La Vida Tranquilla
Posted by brandperro on May 27, 2008
Well I must be becoming a Bolivian without even knowing it because I promised a entry in the “near future” and it has been close to a month. The integration process must be working. Really I have just be busy and maybe a bit lazy. I don’t know how much Bolivian news makes it to the mainstream media without actually searching for it but on May 4th was the vote for “autonomia” in the Santa Cruz department. Autonomia means basically that the departments want to have there own type of government that would give a little more power over their own resources. Basically, it would be equivalent to the state rights that we have in the United States. Right now a majority of the money made in natural gas and oil goes to the federal government. It is not that they want to separate and start their own country (though there are extremists). The problem with all of this is that a lot of it is fueled by racism. I don’t know if I talked about this but there are Collas and Cambas. The collas have more indeginious and are usually poorer and live in the “altiplano” and “valle” regions. Here in Santa Cruz it is the heart of the “camba nation”. They tend to have more money and lighter skin but these of course are not always true. The people who live in the campo of Santa Cruz are just as poor as people in other departments. On May 4th Santa Cruz had a vote for automonia. Peace Corps anticipated problems in my site which is pretty politically active, and where both Collas and Cambas live so something was bound to happen. A couple blocks from house in a school there were voting boths set up. I live in a “barrio” where mostly Collas live. So the Collas being against automonia went to the school and tried to close it down. I guess it worked my host-parents could not vote because of this. The Cambas caught wind of this and sent people to open the school up. Well naturally they started fighting… throwing rocks and dynamite as the paper here called it. They were really just big firecrackers but of course the paper always has to spice things up. During all of this I went on a non-formal tech exchange to another volunteers site (whose host family has three little kids) near Yacuiba in the the Department of Tarija about five minutes from the boarder Argentina.
This is one of the kids. The picture is blurry but I still like it, read her shirt… we had to translate it for it but it is fitting being in the Peace Corps.
Yacuiba is in the region they call the “Gran Chaco” which is basically a big flat dry sort of dessert like. With that I will just say that it is hard to explain. The Chaco spreads down into Argentina, Paraguay and I like a small part of Brazil. The Chaco people are pretty awesome, they are the horse riding, big hat wearing (not a cowboy hat like you are thinking dad), mate (there should be an accent of the e so it is pronounced ma-tay) drinking culture. During my time there I did all those sans the big hat wearing. With the mate they just have one glass, which is made out of a gorde and a special metal straw. They just fill it up with mate, water and a spoonful of sugar. There usually one person who is in charge of serving everyone by adding the water and spoonful of sugar each time and a bit more mate when necessary. Also they “clean” it, this is basically just pouring water on the tip of the straw hoping that it is hot enough to disinfect. We went horseback riding, something which I have not done it about five years so it took a bit of getting used to. We went riding through what they call the “monte” (add the accent on the e). Which is basically a super dense forest. It was interesting seeing all the different types of vegetation there and we also spotted some cool birds including a toucan. On my last day in the Chaco we had a “churrasco” which is basically a type BBQ. Here they don’t have the Matchlight coals like in the states they just use straight up raw natural coal. They don’t go all crazy with seasonings and spices here only salt and lemon, but wow is the meat amazing. That churrasco ranked in the top three of all the meat I have ever had. Since it was a tech exchange I actually did do some work too but that is as interesting. So I guess that this is the upside when there are political problems in Bolivia. I did not really talk much about Dengue Fever experience. I started to get sick when I got back to Cochabamba and had just basic cold symptoms. I did not go to the doctor because I figured it was just something that work pass. My host parents in Coch asked me if I drank cold lemonade in Santa Cruz. Of course, I did. They told me that was reason I got sick, because I drank cold lemonade on a hot day more specifically as I found out later drinking anything cold on a hot day will make you sick. I just sort of shook my head in agreement. If that was the case I think more then half the worlds population would be sick at one time. It is hard to talk about and explain these things to them and basically tell they are wrong. Throughout the whole Dengue experience I could not really sleep or eat anything (I lost 15 pounds) besides Aleve every 2-3 hours. That was about the only way I could really function and by function I mean just sit in class and think about how much this sucks. I had to take my all my “final exams” in this state…not fun. You have to pass all of these tests the be a volunteer. After my technical exam I got dropped off and had about 10 minutes walk to my house and just about pucked the whole way home. Through all of this I did not know I had Dengue, they kept testing for stomach worms and/or bacteria but they never found anything. I finally developed a body rash and had a blood sample sent to Santa Cruz (they don’t test for it in Cochabamba because you can’t get it there). There is really nothing they can do about it anyways so I guess it really didn’t matter if I knew or not. This have been going pretty well in my site, I have just been putting in the time to get to know everyone and understand them. That has been the hardest part. Here in the Santa Cruz they speak Spanish like everywhere in Latin America but it is what I like to call “sock-in-the-mouth” Spanish. It may not be politically correct but it is true. They don’t pronounce the letter S especially at the end of words. The s usually gives the words and sharp sound but when they not use it, it leads to a sock in the mouth sound. An easy example is “mas o menos” it is pronounced phonetically in English “maws o manos”. Now take off the s in each word and you have the Santa Cruz accent. Poco a poco…little by little. My Bolivian work partner thinks and I should get a Bolivian girlfriend. He says I will learn faster with a “Spanish tongue”. Everytime he introduces me to someone new he will say this is Brandon and he is looking for a Bolivian girlfriend. He does even though he knows that I already have a girlfriend. For all of those who are curious, here she is.
No not the one with the crustache and goatee, that is me. She is the blond one on the right. Her name is Catherine and yes dad she is a Peace Corps ¨gal¨ (sorry Bolivian beauties). She grew up in California near the boarder so she needless to say her Spanish is way better than mine. She went to Berkeley where she majored in Economics, her concentration was the ¨Political Economy of Industrial Societies¨. Sorry for the wait in between updates and hope everyone is enjoying the $4.00 per gallon gas prices and the sunny weather that summer brings.