Wednesday, October 13, 2010

really badly need to blog.

i'm sorry i've been mistreating you, blog.

some things:

1. morenada - so maia (otherwise known as british maia, maia uno [cause she is older than me] or simply maia, while i am known as mayita) and i are going to dance morenada in the university parade on november 6th. we go almost every night to dance in the plaza sucre, which is only two blocks from my my house. usually i like dancing - it's a great way to think about nothing, or to think very calmly. tonight i was imagining dancing morenada at middlebury, maybe in a friend's room with a youtube video on, teaching her a few of the steps, and i imagined that i would probably think back to my nights dancing morenada as being very, very bolivian - the plaza at night, with all the yellow and orange lights gleaming around, and the oh-so-pleasant cochabambino breeze, the bolivian girls i am constantly trying to copy who dance so easily in front of me, and the san pedro bank on the other side of the street, with the sign on top that i'm always trying to look at in order to keep my chest up when i dance. i often have to remind myself to stand straight, and i try to move my arms like the other girls so that i don't look like a total gringa, though i'm positive i still do. but after the first hour of dancing, maia and i usually get pretty bored. there are only 8 different steps, so we repeat each one about ten times, maybe more, and by hour 2 of our nightly practice, we are, like, over it.

2. basketball - one day i saw a girl walking across the street in basketball jersey. do you play basketball!?!! i asked her. yes, she said. where!??!???!?! i asked. in the university, she said. can i play too?!?!??!?!?!?! i asked. i don't think so, she said. but you can go watch.
so i went to watch to this tuesday - the court is in this giant gym with volleyball courts on either side, and floor is super sandy and slippery, and the hoop has a metal net. the reason i cant play is because it's a university intramural league, and the girls play with their academic department - like economics vs. agriculture or nursing vs. law. however, i did play a 2 on 2 pick-up game afterwards with a guy named orlando, who turned out to be really good, and two random-sort-of-sucky guys. (we won.) then, i went to get a refresco with orlando and his friend manuel, who talked my ear off for about an hour about all the food i should eat in bolivia and all the places i should go see, while i kept reminding myself that it was good practice. manuel also told me that there is a tournament going on just outside cochabamba, with teams representing cocha and la paz, and including (he stressed this a few times) actual black guys from the united states (who he calls negros, but most people call negritos, or little black people). i'm hoping to go watch them tomorrow!! i am also going to keep playing basketball with the university kids - apparently they all get together on saturday mornings on one of the outdoor courts.

so those are just two things. i find that i only write about things that get me really excited on this blog, positive stuff, things i am DOING. however a lot of my time here is filled with anxiety about things i'm not doing, decisions i haven't quite made, ways i am still "figuring things out." for example, my volunteering - it's sort of on hold right now and i think i'm going to switch things up. hopefully i'll figure out a creative radio project to do with my bolivian friend flor, that can be played on this radio show that she does with jorge and an argentine couple who teach their theater group. i also want to help them out with their other creative ventures, including a literary magazine.

sometimes i have anxiety that i am not learning enough academically about bolivia while i am here. the sit kids are all in potosi this week (which is the highest city in the world, apparently), but when they get back, i will hopefully read some of their history books and get my thinking cap on. i also recently discovered a multi-lingual bookstore called the spitting lama, where there are lots of books in english, including some of my favorite young adult fiction ever, like the westing game and wringer. who knew?!!

one more thing - i have a dream of bringing jorge to middlebury language school! as a professor. i emailed the director of the spanish language school tonight, but if any midd kids out there are reading this and have ideas about how to get him a job (ive heard its really hard to get a job at a middlebury language school), do tell me!

i'll write again, soon. toblerone's face, i miss you.

Friday, October 1, 2010

a lil rough patchin'

it's been a hard week for me here in various ways - but one of the most significant problems was with my host family. i finally moved out of my host family's house due to "cross-cultural differences" which included (on both ends) percieved insensitivity and differing lifestyles. so now i am living in a volunteer house, which is great because the people are open and fun-loving and i have lots of freedom. it's also challenging to decide how i want to spend my time and to make sure i keep speaking lots of spanish while hanging out with these awesome-english-speaking volunteers.

today i am feeling sort of anxious. i'm still settling into this switch from my host family's house and not feeling to guilty about how things didn't work out. i hope to take some time to write and think tomorrow, but today i can feel my anxiety taking over a bit. i am not quite myself.

good things have also happened! i went to an unbelievable parade in a village called punata with a great group of friends. my very good friend here, jorge, is part of theater group taught be an argentine couple. jorge + his argentine friends are also tight with another argentine named rodrigo (who is very funny, has the strongest accent, and is addicted to mate), a SUPER cool bolivian girl named flor (mega friend crush), and crazy outgoing girl named han from belgium. i brought british maia along with me and we all set out for punata to experience the folkloric dances, chicha and incredibly friendly bolivians. we ended up coming back the next day with a slightly different group - more sustainable bolivia people, a random irish kid named sean, a great girl named kelsey (who went to middlebury language school this summer and who i might travel with later on), and our bolivian friend cynthia. on the second day in punata, there was a power outage, and we ate anticuchos (cow's heart) in the dark, while sharing a jug of chicha.

yesterday my friend sarah and i tried to go to a trampoline aerobics class at the gym, but it turned out there weren't enough people to have a class! we were bummed. instead, we went running through the city streets, which was really fun. you may remember that i disastrously sprained my ankle dancing to tik tok my kesha at my dear cousin sophie's bat mitzvah party, and i am glad to report that my ankle felt 85% great. i hope to go running with sarah again.

today i really enjoyed work. sometimes i feel like i have nothing to do - there are quite a few volunteers, and the girls often have very dry homework to do. but today we played basketball and i chatted with a lovely girl named leida while we made paper snowflakes.

another important thing is that i am for real going to dance in the university's parade. i have been practicing almost every night in the plaza with university students, jorge, and british maia. some of the girls are really nice! my favorite is a chica named yolanda who always listens to her ipod while we dance... she's a lazy butt. anyway, maia and i made so much progress and can now dance with the group, instead of practicing by ourselves on the side.

and the sit kids are back! i am so excited. i've seen all of them in the last few days, but we haven't really been able to hang out. apparently they had an amazing and difficult time staying with families in the rural countryside and exploring la paz - i'm thinking about moving with la maddie to la paz while she does her independent study project in november... just an idea!

Friday, September 24, 2010

P.S. dear father


catch-up blogging (cup)

so i haven't blogged in a while. this was partly because my fam has been going through a rough time recently and it didn't feel right to blog about bolivia in the midst of it. i've heard grandma's service was beautiful and attended by over 200 people (wow!), and i wish i could have been there.

so i have some CUP to do. i'm going to divide this into sections so that you can read the things that interest you...


1. api. a sweet hot drink made from corn that you eat with fried bread that has cheese inside and sugar on top.
2. saltenas. famously good in cochabamba, and basically like a large juicy baked bolivian dumpling with thick dough and meat, chicken, olives, onions, and a hardboiled egg inside. bolivians eat them in the morning, and sometimes fry them but i haven't tried that kind yet. there's a saltenas festival this weekend outside my apartment and i am so excited!
3. camote. just a kind of sweet potato, and so bomb.
4. bags of popcorn sold on the street. cost roughly ten cents and are fun to eat while walking.
5. chirrimoya. the most expensive fruit in bolivia (i bought two for almost $2), and taste delicious – sort of like a mango, but less mango-y? you know? i also tried chirrimoya ice cream today which is really popular.


i guess i should explain what i’m going to be doing for the next three months. i’m volunteering at a center called mosoj yan, which is a christian organization that supports girls who have/are working or living on the streets. they have a bunch of different projects, and hopefully i’ll get to work on a few of them. one is called el centro para las trabajadoras – this is where i’ll be most of the time. in bolivia, kids only go to public school for half the day, and the girls at the center would otherwise be spending the rest of their time on the street, helping their mothers sell things. instead, they come to the center to do their homework, eat, play and study the bible. there’s also a café at the center where i’m working in the mornings. there are two other foreign volunteers there – one french and one german, and we help peel potatoes, cut onions, wash dishes, bake cakes and generally screw up the cooking process as gringas should do. today i was kicked off potato pealing duty because, by the time you’re done peeling the potato, there’s hardly any of it left! oops. the woman who cooks at the café is named tomi. she is really sweet but gets super stressed out sometimes. every day, a few girls come from one of the other centers, called alberge. alberge is for girls who no longer live with their families – i’m still unclear on the reasons, but i think it’s usually related to abuse or addiction. it’s fun chatting and cooking with these girls.

i've met a couple of awesome kids so far. maite is a super great girl i met at the centro para las trabajadores. she is about twelve and likes to play basketball with me. the basketball hoop is like one of those plastic things that people but up in their living rooms, and it’s in a corner on a fence above some kind of overturned dumpster, so that you can’t stand below the hoop. however you can shoot the ball over the fence and yell at the guy who works in the office below to throw it back. also the ball is not inflated – so there you go, that’s my first mission! i want to inflate the basketball.


last weekend i went to another bolivian city, called oruro, which is really hard to pronounce in spanish and sounds awful in english. i went with my spanish teacher/good friend jorge to his cousin’s wedding. it was incredible. i felt so welcomed by the entire family even though i had just decided to come the day before. jorge has something like five aunts – all super sweet older women who ike to partayy. especially his mom – she could dance all night. one of his aunts sort of looks like an older bolivian verson of my mom in that she has a similar skin tone and grey hair, which i told her my mom calls silver. she was my favorite aunt, too bad i can’t remember her name. anyway the wedding was marvelous. it was full of heavily drinking catholics, traditional bolivian dances, and potatoes/meat/rice, and super friendly old people who didn't care how badly i danced.

the day after the fiesta in oruro (aka a few hours after we got back at 4 in the morning), we awoke at 9 and went to church! the church is very cool – it’s built on top of an old mine, and there’s still an entrance to the mine inside the church! this was also the beginning of oruro’s carnaval, which is the biggest baddest carnaval in all of bolivia. apparently carnaval includes a whole bunch of activity in the months before, starting with a parade that we watched of traditional dances by various high schools. later that day, we actually went back to the wedding - in oruro, weddings typically last 2-3 days. so in the very same party hall, everyone re-gathered to drink and eat and dance their booties off, again. we left early to get back to cochabamba but missed our train and ended up drinking tea (we = me, jorge, his brother oscar and his mom) in a café and playing hang man/boggle in spanish, which they thought was really hard.


my name means one in aymara, which is an indigenous language in bolivia. people have been telling me this like once a day! when they tell me, i count to five in aymara, which i’ve learned from all the times people have talked to me about my name. maya, paya, quinsa, pusi, piesca! then sometimes i say, my name is also like the people of mexico. and they say, are you mexican?! and i say, nope.


the other week i went to emma’s pre school dance (emma is the granddaughter of my host family), and it was crazy. there are about 400 kids in her preschool, and every single one of them danced in a giant gymanasium filled with almost a thousand people. the kids were divided into classes of about 35, and each had a different dance from a different country. it was exhausting and sort of dramatic for our family – we had to find seats, guide emma to the entrance so she could dance, make sure her makeup, hair, clothes were perfect and not falling off, take care of the baby, buy coca cola, and have patience for all the dances, which often fell apart because, duh, the kids are 3 and 4 years old.


you know that tv show MADE on MTV? the one with ballerinas trying out for the basketball team and tomboys participating in beauty pageants? well, i’ve decided to put myself through a MADE-style challenge in bolivia – i’m going to dance a traditional, very feminine, elegant folkloric dance in a parade this november. i’m not sure what the parade is for, but various student groups from the university are putting on different folkloric dances. i’m with the economics department (but students from all departments come to dance) and we are going to dance morenada. i'm attending practices most weeknights to learn the dance in la plaza sucre, across from the university. there are all sorts of groups practicing their dances around the square, and it’s a little chaotic. but the girl in charge of the morenada group is so nice and patient with me, as i am both a newbie/gringita. google “traje morenada” to check out our costumes for the parade – yes, i am really really going to wear that.

thinking of all the fam and missing you,
maya paya

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

important anecdotes

just want to mention a few things so that neither you nor i forget them...

1. last night i locked myself in the bathroom at maddie´s house.
maddie is my good friend from SIT (also good amigos con el jacob y el zach de nueva york). she´s living with a family in a neighborhood about fifteen minutes north of my apartment, and after chatting/skyping with jake at her house, i promptly locked myself into the bathroom. EMPUJA (push), her family yelled. i swear i was pushing really hard, but we still couldn´t manage to get the door open. it took about 20 minutes, and i even began imagining the firefighters arriving (that would take a while, i decided, as ive never seen firemen except in a parade) and/or having to sleep on the (very clean!) floor. oh, and the doornob broke off. maddie´s fam almost died laughing, except the dad, who is a lil grumpy butt sometimes but managed to both smoke a cigarette and eventually get me out.

2. i enjoyed my first bolivian party.
SALUD! thats really all there is to say. emma and i had a dance party afterwards.

3. maddie and i endured a really strange show tonight.
we were told that we were going to the theater, but it turned out to be a three hour super sexist/racist/homophobic bolivian satire! i cant fully explain it right now. one example of a sketch: really effeminate gays are trying to take over the world and make ricky martin their king! all guys are gay, they insist! the gays will pinch your butt and coo at you no matter how much you resist, so watch out. they may even grab you and try to make out (at which point the audience screamed and shrieked). funny? i felt a lot of pain while watching the show. not just because it was absolutely terrible but because there were lots of kids watching, and it disappoints me that they´re learning this kind of humor. maddie and are not sure what to make of our friends/family thinking this kind of show is so amazing.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

back to blogging (btb)

HI. i haven´t been blogging for a while in order to feel cooler. that was a joke.

i´m sitting in an internet cafe, two doors down from the building where i´ll be living for the next three months. i live in El Edificio Colon, on the 15th floor, with an older couple named Julieta and Fernando... the two of them enjoy laughing, going to church (including various religious meetings during the week that i don´t completely understand), skyping with their son´s family in Buenos Aires (which Julieta does almost every night), taking siestas in the afternoon, watching her fav telenovela at three (only Julieta), and eating (also mostly Julieta, Fernando has to watch his cholesterol or something.) one more note on the Julieta´s eating: she may be the only person i´ve met to rival Grandma Esther as the slowest-ever-eater-in-the-history-of-the-world.
Fernando leaves and i eat here, alone! she said. if only Fernando were as kind as Grandpa....

Julieta´s dedication to technology is pretty funny. she takes facebook, very, very seriously. for example, when she first signs on, she carefully reads the news feed, murmering aloud each event/status that she sees. the first day that i arrived, Julieta told me that it was one of her past volunteer´s birthday that day, and announced: i am going to write on her facebook wall today. but not now. after lunch.
did you already write on your volunteer´s facebook? i asked after lunch.
yes, yes, she told me. i wrote to her, feliz cumpleanos!
for some reason i had expected more.

Fernando and Julieta have three kids - Fabio, Gabriel and Pablo. Pablo used to be a chef but is taking a break to work for the city government. he learned to cook from his mother! Julieta told me. Pablo has a wife named Veronica and two daughters, Emma and Mariana. Emma (who(m?) Julieta & Fernando call Emmita, or little Emma), is four and, apparently, una habladora - a talker. i´m really excited to meet her. Mariana is only a month old, and her grandparents are insanely in love with her (duh). Gabriel lives with his wife Pamela and their son Fabio in Buenos Aires (they´re getting their masters, i think). Fabio is five and plays video games while he skypes with his grandma. J&F´s youngest son (good abbreviation, no?), also named Fabio, "left" a few years ago. Vive en el cielo - he lives in the sky.

Julieta told me she doesn´t like cooking.
a little bit? i asked her.
i like to eat,
she told me.
but you like it a little, right? ¿un poquitito?
yes, of course, she told me. but not much.
i wanted Julieta to like cooking because for at least three hours a day, that´s all she does. she spends her mornings boiling potatoes, making sauces, cooking meat, and chopping vegetables for the salad. she cooks one enormous meal a day - lunch, and eats the leftovers for dinner (but that doesn´t directly translate into spanish - leftovers go in the trash, Julieta told me when i looked up the word). Fernando makes the juice. juice is very important, and Fernando makes it fresh every day while Julieta washes and gets dressed (also very slowly... Grandma?!)

of course, i´ve been doing more than just eating Julieta´s sopa and teaching Fernando the words awesome and super duper: most interestingly, i finally got a Bolivian cell phone, went to Rosh Hashanah services at a synogogue, became buddies with my Spanish teacher, bought a camera, hung out a bunch with the lovely SIT kids, and watched The Big Lebowski projected onto the outside wall of a Sustainable Bolivia house. the Rosh Hashanah experience especially deserves a post on its own... later, i think.

here´s a photo of the building where i´m living!

and here´s the fruit that Fernando used to make juice a few days ago... it´s called Maracuya. and we strained the seeds!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

what i did today

#1: woke up

#2: climbed the hill to jesus cristo! apparently it's actually the biggest jesus en todo el mundo. there's another one in brazil that's 33 meters high (because jesus lived for 33 years), but the one in cochabamba is 33 meters and a little bit high 'cause jesus didn't die on his birthday, right? right.

i went up to the cristo with gary (who hates the christo because it costs the city a lot of money, and there are still "ninos en la calle!"), as well as alex (an american kid from brown who would have loved cps with all of his eager heart), another volunteer whose name is pronounced oo-ny-ee, though i have no idea how to spell it and usually we just call him "el vasco" as he is basque, and also two bolivian girls named carolina and cynthia who study at the university and hang out with sustainable bolivia volunteers a lot.

map of basque country:

the walk was hard but super fun. apparently it can be dangerous to walk up because there are lots of pickpockets, but it's safe in a group. the view from the top is incredible. you can see all of cochabamba and even a town called sacaba that's nearby. i need to buy a camera!!

view of cocha from el cristo:

#3: descended the mountain as it stared to rain! continued descending as it rained harder! halfway down, it started pouring. this was disputably very fun.

#4: ate lunch. gary makes great vegetable soup and vegetable stir fries. it's sort of like what beth goldberg would cook if you picked her up and dropped her off in bolivia.

beth goldberg's best dish is arguably fish veracruz. it looks something like this:

#6: went walking through the city. it's pedestrian day today in cochabamba, so the city was almost entirely devoid of cars. instead there were crazy teenagers on bicycles and little kids on cute tricycles. lots of street dogs too, who would break any goldberg-safir's puppy-loving heart. and yummy street food! i tried a funny corn drink from santa cruz with a name i forget and also humintas - which i would describe as a moist, sweet tamale with cheese inside. then we chewed on the corn husk. muy rico.


also: i spend one dollar today. good deal for me.
additionally: it's funny that going abroad allows me to write so much about my days. hopefully i won't get too addicted to this excessive sharing...