Friday, November 16, 2007

Les presento a Kauri

Hola again. So...the birthday. I was actually having a pretty crappy day when my site mate texted me and insisted that I at least let him cook dinner for me. His gf and he made a delicious dinner and a bday cake for me and we even went for a sunrise hike. It was really touching that they both cared to do that for me. It also afforded me this really sweet view of my´ll have to tolerate the crumminess of my camera, but I hope this gives you a better idea of where I am, and maybe even makes you want to visit...;)

My site is the little green blob in the center of all that beautiful Altiplano nothingness.
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Although my site and the people are awesome, I have admittedly been in a bit of an adjustment funk. I´m sure it happens to plenty of volunteers and it will pass as I settle in more.

I watched “Our Brand is Crisis” this week and it was really good. I recommend it to all of you for a pretty realistic look at a lot of the conditions here. There was a part at the end that I thought was really interesting:

“Bolivia is a very divided place. I guess the thing is that democracy really depends on material results. If democracy can’t yield benefits for the average person, the average person is not going to have that deep philosophical commitment to democracy like we all do in a very sort of natural, almost genetic sense. You’d better find a way to make sure that it yields benefits pretty soon and that you, where necessary, provide the countries in transition with some support so the people feel like their life is improving as the democracy takes root.” Interesante, indeed.

Wednesday, Thursday, and today there have been festivals in town for the anniversary. Lots of dancing, some races, and very little transportation. Overall, a really good time.

Something I´d meant to mention was all the books I´ve been reading since I got here. These are the ones I´ve gotten through so far:
A Painted House, John Grisham
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs,Chuck Klosterman
The Beach House , James Patterson
A Bend in the Road, Nicholas Sparks
In the Company of Angels, Kim Vivian
A Knight of the Word, Terry Brooks (in honor of both Roger and Dan´s enthusiasm for the author)

I´m currently reading Atlas Shrugged, which I am enjoying decidely more than when I first tried to start it, which could have a lot to do with making myself simply read through it rather than try to mark and analyze it. Mr. Moeller would be so disappointed at my defeat. I´d like to read some more substantial books, like this one, seeing as most of the novels that filled up my leisure time during training were pretty much garbage. Then again, it´s not too easy trying to find good books around here.

With no further ado, I present to you all Kauri.

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As far as the cat goes, I know a lot of people aren´t very supportive of me having a cat, but I want you to reconsider. It´s actually really nice to have something to take care of, not to mention the obvious benefits of unconditional comfort and companionship. The thing that I like best about having the cat is that it makes it a lot easier to go out into the community on days when I might otherwise like to stay in my room and just read. It automatically opens people up to me in a way that has softened the transition a bit. Maybe they just like to pet my kitten because it´s cute, or maybe they just laugh at the way it rides around on my shoulder, but either way that´s a laugh or a smile that might otherwise have taken longer to encounter.

It´s scientifically proven; kittens make you 100% more kid-friendly.
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Anyway, I´m doing the best I can to take care of her, too, looking up all kinds of advice on raising kittens and such.

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¨Kauri¨ in quechua means ¨monster¨. It was not easy choosing a name; I got lots of other crazy quechua names suggested but they were all lame like the words for flower, white, or honey or were incredibly difficult to pronounce. Quechua can be like that, really difficult to pronounce. For example, ¨llajllaykamayuj¨ means "carpenter." Also, the cat is by no means sweet or a flower, so i thought "monster" was the most fitting, easy-to-pronounce word i could find. I wanted to name it Inti after the sun god Inti Raymi but everyone seemed to think that was super lame...

I have got to buy that cat a scratching post soon...
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Despite the scratches (I admit that most of the bad ones are from bathing her. The little ones are from when she attacks me throughout the night, which unfortunately has not been restricted to my hands and arms), she´s an incredibly adorable, sweet kitten. She´s just a little dependant on me, so I´ve been taking her out a lot more to interact with more people and animals.

It´s pretty cute but sad...anytime I leave without her she climbs up me like this.
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Well, my internet time is about running out again. Next time I hope to post a brief overview of some social and political situations that shape the way of live here in Bolivia. Hugs and such,


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hello again...this time from Oruro!

Well, I´ve been in my site for a few days now. Work has begun and I finally got a bed. But that´s all to come later. For now, to catch you up on everything post-family-appreciation-lunch. After that, we said goodbye to our host families. I was really touched (albeit sad) at how attached my host family got to me. My host mom cried twice about me leaving! That was really shocking for me.

Well, I suppose the next big thing we did was for each trainee to go on a week-long site visit to make sure that everything was suitable, etc. My work partner already changed twice since the application was made by the town to have a volunteer, but I think my new work partner is going to be a good match. Site visit was really interesting, particularly given that this was my first time in the Altiplano. My site is gorgeous! I´ve already told you all I can think to say about it so I´ll just share a picture:

After that we spent a glorious week in a hotel in Cochabamba. It was really good to have time with my training group before heading off to my site for good. I also went back to my host family to pick up the kitten. I guess things haven´t been going very well for my host sister. I feel awful for her whole situation and my thoughts are definitely with the family.

We spent Halloween together and two of my friends and I went as different kinds of potatoes in Bolivia. There are at least hundreds of kinds of potatoes here and they are a main staple, served with every meal, so we thought it was appropriate to dress as them. LtoR: I was papalisa, Lindsay was chuno, and Joy was yuca. The girl in front, Laurie, was a Bolivian school girl and yes they do dress like that for the most part.
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After Halloween was swear-in. It really meant a lot to me, although I´m finding it difficult to express why or how. I guess it just gave a much more official sense of purpose to what we´re doing. The ambassador even spoke, which was cool. I knew all along how important this is to me, but this was different. I couldn´t help but think about all the reactions that people have had to me applying to Peace Corps and about how I´m finally here and I´m finally doing it. It was hard to keep it together at times and I´m sure I didn´t hear half of the speeches.
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B46, sworn in and no ET´s!
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I totally had more pictures of my site and the kitten to share with you guys, but unfortunately I didn´t put them on my pen drive. Until next time, pues. In other news, like I said, I started helping with a computer class, which is cool. The guy who runs it just graduated from high school, but he´s knowledgeable and has a better idea than I do of how education generally works in Bolivia. The rest of settling in has been a little rough, but nothing too bad and nothing unexpected. Next time I post I´ll show you pictures from my bday hike, thanks to my awesome site mate!