Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Did you miss me?

Sorry about that folks, I´m slacking on my weekly updates. But honestly, there hasn´t been much to share lately. Except the three men and a baby in the front seat of the taxi trufi last week... that was a pretty funny site. But lo and behold, something intresting happened today! So here is the story :)

Today has been an intresting day in my life. I picked up viviana to take her for her therapy as usual. In the taxi on the way I noticed one of the main bridge intersecions had two of the passageways kinds roped off. So traffic was moving slow through there but it was at least moving. I thought maybe it was construction or something. Well, an hour later we are on the return trip and we are on another road and the driver tells me ¨blockades¨ which makes me groan cause I have the baby with me. I look around and see a lot of people walking and not a lot of cars moving. Great. But the driver, thank God, doesn´t give up. He worms his way (on the wrong side of the road) up to the road we need to turn left on (a big main road that circles around the city) and we get across. Thank God we didn´t have to turn right since that is where we would have hit the blockade for sure. Once we were headed up into the right area for the orphanage I breathed a little easier. Too soon! The closer we got to the home the more traffic we hit. And this is up where there is very little traffic! It was because everyone was trying to take the backroads since the blockade was on the main road. We finally got close enough to the home that I got out of the car, picked up viviana (she´s a pretty big girl) and walked inbetween half moving vehicals, walked up a steep, rocky, semi-wet hill (still walking inbetween cars, the whole place was like a parking lot on Christmas eve), and finally got her home to the orphanage without incident. Phew! I think I had a few more angles with me today then normal! Rather then try to ride back in a Trufi I opted to walk. Turns out walking was a faster choice too! So that was my morning! A good part of the eastern side of the city looked much like the area I was in but everything in the west seemed pretty normal. Thankfully.

In other news, I will moving leave my host family this weekend and moving into another house. Its a really long story which, if you don´t live in this culture you will not understand, so I will just say that it had become nearly impossible to live in the same home as my language tutor. My new home will be across the yard from my closest friend in Bolivia, it will be costing me less money, but will be the same arrangement as I have now. Three meals a day, laundry, and a decent sized room to stay in. SeƱora Carmen has been housing foreigners for many many years and is one of the sweetest women I´ve ever met. My friend Amy lived in the room I will be in for 9 months a few years ago and never had one complaint about the house or family. I am looking forward to this move.

More later!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

We´re in the jungle baby!

Over the river,
over the mountians

and into the jungle we go.

Around here though, its know as The Chapare. Many people have told me about the climatic differences between Chapare and Cochabamba but this was the first time I experienced it for myself. We left Coch at about 7am and drove 4hours across the mountians into Chapare. By 11 o´clock we were hot, muggy, and swatting at millions of little bugs wanting to suck our blood.

For those of you who don´t know, my team is in the midst of building 2 more orhapange homes in the Chapare. We make a trip into this area at least once a month to bring workers, supplies, and money to the construction sites. This was the first time since I arrived in Coch that I was able to go on the trip. I was just along for the ride but 3 of my teams 4 interns went with us to stay in Chapare and work construction for the next week or so. So here are some pictures of the home #1 (we didn´t have time to go to the second site).
This is the front and back of the house

This is one of the inside rooms.

At the moment, the plumbing has not been installed.
This is the shower.

And this is the house the our contruction manager Remberto lives in with his family.

And now for some fun pictures of me enjoying the jungle.
This is me and a little bitty parrot. He´s cute I wanted to take him home with me.

This is an alligator who at one point in time was alive but is now stuffed but very much alive looking!

And finally we have me posing with a banana tree in one of the many banana plantations.

At one point of the trip we had in our car 3 missionaries, 1 child, 1 SEDEGES social worker (think DCFS), 1 special agent of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), and 1 tree grower. Only in the Chapare! I actually learned a lot more about coca on this trip as the Chapare grows a lot of coca. Our friend from the DEA goes to the international church in Coch but spends one week a month at the Chapare base. I live just 1 block away from the main base in Coch. This is what I learned:
1. It takes 400 pounds of coca leaf to make 1/2 pound of cocaine.
2. The DEA finds 80 to 100 cocaine labs every week in the Chapare.
3. The coca leaf in Chapare is only good for making cocaine and is not good for making tea or for chewing for medical purposes (a legit and legal way of growing and selling it).
4. Legally, a family can grow coca in an area 40 meters by 40 meters.
5. After the leaves are picked they have to dry in the sun for 3 days.
6. Most of the cocaine made in Bolivia ends up in Europe, not North America.

And thats it for this trip to Chapare!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Technically, Carnival is over. Technically. Rumor has it that the waterballoons may continue in a dumbed down fashion until Monday of next week. I almost got hit today so I gotta say its true! It looks like the whole city had a great big block party, and thats because they did! There are MILLIONS of broken balloons litering the street. But by far, I missed the worst (or the best, some would say) of carnival by going on a church retreat for 4 days.

In some ways, I almost felt like I was on a youth retreat in the States. Except everything was in Spanish and my shower didn´t have any hot water. When my friend invited me to go with his group I was hoping to practice my spanish and make new friends and enjoy a little bit of a break from my day to day life. And that is exactly what I did. Here are some pictures for your enjoyment.

We actually ate about 5 times a day! 3 meals and two ¨snack¨ type meals. This was our dining hall and these are some of my new friends. All the food was Bolivian, which I´m now acustomed to so it didn´t make me sick. However, camp food is still camp food and I missed my Bolivian Mom´s cooking :)

We had church services 2 times a day. There was always a lot of music and a message. Most of the speaking was lost on me except one service that a friend translated for me. These pictures are from 2 different services. These Bolivians don´t sit down and sing, they stand and shout and dance. More often then not, the chairs got stacked up, and they would worship in a great big circle like in the picture below. I took comfort in knowing that God knows my heart and God knows Spanish, even if I don´t understand every word I´m singing.

Perhaps the most important part of the weekend for me was making new friends. Going into the retreat I kind of knew 3 of the guys, I didn´t know any of them very well. And I didn´t know any of the girls. The first couple of hours were rather ackward for me but by the morning of the first full day I suddenly had like 5 girlfriends! Alcicel, Maria, Dani, Cecy, and Marcela. These girls immeditaly felt like my best friends and we hung out all the time, sat with each other in services and at meals, ect. I tried to get to know as many of the older people as I could. Side note, youth group here is a very broad group, you don´t graduate out of it. So we had like 12 year olds and then like 33 year olds. We had about 50 something in the group. This group is also in a more upper class in society and many of them speak English. Good and bad for me at the same time. But they helped me with Spanish and I helped them with English. It will never cease to amaze me just how accepting these people are. How many people would you welcome into your group gladly that didn´t have a firm grasp on your language? I love these people!

And finally there are the silly games, like in this picture.

In down times, I played a lot of frisbee, sat around with my new friends trying to talk to them, and generally just chilled out. Its rainy season here and the sun has been scarce. That would be the reason I never thought to pack a hat and sunscreen... my face is terribly red at the moment and very painful. My phrase for the weekend ¨Lo siento, soy gringa¨. I´m sorry, I´m a white girl!