had a nice little chat with the instructors and packed up the next morning for a little thrill. All the young adults on the trip participated and three of the fathers. I can only say that it was pretty awesome, and I am glad I did it. The trip was promised to last 30 minutes, but I only got 10 or 15 minutes. That was enough for me. Surprisingly, I was not completely terrified. I still have no idea why I so automatically wanted to do such a thing. Seems like that should be scarier than any rollercoaster or Disney World's Tower of Terror, but at the time it didn't seem so. I simply had the urge to do it, and so I did it. After running off a cliff, I just sort of floated. I literally felt like a feather. Like, the flight is not at all fast or jerky. You just sort of gently drop and then lurch right back up a bit. Very interesting sensation. That was pretty cool, and I got hit on by all the other paragliders on my beach upon landing. My instructor was súper grouchy because I didn't understand him at all. Whatever. One experience down, a million more to go.

I suppose the next big eventful moment after that was New Years' Eve. That was interesting. My parents told me I was free to drink as I please, so I did just that. Apparently I pleased four very strong whisky's with Coke, and one fruity guayaba beverage. Again, this was permitted by my family here and I am of age in Bolivia, so there is no reason to be alarmed and think I am some stereotypical devious 19-year-old. So the drink's just started getting stronger throughout the evening as my friends mixed them for me, and that evidently showed in my dancing technique. I don't dance. But apparently I do if I have whisky in my system. I finally got a little dizzy and stepped outside for a bit. It all went downhill from there. I randomly burst into tears and kept saying, "Vivi's gonna kill me!" in Spanish...and English. I don't know why I did this, as my parents had already told me I could drink on this one occasion. Each time my friends convinced me everything would be fine, I stopped crying and burst into hysterical laughter. I went back and forth between laughing and crying hysterically for a good hour or so. Eventually, Jorge arrived at the scene, which only made things worse. I was an absolute mess. Balling. I could not look him in the face as he laughed at me with everyone else. Somehow he convinced me to sit upstairs with the adults, and I just continued sobbing there while staring off into the pitch black ocean. That was great. And of course my friends had to come check on me, at which point I started crying harder and snotting excessively. Again. That was great. I get some cute Bolivian boy giving me supportive hugs and I am drunkish and snotting on the sleeve of his shirt. How romantic. So, that was an experience that I am glad I experienced. One time in my life. I must say that only convinced me of my previous dislike of alcohol, which is why I am happy for the experience. I can understand if someone wants to feel that drunken sensation on occasion and in the right setting. I cannot, however, understand casual drinking. I don't know. That stuff tastes horrible. I don't see myself ever opening a beer for pure enjoyment, but I never imagined myself drinking underage on New Years' Eve on the coast of Chile either. I can wait until the age of 21. Gladly.

After that experience came the beach. Actually, the infamous Morning After came first, but it wasn't so infamous for me. I slept like a rock, showered at 10:00 A.M., and then slept like a rock again until 4:00. It was a pretty wonderful Morning After for me. Anyway, the beach. After a day wasted in bed, we finally made it to the beach. I was in heaven. The water was unbelievably cold, but the temperature warm and comfortable. I spent a fair amount of time helping the boys bury Ale in the sand. That proved to be some great exercise.

The day after that we did MORE shopping. My mother likes shopping. She loves it. So much that she literally spent the ENTIRE day shopping. From 9:00 in the morning until at least 9:00 at night. This is not sarcasm. Fabiolah, one of the family friends, is like an infectious disease. You get her in the right store with Viviana, and they are different women. Like, vicious. I felt like I was watching Mean Girls. They don't worry about the kids. They don't think about the fact that everyone else might want to eat until it is 2:30 in the afternoon. They just shop. And they went back to one store at least five times during the trip. They will see something one day and hate it, but when they come back the next day they just adore it. I don't get it. Never will. But they like to spend their hard-earned money, so have at it. Thank goodness they brought the nanny's along. They just dumped the kids off at the beach with the nannies every day. I guess everyone was content.

Thank our good Lord Jesus that the men were sick of shopping by the next day. I headed to the beach with the dudes and children again. This was a different beach, and it was packed with people. All the cool surfer dudes made their way out really really far in the water, so I decided to check it out. Little curious blondie with the big fish. That was almost as cool as paragliding. Once you swim out so far, you get past where the waves break. So this huge swell just kind of lifts you up and passes right under you. After it carries you so far, it leaves you behind and crashes into shore. Then, as it comes back out to sea, that undercurrent kind of sucks you back out to sea with it, but not so far that it scares the daylights out of you. By then, the next big swell has come for you and starts the whole cycle over again. So it was actually quite relaxing. If you just kind of let the water deal with you instead of fighting it, everything works out. Super cool. After that day at the beach, I remember being very very cranky. Jorge is the man. He is the head of the house. He gets the last of the food and beverage at the dinner table. He decides where we go on vacay. He decides what we do on vacay. He is The Man. You listen to The Man. So after I spent a day in the water and left the beach with sand crammed in all kinds of places, we spent the rest of the evening sitting in a friend's apartment. He was quite comfortable as he had not gotten wet and was not covered in sand. I was just a little irritated at having to sit in a cold hotel room covered in sand while all the men sat there drinking and trying to speak to me in English. Not a fun evening. At this point on the trip everyone started to get annoyed by everyone else. It was kind of funny actually.

I don't remember the next thing after that, which means it must have been more shopping. Probably at the Zofri Shopping Center. This was the weirdes mall of my life. It was just a bunch of tiny square rooms packed with random things. I swear every other store offered all those products that you see on infomercials. And every fourth store was selling televisions, clothes washers, and DVD players. Very strange place. We went there three times on the trip and literally just walked around looking at the same stores. We just walked. And looked. At infomercial stuff. Oh, and Fabiola nearly convinced her husband to buy her an obscenely expensive watch. Vivi and Fabi probably spent 45 minutes at that little watch stand until I gave up and sat in the food plaza sipping a mango juice with milk. They both walked away with watches.

Somewhere in there we decided to stay a couple days extra to see the Dakar Car Rally that would be passing through Iquique. For some reason, we waited until the day before we were supposed to pack up and leave to find a hotel room. Logic was absent there. We spend the better portion of the day driving all over town in search of a room. Actually, more of that time was spent looking for parking spots. After Vivi got fed up with that, she called a cab to take Jorgito and me for a bite to the mall, naturally. So we got there in search of food, but somehow Vivi found nourishment in more shopping. For one and one-half hourse. I finally just headed for the food court after I decided Jorgito was about ready to throw a fit in the middle of the store. Another mango smoothie left me quite content. Once Jorge found a room, he picked us up and we toted all the luggage(and new purchases) to the new hotel. Jorge, like any unsatisfied provider, was very grouchy. The hotel didn't seem to be up to his standards. After hitting his head on the corner of the television for the second time and cursing and throwing his glasses across the room, I laughed. Nearly hysterically, but I 'maintained my composure.' That was just the breaking point for Vivi, Jorgito, and me. We know how to laugh. That made us realize how tense we all were, and from then on we just decided to laugh...when Jorge's eyes were in the other direction, of course.

After that long day, we headed out early the next morning for the car rally. I had been pretty excited, and it did turn out to be a pretty cool event. We failed to find the road to the perfect spot, and decided to do a little more off-roading across the sand dunes. Not a good idea if you don't have 4WD. Julio's Ford thingymajigger got stuck almost as soon as we hit sand, but like any car-enthusiast/man, he just left it behind and literally walked across the desert as we took the young boys ahead in our vehicle. We found a real road eventually. As we settled in along the track, we waited 3 hours until the first bike came roaring over the hill/dune. It was pretty cool as a helicopter literally chased it along the track and whizzed right by us. Eventually, the first quad came. Then the first car came. Then, just as we were leaving, a massive truck came. Really cool, but standing in the desert sun from 10:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. is not good for those of pale complexions. Two applications of sunscreen is not enough. I was fried. Duh. Funny though, it really didn't hurt too much. Jorge, who absolutely refused to touch sunscreen, was crying like a baby the next day. Well, that night actually. I thought Vivi was going to slap him. He couldn't stop talking about how bad he hurt for the next 4 days. After a day in the desert with only Doritos and a one small water per person, Vivi and I took the boys to a nearby restaurant while the men dealt with the vehicle. Finally we made it to dinner and our beds.

That vacation came to an end the next morning as we headed out for an all-day drive home. No stopping. I say that it came to an end that morning because everyone was silent. There was no loving family interaction. Just a sleeping Vivi, a very grouchy little brother, a concentrated and exhausted driver, and a strange new Hayley. I say, "a strange new Hayley," because I had changed a lot on that trip. I changed without knowing it. The trip proved to be really great for family bonding. Being packed in tight quarters for over a week will do that to people. I left that trip feeling closer to my Bolivian family and having experienced a few very different things I would normally never have done. I changed a lot. Now I am back in Sucre doing all kinds of goofy things. You shall hear about such things in the next blog. I promise you I will post that blog before January's end. I promise. And this blog surely does not do the trip justice. There is just so much to write. My favorite part really was the drive to Iquique. If I could return to Bolivia in ten years, I would do so with a great guy, a great camera, and a motorcycle. I would take that same drive, but at a much slower pace. I could take a year of fotos on that one trip. Bolivian nature is something almighty. I understand why so many here believe in the Pachamama(Mother Earth).

Love you all! Can you believe I only have just under 4 months left once February 8th rolls around? I can't believe how time flies.

And, yes, that first picture is of me in the air while paragliding. And, yes, that second picture is of my cute Bolivian amigo. He probably threw his shirt out after that evening. I wouldn't blame him. What a trip.

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