We Made It!

I just wanted to write a quick post and let everyone know we made it safely to the house in Montero.  Its nice, we have a bedroom with a bathroom, and then we can walk outside to get to our kitchen/living room.

I have a couple pictures, but don’t have time to upload them now….I’ll post them soon though.

To Montero

Today is the day we finally head to Montero, after our three weeks studying spanish in Sucre.  I have to say, I don’t think my spanish is quite up to snuff yet…learning languages is hard! (except for Laura, who is quite the natural)

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to getting to the Hogar and meeting all the people I’ll be working and living with.  Look for another update as soon as I can find internet there :-)

Castle and Dinosaurs

Two of the more touristy things we’ve done here is visit the Parque Creatico (Dinosaur park) and the Castillo de la Glorieta.   Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the dinosaurs because my camera battery died : (  But the fun fact about Sucre is because there have been lots of dinosaur discoveries around here, including lots of footprints preserved in old river beds, the city has kind of adopted the dinosaur motif.  On pretty much all the roads coming into the city you’ll see a dinosaur sculpture and if you need to make a phone call, just find your friendly neighborhood prehistoric phone.

We also visited this Castle just outside of town.  It’s a really interesting story.  There was this really rich man who owned silver (and gold?) mines in Potosi, a nearby city.  But since Sucre was the capital, all the millonaires from Potosi also had houses in Sucre.  Anyway, he got married in the 1860′s but he and his wife couldn’t have children so they built an orphanage and donated lots of their money to help take care of orphans.  Because of this, Pope Leo XIII named them prince and princess and that’s why their house is known as a castle.  I didn’t know a pope could even do that but if some one wants to catch me up on church history there go right ahead.  Anyway they traveled to Europe a lot and had all kinds of baroque-style stuff in their house and huge marble fireplaces imported from Italy.  It was really beautiful.  The picture below is all I took however because you have to pay to take pictures at places here and I’m a cheapskate.

Unfortunately their nephew sold the castle to the military after the death of the Princess and so all the furniture inside is gone and lots of the windows and floors were damaged.  Military men later told stories of being in the house at night and seeing ghosts, especially of the Princess :) .  They’re really into ghost stories here.

Another neat fact is you’ll notice the castle has three towers.  One is the campanile/steeple of the chapel and the others are the Prince and Princess’s private towers.  I told Tom when we build our castle, I’m going to need my own tower also.  That’s just not something you can share. :)

Bad Airplane

Badly Labled Airplane
Here’s one for all the aerospace people following along on the blog.  We went through a market this morning and I saw this toy airplane at one of the stands.  It struck me as something so horrifically wrong (with all the rivalry between Boeing and Airbus) that I just had to take a picture.

For those who aren’t aero people…Airbus’s new big airplane is the A380, while this model is clearly the very recognizable Boeing 747.

Blond Hair

So I learned something a little disturbing this week. I’m a blond. I was sitting in class with my professor and came across the word ‘rubia’ in what we were reading. To explain it me she said, “It means light-complexion, like you. I’m moreno (dark complexion) and you’re rubio.” And though I know she meant the whole skin color and eye color combo, but basically she called me a blond. To be fair I do still have my blond highlights from summer in the front but I would definitely have categorized myself closer to moreno, just for the record.

It’s actually a little fun to be more exotic-looking here though. I don’t stand out as much as the 6-foot bleach-blond haired traveler from Holland we met but I’m just different enough for people to give me an extra look on the street. It’s nothing like the wide-mouth stares we received in Africa however. Besides the beggars who get really excited when we walk by, no one really seems to treat us that differently here.

There was one funny occurrence yesterday when we were at this fair/expo with the daughter and son of the family we’re staying with.   The fair was like a county fair and had booths from lots of companies.   When we walked past the Bolivian Airlines booth the women walked right past the two Bolivians we were with and shoved fliers into our hands.   She was thinking “Those look like people that ride airplanes.”  I thought it was funny :) .

Bolivian Showers

Family's Shower
So here’s a picture of (what I think is) a typical Bolivian shower.  Notice there’s a few things missing….like a curtain.   I’m not sure why they don’t have shower curtains here, but they don’t.  Instead you have to try to keep the water in the basin (watch out for streams that come off your elbows), and any water that gets out needs to be squeegeed up when your done…I think a curtain is much easier.  Also notice, there is only one knob to control the volume of water, that’s because there is no hot water in the house.  Fear not though, we haven’t been taking (totally) cold showers!  If you look at that over-sized shower head, that actually contains an electric heating element that heats the water as it goes through, but its not very strong.  So, you control the temperature by controlling how much water is coming out. The less water that comes out, the hotter it will get.  This works great, just too bad for people who like strong/hot showers ;-)

Shaving is a whole ‘nother issue.  As I mentioned before, there’s no hot water in the house, so shaving at the sink doesn’t work because the totally cold water makes the skin pucker up.  That leaves two options (plus the super-combination option): boil water and put it in a basin for shaving, or shave in the shower under the warm water.  Its kinda annoying to go to the stove and heat water just to shave, and I tried taking a little mirror into the shower and shaving with that…but I missed a few spots.  Instead, I’m going for the super-combined option…filling up a basin when I get done with the shower (and its coming out warm), and using that in front of the real mirror.

All in all the bathroom experience in bolivia isn’t that bad (I didn’t mention that you can’t flush toilet paper though…maybe another day on that subject), just a couple things that are oddly different from what I’m used to :-)


We’re still in Sucre and working hard on our Spanish (which means we don’t have as much time for blog posts). We’ve done lots of interesting things over the past week! We climbed one of the big hills around Sucre (they have a spanish word for something between a hill and a mountain, but I don’t remember it this second) and went to the hilltop Cafe Mirador for a snack on Wednesday. The view was great.

We have been trying to acclimate to the Bolivian meal system which is bread for breakfast with possibly salami and cheese and then a HUGE lunch at 12:30 of a big bowl of soup made of pasta, potatoes, vegetables and sometimes meat and then a big plate of potatoes and meat and sometimes also rice. Then they don’t really eat for the rest of the day, maybe just a snack in the evening. At first it was really hard to eat enough at lunch time to make it through but our stomachs are quickly getting trained. I should note that we’re still at the spanish school and living with a pretty well-off family right now so this food is not very representative of what we’ll be living off of for the next 2 years. With the Sisters it will probably be lots of rice and little meat. Today however, we had our first food culture shock. The meat for today’s lunch was little fried fish, like the size of sardines and deep fried whole, bones, head and all. It was unnerving, especially when some broke apart and I had to just pick up a head with my fork. We both got through it gracefully though and swore we could feel them swimming around in our stomachs later.

Speaking of culture shock, we have been doing pretty well in Sucre and it helps that there are so many other foreigners around and people used to visitors. This weekend however we went to a market in the country in a small town called Tarabuco. It’s well known for it’s beautiful textiles and lots of tourists go there. So we felt plenty comfortable but it was our first encounter with a truly different culture here. For example in the Plaza in the middle of town you will find this statue:

It is a man wearing the traditional dress of Tarabuco who has just cut out the heart of a Spanish soldier and is eating it. You can even walk around the other side and see the hole where he cut the heart out. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore…. Next to it is a plaque explaining a battle they fought against the Spanish colonists and that the statue is of a well-known warrior who is celebrating his victory. As you walk around the village and see the people wearing their traditional clothes and walking their donkeys around it’s clear that this is a place that has been protected from Westernization. Some of the traditional clothes were really quite interesting such as men wearing knee-length woven ponchos and everyone wearing sandals despite the fact that it had been around 40 F that morning. Here’s me modeling one of the traditional hats that some of the women were wearing.

Also all of the women wear their hair in two long braids down the back with little black beaded-balls hanging from the bottom of the braid. It’s weird to think of wearing the exact same hairstyle every day of your life, but I guess it makes getting ready easier in the morning and you don’t have to worry about hair cuts. The people in the country seem very proud of their culture and many of them still only speak Quechua, they don’t even learn Spanish. Quechua is the Incan language and this part of Bolivia was part of the Incan empire, but further to the East, where Montero is, there remains people from a different empire that pre-dated the Incans. These people speak Aymara primarily and their empire was based around Lake Titicaca until it was taken over by the Incans. But even beyond that there are smaller pockets of civilization such as the Chipaya (I think that’s correct). We went to a museum exhibit about them this week. They live near one specific lake in Bolivia and they estimate there are probably less than 2000 of them still alive. They have their own language and customs, for example the women wear their hair in lots of small braids almost like dreds but even smaller. Their homes are mud huts with a dome-roof. I may not be getting all of these facts exactly correct here but suffice it to say there’s lots of interesting Anthropology to learn here.

To end with, let’s return to food. On Friday night we had a “cooking class” at our school and we learned how to make Sonso which is a dish made out of cheese and yucca. This meant there was lots of Yucca to be boiled and mashed and they had the COOLEST method of mashing.

Sorry Grandma, but that totally beats your potato masher. Apparently they come in bigger sizes also. And finally, while sitting here writing this, I ordered some pancakes to snack on. They came with butter and what can only be described as watered-down molasses, NOT maple syrup. That was a bit of a let down but my fresh strawberry juice washed it down okay. Eat some high-fructose corn syrup for us, they don’t seem to have any here, not even in the syrup!