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...
YUMMY FOODS I HAVE TRIED THUS FAR
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 STARTED VOLUNTEERING!
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 IN BOLIVIA
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.
AND IM A DANCER TOO
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,