So on Saturday we went to this special celebration at the Casa de Tourismo and they had a whole show of folkloric dancers and then afterwards they drove us all to the Dinosaur Park in town for a special evening showing of the dinosaurs (a bunch of life size replicas of dinosaurs and some fossilized foot prints). Below are some short movies I took of the dancing. It was really neat with lots of varied dress and styles of dance.
So I could vent some more about some things here, but I’ll just say something short about the driving. People here really drive like maniacs (and that’s not me being judgmental of the culture, I promise, they will admit it themselves.). Instead of yielding at an intersection to other cars or pedestrians, cars just lay on the horn as if to say “I have no intention of stopping so get out of my way.” You might be saying to yourself, this sounds like a dangerous system and you would be right. There is no pedestrian right of way and as we experienced this morning when two cars come to an intersection and both honk they just drive right into each other! Needless to say we are being very careful and getting out of the way when we hear honks.
So I have to vent a bit…the conversion rate between Bolivianos (Bs) and US Dollars is annoying…. 7:1. That math never ends up nice. The biggest bills we have had so far is Bs 100…which is like 14.2 dollars. On the low end, we have 1 (a bus ride) & 2 (a bottle of water) Bs coins…which are $0.14 and $0.30. Typically though, I end up saying…oh we paid 25Bs for that, that’s what like $3.50 plus? Nothing ever is even!
To make matters worse, lots of people use dollars, so I can’t really just wholesale convert to Bs and forget about dollars. We were at a cafe with two Bolivians we met saturday night and when we went to pay the bill, we were fiddling around with our share, to try and get the right amount of Bs out, and they just drop a US$ 10 bill on the table! We all had a bit of a laugh at that.
One week of Spanish classes down and we are both feeling a lot more confident. We have gotten around town fine with our Spanish and even survived a trip to Interpol (International Police) to get background checks for our visas yesterday. They have to send the paperwork to the U.S. so it takes awhile.
In addition this week we played walleyball (volleyball in a racquetball court) and had salsa lessons. With these two activities in addition to the 4-6 miles we walk a day I’d say we’re acclimating pretty well to the altitude.
The family we’re staying with had a party Tuesday evening so we got a real listening comprehension challenge early. They were barbecuing steaks and eating rice with milk and boiled potatoes (note we arrived at 8pm and they were just beginning the party that earlier we had heard would start at 6pm). There were about 12 family members sitting around the table and it was VERY difficult to follow the conversation but I managed to get a few words in here and there. We also got to try our first Bolivian alcohol that night. I enjoyed the beer from La Paz, Paceña which reminds me a lot of Budweiser. When I told the father of the family that he said, “Yes they are similar, but Paceña is better because it’s Bolivian.” And so I said of course I agreed but in St. Louis I’d have to say the other way around. We also got to try some red wine, vino tino, from a Bolivian winery called Kohlberg. I liked it a LOT. It kind of reminded me of a Norton only sweeter. I didn’t recognize the name of the type of grapes it was made from though.
Speaking of alcohol, those of you who were with us in Malawi will remember that there we had the pleasure of drinking Carlsberg, “Probably the best beer in the world.” Here in Sucre they have “Maybe the Best Bolivian Pilsner Beer.” Maybe? As if no one’s ever bothered to sit down and drink them all next to each other? But it could be the best, I mean maybe, it’s in the running at least, I mean who really knows? You’ll also notice in the picture below that they sell beer by the chop which amuses me also.
To boot, I’m sitting in a bar (with free wi-fi) whose slogan is “Probably the best bar in town.” We’re probably in the best country in the world, but then who’s really to say one way or another ?
So it turns out in Bolivia, they have the equivalent of valentines day on the first day of spring…I think it was a setup by Laura to get chocolate. They also had a parade that came down the street where our spanish school is.
Later in the day, we got to meet one of the people we’ll be working with (Melia) and hang out around town. When we got back to our house, our family was having a small party to celebrate, with a ton of very tasty steak. This was surprising to us, because usually they eat very little after dinner.
I’m also including a couple pictures from our family’s house, they have a very wrinkly dog named Poncho and a couple parrots.
We’ve made it to Bolivia! (Safe and sound)
Yesterday we flew overnight from Miami to La Paz, were we first saw the andes.
Then on our flight from La Paz to Santa Cruz we saw them even better:
Flying in to Santa Cruz, we got to see a bit of the countryside. When we get to Montero, we’ll actually be working in a city (>100,000 people), but it was interesting to see what the nearby countryside looked like.
When we landed in Santa Cruz, we met with two of the sisters we’ll be working with in Montero, Sr. Anna and Sr. Clara. We got to sit around with them for a few hours and eat some pastries for brunch. We left them with some of our luggage, then we got on another airplane to head up to Sucre for our language school.
We landed in Sucre after a 35min plane ride (it would have been an 8hr bus ride though, because of the Andes) and met Omar who runs the language school. He drove us into town, and to the family that we’ll be staying with for the next four weeks. The house is very nice and on a bit of a hill so we have a pretty good view of around the neighborhood.
We were on our own for dinner that night, so we went down to a plaza that was having an art fair, and we bought some fried balls about the size of a baseball. We weren’t sure what they were at first, we were debating between doughnut-like and something potato based, they turned out to be fried potatoes with a hard-boiled egg in the middle. They were pretty tasty On the way back we found a church that had a 7:30pm mass, which was great because we hadn’t been able to go to church as we were in transit all morning. I didn’t understand a ton of it (Laura was better), but it was a good time to reflect on the trip so far.
For the next four weeks, we’ll be at the immersive language school in Sucre, learning spanish. Then its off to Montero to start the work.
So we’re very sorry for anyone who came running to our blog the moment they got the address only to find….nothing. We’re not actually leaving for Bolivia until Sept 18th, so the little blurb at the top saying “We’re currently volunteering in Montero, Bolivia” is actually from the future, and I can time travel (don’t ask how though, its a secret).
For those who didn’t get a 2-page e-mail from us explaining what’s up, that probably means we don’t have your e-mail address. I’ve put the big explanation into a separate page here.
Also, for those with questions about how the e-mail subscriptions work, you only get an e-mail when we write a post that is written in the “Major Announcements” category, which we’ll try to do a bit less than once a month. This post is not one of those, as it is in the “Uncategorized” category. See the “Subscribing” page for more details.