Monday, December 22, 2008

Brasil trip

Day 125 and I am officially home from the beautiful country of Brazil. Offically past the four month mark in my exchange as well. I got home this morning completely exhaused, dirty, starving among other things just to be introduced back into the Bolivian ways of no one being on time (I had to wait at the terminal for an hour and a half before my family came to pick me up). If you didn´t know, I went on this trip with my grad class, the "promo trip". I'll start from the beginning:

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

Week 14

Well, sorry to not have updated in a couple weeks but I´ve been having major issues with my internet here. We´ve now switched to a new server, and I will hopefully now have reliable internet service. Now.. to catch you up on the past two weeks. It´s been quite exciting, especially last week, because of my graduation and prom events.

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

Week 12

Well, this week has been pretty quiet. But hey.. week twelve.. AKA THREE MONTHS! I´ve finally settled down into the whole "being out of school" routine, and it involves a lot of lazing around hahaha. I definitely need to find something to pass the time. I´m planning on joining a gym, and want to start taking some classes. Perhaps, if possible even some french classes (since I seem to be incapable of remembering anything from the past 7 years of schooling). I also want to take up a traditional cooking class, and maybe even get up the guts to take a dance class hahaha.

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

Week 11

Well, so much for the update every week. But I will catch you up, for the most part, on the interesting events of the past two weeks. I´ve got a few things to mention, skim over some events.. but overall, life has not been too eventful lately.

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

Week 9

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!!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Day 57

Ahh I have been dreading this post for quite some time now.. the FOURTEEN DAY catch up for all of you. But I shall hunker down, skip over some unimportant facts, and let everyone in on what I´ve been doing for most of the month of October. Today, I really experienced the South American culture. AKA, I didn´t have to go to my afternoon classes because there was a soccer game on tv! There are two major events that I will update you on, for the rest is mundane, daytoday bull :) Last weekend (the 3rd-5th) I went on a spiritual retreat with my school. They´re set up for bonding experiences, to make the class tighter and more friendlier as a whole. It was definitely quite an experience for me. First off, I have to mention that it is DIFFICULT to stay awake when overtired and trying to understand another language. We spent a lot of time in a chapel, discussings things, or having something preached and I could barely even keep my eyes forced open. The pastors, or the youth group that was hosting the retreat were all really young; the oldest had to be no older than 24. And yet, they were all PASSIONATELY into their religion and preaching what they believed. Saturday night was the intense, peak of the weekend. Everyone croweded into the chapel, where it was lit with candles and a couple people playing guitar and singing some chill youth groupy songs. They started everyone praying (at least the most part, since a few of us were more observing). The guy up front was talking about accepting Jesus etc.. as well as the music playing, and the soft undertones of everyone mumbling their prayers to themselves. Then another pastor (I really don´t know what word to use) got up and was talking even louder over all the noise, talking about the Holy Spirit, letting it in etc and... speaking in tongues. It was all very stressful, even for a spectator, so I can´t imagine someone actually standing there, eyes closed, fully body mind and spirit into it. Then the youth crew started coming around, praying for people one by one, where the student would then "pass out from spiritual exhaustion" and they would be... passed out of sorts for a few minutes. There was a lot of crying among other emotions, and the whole situation was quite overwhelming. Even Maija and I, who were clearly not getting involved, were prayed for that night. The next morning, Sunday was a full day of church singing, and a little more speaking in tongues and passing out thrown in there. We ended the day with a bunch of hugs, which I loved. The whole weekend was a VERY interesting experience, and I was really glad that I got to be there, with all of my classmates.. Even if I wasn´t spiritually involved, I still got to bond with kids that I go to school with. Stuff happened during the week, which I can´t fully remember, and then it was the weekend again, and time for a Rotary trip to the town of Concepción for an orchid festival. All of the exchange students from Santa Cruz, as well as Ethan from Sucre (told you I´d give you a shout out) hopped on a bus, for a five hour ride through traffic hell in 40º+ weather. We stopped at a lagoon to go swimming, and saw some buffalo on the way there. Stopped for lunch in a little pueblo called San Xavier, where we checked out an AMAZING church, one of seven I think, and part of a Jesuit Mission circuit you can go on to check out all the churches. We were then back on the road to Concepción. It´s a quiet, dusty little town that we rolled into just in time for dinner. Saturday was quite the day. We drove for quite some time to a TINY little village in the middle of nowhere for lunch, and some traditional music and dance. We saw a couple orchids wrapped around rocks on the tables! We started to hike down the road, where we saw a few more tables full of purple orchids. Then it was time to see the orchids in their natural habitat... it was a hike in the straight on heat and sun for almost 2 hours. I was dying , and by the time we got to the bus I realized that no hat and lack of copious amounts of water hadn´t been a good idea. I could tell that my body was not going to enjoy more walking, so I camped out in the bus while some of the rest of the group hiked the remaining 20 mins or so to the orchids. Afterwards, everyone being as dirty as humanly possible, we hoped to go back to the hotel to rinse the 3" of sweat and dust from our pores, but instead we stoped in another small pueblo, for some traditional food, drinks and dancing. When we finally got back to the hotel and showered, we were then off to check out the rest of the festival in Concepción, with the booths they had set up in the town plaza. It was a pretty quiet night. Sunday was an early start to the day, to hit up the church, museums etc of the town. We didn´t too much, as we had a 5+ hour bus ride back home, at the hottest point in the day (with at least 40º weather). Getting home was actually a relief, a comfy bed, familar settings etc.. and the family was pretty stoked to see me come home. I have to let you know that I don´t think the blogs will be coming as frequently, since I´ve been on the computer less and less.. But I will try and keep you updated as often as possible (I´ll try for once a week, since this blog was pretty painful). Keep in touch!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Day 43

Alright. So I´ve been putting off posting a blog for the past few days, at first because I had nothing interesting to say, and then because I had too much stuff to say. But since I´m going away this weekend, I figured I should get everything out before I jet off to my "Spiritual Retreat" tomorrow. Where did we leave off? Ahh Monday, nothing too exciting happened, so I´ll skip that day. Tuesday, was a super long day. It was my first FULL day (aka morning and afternoon classes) since possibly my first week of school. I took advantage of being out of the house all day, and went out for lunch with Leah. I once again had that heavenly salad from Med.. Uuugh drooling just thinking about it. Well worth the 30bs. It was then back to school for the dreaded clases en la tarde. Chemistry, Philosophy and Biology. Not exactly the way I would choose to spend an afternoon. But we had another university presentation during Chemistry (I think they always schedule these presentations for this block) about some school in Cochabamba. The presentation was hilarious, and to top it off, I understood a huge part of it! It really made my day. Buuut then we get to Wednesday. The day from HELL for all white people in Santa Cruz. We went to school as per usual, and then found out that we all had to go to Migration, to get our visas all worked out. Now this was my first day, but some of the exchangers had been at this place twice before that week, waiting all day (5+ hours) in a hot room full of people. We waited in many lines, got some things checked out etc.. Some of us found out what we were missing from our packages to get our actual visas. At the moment, I think all of us are illegally staying in the country, since all of our temp. visas have run out quite some time ago. Anyways, Brodie was there trying to get her passport back, which she hasn´t seen in over five months. She ended up finding that it WAS there, in Migration (and whew not sold on the black market) but she can´t have it back. She switched host families, and all the information that they have has her OLD family´s names on it. She has to prove that this new family is her.. legal guardian of sorts, and now she´s probably going to have to get legally adopted by her present host family before she can get her passport back. Sarah´s temp. visa had something wrong with it, and some Rotarian tampered with the information on it.. so now it´s quite the possibility that Sarah could get deported. I don´t know what I´ll do.. And to top that off, she was told to take the blame for screwing with the visa. After spending the whole afternoon in the sweaty visa office, and finding out that my host dad filled some papers out wrong, we decided to leave and go out for coffee. There was supposed to be a Brasilian performer at a local café we usually go to. So a few of the exchange students got together, to meet up at Lorca, the café. There were only a few of us sitting there at the time, and we were chatting away in english, being completely oblivious. Next thing I know, I realize that my bag is missing from by my feet. I am usually quite diligent about keeping my eye on my bag, but shiiit let your guard down for that split second, right? We instantly realized that it had been the two men sitting right behind us. The café had been pretty empty, and they could´ve sat anywhere, but they chose to pick the table right behind us (uncomfortably close). They had ordered the cheapest things on the menu, and hadn´t even finished their beers when the rocked out of there. I knew it was them as soon as I saw my bag, and them gone. It hadn´t been more than a minute probably when I noticed that they were gone, so we ran outside to see if they were there (which of course they weren´t). Brodie and I took a little walk down around the corner, checking to see if it had been thrown anywhere, but we had no luck. We ran into a guardia, who is a man that stands in a certain area, keeping the peace. We chatted with him for a while, and asked if he´d seen two men walking past with a brown bag. He had, just moments ago. Yet, this being Santa Cruz, he said he could do nothing about it, not being able to leave his assigned corner. Brodie and I decided that it would be a bad idea for two little white girls to wander off down a dark street, so we turned back to the café. In the end, I had probably over $600 worth of stuff stolen including my camera (and 4g memory card), my ipod, my glasses, my wallet (with my id, $75, credit and debit cards) and a book I had borrowed from a friend. I got my cards cancelled within ten minutes and thankfully never got used. It´s really disheartening, especially knowing that the only things they will be able to use are the cash and the electronics. I had so many sentimental things in that bag, and it´s all just going to get thrown in a garbage bin somewhere. It frustrates me that I had to let my guard down at that moment, when I´d had so much crap on me that shouldn´t have been out downtown late at night... Yet, I know that there is absolutely nothing that I can do about it, and therefore C´EST LA VIE. I´ve gotten my things stolen before (I love Vernon with all my heart), and it´s very difficult to get over losing things.. But you need to remember that everything you truely need aren´t the tangible, materialistic things. I´m so glad my friends were there to support me, and didn´t let me flip out too much. Now, I´m fine with everything... and almost enjoying not having a heavy bag to drag around (hahah yes I´m just trying to be optimistic about it!). To top off the gringo hate of the day, another exchange student named Dalton came in to the café, telling us a story about how he´d been walking down the street and some man yelled at him "Get out of my country!" and kicked him in the crotch. Lowwww blow indeed. Moving on to todaaaaay, I got to go out with my councillors for lunch again! It was a lot of fun, and nice to switch up to awwwesome food again. They had some sort of spaghetti in a sauce with a ton of vegetables. JC (councillor)´s brother, from La Paz was visiting, and I had a good few chats with him about other cities in Bolivia. I was so proud that I could recognize his paceño accent (and the fact that I could carry on a conversation, at least with someone very talkative). I had some mate for the first time since arriving! I miss drinking tea.. Apparently I´m having a meeting on Monday with my councillor, my host dad and another Rotarian.. talking about family situations etc. I think I´ve figured out my problem is that no one really talks too much in the family, so I feel really alone. I have also figured out that I am horrible at starting conversations in spanish, but can have a decent conversation with someone willing to keep the conversation going, asking me a lot of questions. I´m better at answering :) Later this afternoon, we went to the police station to get some paperwork done (via typewriter), and then Brodie came over to make... the Bolivian version of rice crispy squares. They a) didn´t have white marshmellows, only pink strawberry flavored and b) didn´t have plain rice crispies, so we settled for chocolate flavored and frosted flakes. They were the strangest thing I´ve ever made. It probably took us longer to clean up than to actually make. Afterwards, we took them over to Melissa´s house, another exchange student that was having a little get together with food from the homeland (they actually said American food, forgeting that a few of us were from other countries). It was pretty much just a bunch of junk food like mac n cheese, cookies etc.. But nice to get to hang out, especially when there´s a pool. Well.. I´m tired, it´s late and I have school tomorrow. I´ve gotten out everything that was needed to be said, so I hope you had a good read. Until next time!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Day 39

Thursday was a very good day for me. After school, I was to meet my new councillors!! Now, I was a little worried because they were picking me up at 1245, and I usually don´t get home till.. past 1pm. But thankfully, I made it with only a slight amount of waiting. Juan Carlos, my actual councilor drove me to their house in Las Palmas, which is a gorgeous little neighborhood in town.. they were loaaaaaded. They speak aboslutely no english, which was AMAZING! I didn´t even get the opportunity to speak english (I´ve realized that I´m only comfortable speaking spanish with people that don´t know any english). We met their son (who is my age), and some other random relatives and then JC´s wife, Maria Rosa came home from work and we had lunch (I have to add that this lunch was the most amount of vegetables I have had since I gotten to Bolivia). It seems that they´re kind of counciling me as a.. duo. So I have both husband and wife working on my problems with me. They seemed really nice, so hopefully everything will work out well with them. Friday, after school and spanish classes it was the same routine as the week before, going to Leah´s house. This time, we went and lounged around the pool, instead of sitting around speaking spanish. Not as... progressive, but totally worth it. We ended up walking to the movie theatre JUST for popcorn, and then walked down to the center to meet up with some other exchange students for coffee. We went to the Irish Pub. I realized I wasn´t really into spending the evening with a bunch of kids that only speak english, so I ended up going home not too late. Saturday was a rough day. For some reason, being at home seems to bring me down and therefore, weekends, if I´m not up to something, I tend to mope around the house. I got woken up at 730am by someone in the house playing really loud music too, so I´m sure that didn´t help. Finally, I made some plans to go out with Sarah and Leah to buy a present for Brodie, because it was her birthday party later that evening. It killed the rest of my evening, and then I was finally out having fun. Brodie´s was a lot of fun, with all the exchange students, and most of the kids from my grade at school. I spent the night at her house (which was so incredibly easy to convince my host parents about this time for some reason) and stayed up till 4am watching movies. Today, Brodie´s actual birthday, we went out to a "quinta" or house in the country, for a huge family reunion of her host fam´s. Transportation: BACK OF THE TRUCK. It was like an Ecuador flashback! The house was quite extravagent, and it was even on a lagoon (although it looked quite like an oversized pond to me). We spent the afternoon lounging around, eating, listening to the live music, and swimming when we got too hot. We were forced to talk to this old man from Virginia for a while, since his Bolivian wife had dragged him along, and he spoke NO spanish. We also met a half Bolivian girl from Texas that moved inbetween Bolivia and the States because of her father´s job as a silver refiner or something of the likes. At the end of the day, we all crammed into the truck again, laying on a mattress in the bed, for a relaxing drive back watching the stars. All of a sudden, Brodie starts screaming that something is on her, and like JUMPS on top of the other three girls in the back (including me). We then realize simultaniously that there is a huge bug of some sort, buzzing around the truck bed, flying into us and not flying out. We spent a good five minutes screaming, and diving from corner to corner of the truck, trying to avoid this huge bug (that we couldn´t see since it was dark out). Now, note that we´re flying down a dirt, country road at a good 65km, and jumping around the truck wasn´t the best of ideas. But finally it landed and we caught the dang thing in a cup, by cellphone light. It ended up being huge!! It was probably a good 5" long.. So we threw it off the side of the truck, and had a peaceful ride the rest of the way home.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Day 35

Here we are, and it´s Wednesday. SANTA CRUZ´S BIRTHDAY! It´s a holiday, so I´m not at school. Everything is closed, so we sit here at home. Time to catch up on the week since my last post. Monday was back to school again. We were supposed to be having a fun day at school, since it was Day of the Student on Sunday (as well as the first day of spring, the day of love {aka Valentine´s day I guess} and my parent´s anniversary).. but it was apparently pushed to Tuesday for us. I sat through my classes, and then went to my spanish class, which I also sat through. Sarah and I waited for Maija´s class to finish afterwards, and then we met up with Brodie to go out for Mexican food. It was absolutely amazing! Really good food. Bolivian food isn´t horrible or anything, but I feel like nothing seems too special. It´s all pretty.. bland and to have a neutral taste about it. If I am to be gaining weight on this exchange, it´ll be from eating out at restaurants all the time. Talking to Brodie about this, and I found out that she goes out all the time.. almost once a day. This scares me hahaha. Afterwards, my brother picked me up and we went to the casino to play BINGO. Ohh that was amazing. I am so not used to being in a country where smoking in buildings is permitted. By the end of the night, my eyes were burning so bad. Bingo was fun, although set up differently than the game I´m used to. No B-I-N-G-O, there are 9 columns, 1-9, 10-19 etc all the way to 90. I was so close to winning on our last game.. I had one box left, when someone called theirs. It was tragic. We then went out to the actualy casino, where Christian played some slots (none of which are acually slots, just computerized touch screens). I tried taking some pictures of us there, but got in trouble from the security guard, who made me delete all of my picures, while hovering over my shoulder. I was slightly bummed out by that, but Chris got a pic while we were playing bingo in the other room, so I have SOME proof. Tuesday was an AMAZING day. It was our Day of the Student, as well as some celebrations for the Santa Cruz birthday the following day, all mixed into one. We got to have some food (which was chicked salad sandwiches, how depressing) and then the whole school got together in the courtyard, for some presentations of tradional dancing, put on by a few classes in the school. Afterwards, they had a huge dance party in the gym (grades 9-12 I think), with sparkles, foam, and music pumping. They even had a band come in for a bit, playing Carnival music which was so much fun. I really can´t wait till February! After school, we had a party and bbq at a schoolmates house, for all the kids in my grade. We got there, and some kids ran out from the backyard, and took all of our cellphones (or whatever belongings we had). They then dragged us back to a big dance party, where they were spraying everyone with a hose! It was a ton of fun, just hanging out, dancing (and dripping) and eating food on a hot afternoon. Getting back to Maija´s, and being fully exhausted, we ended up laying around for the rest of the afternoon. I caught a ride home with Brodie´s parents, taking a few stops on the way to pick up a rifle among other things. I got home, and then we figured out that everyone was going to la feria again. Since it was the night before Spet 24th (Scz Day), everyone would be out there, celebrating, and there would be fireworks at midnight. Going to the fair a second time wasn´t exactly that exciting, but I ended up running into a bunch of friends from school that I knew and spending the rest of the night with them. I barely made it home by my curfew (1:30am!!), but by the... grace of God, I made it. Today has been a day of relaxing.. Since everything was closed, my host mom had to actually make vegetarian food, and it was a lot better than the stuff they buy for me every day. She makes some pretty good (although not completely healthy) veg meals. We even had icecream, which has been the best thing I´ve ever eaten. I can´t even explain it. The rest of the afternoon was spent sitting around, trying to catch up on my stupid blogs, and then we took a family trip to a pool. It was at some club owned by my host dad´s company.. It was slightly boring, since I wasn´t too into the public pool full of frolicking children, or the steamy hot sauna (it was definitely in the 30s today). I ended up going for a walk with Lily, Christians girlfriend. I met her pretty quickly after arriving here, but had never really talked to her before. She´s actually pretty nice. She told me I had pretty good spanish, so anyone that says that to me is immediately on my favorite list ;) The rest of the night hasn´t been too exciting, so I think I´ll head to bed soon. School tomorrow! Buenas noches!

Day 32

So technically, it´s Wednesday right now, but since I don´t want a huge post from the past six days, I´m pretending that it´s Sunday right now. This weekend was a good one. I´m finally starting to be let out of the house more often, and am therefor having a lot more fun. Friday was back to school day. Which is really strange, since I had been gone for so long, and then had to go back for only one day. A lot of kids didn´t go to school, because the school seems to have horrible contact with homes, and so no one knew they had school. I ended up missing school on Thursday, because I didn´t know. It was nice to get back to school, and not sit around the house all day by myself.. yet I still hate having to get up so early, to be out of the house by ten to seven. Classes were not all that entertaining, but what do you expect when teachers don´t expect anything out of you? I had spanish classes after school, and I´ve realized that they´re starting to get painful. The teacher doesn´t know how to explain anything to the students that don´t understand, and she speaks enlish the whole time. How am I supposed to learn from this? Oh well, I went to a friend´s house after the class with her and two kids from France, who spoke no english. This means: we had to speak in spanish, or else someone wouldn´t be able to understand. It was great, and possibly the most spanish I´ve spoken since I got here. We then went to a surprise birthday party for one of the exchange students, organized by her host mom. She was quite surprised, and we got to eat pizza and cake (ahhh such a birthday party!). There´s a tradition in Bolivia that on your birthday, you have to... stick your face in your cake. Most girls end up just wimping out, biting the edge of the cake. But Caity had a few kids guiding her face with their hands. She ended up going straight through the cake, to the table. Split the cake straight in half. And to top it off, it was an Autonomia cake, so she looked like a green and white striped bandit coming out of the cake. Saturday morning, I was RUDELY awakened by Celine Dion´s My Heart Will Go On. This is NOT something that you´d enjoy being woken up to. Not to mention Alan singing, very loudly, along to it. The morning was quite relaxed, and then I was off to Brodie´s house to work on a history project, and go to the ExpoCruz (aka la feria or fair). La feria is a huge commercial fair, where companies come to show of their products. It´s a huge plot of land in Santa Cruz, that just sits there to be used as advertisment for ten days a year. Pretty much everyone in the city goes, and you can´t go without running into people you know. Overall, it was quite a good day, being out and about. Today (Sunday) was my host parents 24th Anniversary. I woke up to a big lunch set up outside, with a few family members joining us, whom I had no clue who they were. We didn´t go to church, I´m assuming because this meal was all cooked at home and would take a while.. But I sure didn´t mind, especially after being out so late. The rest of the day was pretty relaxed. There was a soccer game in the evening, El Clasico. It´s a game that happens every once and a while between Blooming and Oriente, the two teams of Santa Cruz. Being in their home city, it was a HUGE game, where everyone was split up between cheering for the two teams. Everyone seems to be quite dedicated to their team though, and therefor causes a bit of rivalry with friends who don´t cheer for the same team. We (of course) cheered for Blooming, who (luckily) won the game 2-0!!! As soon as we got home from the game, we were back out of the house, going to another DeMolay meeting for Oliver. This one wasn´t as exciting, no robes or anything.. But they did have swords and daggers for something (who knows what). The meetings are mostly boring, with a lot of talking that I don´t really fully understand. I get when my hostdad talks about me though, since most of the room turns to look at me.. It´s awkward, since I´m usually caught offguard, staring off into space. I think the meetings would be really interesting, since I would like to learn about the background of DeMolay and the Free Masons themselves, but I need a bit more advanced spanish skills. We finally got home pretty late, and it´s off to bed for me!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Day 29

So apparently I had school today! But of course, I found out half an hour before the day ended, so it was completely useless for me to even think about going. This is a sad day, for my.. 8 day weekend has now come to an end. I go to school on a Friday, and then it´s the weekend again! I have such a hard life hmmm? Well the past couple days seem to have gotten slightly better, aa I´m trying to get out as often as possible. We went to La Casa Del Camba last night, for my friend Lauren´s going away party. It was a lot of fun, trying to talk with the waiters in spanish.. It made me realize that there are quite a few exchange students with NO spanish at all. I guess I feel a little better about myself then. But yet, I still find myself speaking too much english. So anyways, there was dancing and traditional Cruceño food (most of which I couldn´t eat because it had meat in it). Today I got to go to Maija´s house, and we made these KILLER peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. I mean, possibly the best I´ve ever had. Quite proud of myself, I have to say. For some reason, Bolivia seems to make us bake a lot. We´ve probably had close to... 5 or 6 sessions, between a few of the girls. Then we went to the Cine Center, which is like... I guess the Santa Cruz version of a mall (with not much shopping, but a theater and huge food court). We had some pizza, which was... goood hahaha and then hung out with a few of the french exchange students, who speak no english, so we´re forced to speak spanish. I´m so tempted to go talk to them in french, but SO intimidated at the same time. Hopefully I´ll get over it sooner or later, and learn some more french along my exchange. Tomorrow Lauren flys out right after school, so I´m going to try and get to the airport. Hope everyone has a good evening!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Day 28

Well, first off I must apologize for leaving everyone hanging for quite a number of days. I haven´t been harmed or anything of the sort, so you can stop worrying about me ;) I also want to apologize for having my last post being so angsty. I´ve been partially avoiding the blog posting because I don´t want to have any others like that up here. I haven´t exactly been having the best few days, but I don´t feel the need to go through the whole story AGAIN. What I will say is that I´ve been trying to get a hold of my councillor, who is MIA somewhere in Argentina at the moment. The political situation in Scz seems to be clearing up for the most part. They signed some sort of peace document for the time being, so we´ll just wait until December 7th, when they redo the consititution.. There´s also a huge protest march of indigenous people on their way to Santa Cruz (very possibly here at this very moment), waving around their machetes and axes. But yet again, I am to assure you that I am safe.. As this is what Rotary has been telling everyone. I´m going out for dinner tonight, because one of the exchange students is going back to the States. Her club is making her come back home, deeming the political situation here unsafe for her to stay. I´ll try my best to catch you up on the main events of the past five days. The weekend was a lot of fun. I made a bunch of new, Bolivian friends. Went to a classmates birthday party on Friday, and went out with friends Satutrday night. I went to church Sunday.. Although I was the only kid that was made to go, everyone else got to sleep in. I don´t know what this was.. perhaps punishment for coming in late the night before, who knows. What I do know is that the only reason I go to church with them is because it´s a family event, not because of any religious beliefs. Therefore, if no one else is going, I should NOT be expected to show any interest in going. I´ve been chatting with my parents pretty often, touching bases with them on political and familial situations, and discussing what will happen if Rotary decides they want me out of Bolivia. I don´t really know what I´ll do. Do I move to another country, or go back home and start making some money before I move to Vancouver? It´s a tough decision, and something that I don´t know if I´m able to deal with quite yet. Yesterday I went out with some friends to the movies (woo X FILES). It was in english, and horribly gorey. I enjoyed the popcorn though, even though most of it ended up on the floor or in my lap. For some reason, Bolivia has given me a HUGE craving for popcorn.. perhaps it´s a lack of salt in my diet or something. Who knows! Tonight, I am hopefully off to La Casa de Camba to see my friend for the very possibly last time, before she flys back to New York. Hopefully my night goes better than the past few days have been.. I´m in some dyer need of cheering up.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Day 24

WARNING: This just might possibly be an angsty blog post. I´ve been trying to keep it out of anything that I post on here, only the positives, but I feel the need to let everyone know how I´ve been truely feeling the past few days. I´m starting to get very tired of sitting at home. I´m getting tired of overproctective parents. Alan (my brother) says that it´ll take time, that they´ll get accustomed to me going out... but I really don´t know. They are who they are. I don´t think that someone will change who they are, change their views of parenting over the span of a month or so. I know that I should just wait it out, and give them time to get used to having an 18 yr old, VERY independant girl on their hands.. I feel like I´m wasting this time of my exchange though. Like, I spend so much time at home, not experiencing the city. And being at home is fine, if I´m spending time with the family, but it seems that they don´t spend a lot of time together. Everyone hangs out in their rooms, watching tv. So I´m at home, tv or computering, not bonding with the family, and not going out with friends. I should be enjoying my exchange. It´s not like I´m having a horrible time or anything, but I am for sure not having a super good time. I´m tired of walking on eggshells, trying to find ways to work around the parents to let me go out past 7pm. I´m an adult, and yet, I´m treated like a seven year old. And I know that, yes, I don´t speak the language, no I can´t drive myself around, and I am pretty dependant on others in that way, but I am no idiot! I know how to handle myself properly, I can tell who´s a sketch and who´re the people that I should be hanging out with. I can´t grow and learn from the experiences, if I´m not experiencing anything. And I enjoy most of the time spent with this family, I just think they need to lighten up. They need to realize that they can´t.. baby me as much, being 18 (and legal might I add). I think I need to finally get a hold of my councilor and have a chat about a few things..

Friday, September 12, 2008

Day 23

Yesterday was a super fun day. No school, so I got to hang around the house by myself and the maid. I finally got to go out with Sarah, and her friend took us out to make pies and cheesecake for some small business. She took us out shopping and I got myself a cute little bag for only $6! Ahh Bolivia. We also went out for ice cream, and dinner, where I had one of the best salads of my life... it was Thai. My mom mentioned that apparently Bolivia has made it on the news, so here´s a little update on the political situation, from what I´ve observed on our news. It´s not only the department of Santa Cruz that has been having issues with autonomy and the government. It´s four other departments as well, the whole eastern half of the country fighting for autonomy. I found this Facebook group, which has some photos (if you have an account): Apparently we´ve just gotten a few tanks in Santa Cruz as well. The death toll is at 8, as far as I know (all of which are in Pando, the northernmost department in Bolivia) but nada in Santa Cruz. Yet still, nothing seems to be too big of a deal for anyone. It´s like this is a regular occurance, even though it´s not haha. So right now, I´m safe and sound and there´s nothing to be worrying about. If more chat about civil war starts coming up, then I might get a little worried. But not too much so far. The rest of the day has been quite nice, a distraction from all of the... interesting things on the news. I had some friends over, and we TRIED to make veggie burgers out of this book my mom gave me before I left. It really makes me want to have a house of my own, where I can go buy groceries and make stuff. I really want to live on my own, I can´t wait to get home and MOVE OUT!! The veggie burgers ended up.. interesting to say the least. But we made cookies as well, so they were pretty dang decent. We also had a schoolmate´s birthday party to go to (whom I had only met once previous to). It was a lot of fun, a lot of dancing. I met some new friends that want to take me out, so hopefully I will soon be allowed out of the house past midnight. The freedom will come SOON, after a lot of hard positive thinking. I swear it will... (Made it onto CNN:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Day 21

Wooo three week mark! I guess I have a little bit of information to update everyone on.. Yesterday, we were told that we didn´t have any afternoon classes because the military had come into town, blocking off all roads in and out of Santa Cruz. They were sent because Santa Cruz wants a percentage of their gas money that they export, larger than what they recieve. Apparently the gov´t is just there to make sure the gas is exported to Brazil and Argentina. But there was a bunch of rioting etc later on in the evening, from what I could tell on tv.. I don´t think anyone was killed, but they were tear gassing places etc. The crowd was throwing rocks, fireworks, anything to fight back.. Apparently they destroyed this phone company that´s owned by the government. I don´t really understand all of it. Last night you could hear gun shots, either really late, or early in the morning. Also today, the secretary poked her head in the room, telling everyone that the situation is possibly getting worse (from what I understand) and there were a few kids that got pulled out of class to go home. I also heard a rumor, although not too sure if it´s true, that the military was just around the corner from the school, at a hospital of sorts. I believe that because when I came outside, I was talking to a girl, telling her that the military was around the corner, and at that very moment there were a bunch of gun shots.. Which I´ve heard a few times today. I think they were even pulling a few kids out of class because they´re in military training (you need it to go to university, get a job etc so everyone joins) and are being asked to come join the military and fight against their own city. I know that I probably am making this sound a lot worse than it is, because I don´t feel in danger, and no one seems to be making a big deal out of this. My family hasn´t even talked to me about it yet, so I don´t know. If I didn´t know better, I´d think they didn´t even know about anything happening. It´s like this is a regular occurance around here. I tried watching the news, it´s mostly about the riots. There´s nothing online about any of this, other than something saying that Evo Morales was sending in some troupes to keep up the gas exportation. School´s been cancelled for tomorrow, and hopefully this ends pretty soon, and doesn´t escalade any time soon. I´ll keep everyone updated!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Day 19

It seems Sundays are about the same routine. We go to church, and then off to a restaurant for lunch with the family. We went to this place that had Tarijeña food.. Which was all meat, so the family took me to Subway beforehand, and I got to eat my bought food at this restaurant. Apparently not an insult in Bolivia. Later that evening, I was invited to go to the Tentayape Festival.. Which is a cultural dance festival that goes on every year in Santa Cruz for about a week. I went with a few school friends, and it was pretty cool. Reaaaally bad acted intro though, and the speakers gave me a huge headache. For some reason, Bolivians seem to feel the need to turn their stereos up just a few notched past what is needed.. But other than that, I enjoyed it a lot. It was nice to get out with friends, and just hang out for the evening as well.. Especially after a cold, slightly uneventful weekend. Coming home, I passed the heck out :) Today has been a normal school day. I was in a slightly bad mood when I got up, because my dad had me believing that I was going to the lab to get another HIV test, even though I got one before I came here. Yet.. I really don´t want to. I´ve heard the place is super dingey, and I know that I already got a test done, approved by the Bolivian consulate. It ended up that I didn´t have to go, and having PE cheered my mood up slightly (who the heck is this Chelan?!?). Mostly because I got stuck on a really good volleyball team, and we didn´t have to do the 100 situps required if you lost a game. We also did some ab and back work outs, so I have this feeling that I´ll be supremely sore by tomorrow. The rest of the day was completely uneventful. I then got to go to my spanish class, which was horrible as usual. We learned how to tell time.. There seems to be three other kids in the class that are in the same situation, that don´t want to be in the beginner class. Hopefully we´ll be put into the intermediate class soon, or else these classes seem to be a waste of my time. I talked to my host mom about it, and she´s going to talk to the school. I also went to a spinning class with my brother today. Complete and utter hell, to tell you the truth. I was feeling a little sick, and pushing yourself to your full physical limits is not too good of an idea. But I know that it´ll help me get in shape. Hahah who knew that I´d be more physical on my exchange than at home? I guess it´s because I now have the time to do it.. I am very lucky to be in the school that I am. Everyone is SO nice. Not one person is rude. I talked to a few other exchange students, and apparently kids call them fat etc.. Thank goodness! I once again realized today in art class that I´m in South America. It´s like every week or so, I have to take my surroundings into perspective and reality hits. I don´t know if it scares me or not. I mean, I look around and I´m achieving a lot more than many people I know. I mostly understand everything that´s going on around me. I´ve made new friends that don´t speak the same language as me, and yet we still get along fine. I guess this is the moment that I realize how great of an opportunity I´ve been given. At times, things seem so difficult, that I won´t be able to get through the next year.. But then I think about some of these factors, and realize that they are so small. I need to get over myself and grow up.. Take all of this experience in, not for granted. Because I´ll never get another opportunity like this again. When I´m not allowed to go out at night, or there´s some sort of miscommunication, I need to remember that it´s not the end of the world! Tomorrow is always another day.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Day 17

Right now, I am wearing yoga pants, sweatpants, two hoodies, a sweater and two pairs of socks. It can´t be more than 10ºC outside, and no I´m not kidding. The past few days have been pretty chilly, windy and rainy but yesterday the temp dropped so much (I swear from 30 to 10 in the space of a day and a half) that I don´t know what to do with myself. It doesn´t help that most windows are pretty breezy. This cold is only supposed to be here till Monday, but WOOO do I ever miss the heat (and to think that only a few days ago I was thinking that I can´t wait for a bit of cold back in Canada). Today was a churrasco (bbq) for most of the exchange students in Santa Cruz. My family was to pick me up at Brodie´s at eleven o´clock SHARP.. Aka: Not there until 11:50am. Then we all crammed into the car, and drove a little ways out of town, towards Cotoca, to this little quinta, country house type thing of one of the Rotary members. I got there, and guess who I saw? JUAN! Finally, after being in the same city for almost three weeks, we ran into each other. It was SO good to see someone that´s been through the same things as you. Knows your friends, your family, your experiences. It was really comforting. There were also a bunch of other exchange students (about 20 or so) from the States, and then one from Canada, one from France and Brodie from New Zealand. It was nice to see all the intercambios. I like getting the time to know everyone, although it´s still more time being spent speaking english. Not much was done at the bbq, besides safety speeches about wearing backpacks, jewlery etc and being openly foreign. There was also a lot of meat. Which was not, obviously, enjoyed by all (hah). Now that I am home and freezing to death, I think I need to curl up in my bed. Gooood night.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Day 16

Oh good lord did I ever have an interesting day today. For the second day in a row, we were traveling somewhere instead of going to school (I have NOTHING to complain about). We went to the Catholic University of Bolivia (UCB not UBC!). There was some sort of career fair going on, so we got to tour around the university checking out jobs like engineering, law, dentistry etc. I walk into this one room, and what do I see? Cadavers!!!! Yes that´s right. I come into this room full of med students in their lab coats, and kids with rubber gloves TOUCHING these dead bodies. They weren´t even plasticised like in Body Works. They were more... dehydrated (for the most part), looking moderately mummified. I took some photos, so I´ll try to post them onto my facebook soon. The rest of the trip was interesting, but not as eventful. We stole some hot chocolate which was more like melted down chocolate in a cup, found a mime and a really creepy clown, and crowded back onto the buses to be taken back to the school (which was over by the time we got there). Then Brodie, Marvel and I went to Burger King for lunch. I was REALLY hoping that they had veggie burgers like they do in Canada, but I was quite unlucky. Brodie was telling me how in NZ, their BK veggie burgers aren´t a veg pattie, but ONION RINGS in the burger! So we got them to take out the meat, and put in onion rings instead! It wasn´t too bad to tell you the truth. Then it was time for my first spanish class, which was... slightly boring. I´m in the beginner class, and we just covered verbs. AR verbs actually.. woo. But apparently they test us often to see if we should upgrade into the other class, so I have hope still. This evening, Brodie and I went to this cultural festival that happens every Friday in September to celebrate Santa Cruz, at my dad´s work CRE (some electric company I think). It was quite interesting, with dancing, singing, traditional music and some poetry thrown in there. I´m glad that my family is showing me around the cultural side of things here, because there is so much to see, do and learn. Now I´m off to Brodie´s house, to stay over for the night... which is apparently a big deal in South America. Sleepovers are like a... once in a lifetime event for most Bolivian kids. So I guess this should be pretty exciting! Night!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Day 15

Well, today was definitely an interesting day (to say the least). We were going to my brother´s school today, Don Bosco, to have a presentation, yet no one seemed to know what this presentation was about. It was pouring rain, so we caught a micro (bus) the two blocks to the other colegio. We got there, along with three other private catholic schools just in time to start the presentation. It was quite confusing at first, one it being all in spanish, and two, the man was talking about emotions, relationships etc.. Then they brought out a band, and got everyone dancing. It was then that Maija and I realized that this was more of a religious group, sort of like... youth group I guess. But we danced nonetheless, and I got some AMAZING dance moves on video. But then they started talking about sexuality, premarital sex and masturbation.. It was quite the interesting conversation. There were some concepts in there that I´d never heard of before. Like losing the sparkle in your eye, the timbre of your voice and your youthful vitality if you masturbate. I´ve been immersed in this catholic culture for the past two weeks, yet today seemed to affect me slightly more. I just felt.. moderately uncomfortable being there, with Brodie and Maija being the only other two out of.. probably close to 200 kids, not fully participating while they prayed for almost half an hour. Coming home, I spent most of the day at home, napping, went to my bro´s soccer game.. AS PER USUAL hahaha. Yesterday: English class is another joke, we do NADA. We split into groups, into people that can speak english vs. the ones that can´t. We usually end up in the library or something, just chatting for the hour and a half of classtime. I also had my first music class, which consisted of sitting around, with some people jammin´ it up on the guitar. BUT we did sing the national anthem at the end of class. Well, everyone else did. I don´t know if I´ll ever learn, it´s a good ten minutes long hahaha. Brodie came over for lunch, which was slightly awkward but nice. We then went to go get manicures, because apparently it´s something most girls do weekly. Alan took me to this school where I took a spanish test, to check my proficiency. Rotary is putting all of us into classes, to hopefully improve our speech abilities. The test wasn´t too difficult, but we´ll see where they put me on Friday. I sat through part of the intermediate level class, and it was pretty easy, so I can´t imagine what the beginner spanish class is like. I also got some passport photos taken for my soon to be VISA! I shall soon be legally in this country haha! I talked to my parents and Julia on Skype for the first time, and it is SO damn cool! Fancy fancy technology these days..

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Day 13

Ahh today was another long day. But verging on progressive!! Being surround by english at all times, I find it really hard to know when I can try a poor attempt at my spanish. I don´t exactly feel comfortable speaking spanish with someone that speaks english as well. I usually feel like I´m either comparing my spanish to theirs, or that they´re judging me. I know that obviously this is not true in the least, but HEY, it happens! So I finally worked up enough courage to start talking to my dad (brutally I might add) in the car ride today. It was not too bad. I actually found out some things, and it didn´t feel as uncomfortable, not having to sit through one another silent car ride. Yesterday, we had PE... YES THAT´S RIGHT PENTICTON, CHELAN PLAYED A SPORT! We played volleyball! The classes were split up, girls and boys so I was in a class of all girls. All very unathletic, scared of the ball girly girls! So, for once, I actually felt that, since I could actually bump serve and set, that I was one of the more athletic kids hahahah WHO KNEW HUH?? But things are starting to slow down for me. Getting into a routine, trying to pick up spanish. I feel I might fall into a bit of a lull with my blogs, so I will try my bestest to keep them lively for you. School will soon be over, I might travel to Brazil with my class as a ¨Prom Trip¨ so I will keep everyone updated! Chau chau for now!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Day 11

Sometimes, I think about home and how easy everything is. I can´t imagine having an effortless conversation with someone, it would be so strange and foreign at the moment. Even if I AM barely speaking spanish, there´s still the effort put into trying to understand everything. ´The thought of home is just too simple! I woke up this morning and found out that we were going somewhere. I understood that it wasn´t to church, but that´s it. So we got in the car and started to drive. We ended up in this little town about 20mins outside of Santa Cruz called Cotoca. We wandered around and ended up at church. We didn´t stay too long, wandering out into the courtyard. My dad tried to explain the story of the Virgin of Cotoca, but I didn´t really understand (do I ever?!). We lit some candles, and then looked around at the other displays (of Mary, Jesus etc) and then went to go eat some `traditional cruceño food´. I swear it all consists of two things: your basic carb (either bread, potatoe or corn) and cheese (YES, children of Ecuador, it is the infamous squeedgey cheese!). The morning was exciting yes, but Sundays are for relaxing. So I am off to spend the rest of the day in lounge mode. Chau chau!

Day 10

A few interesting things to mention, that happened this week. 1- I had a conversation with this girl in my class from Michigan. We were talking about our countries etc, and she turns and asks me `Canada is Socialist, right?´. I said nooo and she asked me if I was sure. Hahaha it was so entertaining. 2- The girl from NZ that has been here for 7 months was telling me about how her and two other exchange students out of the last group got Dengue Fever last year. OH NO, I do NOT want to be getting that! So I´m a little freaked out. 3- I figured out how to use my shower!! The whole time I´ve been here, trying to have a shower when I wake up, and it´s FREEZING, even with the hot water tap switched on (electric). I came home the other day from school and had a warm shower! Apparently it takes a while for the water to heat up, and doesn´t get warm till about midday! Today, we had our inbound orientation. I got to meet all of the exchange students in Santa Cruz. They´re mostly all Americans, except for a french girl (who speaks NO english and NO spanish) and this other girl from Castlegar (WOO BC!). Apparently there are som Belgian girls in the other club, but they weren´t at the meeting so I don´t know. The meeting was extremely dry, mostly information for the parents, rules and responsibilities that we already knew about. But it was good to find out that there are some kids struggling more that I am haha. I went out for icecream with Maija, Brodie and Lauren afterwards. It was nice to have some free, alone time to wander around and just get to BE in the city. I then went to a DeMolay meeting with the family. If you don´t know what it is, look it up. It´s like the Free Masons, for boys ages 14-25 or something. I swear it was the strangest thing I have done in quite some time. The meeting was public (aka people could come) and this is apparently unusual, because they usualy have SECRET meetings. So very culty! But I´m glad I got to go, and experience it. Something I might never get the chance to do again in my life. I only wish that I could´ve understood a bit more of what was going on and what they were talking about. We then went to an aunt´s party, where Alan, Oliver and I could barely keep our eyes open. I plan on going out SOME weekend, but lately I have just been so TIRED!

Day 9

It was today that I realized that I´m a little upset with the advancement of my spanish skills. I´m still not very comfortable talking to people, thinking that they´ll judge how well I can speak. I know they aren´t, but nonetheless, it´s impeding any progress in my spanish. Comparing myself to the other few exchange students I know at my school (even though I know I shouldn´t).. Now, I know that everyone progresses at their own pace, but it´s hard to get into your head. It´s hard not being comfortable enough to communicate with people. You´re so dependant upon others, and very isolated in your own thoughts. I was thinking about the stages of your exchange, and I am obviously out of the `honeymoon, sightseer´stage.. back to being stuck about the language. I know that I´ll get it eventually, but I´m in a rut! I can´t work on my relationships with people until I can talk to them, so this is very difficult. Hahah umm.. Classes are boring. Computer class was a waste of time, we played games the whole class. I´m a little surprised at the new experience of overprotective parenting. I mean, it´s understandable, being their first girl, it being a new experience for them and not knowing how to deal with it... but sometimes.. Like today, I was dropped off at the school and I saw my friend Brodie up the street, so I started walking up to meet her. My host dad then whistled to get my attention, and started pointing into the school, telling me to go straightaway inside. He didn´t leave until I was safely in the school. It´s not like the area is really dangerous, a lot of kids walk to school.. it just hurts a little not to be trusted. We went to my bro´s final `fútsol´game tonight. It´s called fútbol de salon, and it´s a little different that soccer (less players, played in a gym, smaller ball etc). They tied the gam 4 all, but apparently had won the previous game and had therefore won the championship! We went to a restaurant to celebrate later that night. The family thought I was crazy because I didn´t want to eat dinner at 11pm. I tried explaining how we eat dinner at 5 or 6pm, but this is their tea time, so they didn´t really understand. The restaurant was TEEMING with cockroaches, so no matter what, I couldn´t have eaten anyways. It was so disgusting, I could barely sit there and watch them crawl all over the walls. I don´t even get that creeped out by bugs!!! Lovely Friday night..

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Day 7

Wow, here we are already, the one week mark. I guess it went by pretty quickly, yet it feels like I´ve been here for much longer. Pretty soon, it´ll feel like I´ve always been here. One thing I have to add to another post, when I was talking about the driving here in Bolivia, is that you have to be quite agressive (I´ve discovered). You decide when it´s your turn, and therefore cross over the submissive drivers. Today was day two at school. I had to be there quite early, because my dad needed to be somewhere, and OH NO.. I was stuck at the school before a lot of kids got there (aka my friends) and had to sit there awkwardly until someone I knew came along. It wasn´t as horrible as I thought though. I found out that learning verb tenses in language classes is a waste of time, because you never use anything other than present, past and future. The english teacher was trying to ask me what the past participle of past perfect (I think that´s what she said) and I had NO CLUE what it was. So therefore, to all the immersion kids, doing futur simple etc was a waste of our time!! The french wouldn´t even know what it is hahahaa. I also have a new buddy in english that teaches me spanish, and when I learn some spanish, I´m supposed to help him with his english. Sounds like a pretty decent deal to me. There is a girl in my school from the states that is going back on Friday, and we had a going away party for her. But it was a surprise, so we took her out after school (all the gringas, and another exchange student from another school) to go shopping. I bought a phone, for anyone that wants to know, my new number is 70032464 (I don´t know the long distance #s). We then took her to the house, where all of our school friends were. She was very very surprised, which was surprising to us because Bolivians seem to be horrible liars. It was good to see and talk to people from school without being in the school situation. Even though I wasn´t there too long, I am completely grateful.. The family let me go out, by myself with friends for the whole afternoon and part of the evening. Bit by bit I will gain their trust, and as soon as I can speak spanish properly, will be given new freedoms. Not that they´re horribly strict here, but it´s definitely a change from back at home. Makes me very grateful to have been brought up in the family that I was..

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Day 6

First day of school: Finally home, almost an hour and a half after getting out. I´ve been in class more or less 10hrs today. 730-1230, 215-630. I have days like this Tuesdays and Fridays, and only till 1230 the rest of the days. My classes that I had today were Civics, Math, English (advanced hahaha), Chemistry (instead, we had an assembly about a mililtary college), Philosophy (with a test!) and Biology (also with test). I am exhaused beyond belief. But at least I made some friends. There are two exchange students in my class, one from NZ, the other from Arkansas. There are also.. about another 3 or 4 people in the class that speak very good english. The class stays together, moving from classroom to classroom, so I didn´t meet everyone at first. But the english speakers switched to the other class of grade twelves to take their advanced english course, so I met even more kids, more of which spoke english. Which I guess is good for my first day, but in the long run, I hope doesn´t impede my learning. I´ve realized that I this family is the perfect family for me to have come to, being a vegetarian. They´ve found this restaurant that has a vegetarian buffet, and they buy me lunch from there every day. Yet, I think about the `All girls gain weight on their exchange´ situation. I don´t know if that´ll be true for me. It seems this family doesn´t really have much of a schedule to eat (other than lunch), so I find my own food. Which is awesome for me, because I can just go into the fridge and find something I´m in the mood for. Aka, a lot of yogurt, fruit etc.. Nothing TOO unhealthy. Except for the tons of icecream that is everywhere. You know, sometimes I stop what I´m doing, and take a step back to think about everything that is going on. It´s weird. I forget how strange it is that I´m here, that I´m living with another family (strangers). Forget that I´m in South America, trying my heart out to learn another language. It is definitely very surreal. Almost unbelievable taken from another perspective. But I have to remember that when I don´t over analyze everything, I seem to be coping quite fine. Enjoying myself, making friends (I even got invited to a schoolmate´s going away party tomorrow), learning new things every day. Even though there are things that I definitely miss from home, there´s so much here that fills in those gaps in a whole new way. Every day this just gets easier...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Day 5

I guess I have a few things to catch you up on. One thing I must first mention (and cannot believe I have yet to mention this) is traffic in Bolivia. It is incredibly NUTS. I would never be able to drive here, because I think I would get into an accident. Most traffic laws, lines etc are completely disregarded. Intersections don´t have stop signs, it´s more of a whoever gets there first goes through. You honk to say you got there first.. I´ve decided that even if I was expecting soccer to be an integral part of life, I don´t think I was expecting this. I´ve been to a game of sorts every day that I´ve been here. Two games at the stadium (professional soccer), brothers´game and my dad´s soccer game as well. It was a quiet weekend, late nights, learning some spanish and hanging out with bros. I went to a family friends birthday party at our other house (they use it as a place to relax..). The place is amazingly nice, nicer than their actual house come to think of it. I was extrememly tired and ready to go to bed, when they come in at 930pm to tell me that we´re going to a party. Lot´s of loud latin music, and trying to learn how to dance merengue. I SUCK at dancing hahaha, but hopefully I will learn soon enough. I also had my first church experience yesterday. Nuns, altar boys, and an old pastor that looked like the pope. I didn´t understand anything except for the words sins, and the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All you really need to know to get by ;) . Sunday is family day, and we walked around town to this little market, selling jewlery etc. It´s quite entertaining to see homemade leather bracelets with brandnames like Hollister and AE drawn into them. I tried this corn drink, one that had nasty lumps in it (looked a bit like bubble tea), and this other that tastes a bit cinnamon-y. We also had a sitdown with the parents (Christian as translator hahaha), with a list of example questions you would ask the host family on your first night (yeah yeah, I know we´re a few days off). Things like curfews, phone rules etc. Just to make sure there are no misconceptions etc. The thing is, the rules are not that bad. It´s pretty much the same as what I would have at home (minus the religious half of it). But it´s something I think I´ll be able to deal with. Today was the day to go to school for the first time, since I didn´t get there on Friday. I walked in the door, and immediately located the few exchange students (some who seem to have extremely good spanish, DAMN). Apparently I was only there to have a chat with the principal, get my papers and go home. Therefor, TOMORROW will be the first day of school. I go to school 730-230, Mon-SATURDAY and then Tuesdays and Fridays I also go 430-830pm. Quite the change change. I looked at my courses, and most of them look decent (Bio, Chem etc). But then there are the courses like Philosophy. I don´t know how I´ll manage that. I don´t think I´d be able to in English, let alone a new language. We shall see soon hmm? Now, as I feel I am up too early (and stayed up too late), I think I shall run off for a nap!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Day 2

Hello everyone! Last night, I went to a huge soccer game at the stadium in town.. It was pretty impressive. Teams: Blooming (Santa Cruz) vs. Olimpia (Paraguay). The away team had a full band with them as the cheering squad. Everyone was pretty dang intense about the game too. I learned new swear words hahahaha. In the end, there were police dressed up, seeming to be all ready for a mob of sorts. We got out, right before Blooming scored the only goal (apparently it was a really bad game). Today, was quite the lazy day with no one home except for grandma and Alan, who seemed to be sleeping in the new hammaca :D We ended up going to see a few of his friends, which was really intimidating at first (FRIENDS?! They´ll know I´m the weird foreign kid!!!). But it was awesome. He spoke english better than Alan, and was super nice.. Lived in Spain, had been a vegetarian. Reminded me of the typical spanish hippie hahaha. Which reminds me, being a hippie here is a huge insult. They´re the bums that sit on the corner, dirty, selling homemade jewlery. I then drove around, dropping people off, picking them up and going to Alan and Oliver´s soccer(ish) game. I know sit at home, where Christian and I try to figure out what is wrong with my broken laptop. Off to a good weekend hopefully.. chau!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Day 1

Good morning good morning. Today is my first day here in SCZ.. The planes were hectic. I spent way too much time in airports. Especially Miami (9+ hrs).. When I finally found my gate a few hours before take off, I finally let myself get a little excited. I made friends with a man names Juan Carlos (apparently an extremely common name), and with this hilarious big black flight attendant that said I looked like a movie star. He ended up hitting on me the whole flight, telling me he loved me everytime he walked by or I smiled hahaha. He even tried to sneak me some free booze, but I politely declined ;) I got in late last night, about 10:30 or so.. The fam had a sign for me at the airport and everything! I was surprised at home comfortable I felt around everyone, especially since Christian, mi hermano, speaks ENGLISH. He is a lifesaver. We went home, set up my room.. and surprise surprise, It´s decorated for a girl! Pink waste baskets and sheets.. LOOOOVE IT hahaha. I slept in until about lunch time yet.. there was a dog outside barking all mornig, it felt like the movie Keeping Mum, where she goes and kills the dog (I hope I don´t..). I made a complete fool of myself at lunch today. Mostly because I didn´t understand a word they were saying. I ended up taking the salad as what I thought was my main dish. OH WELL. Then Alan (19) and his cousin took me out for a drive. I saw my school, and then picked up Oliver (14 I think). Now, I`m just hanging out with Alan because he´s the only one that can attempt to translate for me and my immense confusion. But I think I´ve been on the computer long enough, so I´ll give another update soon!