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...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

i took a picture

gary, kelly and i went to the market today and bought these flowers. gary is preparing sweet potatoes while we listen to zero 7.

Friday, September 3, 2010

el segundo dia

this is the giant jesus christo that i can see from my room, i think it's the 2nd biggest in the world:

this is my friend gary, who lives in back of sustainable bolivia. he says i can interview him about his very interesting life!

also: today i met jorge, my spanish tutor. hes great! we had a three hour lesson but it was super fun. he taught me many new words and i showed him photos of food trucks from san francisco, including this korean taco truck, which he thought was funny:

then jorge and i walked through the university. he studied linguistics there and told me all about the different departments. apparently 50,000 attend la universidad mayor de san simon en cochabamba. today some of the classes were canceled because a fight erupted between law students after student elections, and the police fired tear gas into the crowd. crazy crazy! then we bought empanadas:

thank you google for the images.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

the very first day

oh hey, so i'm in bolivia !

since i don't have a camera, i must rely on the imagery of description. i will conjure the scenes around me the best that i can for you.

first day victories:
figured out how to get (patchy) wifi on my lap top in the volunteer house
went to the tienda by myself
returned from the tienda without getting lost
purchased several items including milk (important), mozzarella cheese (more important) and chocolate snack pack "pudin" (most important)

peeps i have met so far:

kids from SIT: there are lots of them. i hung out with them yesterday during our super long journey to cochabamba, during which our flight got in late to la paz, so we toured around until nighttime and took a plane to cochabamba then. thank you SIT for the complementary tour and fancy shmancy lunch! anyway i got to hang out two girls on SIT that i share mutual friends with, and they are awesome. i'm excited to hang out with them more.

british girl named maia: met her at the airport. she is staying in la paz for a week and then volunteering with sustainable bolivia for almost a year. she is very nice and accented and we have the same name!

nice taxi driver: he was watching a horror movie in english and drove me from the airport to la plaza sucre, where i met

eric: director of sustainable bolivia. he is nice and has a cute young bolivian girlfriend and they appear to be muy enamorados. he took me to the volunteer house and showed me my room for the next week, which is huge. its like, bigger than a double in stewart, i should have a party, jeez.

gary: older guy who lives in back of sustainable bolivia. has lived all around the US, most recently in new mexico. he quit his job there and moved down to cochabamba three years ago with his now ex-wife. gary has many stories. he's had lots of jobs, including working in restaurants, gardens and schools, and most recently with "emotionally disabled" teens. he loves to cook and is obsessed with fresh produce, though unfortunately right now he has a hernia in his chest due to excessive eating and drinking during his trip back to the US last month. he also likes to check the cleveland indian scores on the computer downstairs.

devan: assistant director of sustainable bolivia. she told me lots of things. most interestingly: my host family is an older couple who live downtown on the 15th floor of a high rise apartment. they are, supposedly, one of the most popular home families because it's a nice, laid back place to stay and have long conversations in spanish. sounds good to me. devan is also setting me up with a tour and a spanish tutor for tomorrow. i'm gonna take a few spanish lessons so they can assess how good my skillz are before placing me with a volunteer organization, but basically, the hope is to set me up with an organization that works with street kids in cochabamba called PAI tarpuy. we'll see.

my blanket is blue.
i can see a giant jesus christo statue from my window.
the apple juice here is phenomonal.
i am wearing jeans.

ok, i think i've told you pretty much every single thing.