Saturday, June 26, 2010


Hey, look at me! I figured out this whole computer thing after all! Finally, the promised pictures:

First, my room in my host family´s house in Sucre:

This little girl is a sweetie - she´s always happy to see me. In fact, she jumps up when she sees me, but not your normal putting-front-paws-up kind of jumping. She full-on leaps about a foot off the ground. It´s pretty funny.

A few views of Sucre - first, the main plaza:

All the streets in the center of town look like this:

I went on a walk with a friend of mine from school to get these pictures, and we went up to the famous cemetary on a hill above town. There were flower sellers right outside. It smelled lovely out there.

It´s a good sized cemetary, with some very large tombs for the richer citizens, and walls of little boxes for the less-rich.

I´m standing between a couple of the walls of boxes for the not-so-rich. The cemetary has a nice view of the city.

Dinosaurs are everywhere. They have phone booths in the shape of dinosaurs, and huge statues. There is a famous park near here with dino footprints, and one a little farther away that apparently has lots of really well preserved ones.

The place I spend most of my time, it seems, is school. At least it´s pretty:

All righty, then. I´d better be off for the day, so I´ll say goodbye for now. Enjoy the pictures!

Pictures will have to wait

This blog seems not to want to upload pictures, and facebook doesn´t like them either. I guess they´ll have to wait until I either find a place where the internet doesn´t lock up, or I get home. Lo siento!

Friday, June 25, 2010

What a short week!

Hello again!

I´ve finally got a couple hours to sit down and get stuff done on the computer. It´s amazing how you can escape a lot by going to South America, but you can´t escape the internet :-)

First, before I forget, pictures will be on their way. I took my camera around town today with one of my school friends, so I got a few pictures, but of course I forgot my cord for downloading the pictures from the camera to the computer. Hopefully I´ll get to that tomorrow.

So Wednesday night´s party was pretty good. I´m amazed at how "tranquilo" Sucre is. Even their parties are fairly quiet. There were a few fireworks and lots of food, and a whole lot of drinking, but there wasn´t much craziness. Normally, they also have big bonfires, in which they burn notes about things they didn´t like in the previous year, but the city government outlawed them this year. That may be good, since they were bad enough before that with all the smoke (Sucre is surrounded by hills, so the smoke stays in town), you couldn´t see more than a few feet in front of you.

The only problem with the party was the food. People were making what they call hot dogs (they´re a little more sausage-like than American hot dogs), and kept pushing them on us. I finally caved and had one from a really sweet lady I was chatting with on the street, and then regretted it the next day (yesterday). I was not horribly sick like when I got food poisoning in South Africa, but it wasn´t great. I ended up having to leave class a little early, and I missed a class trip to a museum. I slept for five hours, woke up in the afternoon and took it easy, then slept another seven hours last night. My host family has been going out of their way to feed me good things for a bad stomach, like light soups and such. I feel better today.

My Spanish is progressing, especially since we have only four hours of classes a day, instead of the eight-hour marathon on my first day. That wiped me out, but four hours is just enough to really learn something, but not become exhausted. We´re actually learning grammar that I had already learned in my Marshall classes, but my vocabulary recall is extremely slow, so being able to focus on that and not having to concentrate on new grammar is a good thing. I still feel like an idiot most of the time, though, but if I can try to remember how I was when I got here and compare that to how I am in a couple weeks, I may feel a little better about it all.

I´m heading to the Tarabuco artesan market on Sunday, which is in a town a ways out of Sucre. It´s supposed to be a bit touristy anymore, but it will still be fun. There´s a lot of nice woven stuff around here, so I may check out getting a sweater or a blanket or something. And it will be nice to see a little more of the countryside. I´ll do some studying tomorrow, and maybe visit a museum. It should be a nice, relaxing weekend.

I have to admit to being a little homesick. The effort of using Spanish all the time can be a little exhausting, so sometimes I daydream about the easiness of being at home. Plus, I miss my family and friends. But this is a great adventure, and Jeff will be here a week from today. I haven´t seen him since mid-May, so I´m really looking forward to that! Today was his last day at work, so I´ve been thinking of him a lot.

I hope you all are well! Be good, don´t do anything I wouldn´t do, and remember to watch out for bad hot dogs.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I´m here!

Hi all,

I´ve arrived! Actually, I arrived on Sunday, but this is the first chance I´ve gotten to update the blog. As soon as I got here, my host father told me that the next day had been declared a holiday, so school would be closed. We took off pretty much right away for their weekend home in the country, and we stayed there until Monday evening. On Tuesday, classes began for me. They began with a test to see what level class I should be in. Then I went to my designated class, which has two other students: Frederico from Quebec, and Jeff (absolutely no resemblance to my Jeff) from Ireland. My class - students and teacher - will change up each week so I can get used to different accents, etc. Tuesday´s class ended up going the whole day, for 8 hours, instead of the usual half day, in order to make up for missing Monday. My brain was -fried-. Today we had normal classes, and we´ll have a party at the school this evening to celebrate the Bolivian holiday of San Juan (which, I believe, was the cause of everything being closed on Monday).

Now that the busy business is written about, it´s time for the more interesting stuff!

First, the homestay family. There are the mom and dad, who are maybe 40-ish, and their three daughters, ages 15, 13, and 5. They are fairly well-off and well educated - he´s an accountant and she teaches pharmecutical chemistry at a university. Both of their houses (the one in Sucre and the one in the country, which is actually in a small village about 30 minutes outside Sucre) are pretty big, even by US standards. The family is exceptionally welcoming, especially considering that the school tells you not to expect kitchen access or dinner (breakfast and lunch are with the family, but Bolivianos eat very small dinners, so many Westerners feel underserved at Bolivian homes in the evening). My family, however, is happy to serve me dinner, albeit small (but lunch is huuuuuge!), and I can help myself to what´s in the kitchen anytime. No one in the family speaks any English, but they are extremely patient with my Spanish and really try to keep me in the conversations.

The family´s main home, the one in Sucre, is about a half-hour walk from the school, which is in the center of town. That´s not a bad amount of time, but it´s hilly and at a 9000 ft elevation, so I get winded a lot. I like the exercise, though. I end up walking both ways twice a day, since lunch is at home, and with classes in the morning and classes or other activities in the afternoon. But the walking is a good contrast to classes, which are pretty intense. Conversation at home can be pretty intense, too, since my Spanish isn´t so great yet. I continue to speak Spahili, and find myself wishing I´d never learned Swahili in the first place. My brain seems to have two language compartments - one is "English," and one is "other."

Sucre is a beautiful city. It´s got a little over 200,000 people, but it´s very compact. The roads are narrow, and the buildings come right up to the roads - no yards in front or anything, although many buildings are built around a central courtyard. Sucre is known as the "White City" because most of the buildings are whitewashed, as per Spanish colonial fashion. It is one of the few towns that preserved a good portion of the original colonial buildings.

The town seems fairly laid back. With all the time I spend walking, I´ve only been asked twice if I want a taxi, I don´t get stared at, and no one has yet yelled "gringa" at me, all of which are in huge contrast to Tanzania. I feel pretty safe here, too, although I don´t take my chances. I haven´t gone out at night yet, but I get the impression that it livens up a bit then.

And, the food. Everyone always asks about the food. It´s actually quite good. Breakfast and dinner are pretty small, just bread and fruit and coffee (instant, but I guess I´ll survive) or tea. Lunch is the showcase meal of the day. It starts with soup, so far always a different one - I´ve had vegetable, spinach, and beef stew. Then comes a heaping plate of at least two starches (pasta, rice, and/or potatoes, fried or boiled) and a main dish. I´ve had delicious roasted chicken, a beef and veggie stir fry, and sausage and vegetable patties. My family cooks non-spicy (thank God), but then loads on the picante sauce to their individual tastes, as well as ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard.

So there you are, my life in Bolivia, so far. I´ve been busy, but it´s been good. And in no time, Jeff will be here, which I´m really looking forward to!

Take care, all,

Friday, June 18, 2010

On my way

I'm taking off tomorrow for the great summer adventure, and I keep getting questions about what the heck is going on. So here is the answer, all in one place.

Jeff and I are applying for Peace Corps, but it will be many months before we know whether or not we're in. One requirement for service, since we want to go to Latin America, is two years' of college Spanish credit. Jeff tested out, but I want to take classes. I took one year while studying at Marshall University (just graduated in May 2010), but needed a second year. Since I know immersion works for me, and we really want a trip south, we decided to do classes in South America.

I'm signed up to study with the Academia Latinoamericana in Sucre, Bolivia and in Cuzco, Peru (they also have a school in Ecuador, but I chose Bolivia and Peru because they will be easier to travel between). I'll be in classes from June 21 to July 9 in Sucre, with Jeff catching up to me for the last week of that, and then we'll travel together for three weeks with the ultimate destination of Cuzco. Classes in Cuzco will be from August 2 to August 20, then we'll travel a little more. We fly out of Peru on August 29th and arrive in West Virginia on August 30th, where our house (that has yet to sell) and our cars are, which are being cared for by our lovely neighbors.

The next adventure after that is environmental education jobs with the Rock Eagle 4H camp through a program run by the University of Georgia. We report for work on September 3rd (yes, five days after we land in WV), and will work until some undetermined date in December. We're hoping to know by then if/when Peace Corps will take us, and that will determine what comes next.

So now I'm preparing to leave my mom's house -again-, which is tough. I'll also leaving my cat Leo and dog Subira in her care. I know they'll be fine (spoiled rotten, actually), but I don't know that I will be, since they are my babies. But I'm heading out on an awesome adventure. I know I'll be psyched when I get to Bolivia! I'm supposed to land Sunday the 20th at 1:35 pm Sucre time, which is currently the same as Eastern Daylight Time. That's less than 48 hours from now. Wow.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Here's the same view of the yard now, almost 2 months after the septic install. There are still a couple bald spots, but it looks mostly recovered!