Well I will start from the beginning! Ok so by day:
June 30th: Newark airport at 11 AM flight to Miami from 2.05 to 6.00 (mad delayed!)
Miami airport from 6.00 to 10.45 lay over (ay dios mio)
In the airport I met up with my classmates and I ended up eating Chinese food (bad decision haha). And we didn’t end up leaving the airport until ummm 12.00 pm. I sat next to a really cute old guy and a 13 yr old chatty Kathy haha. She wanted to tell me everything about Bolivia and had so many questions and she even made fun of my “new York accent”. Many people of Latin America ask personal questions and say things that in america would be “offensive” but they are just curious and very very honest which isn’t terrible!
July 1st- The old man was on my 9 hr trip but the girl got off the plane at La Paz which was only a 6 hr flight.. La Paz’s altitude is so different that I immediately started getting altitude sickness..it was horrible! So then we flew over many mountains (Cochabamba is in a valley setting) and finally arrived in Santa Cruz. We went through customs where the man joked with me that my Spanish was better than the police officer working security and the airports are so different!!! First of all basically the airport is terminals and baggage claim and then you walk out the doors and its like a waiting area and the check in counters..but you can sit there even if you don’t have a plane ticket..alll the food is outside the terminals and they don’t care if you bring food on the airplanes. The second plane in Bolivia that we took from Santa Cruz to Cochabamba was AeroSur. 1st of all Aero Sur is the nicest plane I have ever been on the regular coach seats are huge and exactly the same as first class seats in American airlines…. Yess. I flew with the whole Bolivian youth soccer team and of course they all were interested in what I was doing because I am ridiculously white and the flight attendant insisted on translating everything to English for me… but he was talking really really fast…I would have understood..i was on 2 other planes I know the deal! SO FINALY we land in Cochabamba! And the group we work with for service learning—Pro Justica Bolivia greeted us with a huge banner..it was soo nice and everyone hugged and kissed and said hello. After we took a huge bus (mind you that all the cars and buses are from the 80s and early 90s) to the Bolivia Cultura (the place that is in charge of my homestay and language classes). There we were prepped for our first nights alone in Bolivia and how to live and traditions..
Tradition (in Spanish Costumbre) 1: it is rude to stretch and yawn in public (uh oh)
2: because of tradition of the country most toilets are not meant for toilet paper.. so you must throw your toilet paper and sanitary napkins/ items in the garbage.. I am finally used to this after 2 days but I catch myself
3. it is rude to arrive at home later than you had said, not call your home stay mom to tell her what time you will be home or especially to miss a meal.
In Bolivia lunch is the big meal but my mom lives solo so she doesn’t cook a 5 course meal or anything extravagant. We both get along perfect because we enjoy simple things…simple meals, no tv, no telephones. Any way enough digression!
So Bolivia cultura told us what to expect and how to behave and then we were picked up by our parents… I was sooo nervous! But I am so so happy that I am staying with Alejandra! She is very young and single and we live in a 3 bedroom apartment. It is on la pasaje Michel (Passage way Michel). It is called a passage way because you can only enter and exit from one side of the street and the other part is blocked off..this keeps it private and quiet most of the time. There is two locks..the huge gate with barbed wire which this little mini sheep dog waits for me every night to come home and then the apartment door. And by the way the sheep dog is not Alejandras haha it’s her neighbors but in Bolivia the dogs run free in the apartments because there is a fence.. there are many many dogs on the streets I couldn’t even count on 2 hands.. and it makes me so sad I want to feed them all and hug them but they are dirty and they don’t look starving but some are very cute and just lay in the street and smell you others bark at you and today one dog chased my taxi for a block hahah. Alej has a little tiny poodle mix dog and she is very cute! She always greets me at the door or even sleeps under my bed when I am in my room. Alej always waits on me and I try to help her like clearing the table or putting out glasses and she just tells me to relax… Well if she wants to take care of me I’m not going to say no! The first day we spoke a lot (only in Spanish) and she asked what kinds of foods and drinks I liked.i of course said I loved coca cola..this was the night she took me to the market and I couldn’t figure out my international phone and it was a mess! So she knew I was upset and so she especially bought coke for us to drink with dinner.. It meant so much to me that she went out of her way to do that. We took the bus together from the market and my first shower was ice burg cold because I didn’t turn on the power for the hot water—hot water is heated electrically .the water pressure is extremely terrible but its not a big deal I just wont use as much soap haha..So I went to bed very upset due to my phone, my cold shower and just no sleep from the planes.
I was supposed to be up for breakfast at 8 but my phone is in 24 hr time and I had set the wrong time so instead of saying 8 am my phone said 20…and my alarm was set for 8 not 20 so I ended up waking up in fear of being late at 8.30 which I was kind of later because I left my house at 9 passed the Fundacion Ipeno (a?) and realized I had passed a minute later and ended up near the Catholic University where I found Michele, Natasha and Carolyn who were lost. I passed the Fundacion (also a university of dentistry haha) so I remembered the way from the Catholic University. This building is in the middle of a residential area so it was weird to be there haha. It was on Fidel Anze y la Esquina de General Galindo cerca de la parquet de Anze. My first taxi knew exactly where it was and I was only a few minutes late due to a detour but my second driver who picked me up after lunch… had no idea and I had to give him directions. In Bolivia there is a lot of traffic and cars are first then people…crossing the roads is a nightmare.. there are no traffic laws..taxis go both ways down one ways, go through red lights, speed and there are no seat belts and the doors are never locked… jesus hahah. In Bolivia there are many taxis and many are private. It is not recommended to take a private one since they can like murder you or something haha so we are only allowed to take taxis that on the side of the door say radio taxi. I have become a master at flagging them down and negotiating prices! I need to learn the buses because a taxi ride is 7 bs (equivalent to 1$) but I take a taxi some days 4 or more times. And a bus is only a few cents so I need to learn the bus route. So we arrived at la Fundacion and they have computers with internet and printers so I don’t have to go to internet cafes… what I don’t like about these places is that it’s crowded and you are charged by the minute and the doors (usually take up the whole wall) are completely open so anyone can walk in. Alej’s sister has a computer with internet as well. We had an academic orientation and a service learning orientation and this is my schedule:
Mon: 9.30-12.00 Anthropology (Law justice and rights in Bolivia) at Fundacion
4.30-6.00 Spanish class at Bolivia Cultura
Tue: 4.30 – 6.00 Spanish class
Wed: 2.30-6.00 service-learning in Loma Pampa
Thurs: 2.30-6.00 service learning in Loma Pampa
Fri: 9.00 class
Sun: service-learning at Loma Pampa 8.30 am – (?)
My service learning on wed and thurs is geared towards teaching about human rights and laws in Bolivia to children in various ways such as dances, theatre, puppet shows, etc. this is with a group of girls.
Service-learning on Sunday is first off all construction/panting – labor for a while and then from 12-2 is my own project. My project is going to be science experiments and I need a lot of ideas a pack up plans and I talked to Pro Justica and they said that my options are unlimited… I would love to dissect or even use a microscope to look at cheek cells or grow a plant..etc.
Loma Pampa is an area about 30 minutes from Cochabamba that is poor in resources. They have no electricity or running water and only 1 outhouse…which is a hole. I have been told that many of these students have never done science or anything of that nature so I’m so excited to make things explode with them! Hahah The children of Loma Pampa have good hearts and I hope they will accept me and help me learn as I teach them and of course have fun!
So after this a group of about 11 of us decided to go out to eat dinner and coffee and karoke. We decided on this Iranian restaurant and I had this sheesh kabob with lettuce, tomato, sauce and pork in not a wrap but kind of like it…its like the middle eastern version..similar to naan but thiner..it was amazing and only 15 bs (approx 2$). Then we had coffee at a nearby expensive place that was 10 bs for my cappuccino and it was huge!! It took forever to flag down a cab because we weren’t in such a urban area but more of an “upscale” area where the professor Hotel is located this was off of Avenue America where everything is! (The Catholic University and Fundacion are close to Ave. America) After coffee it seemed so late so I didn’t do karoke but definitely another time!
When I got home Alej and I embarked on a 4 hour conversation (in only Spanish, yes my head hurts a little) about so many things. We spoke of Goni the ex-president and how he was a bad president. I found our her uncle was the past owner of the Southern Bank.. (I think that’s what it’s called) and Aero Sur for a while until Goni shut his bank branch down. He wrote a book about it and she showed me the book, it was really interesting. We spoke about coca and the controversy and I told her the united states doesn’t understand the traditional or everyday practical usage of this plant only the bad of it. We spoke of hwo the solution is not in destroying the plants but rather controlling it on a domestic level in the US. Then we spoke about Evo Morales (the current president and first indigenous president) she likes him but Evo apparently hates Americans and her sister hates Evo haah. Her uncle and Evo are good friends! Alej has many connections! She lives very simple and we agreed that material means nothing. Then we spoke of the American dream and what exactly it means and how it’s a romantic view of looking at it because the US is corrupt. I told her that my family had not all agreed that I go to Bolivia but I insisted because I wanted to gain an intimate relationship with the country in order to completely understand the culture and the people. I also told her I picked this program and not one to a more “romantic” country because those countries are only portraying what tourists want.. I wanted to live like an everyday Bolivian, no special treatment. I want to get to know the culture, “la cultura realmente” (the real culture) of the Bolivian peoples..not of the tourist areas like Lake Titicaca or El Cristo (which I can see from my room clearly). I want to explore the real Bolivia and become as professor Goldstein says “a global citizen”. It’s hard living in Bolivia and adjusting but I like the simplicity and chaos at the same time. We also talked of music and art work because we both like dali and what museums we should go to. It’s amazing that I as able to hold a deep conversation in Spanish only after my second day.. I love not having technology because it allows me to connect with Alej much more..we bond over conversation and deep and critical thinking not over laughing about a show or just dinner conversation. I am really already attached to Alej and I feel extremely comfortable with her. She is not traditional and since it’s just us I can leave my bedroom door open, walk in my pjs around the house, come out of the bathroom with a towel on..in other families that is unheard of… Even speaking of coca and international politics is touchy for many but Alej has such a open mind on these matters..
So anyway Alej invited me tomorrow at 10 am to go to her sisters house for a BBQ to meet her family because they keep asking about me haha and then I am heading off to La Cancha (huge market). I hope to buy a zip up sweat shirt.. and possible ugg boots. They aren’t really ugg but I think they are alpaca or llama or something..idk but my feet are really really cold at night and during the day. It gets down to 35 degrees at night and I didn’t pack my sweat pants…duh lauren..so I will probably buy some..i’m not dying it’s just a little chilly I have on 3 comforters though (they are a lot thinner in Bolivia than in the US) and in the morning its warmer. In the shade from 9-12 is comfortable in short sleves but from 3 on in the shade it’s cold like sweat shirt..it’s weird in the sun its hot hot but in the shade is really cold..its quite a change and at night its like winter.welll technically it is winter here but the weather is 70s. NO HUMIDITY! My eye are very dry but I’m not complaining! Well now its 2.36 AM and I need to be up at 7 and still write rosh and sean emails… ay dios!