Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Randomness 2.

Bolivian mothers. I have reached the conclusion that all Bolivian mothers are certifiably insane. I love my Viviana--I really do, but I would go insane if I had to live here for my entire childhood. I am sure of it. Bolivian mothers are very strict know-it-alls. I am a know-it-all as well, so we often clash. Thankfully, I have learned the art of agreeing even when you don't truly agree. This art keeps me sane. I finally reached my conclusion after speaking with Laura at our Rotary meeting last Friday. I knew my mom was nuts, but the combination of Laura's mom and grandmother takes the cake. A couple months back, I only ate soup for lunch as my stomach was a bit queasy. Vivi told me it was from eating chocolate. I knew this was not so as I had not eaten chocolate all that week, but I simply agreed with her anyway. A fight I was not going to win, and it wouldn't have mattered if I won it anyway. So lunch ended and I grabbed a tiny little cherry twenty minutes later as I head upstairs to see what everyone is up to. As soon as Abus sees me, she laughs and accuses me of eating "more chocolate!" I defended myself this time and showed her that it was an innocent piece of fruit. At that, Vivi jumped on board. She said that cherries are bad for your stomach and that I shouldn't be eating it. Sorry, but one stinking cherry is not going to do anything to my stomach! Yet again, I just nodded my head and walked away to eat my cherry in peace. As with everything, it is my fault in Viv's eyes. Got a cold? Well, that is because you walk around the house in sandals. Your stomach hurts? Well, that is because you ate one piece of chocolate. When I got my ear infection, I didn't tell her my ear hurt until she was going to the pharmacy one day and asked me about my symptoms. After I told her the full extent of my cold and misery, she got mad and asked me why on Earth I didn't tell her about the pain?! Well, Vivi, judging from past events, you would have just told me the pain was my fault. so instead of complaining to you about my ear pain and having to hear your excuse for why it is my fault, I just chose to keep quiet. So as you can see, my Bolivian is hilariously harsh. I can laugh about it, though it doesn't seem so after having read all this. This paragraph is the release of nearly 7 months of keeping quiet, so I know it must seem sassy. I find humor in it however, and I do love Viviana. After all, she is a Bolivian mother. A different cookie.

I did mention Laura's host mother and grandmother earlier, but I just got so swept up in my rantings about Vivi that I forgot. Laura told me some great stories the other evening. We both feel like we are walking on pins in our homes when it comes to our mothers. The other night, Laura's mom was baking. laura wanted to help add some sugar, and her mom reluctantly allowed it. Her mother, Rosemary, is a magnificent baker and takes it very seriously. As the got going along, the recipe wasn't looking quite right. Rosemary asked Laura if she was feeling jealous about anything. Laura, understandably confused at the randomness of this question, simply answered no. rosemary proceeded to explain that her real daughter is a very jealous person, and whenever she is in the kitchen while Rosemary bakes nothing turns out. so therefore, jealous people can't bake and their presence ruins anything someone else might be baking. Laura was taken aback at how serious Rosemary was when she asked Laura to leave the room until she finished baking. I still can't believe it. Is that the craziest thing you have ever heard?!

This story moves on to Blunkie, Laura's grandmother. so Laura bought a different tea the other night and offered some to Blunkie. Blunkie asked if Laura had ever consumed that tea before. Apparently, Blunkie had a friend that drank the same exact tea all her life. One day she tried a different tea and her insides literally ate her alive and she died. So Blunkie has concluded that drinking any tea other than that which she has been consuming all her life will kill her. No worries, I assure you all that Laura is alive and well. The great thing about Blunkie is that you can argue with her. She is stubborn and you will always lose, but you can have a hilarious argument anyway without offending her. With Viv, you just shut your mouth and go on with life. Bolivian mothers.

And now I will round out this post with the quickies. One day, Oriana and I went to a museum. As we were leaving, we saw a very old indigenous woman walking down the sidewalk. She was obviously blind as she kept walking into a corner of a building that jutted out into the sidewalk. I was going to keep going, but Oriana stopped without a thought. She grabbed the woman's arm and started asking where she wanted to go. The woman did not understand as she spoke Quechuan, but thankfully there was a man nearby that spoke Quechuan and gladly took over. Ori and I continued on, but only five steps later I stopped and started crying. I just stood there dumbfounded and stared at Oriana. "Oriana! You are such a good person. You are the only person I know that would ever do that!" I was saying this all while literally sobbing. Then I just kept laughing and sobbing at the same time like I always do when I cry for no reason. She kept laughing hysterically and giving me hugs as I just stood there and cried and laughed. It was positively hilarious. Ori is an amazing woman. Just a good person at heart.

I forgot to post a random detail from a few months ago. As we were driving through cities on our drive to Chile, I kept seeing cows and all kinds of animals on leashes attached to stakes in the ground. It was just like we would do with our dogs in the back yard. I think this is goofy. A cow on a leash.

The weather here has been pretty awesome lately. Right now we are currently making up for the lack of rain earlier on in this rainy season. It rained all yesterday evening, all through the night, and all through the morning. It finally let up to sprinkling off and on this afternoon. Anyway, I went upstairs to the computer to do some work and opened the big window. It was unusually cold out. The coldest it has been here yet. Then I looked and thought it was snowing. It was a very strange rain. Like a very heavy falling mist. The strange combination of cold and unusual rain reminded me of winter. It was kind of a heartwarming feeling. I will shut my mouth now as I can imagine what you all are thinking. Heheh! You are all suffering a horrible Iowa winter and I am enjoying the rain. Hah! I love it.

Mayra, the maid, is absolutely hilarious. She is seventeen, married, and a mother of a two-year-old boy. I haven't even had my first kiss, and she has a kid! Whoa. Anyway, we were making huminitas last week. Huminita is one of my favorite foods here. It is made with mashed choclo(white bolivian corn that looks like it is hopped up on steroids) and ahí and yummy cheese made in Sucre. The mashed product gets dumped into the center of a boiled husk and wrapped neatly. By tearing leftover husks lengthwise and tying the ends together, I helped make strings to hold the wrapped husks shut as the huminita was cooked. It was kind of a fun afternoon. I snapped a few pictures that will show up on sometime in the near future. I adore Mayra. The other day she was laughing at Jorgito as he drew for a homework assignment. I couldn't help but laugh right along. She was just so funny! It felt great to laugh that hard. And we couldn't stop. Oh Mayra. What a sweetie.

Last item. The earthquake in Chile. No, the earthquake was not felt here in Bolivia. I wish it were though. How cool it would be to experience an earthquake, though not of a dangerous extent of course. I could not stop thinking about myt vacation to Chile just months earlier. I do not believe Iquique was really affected as it was so far north, but I still have all these images in my mind of Jorgito and me following the Tsunami Evacuation signs and running up the side of a sand dune in terror.

That is all I've got for this month. It has been a crazy month with Carnaval and being sick and getting started with all my activities, but I am ready to get organized again. I am over my cold and ear infection, and this coming week should go fine...if I don't take Bus F. :)

Happy birthday, Mother! Enjoy your red velvet cake for me.

February Randomness 1.

Is it really the end of February? Time must be kidding me. It is officially decided when I will be coming home. June 9. Once March 9 rolls around in just over one week, I will have exactly three months left here. Craziness. This month has been pretty chaotic, so the title of this post is fitting. I have all kinds of random stories to tell. Some are longer, and some are short. I will cover the lengthier stories in this post and then follow up in a second post with the short quickies. I find many of them to be quite amusing, so enjoy. I am sure I will love reading this post years down the road and laughing affectionately.

First item on the list is my schedule. Every morning at 8:15 I go to aerobics with my Aunt Elena. She is an absolute riot, and the class is very enjoyable. The teacher was a total jerk my first week because I have gotten so darned fat that I couldn't do anything. I am kicking some tushy now and he at least acknowledges my presence. The class is full of middle-aged to older women mostly, with a couple girls and guys mixed in. Elena just talks up a storm withall the other ladies, which infuriates the teacher even though he secretly adores them. So aerobics is great, and I think some ab action might actually be visual now. Miracles! From aerobics, I walk to do volunteerism with physically and mentally handicapped children until noon every day.

This form of volunteerism is like nothing I have ever done in my life. It is hard to see sometimes, but then there are moments that just make me so happy. One of the kids I work with is named Heyde, and her name sounds much like mine when everyone says it. She is my favorite. She is probably 3 years old and in a wheelchair for reasons I am not sure of. She can't talk and has limited and spastic control over her body. She is by far the most intelligent child there, even though she can't speak or do normal things like many of the other children. She understands every single word and can respond with nods. The girly knows what she wants. She likes this plastic toy that is basically a tapered cylinder that sits upright. Eight different-colored rings of varying diameters all rest in their perfect sport around the cylinder. Not one of the other kids with normal brain function and coordination ever stacks the rings properly. Heyde, however, gets it spot on. I take all the rings off the cylinder for her and place them around her. She points at the biggest one since she is unable to reach them. Purposely, I grab one of the smaller ones. She gets angry every time I do that. So I hand her the one she wanted in the first place and help her lift it up to the top of the cylinder. From there it falls off her hand and fits perfectly where it belongs. We do that until we get all 8 rings on, and she does it perfectly. She absolutely lights up when a ring falls back into place. The other day she reminded me of when Courtney Sorensen and I are together and laughing for no reason. Heyde laughs at everything. Her smile just makes me want to melt with affection. She is so intelligent and amazing and happy. With volunteerism and aerobics, my mornings are busy.

In the afternoons I still have zampoña lessons, and that is going great. I sit on the front steps of Jorge's office downtown every afternoon at 5:45 to practice. Then at 6:30 every night I simply walk down the block a few doors and go to paint lessons. I am just getting started on an oil painting of one of the photos I took down in the valley. It is fun, and I already met a nice guy named Jaime. He is just one year older than me and going to the university here. We have fun chatting and learning random things from eachother. Though I am not attending school here, my days are busy. I enjoy it, but this month has been very chaotic and I can't wait to get back on schedule for this week. Life should be pretty tame for the month of March.

I recently started utilizing public transportation here. I always preferred to call taxis before, but they do get quite expensive for a girly on a budget. Now I just walk five minutes from the house to catch a bus. As I am new to the bus system, I have had some ups and downs figuring it all out. I have been sick the last couple weeks and generally feeling exhausted and down. This affects a persons common sense, and the other evening I had zero common sense whatsoever. So I walk to the bus stop near my home, and I hopped on Bus F. I had never taked Bus F previously, but I knew it would have to pass the market at the city's center at some point, so I hopped on anyway. I had only taken Bus 1 before that evening, and it takes a straight route for the market. Well, Bus F doesn't do that. It curves all over the city before it gets to the market. I was already running late for my paint lesson and was not too thrilled about having taken Bus F. So we finally make it to the market, and instead of getting off and walking six blocks, I chose to continue going a little ways. I figured it would just make a big loop around the city center, and if it went in the opposite direction I could always jump off before it was too late. So I kept going and the bus started looping just like I expected. We got to the other side of the center and I was just two short blocks away from my destination. What did I do? Well, I kept going of course! Again, I figured it would take a turn and just go to the other side of my location and be only one block away, and if it didn't do just that then I could jump off. So we kept going, but we turned the opposite direction. For some reason, I just didn't get off. I kept going and going and going. We kept climbing up this steep hill and it was getting dark. The people just kept piling off and no one got on. This worried me when we got clear to the top of the hill and the last person got off. After trying to explain my situation to the bus driver, he just got all grouchy and cantankerous and told me to get off. So here is a blonde foreigner in a not-so-safe neighborhood in the dark and stranded. At first I started sobbing, but I stopped literally 2 seconds later. I just chuckled. I knew exactly where I was. I simply covered my goldie lockes with my scarf and walked the straight path down to the city center. Everything was fine, and I made it to my paint hour late. I didn't even stay for painting and rather walked to the supermarket to buy milk and cereal. From there I called a cab home. Summation: I sat on a smelly, crowded bus for 45-50 minutes. Then I walked for 25 minutes. Then I talked to my paint teacher and left without even doing what I came to town for in the first place. Then I bought food. Then I sat in a stupid, expensive cab for 15 minutes thinking about a bowl of cereal. That was a ridiculous evening. And the blame rests with me because I was too dumb to just get off the bus and walk. I was sick, tired, and not in the right frame of mind. Bummer. It was pretty funny though. I shall remain an advocate of smelly public transportation, but I wil never take Bus F again.

This next story is priceless. I just want to die laughing right now. As a prelude to the story, you must know what locotos are. A locoto is a very very very very very hot pepper, and we have a big bowl of them sitting in our fridge. So anyway, yesterday afternoon Vivi and Jorge were next door at a party. I was working at the computer while Jorgito watched television in his room. He kept crying and randomly hollering, so I went and asked him what was wrong. "My eyes burn!" He kept saying that while sobbing and kicking and hollering and rubbing his eyes. After asking him if he wanted me to get Vivi, he just said no and assured me he would be fine. Okay, so I went back to work. Five seconds later he was hollering even harder. I went next door for Vivi and she talked to him for a bit. I comforted Jorgito while Vivi went downstairs to get warm tea-water for him. At that point, he calmed down a lot and even opened his eyes to watch television. He noticed how I was looking at him, so he started kicking again an dpretended like his eyes were shut while he watched television. He was being a kid at this point, and I knew it. Vivi came back up and, of course, he started panicking and crying again as she rubbed his eyes with water and put in eye drops. Throughout that process, Vivi kept asking Jorgito if he had rubbed the locotos in his eyes. Side Note: I once watched Jorgito rub salsa in his eyes to be macho when he had a bunch of friends over. It wasn't strong and didn't hurt though. Jorgito had a friend over that morning, and I was certain he had done that same thing with the locotos. He denied it every time Vivi asked, but not whole-heartedly. When he calmed down, Vivi smelled his hands. She knew Jorgito had touched the locotos. Jorgito knew that Vivi knew so. At that point Jorgito just got really quiet. He no longer refused, but he didn't own up to it either. He just shrugged everything off. I had to leave the room at this point because I was going to laugh. And I did just that. Jorgito had rubbed the locotos in his eyes, and I knew it. How hysterical is that?! Everything about this story screams 'child.' Every little detail has something adorably childish about it. The great thing for me though is that I understand all of Jorgito's childish quirks. He is exactly like me. This is probably the funniest thing that has happened to me all year. I will never forget this. I will be sure to remind Jorgito of it ten years down the road when he learns to handle some good old-fashioned joking around. Geez, I love that kid to death.

I think that covers all the lengthy stories for this month. Priceless. Check out February Randomness 2 for the quickies.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rough Day.

Oh. My. Sweet. Jesus. Yesterday afternoon was almost as bad as waking up at 1:30 a.m. with this rotton ear infection. For that reason, I feel it is worthy of telling and remembering.

I took the day before yesterday and yesterday morning to stay in bed and recoup from a bummer cold, and though bedrest didn't help at all, I set out mentally refreshed for the afternoon. I had much to accomplish and I was determined to be cheery about it. In my cheeriness I slipped on my floor-length white cotton skirt and a bright green racer-backed tank top. Though the combo of that outfit and my long, curly blonde lockes screams tourist, it makes me feel happy and free. I headed for town with Jorge after lunch excited for my zampona lesson, but my teacher never showed up. After calling him with no answer, I left 15 minutes after my arrival and walked to a shop for art materials I would need for paint class that evening.

The art shop was closed, but I opted to wait there a while with my spare time. I noticed something weird about everyone while waiting. They were staring at me like they always do, but this afternoon it was more of a probe. Everyone turned their heads whether they were walking past me or on a bus. They didn't whistle as usual, but just look perplexed. Sometimes they chuckled and grinned amongst eachother when in groups or pairs. I simply could not figure it out. I knew I looked pretty touristy, but there are all kinds of tourists in Sucre. I started to become a bit self-conscious, but decided I didn't particularly care. Eventually, I noticed a younger man walking down the sidewalk toward me. He was kinda gorgeous actually. He walked past me with that weird probe, but then he suddenly turned around. "Te acompano?" he says. "Que?" "Te acompano. You want company?" "No. Gracias." I was caught off guard at first and didn't understand him. So here is little miss blondie getting hit on by some creeper guy that won't go away. He doesn't take no for an answer, so he whips out a silver chain necklace from nowhere and asks me again if I want company while muttering some other things I am sure I should be glad I didn't understand. This time I am terse, and a little disgusted. "NO. Chau! " I couldn't even throw in a 'gracias' at that point. After saying 'chau(goodbye)' a few times, he finally got the signal. Well, sort of. He had to caress a strand of my hair and give me that nasty nod before taking off in the other direction. I was absolutely disgusted. He kept glancing back before he leaned against the crutch of a short tree and urinated as random people walked past. All I could do at that point was laugh. Eeew! What a creeper. So at that point I just convinced myself that everyone's stares were because they liked my touristy outfit--enough to caress my hair and give me silver jewelry anyway. I don't really care either way, but I am probably not going to wear that skirt again.

Finally!, the store owner showed up and I made it in and out as a happy woman, though she didn't have one item on my list. From there, I had plans to go meet Wonderful Laura at the tennis courts. From there, she was going to accompany me to the doctor. Thanks to Carnaval and being soaking wet 5 days straight, I had a pretty miserable could. This cold recently turned into a very painful and exhausting ear infection that was keeping me up at night. For that reason, I chose to go to the doctor at last. Laura gladly said yes when I asked her to go with me. She had already been to the same doctor and knew how to get there, and plus I just wanted someone to be my mother for the afternoon. We made it to the office of Dr. Luiz Angel Diaz del Castillo and all went well. He put in some ear drops and we chatted for awhile. Thankfully, Laura and I get him for free as he is a Rotary member. I think he is more helpful than any Rotarian here. I love the man! Anyway, he wrote down a prescription and told me very specifically what to do with it. I was to take that prescription to a specific pharmacy and purchase that exact medicine. The expected cost was 70 bolivianos. With the receipt of that purchase AND his prescription, I was to go to a different pharmacy and receive two free pills. Well, Laura and I left happily from his office, but I am sure you can already guess that the happiness wasn't maintained.

After leaving his office, we headed for the pharmacies. I just chose the pharmacist I always go to and told her I needed three pills of the exact medicine in the prescription. I made this very clear, just as Dr. Diaz made it clear to me. She gave me the medicine for 20 bolivianos. Now of course, you are thinking 'Hmmm, it was supposed to cost 70 bolivianos.' Well, you are smart. I am not. That thought didn't really cross my mind. I thought I simply got lucky, so I purchased the pills and thanked her graciously for the cheaper price. Dr. Diaz told me to take one of the pills right away after I purchased them, so I did just that as Laura and I set off for the other pharmacy with receipt in hand. Of course, there we were told that the medicine I was given was NOT the exact medicine on the prescription. No free pills for me. So Laura and I had to traipse all the way back across town to find the right pharmacist and spend 70 bolivianos more before I could get those two free pills. We did just that. The only problem now was that I had already taken one of the wrong pills. This meant that I had to call Dr. Diaz for the third time that afternoon and ask him what to do. I was humiliated by my stupidity and simply exhausted. As we left the pharmacy, I walked right out into the street without looking and almost got my butt run over by one unhappy cab driver. That really lifted my spirits. I almost got run over! Woohoo! For some reason, I laughed about it and ran to the other side of the street, but it caught up with me a few seconds later. I was teary-eyed over my stupidity and exhausted from my cold, ear infection, and having to walk all over the entire city while people stared at me obnoxiously. Finally, we found the correct pharmacy and bought the exact same pills as the prescription. With that receipt, we started the trek back to the second pharmacy. I was grouchy, irritated, and sad, and I was getting some really strong gut pain. I let everything get to me, and I was just mentally out of it at that point.

Laura knew I had reached my limit, so she decided food was the cure. She offered to buy me my favorite orange cake from the market even though I had no desire to eat with this new gut pain. We took a side trip through the very busy and notoriously dangerous market in search of my cake before going for those two free pills. Somewhere along there, I noticed my coin purse was missing. That irritated me even more. Only minutes later, I noticed my cell phone was missing too. That really irritated me. After going through every item in my bag, I knew I had been robbed. We stood on the other side of the market and I just felt defeated. Me and my stupid skirt. Me and my stupid exhausted self. I put those things in an outside pocket of my bag which does not close. I deserved to be robbed. I was a stupid tourist. Somehow, Wonderful Laura made me forget about it and we kept on toward the pharmacy.

From this point, we made it to the pharmacy and got those two free pills after running around all afternoon. It was getting late though, and I was relying on a ride home from Jorge. Laura and I headed for his office, and I would have called and asked him to wait, but for obvious reasons that was not an option. Thankfully, he was staying late that night. We walked in while he and Jorgito were talking on Skype with Majo. I put on a happy face at that point. Somewhere along there, two of my awesome aunts came into the office. I had to explain that I lost my phone to one of them, and they expressed that to Jorge before I even had a chance to tell him, and then I had to explain the whole afternoon, and then I just gave up. I started crying. Of course they were all smiling, which is why I love them. I love my aunts Rosario and Elena for their love and compassion, and Jorge fits in there too. We were all just kind of sitting there and laughing as I explained the afternoon through teary eyes.

I was exhausted. I wanted to sleep. I knew I had a paint lesson to go to that night, but that was the last thing on my mind. Plus, I didn't even have all my materials! Ugh. During the ride home I was fine mentally, but I just randomly burst into tears every so often. Every time I cry over stupid things, I laugh just as much. I suppose it is because I know how ridiculous my tears are most of the time, and I don't want anyone else to take my tears seriously. So I laughed and I cried, and I finally went to bed and expected some sound sleep with my new meds.

Oh boy was that a bad assumption. That was the worst night of sleep yet. I woke up at some random time(I wasn't sure what time because I didn't have a cell phone to check) with the worst ear pain yet, some really really strong stomach pains, and I was freezing cold while sweating at the same time. Ick. I think I spent more time in the bathroom that night than I did in my bed, but I will spare you all the wonderful details of that. At some point, I must have just become too exhausted by all of that misery that I finally fell back asleep while seated upright in my bed. What a horrible and lonely night. This brings me to this morning, in which I chose to stay in bed and sleep. And sleep I did. Like a rock.

This afternoon I made a trip back to the doctor. He just smiled when I told him how horrible my night was. The antibiotics kicked my butt harder than the actual infection I think. After giving me some more ear drops and chatting a bit more, I left his office happy to know that I didn't have anything else to do. I hopped on a bus, made it home, and was thrilled at the smell of home-made huminitas. Nothing better than yummy warm food to cheer me up. :) I think right now I shall go eat another one before taking my splendid antibiotics for the evening.

So that was my horrible afternoon. I still haven't found much positive in it. I did learn a lesson, so I suppose that counts as something positive. Actually, 2 lessons. Number One: Don't dress like a stupid tourist. Number Two: Don't let one bad thing get a grip on you. I let one crummy moment get to me, and it just started a snowball effect. I gave up. I felt defeated. I was defeated. Everything bummer thing about that afternoon was my fault because I was being lazy both physically and mentally.

Thank goodness I enjoy writing. I think now I can put that afternoon behind me and laugh about it. Now I just have to buy a phone and borrow Jorgito's for my alarm clock. :) And it would be nice if I could sleep decently tonight, but either way I will try to make tomorrow a better day. And now I sign off to eat a delightful huminita.

But I forgot one thing...Laura. She is my Wonderful Soccer-Mom Laura. Thank you Laura for taking the role of mommy that afternoon. She had a boatload of homework to do, but put it off for me instead. Though the afternoon sucked royally, it was nice to have someone there to share the misery with. Gracias, Laura!

Okay. My huminita!

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I couldn’t really tell you the official dates for Carnaval, as it was really more of a month-long party. Carnaval happens in places all over the world, and in various cities in Bolivia. The most famous is in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but the best in Bolivia is in Oruro. Sucre’s carnaval floats my boat just fine though. About 3 weeks before Carnaval really starts, all the teenagers celebrate by throwing water balloons. Everyone avoids walking near the main plaza after 4:00 in the afternoon, as that is when the kids get out of school. It doesn’t matter who you are, you get wet. It was worse for me as my blond hair and pale skin is an easy target, but it is all in good fun. Once Carnaval really begins, everyone goes to the streets with alcohol in hand and marches all afternoon with a band in small groups. It took us about 45 minutes to cross town one day because you simply have to wait for all the slowly-moving bands, but that is the norm and there was no complaining. For about two weeks before the festivities, you can see vendors on every single street corner filling and selling water balloons. But if you are smart, you buy a water gun so you can get people wet in cars as they drive by with their windows down. So pretty much you drink, you dance, and you get wet during Carnaval.

The first official day of Carnaval was a Thursday called Comadres, in which there are big parties in town for only women or teenagers. I went with a group of friends and ended up seeing about every single girl that I went to school with here. A hotel hosted the party and we basically stood in a pool all afternoon with our clothes and shoes on while dancing and drinking ‘Leche de Tigre,’ which translates to ‘Tiger’s Milk.’ Tiger’s Milk is an alcoholic beverage only served during Carnaval. It consists of Singani(an alcohol unique to Bolivia), egg, milk, and something else I can’t remember. It is actually pretty tasty, though I didn’t partake in any excessive consumption of alcohol for this festival. ;) Around 7:30, the parties leave to the streets to dance to the plaza with a band. I was honestly a little terrified at one point because a bunch of rowdy girls, too much alcohol, music, and tight spaces makes for a not-so-great situation. It was kind of scary being pushed so hard into a hall that I wasn’t even using any effort to stay upright anymore. I was just limp, packed into a hall of drunk girls while waiting to get to the street. When we finally got to the street, every guy in town was waiting to throw water balloons at us. It probably took us two hours to dance two blocks to the plaza, or at least it felt like two hours since I got the duty of looking after my drunk friend. I had drunk people telling me to take care of a drunk person. Whatever. It was an experience, but I was very greatful for Comadres to reach its end.

I slept like a rock that night, and it was necessary to prepare for the rest of the weekend. I walked into town Friday afternoon, but that was a stupid choice. Friday must have been the festival day for the guys, and staying dry was not an option. I had no choice but to walk through the main street where all the partying was to get to my destination. Every 5 seconds for 10 blocks I was pelted with water balloons. A few times I was doused by buckets of water from windows above the street. I walked right through a partying crowd and one guy flat out asked, “hey gringa, can I get you wet?!” Of course I said no and grimaced, knowing full well he would soak me no matter what my response. And he did in fact soak me. Whatever. I finally got to my destination but was completely soaked. Oh well, that is Carnaval.

On Saturday, the family and I headed over to the old/ancient family farm where Jorge and his brother are working on building an apartment building together. This was the second of two parties we have had in honor of his building. It is called a Challa in Quechuan, which is intended to bring good luck on the building. We at chicharron by hand with all the workers and family members. After eating, the hose came out. Everyone but Abu were soaking wet. Vivi lit up once she got Jorgito’s water gun in hand. I soaked Jorge, and it was well-deserved. Everyone was soaking wet and drunk by the time the band came. I was really happy to see most of the members were playing zamponas, but Jorge made me play. This made me cringe a little bit as the tubes were covered in green spit from their chewing coca leaves. It was nasty, but I tried anyway and failed miserably. At some point, a few workers decided they wanted to dance. I was among the few ladies present at the party, and the only with blonde hair. I danced with ONE guy and refused the rest. I do kind of like doing traditional dances though, but I wasn’t going to dance with 25 different workers. I searched for Jorgito and his friend after dancing and saw them jabbing some long stick at something. I headed over and discovered they were trying to kill 6 little frogs. I was mad and told them to stop it, but then I remembered they were little kids. They promised they would stop, but they went right back to it as soon as I left. I don’t understand how a kid can hate frogs. I remember when I used to go swimming in the creek on the farm and I loved the millions of tiny frogs that it was full of. Whatever. That was a fun afternoon. The building is on the 6th floor and they only have 6 more to go. We headed back home after that to rest well one more night in preparation for the next day’s party. You must be wondering how many party’s I went to. A lot.

On Sunday we headed to Yotala where our family friends, Maricelo and Monica, have a cottage. It was pretty much the same exact party as the day before, but in a different place. There were lots of children, so it was quite fun for them. Late afternoon, the water fight really began, but the young children had already changed into dry clothes. They thought that meant they were officially off limits, but they thought wrong. Jorgito kept spraying me with his water gun, so I grabbed him to throw him in the kiddy pool. I wasn’t really going to do it, and I set him back down when he started yanking on my hair. 5 seconds later, a friend told me to grab his arms while he got the legs and we made a nice, dry Jorgito one very angry little boy. He marched off with the biggest frown I have ever seen. I felt horrible, but of course Jorgito was over it in 5 minutes. Everyone but the mothers were soaked that afternoon. They were chickens and stayed inside. We headed out yet again in hopes of a good night’s rest to prepare for…….? Another party! Imagine that.

On Monday, we drove down to the valley where my aunt Sandra has their cottage. I had a bit of a rough start. We were lazing around when Jorgito sprayed me in the back again. After the same thing yesterday, I decided to throw him in the pool again. I mean, my friend justified doing so yesterday when he told me to grab his arms. It was fine to do so judging from yesterday’s events, right? Apparently not. This pool was a bit deeper, and I learned very quickly that Jorgito doesn’t really know how to swim. It was fine. He just grabbed my hand and I pulled him out really quick, even though he was sobbing into Jorge’s arms immediately afterward. I was confused why nobody said anything. It wasn’t at all a fast process, and Viviana or Jorge could easily have said NO. If you know me well, you know how horrible I felt after that. I punished myself with my own guilt, but moved on eventually. Jorgito was fine, and he even trusted me to teach him how to swim that same afternoon. Life moves on. The rest of the afternoon went well. There were a couple other girls there my age that I got along well with. We walked to the river and swam there a bit. It was great. I got a pretty bad sunburn, but this time I didn’t peel. I am one tan woman now. Good afternoon, and I was glad all seemed well after the incident with Jorgito.

Once again we slept like rocks for the LAST day of Carnaval. I woke up Tuesday morning exhausted. Vivi came down early and asked if we could talk. That is always a bad sign. I will NEVER forget what she said. Ever. “Hayley, a mi no me gustado NADA de lo que has hecho ayer.” She said it in her strictest voice and with a pointed finger. That translates to ‘Hayley, I didn’t like what you did yesterday ONE BIT.’ It was absolutely terrifying. I immediately started crying. I knew she was referring to throwing Jorgito in the pool. All she said after that was that she knows I have never had a younger sibling, and that if he is bothering me then I need to tell her and not throw him in the pool. She left as quickly and surprisingly as she came. That was the end of it to her, but I was sobbing and hyperventilating in my room for the next half hour. I went to wash the dishes and had to stop and dry my hands after every dish because I kept crying and had to wipe the tears away. After thinking a bit, I calmed down. I know realize this was my first real encounter with a culture difference. She is a strict, loving Bolivian mother. She did not know how it went down the day before in Yotala, and she can’t read my mind. I am new to Carnaval. After the previous day, I thought it was perfectly acceptable to throw him in the pool. I did not know he couldn’t swim. And nobody told me to stop because they didn’t think I would do it anyway. I don’t feel the slightest bit of guilt for what happened, but I do feel really bad even though it was intended to be fun. Jorgito had to have been terrified. For the first time, I had to just suck up what Vivi had to say. I know I am not in the wrong, but she doesn’t understand everything the way I understood it. This was a learning experience. A tough one. We never said a word about the incident after that morning, and continued with the day just fine.

That same day, the whole family gathered at the Casa Rodriguez for one last day of partying. There was food, there was family, there was water, there was alcohol, and there was music. We left to the streets and danced around the plaza and called it a day after that. Everyone went their separate ways to wind down before going back to work the next day. I was exhausted. 5 days of being completely soaked is just too much for me. I slept like a rock and was one grouchy lady. That was enough of Carnaval for me, and I am happy to be back on a regular schedule. It was good experience, and I say that if I ever make it back to Bolivia some day it will be during Carnaval.

I forgot to mention the day I finally found someone to go throw water balloons with. None of my girl friends wanted to go, but I finally ran into one of the guys I graduated with. We planned an afternoon of it and I had a blast. I missed the testosterone. We met up at Juan Pablo’s house to fill water balloons and headed to the plaza by 5:00. I ended up being to scared to throw them at anyone, and we all ended up using the balloons on ourselves anyway. As usual, I was a main target, but it was much more fun this time. The other funny thing was how they fill their water balloons. I kept laughing when they asked me if I knew how to fill them. What kind of question is that, right?! Well, bolivian boys do it different. They gave me a lesson on how to make them really tight so they hurt when you were hit, but that shall forever remain a secret to you all. Mwahahahahah. And they do hurt super bad…I speak from experience.

I think that is all for Carnaval. I walk into town and still am a little paranoid that a water balloon will strike me from out of nowhere. I got pretty good about being discreet after a month of dealing with that paranoia. Thank our good lord Jesus that is a thing of the past. I am exhausted just writing about all that. I do have some pretty good pictures you will have to check out on as soon as I get them posted. Cheers!