Quick Pig Story

So this last weekend Laura and I decided to make a short getaway before school gets going this week. (first students come tomorrow!)  We headed about an hour west of Montero to the scenic town of Buena Vista to spend a night at the Amboro Eco Resort (so called because during the non-rainy season they have tours that go into Amboro national park).  The big draw for us was that this place has a pretty good swimming pool, and we haven’t been swimming since last August, despite the fact that we’ve been living in perpetual summer.

So we got there at about 8:15, and saw (to our somewhat suprise) that the pool was lit up, so why wait…after quickly changing in our room we jumped right in!  It was great, very refreshing, and actually a pretty nice resort pool.  There was a small bar on an island in the middle of it, and a waterway stretching around that we could swim through. But mostly we sat around and were enjoying the stars.

After about an hour, we were thinking it might be time to get up and go, when we look up to see a peccary (a type of wild pig) has walked right up to the edge of the pool, in the middle of the resort!  We got set to quickly get out of the opposite edge if it decided to jump in, but it didn’t.  We were able to watch it for a few more minutes as it moseyed around on the pool deck, at one point digging through a purse that had been there, and apparently not finding any food in it.  Then after a few minutes, it just wandered away.

Sadly, we didn’t have a camera with us, I know a picture of this would have been a great addition to this story.  Needless to say, it was quite surprising, but hey, this is bolivia, you never know what you’re going to run into.

In lieu of a picture of the pig, here’s a picture of some horses by the pool the next morning.

We’ve got computers!

Thanks to all the generous people who donated towards the project, we now have a brand new computer lab up and running!

Over the last couple weeks, Henry, the nephew of one of the sisters I work with, and I purchased, assembled (from parts), and installed software on 16 brand new computers (14 students, one teacher, and a server). It was a lot of work, but now they are all set for the students to start class next week.

I still have quite a lot of work to go getting the material for the course completed, but that doesn’t all have to be done the first day. I specifically only have one section for the first semester (Feb-June), so I will have time to finish up the text and plans.

I’m still looking for feedback on them, if you can spare an hour and want to learn about photo editing (for free!), the first two sections (Introduction and Photos) are up online.

I took a couple pictures and made a short movie of the classroom. There will be lots more once the students get here.

One of the computers in operation.

The computers sitting ready for use.

The Video:

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Back on Top

So after our disaster vacation attempt after Christmas and the ensuing two weeks of sickness, I needed a renewal of spirit before work started back up in February (we’re both healthy again btw- thanks for all the prayers).  So, one of the Hogar volunteers, Andrea, and I flew to Sucre for a long weekend to hang out with Susan who was taking Spanish classes there. (Susan’s a volunteer in Okinawa and teaches English classes and catechism)  Sucre was just what we needed!  It is so clean and beautiful and the climate is so much drier and cooler.  We even got to go out into the Andes for a day of hiking.  AND our hostel had HOT natural-gas-heated showers!  Very rejuvenating. Unfortunately Tom had to stay behind in Montero and work but he also enjoyed a relaxing weekend and got to stock up on some alone-time.

Here are some photo highlights of the trip:

This sign is on the way to the airport in Santa Cruz, it says “Caution, wild animal crossing.”  The picture is of an ostrich which we don’t have in Bolivia (wild at least) but we do have rheas which I have seen on multiple occasions walking around the airport.

Lovin’ the Andes!  This ridge is called the Cordilleras de los Frailes because it’s where the Jesuits hid in the 1700′s when the Spanish King decided he wanted to put them all in jail or force them to leave Spanish lands.  The line across the mountains is a huge pipeline that brings in ALL of Sucre’s potable water from Potosi, a city 4000 feet higher.   The Andes are extremely dry in this region.

Hiking one of the remaining segments of the Inca Trail with Andrea (left) and Susan (right).  This portion of the trail has been restored and is still used because parts of the mountains are considered sacred.  People erect these piles of rocks that they believe contain spirits- and sometimes human skulls.   Along the trail there are many spirit-rock piles.  The Incans constructed these foot paths for trade and communication between Macchu Pichu, Tiwanaku and the outer reaches of their empire.

Ancient volcanic crater of Maragua.   Now the village of Maragua lies in the middle of the crater where they grow wheat, potatoes, and quinoa.  Lots of beautiful colors of volcanic rock!  And look at the soil, it’s almost magenta!

The Devils Mouth.  This is a cave in one of the cliffs surrounding the crater of Maragua.  It is never visited by the local people because they believe it’s bad luck or evil;  the story is told that a man went in the cave once and never came out.   If you look above my head to the right and left you can see the teeth of the mouth- eerily realistic!  Also the steps leading down to the cave are made of stone but no ones who put them there.  The earliest record of people arriving at the crater claims that the steps were already there.

Beautiful city park in Sucre built by the Spanish.  I believe some of the larger trees still there were even planted by the Spanish.  All the trees here are painted white to keep out termites, ants, etc.

Church built by one of the early missionary groups in Bolivia, I’m sorry I don’t know which order.  Very ornate however, supposedly it used to contain real gold but all the gold has since been removed and replaced with paint.

Soon to come: more pictures of Tom and Laura actually working!  Not as pretty but more realistic of our day to day.

Update- fuel and parasites

So for those of you watching International news you’ll have seen by now that not a week after the surprise ending of the fuel subsidy, Evo Morales re-instated it.  Turns out that his main base of lower-income indigenous supporters didn’t appreciate the price hike in commodities and transportation and there was wide-spread rioting and transportation strikes on the 30th and 31st.   This has just been baffling from the beginning and the apparent ‘surprise’ that the administration had from the negative reaction is even more so.   It just comes off as embarrassing, I think, that they could have had so little economic sense.  All I can think is that there must have been more things going on behind closed doors that we don’t understand.   And now we just have to hope that all the prices that did go up, come back down.

In other news, Tom and I had both been sick ever since an ill-fated Anniversary trip after Christmas.   We got our first parasite tests done this week and preliminary results look like Tom may have a bacterial infection like E. coli and I possibly picked up some Giardia.  This is good news because both are easily treatable.  With poop-tests it’s often hard to get a positive finding even though you’re really sick because the parasites don’t always show up, especially Giardia.  So, hopefully in a few days we’ll be back to normal.  I mention this not to gross anyone out but because it’s just a daily reality here.  There are commonly girls over at the Hogar getting treated for roundworms, giardia, ringworm (a fungus), skin infections, etc.  Just the other day we talked to Andrea and she said, oh yeah three of the toddlers showed up with bloody diarrhea today.  And, one of the volunteers over there is also on treatment for roundworms right now.  When the environment’s not clean, domestic animals roam freely and the food is not clean, people get sick.   And so in Bolivia people just get sick more and kids especially get sick more.  Tom, I and the other volunteers attempt to keep very good hygiene; we boil our water, always use antibacterial soap and we’re very careful about what we eat but even still we pick things up.  It’s not a good thing but it’s a recognized part of life here.  The Bolivian doctor I saw even joked with me about the ‘cleanliness’ of food in Bolivia and told me to never eat uncooked vegetables in a restaurant.  (I caved and had a plateful of fresh fruit during our anniversary trip to Semaipata, prob how I picked up my parasites.)  And you might say, well the U.S. has salmonella outbreaks in its eggs and E. coli on its organic spinach and what was that recent one from sprouts in Illinois?  So yeah, these problems are universal but in the U.S. threats are identified, recalls are made, production systems are (hopefully) shut down or cleaned up.  In Bolivia you just learn that restaurant is clean, that other one is not, or don’t buy meat after 8am in the morning or don’t eat the vegetables.   It’s more of a “live and learn” than a “public health risk alert” kind of approach.  BUT almost all of our food is hormone-free, antibiotic-free, pesticide-free and locally grown.  These are the trade-offs.  So enjoy your raw carrot sticks and lettuce salads- you’re lucky to have them!

First Computer!

Yesterday (in addition to being New Years) was a big day at the Institute (Vocational School), thanks to many of your generous donations, we got our first computer for the new lab up and running!

Here’s a picture of Henry (one of the people who has been working with me on this) using it:

Thanks to everyone who has contributed, we are almost at our goal!  (If you’ve been wanting to and haven’t yet, its not too late though.)  If all goes well I’ll have another update in a couple weeks with the whole lab there!

Holy Fireworks, Batman!

Wow, I thought there were a lot of fireworks around on Christmas Eve, but as John Donaghy pointed out in the comments below, that was nothing compared to New Years! Just about every block (except ours with the convent on it) had someone who was shooting off big ones, and almost every house had people shooting off smaller ones. It was absolutely amazing. We watched from up on a balcony, and I tried to get video of it just to give an idea….but it didn’t turn out too awesome. Most of the big fireworks you see in it are between 200yds and 3/4 mile away, but we could see them going all the way to the horizon.

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