Thursday, June 10, 2010

The plot thickens...

I’ve been in Oruro four days now. I’m trying to wrap my head around my work and wrap my hands around the documentation I need to do it, which isn’t easy in a busy office with lots of events and meetings and when some of the documentation is only in print rather than being on the computer.
But the work I have been able to do has been energizing. I’ve been able to sit in on meetings and teacher workshops and am getting an excellent sense for the details behind the structure of the education program and how the index I am helping them work on fits into that scheme.
I came from La Paz to Oruro in a Save the Children truck that was delivering furniture to a rural project in this department. It was amazing to see the altiplano. It is incredibly flat and arid, but people are eking out a living everywhere, ranching and farming. It is the same as Peru in that there are no fences in the fields really, so as you drive down the highway you pass livestock grazing along the side of the road. We even passed wild vicunas, an endangered relative of llamas and alpacas, grazing in a field!
I am hoping that I have rounded an altitude corner after having been in Bolivia a week as of yesterday. The climate here is very dry and already pretty cold (although I am regularly warmed it will only get colder.) The regular joke is that Oruro only has two seasons, not-so-cold and winter. The mornings are the worst, especially when I am passed on the street by a vehicle belching exhaust; carbon monoxide + less oxygen than I am used to = immediate headache.
I am living with a Bolivian couple, Dona and Emilio. There is also an volunteer here from the US, whose name is Ben. Dona and Emilio have two dogs, a sweet little guy named Suki and an energetic 5 month old puppy named Peki (but who I call “trapo” because she reminds me of a mop.)
I live on the first floor where I have a room that faces the street and my own bathroom. It’s a bit rugged, but I have running hot water so it is already a lot better than some of the places I’ve stayed in Honduras! The shower caught me by surprise…it’s just hanging out on the wall of the bathroom! I haven’t taken a shower in there yet, but that’s only because I thought the hot water wasn’t working so I took a shower upstairs. Turns out the handles on the faucets (“pilas”) are all backwards in my bathroom. I keep meaning to ask what the switch on the mirror is for; I think it might actually be a heater!
I used the morning yesterday to go to the “feria” downtown to pick up a few things to make myself feel more at home in my room. The first of these was a space heater, which made sleeping last night much more comfortable! I also picked up a mirror so that I could sit at my table to get ready in the morning, a lamp to read by at night, and a power strip (2 outlets just aren’t enough for me.) All told, I spent less than $40, including my two new ponchos (one a beautiful Bolivian knit and the other an huge fleece body blanket with a scarf attached.) I forgot to pickup slippers, which are very necessary here, so I’ll have to pick those up when the “feria” happens again on Saturday.
Now, you might say, why not just call it a market? Well, the market is what sells food and is open 7 days a week (more or less…I have yet to see what Sunday really looks like in this rather sleepy little city.) The “feria” occurs only two days each week, Wednesday and Saturday, and it sells everything! I was sad I didn’t have my camera with me to take a picture of the sign outside a chicken stands that said “Hay cabezas” (There are heads.)
Everyone here is warm and welcoming, although also fairly shy (especially compared to me!) I’m not complaining, however. It’s been wonderful to walk the streets without “piropos” (cat calls) from every male I pass (which is what it’s like in Honduras.)
The food is excellent, simple and focused mostly on meat and potatoes (just like I like it!) I do eat at least one orange a day, though, after lunch as a desert. They come in from the Amazonian lowlands and the valleys in eastern Bolivia. Emilio puts them outside on the window ledge so they get nicely warmed up by the sun and they are delicious!
I’m off to sit in on the second night of a teacher workshop on “educacion descolonizador.” It’s an important theme in the newest education legislation here in Bolivia and I’m very curious to learn more about it. I had to bow out early last night due to exhaustion. It’s very strange to sit in room filled with people learning about un-colonizing education and realize that to many of them I am likely a representative of one of the biggest colonizers. Thankfully I’ve been to Cuba already, so I am mostly over that hump!
Some final observations that I have made over the past few days:
--No stoplights in town (except in the very center of downtown) so everyone slows down and beeps as they come to an intersection.
--No supermarkets! You buy food from small shops or fresh at the market! Yummy!
--I prefer Pepsi to Coca-Cola here…the Coca-Cola is actually too sweet for me!
--No one else here seems to think the idea of the children’s book “Llama llama in Red Pajamas” is funny. Oh well. I’m still a fan!
Hasta luego!


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