A Travellerspoint blog

First Week in Bolivia

Monday December 12th, 2005 to Friday December 16th, 2005

For those of you that have heard from me already, I just want to let you know that mis maletas (luggage) have arrived. After four days of the same clothes, the situation was looking pretty grave, but all is well now! Cochabamba is SO interesting. Actually, my village is a small town about 15 minutes outside the city by bus (the "micro") and is very tranquil compared to the city. The area is very beautiful and rustic. The air is very clean (at least in the villa) and the vistas are incredible. The Andes are covered in green and can be seen looming the in distance from everywhere in Juan XXIII, and they seem close enough to touch. The houses here are very closely packed and all have gates in front and walls separating them from their neighbors. None are very tall, but there at least one that has three floors; I think it is the fanciest one on the block.

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This is a photo of one directly across the street. Interesting comparison.

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Most are very modest and compact, but some that look small from the front are actually very spacious inside. Most families don't own cars, although there are many parked on the main streets. There are many buses and ¨public cars¨ which are kind of like taxis, but pick up people along the way. Most walk and ride bicycles. There are also about a million dogs that roam the streets. Apparently, most have homes, but they are set free during the day and most return for meals and sleep. We have a dog (Picaron), he sleeps out in the courtyard, but he and I are amigos.

Yesterday I went to the Concha Mercado, which is a giant street market, with Juanita (my aunt). I would have been lost instantly, so I was glad she was with me. They sell everything from food to flowers, to clothes to electronics. Most of the non-consumables were US products, such as DVDS and clothes, but there was also quite a bit of native crafts and such, which I liked. I also find the different foods here fascinating. And even some of the same foods that are just packed and sold differently. Many people buy their food at street markets, but there are also large supermarkets around. The street vendors tend to be the native Bolivianas who wear the multi colored skirts, braid their hair into two long braids and top it off with a black bowler hat. I've had many a mango here so far and they are WONDERFUL. Mangoes Bolivianos are softer and sweeter than those of other countries and you have to literally squeeze the fruit out of the skin (and all the fibers get stuck in your teeth, so I´m glad I brought dental floss). Juanita and I are going to attempt to make chocolate cookies on Sunday, but the conversions don´t quite match, and she doesn't have a temperature gauge on her oven, so I´m going to have to do most of it by eyeballing the ingredients and watching them very closely as they cook. Could be a disaster! Good thing I have a lot of experience making cookies (galletas americanas!)

My family is very nice. I live with Juanita, who is the aunt of the señor of my family. She lives on the second floor and I have my own room, so it is nice and quiet and private. I eat with the Señores and their daughter Camila, who is three, and is also a bit of a terror, but sweet otherwise. She wants to dance with me often, which was fun the first few times, but she also likes to try to pull me out of my chair while I'm eating, or follow me into the bathroom (we had to have a little chat about that one - good thing my Spanish is improving rapidly) I can understand Juanita very well, but the Señores have a very interesting accent that is difficult to follow, but I think I am getting better.

I have gone out a few times to the city with some other students from my program. There are only a few of us, and there is one other American girl, but the others are Swiss. Most of them speak broken English, but mostly we try to communicate in Spanish, which is also patchy, but fun. There is one bar in the city called Casablanca where all the gringos hang out, and I've been there twice now. It´s not the most authentic place as there are posters of Marylin Monroe and Humphry Bogart all over the walls and most people are not Bolivian, but it´s been fun to meet people from all over (Denmark, Canada, England, US, Brazil, Germany, etc.) One of my first nights, I went to hear a concert at the local theater. The group was Duo Sentimiente (the sentimental duo) and they sang romantic folk music. The one who sang had the biggest voice ever and did NOT need the microphone, although he used it anyway and nearly blew our eardrums out. But other than that, it was interesting and fun. Everyone there knew all the words and when to clap along, etc. I plan to explore more, for sure.

Pues, espero que todos usteds estàn bienes. Wilmette ladies, each day I am wished ¨que te vaya bien¨ by muchas personas and it just brightens my day because it makes me think of you!

Posted by Laur456 19:20 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Arrival in Cochabamba

Monday December 12, 2005

-17 °C

Hello all, I just wanted to send a quick email to let everyone know that I am here in Villa Juan XXIII, just outside Cochabamba. I found a local internet "cafe", minus the cafe. I am all in one piece, but a bit tired and frazzled. My adventure has started out more adventurous than I would have preferred.

First of all, they didn't let me get on my connecting flight to Bolivia (something about they didn't have my luggage on board so I couldn't get on) so I had to spend Saturday night (and the next day) in the Miami airport, which was not fun. They booked me for the following night's flight. So not only was I complete dirty, hadn't slept for two days (cause I didn't get much sleep on the plane either) but when I got to Santa Cruz today.... no luggage! So, I got to Cochabamba this afternoon via my third flight leg and Joaquin, the director of the Runawasi program, met me at the airport and drove me back to meet my family.

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Their daughter took to me right away, and she is cute, but has thrown about three tantrums so far, including running off with the pictures I brought and refusing to share. Quite a set o' pipes on that one. The parents names are Flory and Feli de Cossio. The señor is an abogado (lawyer), and they are very nice. I'm actually living upstairs in a separate apartment with the Señor's aunt, Juanita (short for Juana), and I like her very much. The house is extremely nice and I have my own room. Here is the view from the front:

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And here is the view from the door to Juanita's apartment, where I slept. Every morning I am amazed by the view of the Andes, they look so close!

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Then Joaquin was nice enough to take me to the supermercado so I could purchase some soap, shampoo, etc. So, I have showered, but then I had to put my dirty clothes back on, and I have to sleep in them and wear them again tomorrow. Excellent. Also, it´s REALLY hot here today, and I've got on wool socks and hiking shoes. Yeah, it's killing me. I just want my flip flops! I guess the temp does vary, but it´s not the best day to be stuck in my travel clothes.

I guess there are only seven students in my school. I get to meet them tomorrow, hope they are cool and will want to hang out. I think Joaquin said I'm the only American. Also, I'm the only one who's staying over the holidays, which is a bit disappointing, but should be more comfortable in my new surroundings by then.

Hope this message finds you all well, and I will be in touch!

Posted by Laur456 19:15 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

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