Monday, December 22, 2008
A lot of preparation went into this trip. I had to get my visa, which none of the Bolivians needed to do. So Sarah, Brodie and I had to be getting ready for this weeks in advance, running between the travel agency and the Brazilian consulate. Sarah almost didn´t make it, only receiving her passport DAYS before we were leaving to Brazil. But we made it. After having all the paperwork figured out, and packing (it was pretty easy since I threw almost everything I owned into my suitcase) we were off.
We took a train from Santa Cruz to the border, at Puerto Quijarro. It was a 17 hour train ride and pure hell hahaha. Trains are a lot of fun, but only when you´re awake. I couldn´t sleep at all.. not to mention that they turn they air conditioning up at night. I froze (I swear you could almost see your breath in the train). Then we hopped on a bus that was soon to become our home for the next two weeks. I found out that it wasn´t just our school going on this trip, but about five other schools from Santa Cruz.. all traveling more or less together (same sights, same hotel etc). We shared our bus with half of the kids from a school called Marista, since we had such a small amount of kids coming from our school (Espiritu Santo).
We crossed the border, got all our papers stamped and then were off for the crazy (overnight) drive to Foz do Iguaçu in Brasil. It was almost a 17 hour drive... the kids from Marista are crazy I might add. They love to party, and no one got any sleep on the bus. Everyone was dancing and partying the whole night, on the bus!! We got into town, checked into the hotel and instead of sleeping like we should´ve, everyone went out to the pool and had a get-together, with the four other schools. I realized that this was going to be a verrrryyy long trip, and one not involving much sleep. In the morning we packed up and were off to go see the immense waterfalls at Iguaçu. I have now technically been to Argentina as well, since we went to a duty free shop over the border, and also went on a boat through a waterfall that landed on the Argentinian side (did I mention that Iguaçu is on the border of three countries; Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay).
Afterwards, it was back on that amazing bus for another 20+ hours, yet we were almost there... Camboriú! It was another crazy party night on the bus (I swear these guys are nonstop). To almost everyone´s horror, at four in the morning before we got to Camboriú, someone threw up on the bus... which permeated the whole bus and started a chain reaction. I think we had at least four people barf before we got to our final destination and it was not a pretty smell. But we survived, after a few pitstops... and got to Comboriú and the OCEAAAAN after three days of hellish traveling.
The weather was not as amazing as I had imagined, but I was prepared for that. We had heard that there had been a lot of raining and flooding in the area beforehand and we had just barely caught the tailend. But we had a few days of amazing sun so it was all worth it. The travel agency had the whole 8 days in Camboriú planned out for us, some activities with the other schools but mostly with your bus group (we ended up getting pretty tight with everyone, including the kids from Marista who weren´t as... let´s just say they acted like you expect boys to act hahah). We had a solid three days at the beach, which involved sun bathing, drinking from coconuts and frolicking in the salty Atlantic. They took us to a giant amusement park (supposedly similar to Disneyland), to a giant waterpark (rained out on us) and to a few of the surrounding cities. There was a German colonized city right out of town that they took us to, showing us around the beer museum and all about their Oktoberfest... it was strange. Then one of the most exciting events happened. We took a PIRATE SHIP to an island, to lounge on the beach. There were pirates, and the boats were all painted up and everything. It was sooo sick! Almost every night, they tookus out clubbing. South Americans love to dance, so we went out till almost 4am every night (usually waking up at nine or so) meeting kids from Paraguay and Chile that were also on their promo trip. Sadly enough, it's such a touristy town that I never met many Brazilians!! Our last day in Camboriú was perfect. We had surf lessons in the morning, along with beach lounging all day. They then took us to a huge party with all the kids that were on their promo trips in Camboriú at the time (Paraguayos, Chilenos, Argentinos). It was a massive dance party and we stayed out till six in the morning. It was slightly painful, having to go straight back to the hotel and pack our things without sleeping though. But that´s what the bus is for, right?
After struggling to get everything together with everyone running on absolutely no sleep, we left the beautiful town of Camboriú behind at 1130am. Another full day, probably 25 hours of driving (and of course no sleeping) on the bus. I have to mention that it´s not just everyone partying on the bus (or trains) that kept me up. For some reason, they felt the need to BLAST the air conditioning at night after everyone goes to sleep. The temp drops so cold that I couldn´t sleep, even being cocooned in my two blankets. We got the border at Corumbá, crossed.. and then found out that the travel agency had got us a hotel for a few hours, to shower, swim in the pool and just relax before our train (instead of just making us sit at the train station for three hours). The bad thing was that we had crossed the border on a Sunday, and couldn´t get our passports (for the five of us with passports) stamped until Monday when the office was open.. we therefor had to leave our passports there, and are getting them mailed to us tomorrow (scary since Brodie leaves in five days).
We hopped on the train, excited to be so close to home (already back in Bolivia) yet incredibly sad since we were that much closer to ending the trip. I once again couldn´t sleep on the train... I am completely blown away with some of these kids stamena. I was so exhausted. The train seemed to be twice as freezing on the way home (I was wearing socks, sneakers, sweat pants and two hoodies and yet I still almost froze to death). After another 17 hours clickity clacking down the rails, we arrived in Santa Cruz. I didn´t want it to be over, yet I knew I needed to get some some proper sleep, a good shower and to empty out the mess that I swear was molding in my suitcase hahaha.
I am now back home, clean and ready to start back into the Cruceño lifestyle for the next five months. It´s almost Christmas, yet I don´t feel a thing. It´s supposed to be the hardest time in student´s exchange, going through the holidays yet I don´t seem to notice. There is no snow, no Christmas tree and barely any decorations. I can pretty much pretend that Christmas isn´t happening haha. Brodie leaves in five days and I don´t know what I`ll do without one of my best friends and strongest support systems on my exchange. I´m almost at the halfway mark. I need to travel more though, I realized. My family is going to Sucre after New Years, hopefully the Bolivia trip is after that, and perhaps Sarah and I will go to Argentina in a few months if possible. I can´t even tell you how much I appreciate what Cuarto Dimención and Freeway (the travel agencies) did for us to organize such an amazing trip for everyone. I finally got you your updates, and hopefully will keep them coming from now on!
Monday, November 24, 2008
Last week, the exchange students tried to organize a trip to Noel Kempff National Park, and park up in the far NE reaches of Santa Cruz to go explore the Amazon jungle. I was quite excited about this proposition since I had wanted to go to this park prior to even arriving in Bolivia. As we organized the trip through a travel agency, I found out that the cost was going to be far above my budget (mostly because I´d be going to Brazil less than a week after getting back from this trip). I brought my dilemma to my trusty mother, and we figured out that it would be best if I didn´t go (she was also worried that I would catch malaria, being in the jungle without any medication). I was quite upset, thinking I´d be in Santa Cruz by myself for a week and a half.. and then I found out that Rotary had cancelled the trip, finding the jungle unsafe for the exchange students.
I spent a Saturday with my councillor´s family last weekend and they took me to Las Palmas Country Club. Upon arriving, I found out I was in heavan. This was where all the rich people of Santa Cruz were hiding from the heat of the summer. It was absolutely gorgeous, and maaaaassive. Tennis courts, golf courses, pools, restaurants, a gym.. eveything you could need to kill the heatstroked afternoons. We spent the afternoon tanning, and then jumping into the pool (which had a swim-up bar might I add) to cool off. My councillor´s wife offered to write a letter saying that I was their new hostchild to see if I could be a part of their membership, since it´s quite expensive ($60 per month, $15 per guest a day).. so hopefully I´ll be able to swim away my summer, and go to the gym there (they also have a swimercise class in the mornings!!).
Last week was quite a busy week, leading up to graduation and prom time. I was so busy (as well with the on again off again internet connection) that I forgot to hand in my Rotex Roundup paper. I got it sent, a day later but I don´t know if they accepted it or anything. I had to get my cap and gown etc.. which was a little hectic, having to also pick up Brodie´s because she was in La Paz with her family. We had a graduation practice one morning. There had also been a couple others (apparently, according to Brodie) but none of the exchange students had known about it. Graduation went really well. We get to walk down a red carpet with our parent (usually father for girls, mother for boys) and then receive the certificate.. no walking across the stage for us. After graduation, we had a going away party for one of the exchange students, who was leaving to Argentina the next morning (her american club felt it was unsafe here).
Then it was prom time, which was equally as hectic. My host mom went out and bought me jewlery for my dress, which were absolutely perfect and I can wear with stuff other than extremely formal wear. I picked up my dress just in time, and it was PERFECT.. and it only cost us $50 which was relieving, since my family insisted on paying for it (I was afraid that they were going to want to pay for a $150+ dress). My host mom also found a hair salon to make an appointment with, which we waited at for over an hour, and then they curled my hair with a straightening iron... girls, do you know how much that hurts? For future reference, stick to the curling iron hahaha. Prom evening, it didn´t take too long to get ready for me, but my family took forever. I wanted to be on time (the invites said 8pm) but we didn´t get out of the house till 8:45! When we got to there, I found out that we were very early and ended up rushing for no reason. I still can´t get use to this Bolivian lateness thing. We were supposed to do the "parading" of the graduates at 9pm, which ended up happening two hours later.. I ended up taking my brother with me since I didn´t have a date. I found that since families were invited to this event (and everyone took advantage of this, some people inviting up to 45 people) it was a lot more fun, a lot bigger..
My family also had taken me out to buy a graduation ring, which they presented to me on prom night. It´s very cute, a star with amythystI need to get used to everything happening really late here. We ended up eating dinner way past midnight, dessert at around 130am and then dancing. A bus arrived at 3am to take us to our afterparty (we had changed into actual clothing at Brodie´s) and then we drove the 15 minutes to a classmates quinta (country house) outside of the city. It was a massive place, with a pool and everything. It was definitely hard to stay awake, it being so late... but I made it to about 630 before I fell asleep. I got almost two hours of interrupted sleep (it´s hard when the massive stereo system never turns off) on a cement floor, and then it was off to lounge around the pool. I wasn´t expecting there to be a pool, so I had no swimsuit.. but ended up getting dragged in with my dress on, which was quite refreshing. The bus ended up coming at 230pm to take us back home.
I was so exhausted, and napped for a bit when I got home.. but then the family told me that they had another prom fiesta to attend that night, a cousin or something, which I had to go to as well. They reassured my look of horror by saying that we´d come home early, since everyone had to work in the morning. We didn´t leave the house till 1030pm (and this is me functioning on 2 hours of sleep), at a formal event, sitting there (starving I might add) not knowing anyone and trying to keep my eyes open. By 1am, they decided that it was enough pain for me and took me home, right before the food was brought out.
There´s an Enrique Iglesias concert coming up soon, which all of my girly friends are planning to attend. I really can´t wait, especially if he sings some of his English songs (hahah I really only know what´s been on the radio). I'm going to Brazil in a few weeks so the next little while so I´ll be slightly hectic, running around trying to get visas and tickets organized. We're celebrating the American Thanksgiving in a few days, since most of the exchangers are from the States. I´ll give you another update when I´m home from Brazil!!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Minus the sitting around all weekend, Sunday was a realy great day. My mom told me that she was going to this town for mass, with some people from work and wanted me to come with her and keep her company. I figured, why not, since I´ll also get to check out more of the countryside, see more villages etc. What I didn´t know, was that the bus left at 5am.. aka wake up time 4 in zee morning!! Jolt to my system for sure. But I needed to get out of the house, so I was up and raring to go at 5. When we got to the school, where we were meeting the bus, we found out there had been a car accident just minutes before we´d arrived. A drunk guy had plowed his big SUV thing into the back half of this woman´s car (thankfully the car was parked and she´d already been safely out of the car). But as I was standing there, watching this guy get out of his car.. I was thoroughly disgusted. He was so smashed, he could barely get out of the car. I mean, yeah I guess I knew that drunk driving occured out there.. but I didn´t really know people were THAT stupid, to be driving when barely able to stand up. It´s so scary.. but I´m glad no one was hurt! Anyways.. after all the drama, we got on the bus and drove a solid 2, 2.5 hours to this pueblito called Bien Retiro. The whole place was pretty much based on the buisness and tourism of the church, since the place was so small. The church was dedicated(?) to El Divino Niño, aka Baby Jesus! So we went for mass, ate lunch and checked out the stuff for sale (I bought myself a nice little rosary). Then it was back on the bus, to spend another 2+ hours in the heat, to Santa Cruz. Getting back home, I was exhasuted.. and ended up falling into bed right after lunch.
I finally got my visa on Monday. I had been sitting around all day, and my brother comes into my room, mumbling something about changing my clothes because of Rotary, bla blah migración something or other. So.. I ran into the shower and barely had time to brush my hair before they were outside honking, telling me that we were going to get my visa. I was in Migration for less than.. ten mins, and then they handed me back my passport (that I haven´t seen in almost three months) with my new Bolivian visa inside. Now, I have to go back to get my ID card and I shall be finished. This also means that I can now go and apply for my Brazilian visa, for my prom trip in December!
Last night I had a dream that I was already home from my exchange, but I could only remember up to now, the three month point, so it was like I´d left now. I was freaking about how I couldn´t remember saying goodbye, or my flight home or anything. But my brothers were there, and I was like freaking out crying. So weird... I remember waking up and was like "Oh thank god I´m still on my exchange"... Which is really strange since I´ve been having difficulties here lately. Must be my subconscious telling me to stick it out here. Which I guess I´m off to do.. chau!
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I still don´t have my visa. I know that I said I had it a while ago... I went to immigration, handed in all of my papers. They told me it was all complete, I just needed to come back in 10 days after processing. Yet here I am, almost 20 days later, and it´s still not done. The corruption is endless. I have to pay for every day that I am not legal in this country, almost $1 USD.. yet this is not my fault! This is my Rotary club, who should be pushing them to get everything done.. because they don´t care how long it takes, since I´m the one paying for it to be overdue. So frustrating! Three months and I am still not legal!
Halloween was a week ago. Yes, they celebrate here too.. although it seems to be a new custom. They don´t trick-or-treat or anything, just the dressing up and partying side of things. It was on a Friday, and it was also my last day of Spanish classes. So this was a good day for me. I dressed up as a fairy, with Brodie, and we went out to a club that was having a dressup night. It was PACKED. Wearing wings on your back while sardined in a discoteque is definitely a difficult task. I also wore shoes that ended up murdering my feet by the end of the night. They also celebrate All Saints Day here (although not Day of the Dead, booo) so we got to have an actual holiday, no school because of it!
Friday was my last day of school. FINALLY, I am done high school hahaha.. Who knew it would take me so long. Now it´s the summer vacation (yes, come Christmas I will be outside in a tanktop!) and I don´t know what to do with my life. Prom and graduation are coming up soon (20th and 22nd of November), and buying tickets for both events has been a difficult task. You need to pay for this, and that, and you can invite this many people to this event, but that many to that one etc.. the good thing is, I´ve figured it all out (minus the prom date) and have even checked out my prom dress that I´m getting custom made. It´s going to be quite cute, and can´t wait to wear it in a few weeks..
I traveled to a town called Samaipata this past long weekend, with Maija and her family. It´s a slightly touristy town, approx 3 hrs outside of Santa Cruz.. famous for the pre-incan ruins at a temple called El Fuerte. She has a house there, so we drove out for the night. We ended up not being out there long enough to go to El Fuerte, but we got the chance to relax. It´s a nice, small town that´s very laid back (full of hippies) and you can´t help but just let loose when you´re there. The highlight of my trip: I found a VEGGIE BURGER there and it was acually pretty decent. You can obviously tell this was a tourist town, if they had multiple vegetarian options. For Melissa and Julia if you read this; there was even a restaurant that had Lassies on the menu (and the place was called Chakana)!! It´s nice to just get out of town for a while. And my family has even offered to take me there again, just to make sure I get to visit El Fuerte.
Other than that, we had an end of the year bbq at a classmates house, and it was my mom´s birthday (we had a huge bbq at my place). There was also the American vote, and all the American exchange students (aka 99% of them) had a little party to watch the votes come in. I, among the rest of the youth of today, was pretty stoked to see Obama get in.. I guess we´ll just have to see what he does with this in January!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
So, two days ago I hit the 2 month mark.. I decided that since I seem to be limiting the amount of blog posts, I´ll just switch to counting the weeks. Therefor, I am now into week NINE.. Time seems to have gone by so quickly, yet... thinking back to that day that I arrived, it seems way over two months. Even worse, thinking about the last few days I had in Penticton... YEARS have gone by. So I´ve got some slightly negative things to talk about today (just to get some stuff off my chest) but had quite the interesting experience today, so I´m not giving you the impression that I´m fully depressed here on my exchange hahaa. So lately, I´ve been slightly... detached from everything for some reason. I feel like this exchange has been having reverse results for me lately. I´ve been becoming more and more shy. I thought that I´d work out of it when I got here, but I feel like I crawl back into my shell half of my days here. Being more shy is also affecting my spanish.. I feel like I´m regressing. Too shy to talk to people, some even in english. It´s not helping me at all! And I know that this is a year to try new things, find out who you are.. get yourself into those situations where you feel uncomfortable until you feel comfortable, but I don´t know.. it´s so hard. And I feel so antisocial, like.. days that I don´t even feel like conversing with my good friends. I don´t know what the heck is going on. Partially, I feel like.. I´m tired of the whole vanity of this society, so I don´t want to try. I don´t want to be so stressed about my looks etc, but so much pressure is put onto those kinds of things and it makes me feel like.. I can´t really relate to a lot of people here. But on a brighter note, I hung out with a Bolivian that can´t stand the superficiality as much as me today! It was a great afternoon too.. had lunch and I found a hair in my omlette, we went shopping and I pretty much got raped by the lady at the underwear store, bought some movies that I am super stoked to watch.. and I learned about the stone they have here called "bolivianita". I always wondered why the bolivianita I saw was only half purple, and half some clearish stone.. but now I know that bolivianita is half amythyst, half citrine. Bolivianita is technically not a stone at all, but a certain combination of stones, only found here in Bolivia (fun fact for the day!). But I guess I´m done with my.. weekly rant. Everyone, keep in touch!!!