June 12

The last three days of class, Chela and I are watching Bolivian films. One of them is Los Andes no Creen en Dios. This was a beautiful movie about mining days in Bolivia. The cinematography was very good and the scences of the sierra, the altiplano, and the salt flats of Bolivia are stunning. The movie is so named because in the Andes, indigenous people do not believe in a ¨Western¨God. They worship the Pachamama (Mother Earth), spirits of places and things, and a god that we could only equate with the devil. If these spirits do not recieve their due or are not placated, things will go badly for those people on and in the mountain. So, the story goes: Westerners have come to take advantage of the mountains which seem to be made of gold and silver. But they do not know the ways of this world, and in the end, Pachamama takes revenge. Those characters who can´t adapt and don´t realize that this is not their place in the world, condemn themselves to suffering. This is a moral that interests me--to thrive and to prosper, each one must find a place to call home and become native to that place.

I have translated all this on paper but don´t want to type it all except the last bit, which turned out to be my first poem in another language.

Moraleja de Pachamama
Esta es una moraleja
Que siempre me interesa:

Para medrar y para prosperar,
Cada uno debe encontrar
Un lugar que se llama hogar,
Y se volver indigena en ese lugar.


June 11

I´ll come back to June 10...I want to get the picture with it.

(This picture is mid-afternoon facing north--I think--from my bedroom).

Today I realized I was backwards. And not quite upside down, but sideways. So this post is for my Argentinean buddy, Sebastian, who says he´s upside down in Houghton. I woke up at my usual time, 7:00, and noticed that the sun had not come up yet. The days are getting SHORTER here and I was getting used to the long days up north. Secondly, I realized that I´ve been very disoriented by the fact that the shadows are on the south side of everything. People have pointed out N, E, S, W to me but until today it seemed like the sun was rising and falling on the wrong side. WEll, I´m mostly straightened out now, but unexplainably, thinking of shadows to the south makes me feel not so far from home...

Hoy, yo comprendi que estuve atrasado en acostumbre. Y estuve casi al reves y de costado en el mundo. Entonces, estas frases son para mi amigo de Argentina, Sebastian, se dice el esta al reves en Houghton. Me despertaba a la hora tipica, las 7:00, y notaba que el sol todavia no habia salido. Los dias se acortan aqui y yo estaba acostumbrada a los dias largos en el norte. Segundo, yo comprendia que he estado muy desorientada del hecho que las sombras estaban al sur de todas. Unas personas me han indicado N., S, E, W pero hasta hoy, parecia que el sol estaba saliendo y ocultandose del lado falso. Pues, yo me estoy casi enderezado, pero inexplicamente, pensando de sombras al sur me hace sentir no tan lejos de hogar.

June 9

Well, the Bolivians know how to make a girl feel good on her birthday! I got a happy birthday text i the middle of class, and Sheena met me for lunch with a balloon and a rose! After I was done with class, Nate came in saying, ¨Valerie I have some things I need to talk to you about...¨ All serious and stuff. He brought me to a cafe where...SORPESA! All my amigos in Bolivia from UTB and MTU were there with flowers and a GIANT piece of chocolate cake. the bolivians have a game they play--everyone is yelling ¨Se muerde! Se muerde!¨ = ¨Bite it! Bite it!¨ and you are supposed to take a bit of the cake directly, no hands, no fork, just teeth. Its tradition, you know. Just tehn Nate smacked my head and my face was suddenly covered in chocolate! Oh I didn´t realize I was so gullible!

Anyways, great fun with that crowd. I went home around 8 and...SORPRESA! The family was there was a cream pie and cards from the little boys. According to them, my name is Baleria. And thecards (hand-made) were covered drawings of ¨patitos feos¨...ugly ducklings! What??? Hmmm.... I got to fight with the boys over blowing out the candle while Sheena took picutres. Then I heard...¨Se muerde! Se muerde!¨ Well I knew what was coming! So I took a sneak bite before Caleb or Limbert could smack my face in the cream pie. :) A great Bolivian birthday!


June 8 La Feria

Today I went to a fair! I went to a fair downtown, on El Prado, with Sheena. I met a whole bunch of her friends, most of whose names I dont´remember, and most of whom I could not really speak with. Ah well...its coming. Part of the fair was an exposition for all the local universities who have environmental science programs.

I talked with one guy, Mauricio (he´s in the above foto with Sheena and and me), for a while about his group´s efforts at recycling programs. Cool. The rest of the fair is there every Sunday. They close the street off and have clowns, musicians, artists, and some stages with big bands. We danced for a while to one band that played reggae, rock, some columbian and bolivian music--very fun!

(The band is Atajo! in the foto above) However, after dancing for an hour or so I was completely exhausted. I have not had any exercise since I got here and I´m still not sure I could at this altitude! Just walking around during the day is pretty tiring. So we came home, took a nap, and I started reading 3 Cups of Tea, the story of Greg Mortenson building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I am going to meet him in August!

Hoy, fui a una feria! Fui a feria al centro, en el Prado, con Sheena. Reunia con mucha de sus amigos, pero no recuerdo mas de las nombres. Pues. Parte de la feria era un exposicion para local universidades que tienen programas de ciencia ambiental. Hablaba con un hombre, Mauricia, para unos minutos de su programas de reciclar. Bien. El resto de la feria esta alla cada los Domingos. Cerra la calle y hay clowns, musica, artistas, y bandas. Bailabamos para unas horas con una banda que toque reggae, rock, y algo musica de colombia y bolivia. Sin embargo, despues de bailando para unas horas, era completamente cansada. No he tenia ejercicia (?) hasta yo llegue y todavia no estoy segura que ejercicaria a este altitud. Solamente andando durante el dia hace me consada. Luego, volviamos a casa, siestabamos (?), y yo comenzaba a leyendo 3 Tazas de Te, la historia de Greg Mortenson construyendo escuelas en Pakistan y Afghanistan. Voy a encontrarlo en agosto!!!

June 7

I just realized I´ve been forgetting to fill in the title box. That probably makes it easier to read on the blog. Also I apologize now (or again?) that I can´t change the text color. I know its really dark but when I try and change it theonly thing that changes is bullets or numbers. Oops. Soon I hope to have pictures that are brighter and easier to look at and speak for themselves...

I´ve ended a week of Spanish class, and learned approximately 6 of the 8 tenses? Ay ay ay. The pronunciation might be easy, but the structure of this language I am struggling with. It looks something like this. For the verb ¨to go¨

1. I will go (future)
2. I´m going to go (differen future)
3. I would go (conditional)
4. I go (present)
5. I am going (different present)
6. I have gone (past)
7. I had gone (past)
8. I went (past for events or facts)
9. I went (past but for stories)

So you change the verb (the translation of ¨to go¨is ¨ir¨) to one of those tenses for whatever person you are talking about (1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person, singular or plural) which means there are approximately 54 different conjugations for EACH VERB. Latin America has kindly decided not to use the second person plural, so that leaves me with just 48 conjugations to learn. Nice. I am realizing how nice it was to be a little kid and learn English without realizing it. No translation today.

June 6 First Friday in Bolivia

Well, I am now going on brain-dead. In the last three days I have been almost completely immersed in Spanish (except when my teachers or family explain something in English). and I have another full day of class tomorrow. Short post. NO translation. The picture of the day--would be--of the market I walked to during my 3-hour break. Very cool. En Calle de las Brujas, or the Witches´Street. I talked to a couple ladies about wool sweaters and beads to practice my new language skills.

June 5

No escribe nada y no recuerdo nada.

I didn´t write anything and I don´t remember anything.

Oh wait! I found two things: recipes!

1. Pure de espinaca (puree of spinach)
Espinaca/acelga (spinach)
Papa (potatoes)
Leche (milk)
Mantequilla (butter)

Cocina espinaca y papa separados. Aplasta las papas y ponga la leche mas mantequilla. Despues, pure la espinaca en una maquina de pure y ponga la espinaca en las papas y cocinas juntas. (Steam the spinach and boil the potatoes. Mash the potatoes and add milk and butter. Puree the spinach and add it to the potatoes. Cook until you like it. Sorry no amounts. It is DELICIOUS).

2. Yerba mate--manera de Martin (yerba mate, Martin style)

Llene la yerba en 3/4 del mate. Llene poco a poco con agua caliente (y si desea, azucar). Espere para mate le absorber al agua, y tambien enterre la punta de bombilla en mate. Cuando lleno, tome, y llene otra vez con agua caliente. (Fill the mate gourd 3/4 with yerba mate. Then fill it little by little with hot water and sugar if you want. Wait for the mate to absorb the water, and also bury the end of the pipe in the mate. When it is full, drink the mate through the pipe, and fill it again with hot water. Yerba mate is a sort of tea drink that is enjoyed by many people in South America. I believe it originated in Argentina. It can be a strong bitter drink so people add raw sugar. It has some sort of wake-up to it but it is not caffiene. Also not addictive. I could learn to like it but I prefer mate de coca, or coca leaf tea.)

June 4 (second day of spanish class)

Ayer, Paula y yo tuvimos un conversacion interesante. Era sobre cine en varios paises, cultura en varios paises, historia y logica de gente, y similitudes y diferencias entre varios grupos. Por ejemplo, Paula me dijo que hay similitudes entre cultura Aymarra (aqui en Bolivia) y Japones. Que interesante! Me gusta aprendiendo de varios culturas y por eso, me gusta este viaje en Bolivia. Otro ejemplo, cultura chine es encarnada (?) en mascaras en bolivia! Desde llegue aqui, he estado pensando que hay mas cultura en La Paz que en mi ciudad (quizas es proporcionamente). De que lo Paula me dijo, es verdad. Pero, la cultura aqui parace ser mezcla, quizas un poco deja llevar por media. Por eso, estoy tratando de decir hay muchos culturas en La Paz y las son confusas. Ha habido musica norteamericana en todas partes he estado. Hay influencias de varios culturas que parecen en todas partes. Ella me dijo que lo es que no le gusta viajar a ciudades, sobre el mundo son mezclas de cultura. Sin embargo, es interesante a saber que culturas antiguas (como aymarra y quchua) tienen similitudes con culturas muy lejos como en el asia. Quisiera ver mas de esas culturas.

Yesterday, Paula (my teacher) and I had an interesting conversation. It was about movies, culture, history and logic, and the similarities and differences between cultures and countries. For example, Paula told me that there are many similarities between Aymarra culture (here in Bolivia) and traditions in Japan. I really like learning about this, and so it is great to be here in Bolivia. Another example, quechua masks and the quechua language are very similar to chinese masks (like the dragons) and language. Since I arrived here, I have been thinking about the culture in La Paz--there is more than in my city (or maybe it is proportional! houghton IS small). Paula agrees with this, but the culture here is very mixed. I am trying to say, there are many cultures apparent here, but they are very confusing/confused. There has been american music playing everywhere I´ve been. There are influences of different cultures everywhere. she told me that´s why she doesn´t like to travel to other big cities, around the world they are just cultural melting pots. However, it is interesting to learn about old cultures (such as the Aymarra and Quechua) and how they have similarities with cultures very far away and disconnected such as in Asia. I would like to see more of those type of cultures.

June 3 (yep out of order)

Ayer, llegue en La Paz. Mi amigo Nate me reunia al aeropeurto y me tomaba en excursion cerca de la ciudad. La ciudad esta approximadamente 500 metros debajo del aeropuerto (y mi casa es debajo 300 metros mas), es situado en un valle grande en los Andes. A mi, La Paz y esta area aparecen similar al sur de Utah. Hay muchas montanas y canyadas de piedra roja, rosa, gris, y amarillo. Tambien, hay cactos y salvias, pero la ciudad tiene palmas y muchos otros arboles.

Luego, Nate y yo ibamos al Instituto Exclusivo para registrar en clases de espanol. No problema pero estoy nerviosa todavia para uno-a-uno clases, 6 horas por dia! Despues, ibamos a reunir con mi familia hueste (?). Mi hermana nueva es Sheena (nombre Celtic si tiene interes). Ella tiene 24 anos y ha estudiado ingenieria ambiental/ecologica por 9 semestres. Viajara a Palos Blancos conmigo. Su familia es muy simpatica y agradable. Antes de yo, han recibido cino otros estudiantes extranjeros, asi que ellos estan acostumbrados a teniendo (?) personas nuevas que no hablaria espanol tan bien. La cosa mejor simpatica era que ellos me permitian a dormir todo el dia. BOnita La Paz me ha dado un dolor de cabeza...

Yesterday I arrived in La Paz. My friend Nate met me at the airport and took me on a tour of the city. The city is about 500 meters below the airport (and my house is another 300 meters lower), it is situated in a huge valley in teh Andes. To mi, La Paz and the surrounding area look a lot like southern Utah, like if you put Tucson at the bottom of Zion Canyon. There are many mountains and canyons of red, pink, grey and yellow rock. Also there are cactuses and sagebrush, but in the city there are palm trees and other trees.

After the tour, Nate and I went to the Instituto Exclusivo to register for spanish classes. There was no problem, but I was still nervous about taking 1-on-1 classes for 6 hours a day! Anyways, we went to meet my host family. My new sister is Sheena (the name is Celtic if you are itnerested). She is 24 and at the end of her BS in environmental/ecological engineering. She is going to Palos Blancos with me next week. Before me, her family has had 5 other international students, so they are used to people who don´t speak good spanish (or any!). The nicest thing that day is that they let me sleep the whole day! Beautiful La Paz and the altitude gave me a headache...

(Sorry no pictures yet, I´mworking on it!)


June 2

Well, obviously I have not done so well on updating this every day. I have been much busier than I thought, going to class at 8:30 each day and getting home at 6:00, then with homework to do. Also I haven´t been able to post pictures because my camera isn´t compatible with my host family´s computer... I am getting to an internet cafe tonight and hope to post pictures ther. Also I´ve kept a journal of the days somewhat, so maybe I can post from there...

Anyways, some interesting things:

1. ONly three days of class and already I am conversing about global warming, culture, books and movies, other countries, and indigenous versus Catholic religions! Wow, learning fast.
2. I am tall here!!!! Not giant by any means, but most Bolivian women are shorter than me. :) I purchased a really cool alpaca wool sweater at the market and found that it is almost too short for me! When I get clothes in the US they are ALWAYS too long.
3. Tomorrow the other MTU students arrive, I will have to be careful not to fall into the habit of English.
4. Que mas? This is a very nice city in a huge valley of canyons, like if you put Florence, Italy in Zion canyon. Que interesante! The surroundings are beautiful red and grey rock walls, and it is nearly 1000 feet up from my house to my school (across about 5 miles).

Ok, more later, time for class! Hasta luego..


Dia Uno (El Segundo)

June 1
Well, I slept right through the alarm.

New flight plan: June 2--Houghton to Minneapolis to Miami to La Paz. Am currently en route to Miami with just a passport, backpack, two oranges, Spanish dictionary, camera and a copy of Eat, Pray, Love. I´ll arrive June 3 at 14000 feet in La Paz. I´m nervous and excited in anticipation of some cultural and physical shock... There are already snippets of Spanish conversation on this flight and I´m laughing (with a tiny bit of dread) at myself for not recognizing any of it. I´m consoled by my friend´s ¨fun fact¨that Bolivians speak much more slowly than most other Latinos. Whether that´s the rate of 4 words per minute (how fast I figure I can speed-flip through the dictionary), time will tell....

Pues, dormi por toda la alarma! Asi, un plan nuevo de vuelo: 2 Junio--Houghton a Minneapolis a Miami a La Paz. Ahora, estoy en ruta a Miami con solamente pasaporte, bolsa, dos naranjas, diccionarrio de espanol, camera y una copia de Eat, Pray, Love (lo recomiendo mucho). Llegare en La Paz 5:30 am 3 Junio at catorce mil pies. Estoy nerviosa y animada con anticipacion. Ya hay poquitos de conversaciones en espanol y estoy riendome (con aprension) para no reconociendo nada! Estoy consolada por un facto (chiste?) de mi amigo--que los Bolivianos hablan mucho mas despacio que otros latinos. Si hablan a cuatro palabras por minuto (como rapido tan yo pienso que puedo volver paginoas en diccionarrio), los dias lo diran... (Perdoname y corectame para las palabras y frases inventadas!)


ETD: June 1

Well, this is my "pre-post" to check out the blog situation. Here's the deal. I'm going to Bolivia for a while with several goals:

  1. Learn Spanish. I'll spend about 10 days at the Instituto Exclusivo in La Paz starting June 2. Five hours a day, six days a week of immersion courses plus touring the city should get my language skills up and running--the idea is to be near conversational after a couple weeks. Ready, go! Listos? Vamos!

  2. Do research. Through MTU's International Sustainable Development Engineering Research Experiences program (ISDEREP), I'll be working with some other students, several Bolivian communities, and the non-government organization ACDI/VOCA on participatory research for water and sanitation. The plan right now is that I'll develop a decision tool or expansion path for the communities and the NGO to use when selecting sanitation technologies. Basically how to choose the most appropriate technology by matching up community and technology characteristics. We'll be working in rural communities in the "Yungas" or the transition land between the Andes mountains and the Amazon river basin. This is a 25-day chunk of the trip.

  3. Get out of Houghton. As much as I like it here, I'll be glad for an extended break. From Andes to Amazon I think 7 weeks in South America will be an awesome but welcome change. I'm looking forward to a week completely on my own in the world's highest 1-million person city, a couple days in the jungle, and meeting up with my cousin for a week at the end.

All in all, I will leave Houghton June 1 and return July 23. I hope for each day in Bolivia to do some picture-taking, then choose a photo of the day and write a little blurb about it in both English and Spanish. Maybe it will help people to "travel" along with me, or maybe it will just help my Spanish. Who knows. Thoughts and comments are welcome. Here is a sight of what I'm leaving behind for the next couple months!