martes, diciembre 20, 2005

Madre de Dios

Mariela and me
Originally uploaded by erostkowski.
Madre de Dios is the orphanage where I worked a few days a week during my language study in Cochabamba, Bolivia. It is home to 80 girls, ages 4-16. While the girls are living there for a variety of reasons, most of them have been abandoned or taken away from their families because of cases of neglect and sexual/physical abuse. Many of their stories just break your heart.
I know that you aren't suppose to have favorites when working with children, but sometimes you just can't help it. This is my little amiga Mariela. She and her 6 brothers and sisters are divided between almost as many orphanages in Cochabamba. One of my first days at Madre, I was helping to put together a puzzle on the floor when she crawled onto my lap and fell asleep. From that day on, I couldn't help but love her. Sometimes, walking back from the orphanage, I would think about how crazy it must be to have children of your own. I mean, in three months I grew so attached to the little ones, I can't imagine the feeling you must have when they are actually yours.

Okay. Storytime. I was dreading my last day at the orphanage. To know I had to say goodbye and that the chances are I would never see the girls again ripped at my heartstrings. As I was getting ready to leave, one of the girl found me outside and brought me into the room where they having their afternoon snack. When I walked in they started singing to me to see me off. Then, little Jhovana stood up on her chair and gave a little farewell. She's 7 so it was absolutely adorable. When she was finished, she looked down at her wrist and took of the bead bracelets that she had made earlier in the day and slid it on to my wrist. One by one, girls were taking them on and giving them to me. These girls don't have much. They wear the same tattered and stained clothes most days. They don't sleep in their own beds let alone their own rooms, yet they chose to share with me the little material beauty that they had. Of course tears were flowing down my cheeks at this point. I now always wear a few of the bracelets on my wrist to remind myself to try to give as much as I can of myself to the people around me each day just like the girls did for me.

jueves, diciembre 15, 2005

The mines of Potosì

Originally uploaded by erostkowski.
The week before we left Bolivia, Ryan, Roy, Caitlin and I went on an adventure to Potosi and Sucre in the south (about 12 hours by bus). Potosi isn't really a tourist destination except for the crazy fools who feel like spending many hours in tunnels underground, and yes, we did fall into that category. This is a picture of me in my mining gear ready to descend into the mountain in the backdrop ''Cerro Rico.''
Potosì, although I am pretty sure that you are unfamiliar with it, has many credits to its name. First, it's the highest city in the world, (which was very apparent by the altitude sickness that I encountered.. not pleasant) Second, it used to be not only the largest city in Latin America, but also one of the largest cities in the world in the 1800s, nearly reaching the population of 800,000. Third, the silver extracted from the mines of Potosì funded a sizable chunk of the Industrial Revolution in Europe. They say that using the amount of silver taken from the mines you could build a bridge of silver from South America to Spain and still had silver to carry over on the bridge.

The mines that we entered were built over 400 years ago and the colonial arches are still visible underground. The conditions are virtually the same as they were then: dusty, hot, and miserable. The miners work long hours often beginning before sunrise and ending after sunset. Many enter the mines as young as 13 or 14 and then leave in their mid-thirties, after the mine has taken a toll on their health and they are no longer able to work. Respiratory diseases, as you can imagine, are very common and lead to early deaths among the miners.

The experience itself, of being in the mines, is something I will never forget. At points it was downright scary. We descended with our guide four floors under the earth, meeting miners and giving them gifts of coca leaves (which give them energy and help them to breath) and refrescos. The further down we went, ducking and sliding on our bellies through small passageways, the hotter it became, reaching 45 degrees C (upper 90s F).

I was never happier to see daylight than when we finally reached the mouth of the mine. The craziness was not yet over. Our guide had convinced us to buy some dynamite earlier in the day from the miner's market. Playing with explosives isn't something I normally would support, but for less than $2 in supplies, how could you pass up the opportunity, right? (there is a video of the explosion on Ryan's site is you are interested)

sábado, noviembre 26, 2005

Bolivian Thanksgiving

Bolivian Thanksgiving
Originally uploaded by Ryan Greenberg.
So I have survived my first holiday away from family and it turned out not to be that bad. Of course, I missed my wonderful sister's fanastic gourmet recipes, but we managed to get by pretty well here in Cochabamba. There were about twelve of us that put together a pot luck at the institute. Roy, to my amazement (and he hasn't let me live it down yet) created a pretty tasty turkey. After not being able to find brown sugar at the market for my sister's famous oj carrot string surprise, I opted to make cornbread instead which turned out pretty well.

miércoles, noviembre 16, 2005

La Paz

Originally uploaded by erostkowski.
Julia, my German friend from the orphanage and I decided to take a spur of the moment trip to La Paz, the capital city a few weekends back. We had no plans, no place to stay; we left with just our lonely planet book in hand. It ended being a ridiculously good time. We hopped on a packed overnight bus Friday night and arrived in the city just as the sun was coming up.
Now, granted, mountains are new to me, but I'm telling you, it was the most beautiful view I have ever seen. La Paz is the highest capital in the world and is surrounded by mountains on all sides.When we approached the city, it looked like a bowl of Christmas lights.

What the.....??

Originally uploaded by erostkowski.
Llama fetuses, my friends. In the Aymara culture, which is dominant in the La Paz, Altiplano area, one must bury a llama fetus to mark the start of a new phase in life such as the opening of a business, or the building of a house to ensure health, well-being, and success. The fetuses sold in the Witches' Market are for the poor; the wealthy are expected to sacrifice a whole llama to appease the Pacha Mama.

lunes, noviembre 14, 2005

My visit to the Moon

adventure, here I come
Originally uploaded by erostkowski.
Julia and I met up with some of her friends and headed to Valle de la Luna a rock formation about 45 minutes outside of La Paz. It was pretty incredible as you are able to see by my photos. I swear, sometimes I feel like I am living in a Patagonia catalogue.

jueves, noviembre 10, 2005

Villa Pagador

Originally uploaded by erostkowski.
In hopes of trying to get us talking out in the real world, the institute organized trips last friday around Cochabamba. I signed up for Villa Pagador because I was interested in seeing what life is like on the other side of the city.

Sometimes, minus the crazy drivers, the indigenous woman in traditional dress, and the fact that Spanish is written and spoken everywhere you look, incredibly, it could be very easy to forget you are in Bolivia. Of course, it would be difficult to mistake the area for anything in the US; you definitely get the feeling that you are somewhere far from home. Sometimes, though, looking my street and the types of resturants where my friends and I eat, it's sometimes hard to believe that I am living in the poorest country in Latin America. The disparity of wealth is so great here. Because of this, it was almost odd for me to be able to get onto the bus that I always take downtown, ride it for about 25 minutes and end up in a world so different radically than the community that I live in here.

Villa Pagador has only sprung up in the South side of Cochabamba in the past five years or so. The Aymaran and Quechua people from the campo have been moving closer to the city to find work. Unfortunately, when they arrive, there is not much to be found. This particular community is currently without running water and most of the houses lack electricity. During out day there, we met with several relgious communities and NGOs doing work in the region.

miércoles, noviembre 02, 2005

dia de los muertos

Thantawawa sweet bread
Originally uploaded by Ryan Greenberg.
The celebration in Bolivia of dia de los muertos is incredible. Many families in Bolivia prepare tables like the ones shown (courtsey of Mr. R. Greenberg) in memory of their loved ones who have died. There is a big fiesta on November 1 when the families gather together to eat, drink chicha (a corn malted beverage that is really popular here), and chew coca leaves. The following day, they take what is left with them to the cemetery.

I was curious to see what the day was all about so I asked my host brother, Marco, if he could take me to the cemetery. I didn't take my camera along because I didn't know if it would be appropriate, but after I saw the carnival atmosphere, I totally regretted not having it. Clowns, ice cream, cotton candy, balloons. All that was missing was a ferris wheel. Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but it was definitely not what I had expected.

In Bolivia, instead of people being buried in the ground, they are placed in these two-story high structures. There are made of cement and have doors marking the graves. You can tell who is more wealthy by the type of material that the door is made out of. Some gold, some brass, others wood. You may even stumble across those that only are marked by a paper sign and messy plaster.

Because of the lack of space in the public cemetery, after five years, the bodies are taken out, cremated (if you are there to claim the bones) or donated to the local univeristy. This is, as you can imagine, very difficult for families to experience. Ryan lives with a family whose 12 year-old son died in a car accident 5 years ago. In October, the mother had to be there when the cemetery removed her son's body from his grave. It's hard enough to bury your son once; I can't imagine what it must be like to do it twice.

viernes, octubre 07, 2005

Jesuit Missions

Originally uploaded by erostkowski.
This week the institute took the students on a pilgrimage to the Jesuit Missions in the Region of Santa Cruz which is the semi-tropical region of Bolivia situated next to Brazil. We visited six of the original churches that the Jesuits constructed in South America, including the last one completed before the expulsion of the order from the continent in the early 1700s. (We always knew those Jesuits were rebels)It was really great to get out of Cochabamba for a bit and see a different part of the country.

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to me!
Originally uploaded by erostkowski.
So, I´ve survived my first birthday in South America. My family gave me the biggest cake of my life as you can see in the picture, it took us a good three days to finish. The other HCAs came over to my house to celebrate, eat cake, and play cards (what we do best). I also was let in on a little Latin American tradition. My family told me that I had to take the first bite of cake. No, not the first peice, but I was actually suppose to bend down and take a bite right off the side. Before I knew it, Marco was smashing my face right into the icing. I decided to include the before picture in my blog, but if you care to see the full action, I uploaded a picture on my photo page.

jueves, septiembre 29, 2005

Honk if you love sheep

Sheep and landscape
Originally uploaded by Ryan Greenberg.
One usually doesn´t have to part a herd of sheep to use the internet, but in Bolivia, each day is a new adventure. Farmers bring their sheep into the parks of the city to graze during the day. This herd was just a block or two from my house.

Mi familia

Mi familia
Originally uploaded by erostkowski.
So here´s my fam. From left to right: Corina, Katty, Me, Mariana, and Marco. Jorge (my host dad)and our pup La La are infront. Corina is an environmental engineer and visits the house often. She lives close by in Cochabamba. Katty is fifteen and attends the local colegio. Mariana is finishing up her tourism studies at a univeristy in town. Marco is currently looking for a job. He just spent the past week in Santa Cruz, a city about 8 hours away, trying to find work. The job market in Cochabamba and Bolivia in general is bad. Most of Marco´s friends have had to leave town or the country to find descent jobs.


Cacho- the best game ever
Originally uploaded by erostkowski.
Victory! Caitlin and I are the Cacho queens of Cochabamba (I dare you to say that five times fast)Cacho is the traditional game of Bolivia involving a leather cup and 5 dice. The goal is to get 4 of a kind of every number and then four other special combinations. You can go to any bar, restaurant or cafe any time of the day or night and find people playing it.

viernes, septiembre 16, 2005

¡Viva Cochabamba!

We arrived in Cochabamba at a great time. On September 14, every year, the city celebrates it´s founding by hosting parades, festivities, and concerts. I tried to take advantage as much as I could of the activities available. There were no classes at the Institute on Wednesday. Instead, the students gathered on the campus and played traditional games, ate food of the region, and tore up the dance floor.Josè Manuel, my new bolivian friend, and I went downtown afterwards to watch one of the four parades this week. I feel really lucky to have met him last week at mass. He has been showing me around the city, taking me to fun places, and forcing me to practice my Spanish (he doesn´t speak English, but we manage to get by).

lunes, septiembre 05, 2005

El Cristo de Concordia

View from El Cristo
Originally uploaded by erostkowski.
On Saturday, my Bolivian brother, Marco, and I took the teleferia to a high point in Cochabamba where a tall statue of Jesus watches over the city. (a picture of the statue is on my photo page). We were able to climb a narrow spiral staircase inside and peer out through the lookout holes. There is no better view of Cochabamba to be found. So far so good in Bolivia. Marco and Mariana have been taking me around with them. On Saturday night, I went to my first Bolivian fiesta. Mucho divertido. I feel that even in the past few days my Spanish has been improving just by being constantly around native speakers. Today was the frist day of classes. At the Maryknoll Institute, all the instruction in one on one. Each day, we go to class for four hours. Each hour, I have a new teacher. Then, after two weeks of the same four instructors, we switch and receive four new teachers. The setup seems that it will work really well. However, it´s amazing how exhausting talking in Spanish for four hours can be. I´m very sleepy. I think an afternoon nap is going to have to become a necessity :) Hasta Luego!

viernes, septiembre 02, 2005

Cochabamba, Bolivia

We arrived in Cochabamba last night after a long day of traveling. Our flight from La Paz (the capital) to Cochabamba was cancelled so we spent to the majority of the day in the airport. I found it to be good though, it gave us so time to relax before being swept away by our Bolivian families. The three children, Marco (26), Mariana(24), and Cathy (15) from my family met me at the airport. Everyone in the family speaks a little English, which proves helpful considering my level of spanish. The spanish in Bolivia is so much easier to understand than in Chile. I have acutally been suprised by how much I really know. The Quiroz´s house is located in a very nice area of Cochabamba called El Rosedal. The family is great and I am looking forward to spending the next few months here.

miércoles, agosto 31, 2005

Dancing 101

Music class in Los Andes
Originally uploaded by erostkowski.
We dropped by a music class with John (an outgoing HCA) at an elementary school in Los Andes (the closest large town to Pocuro). The children were preparing for the "diez y ocho,"a chilean holiday by practicing the "queca," a traditional dance. I even dusted off my dancing shoes and paired off with one of the boys. The little lesson came in handy last night when we were at Buonos Muchachos, a resturant in Santiago. I got pulled from my seat and had to perform the "queca" in front of the crowd. I am sad to say thatRyan has videographic evidence to prove my poor queca moves.

It´s getting cold in here, so put on all your clothes

In Chile, there is no central heating except in very nice hotels. To install it would be very expensive because they use virtually no insulation in when constructing homes. So how do you stay warm when it is chilly in Chile? You pile on the clothes, pull a hat on your head, and drink mucho tè. This picture is of me and the gang trying to huddle together for warmth in the Pocuro house as we were enjoying the evening reading together.

lunes, agosto 29, 2005

Los Andes

I have learned that internet cafes are tricky, especially in el campo de Chile. I tried to post a few days ago when we were in town, but the computer froze and I lost all my brillant writing. But alas, I am back to try my hand at it again. We arrived in Calle Larga on Friday evening by the bus from Santiago. While I have this pesky tendency to fall asleep whenever I enter any sort of vehicle, my eyes were could not leave the mountains around me. The sun set and the rain began to pour before we reached our house in Pocuro, and it continued to rain all day Saturday and Sunday. Friday night we watched a Chilean folk group practice the the chappella next to our house. We woke up bright and early on Saturday morning to have breakfast with the priests of the parochia (parish). The parochia is made up of twelve chappellas around Calle Larga. After breakfast we went on a tour of all of them and were able to see the surrounding areas. Yesterday, we went to mass at the Pocuro chappella and then had a grand community day with the HCAs from Santiago and our facilitators. So far today, we went to the comedor (soup kitchen), to English class in one of the local private schools, and dropped by a music class in an elementary school where one of the associates works in an afterschool program. We are currently in Los Andes getting ready to go to the girls orphanage. So yeah, today was mostly spent checking out the opportunities for service in the area. Now that I´ve caught you up to speed, I have to tell you about this morning. I woke up today to blue sky an the sun shining. I ran outside even before I got dressed because I hadn´t yet seen the mountains because it´s been raining for the past few days. Man, it is amazing. Pocuro is snuggled in a valley with the Andes mountians on all sides. The natural beauty is absolutely unreal.

miércoles, agosto 24, 2005

Hola Santiago!

la ciudad
Originally uploaded by kadu80.
So I have offically been in Chile for 11 hours, half of which I was in bed napping. Traveling tuckered us out. I didn´t realize how tired I was until my head hit the pillow. I can´t believe that I´m finally here! The current associates who have been living in Chile for the past year are great. It´s fun to finally meet them after seeing their pictures and wondering what they are like for the past sixth months. I have seen the Santiago house and have met Jack (the three-legged dog that resdies there). I can´t wait to get started on the language training. The current HCAs gave us "permisso" as the word of the day. They say that it can get you practically out of any situation. Walk into a meeting two hours late- "permisso". Don´t have bus fare-"permisso". It´s the catch-all phrase! Okay. We are going to explore the barrio now. Hasta luego.

lunes, agosto 22, 2005

My bags are packed I'm ready to go...

Leavin' on a jet plane. It would be fun to post a picture of my overstuffed bags (just made a trip to pick up some last minute essentials and my backpack and suitcase are not receiving them well) but even my card reader is packed far far in the depths of my suitcase with no hope of being reached before I arrive in South America. So it's finally time. I'm leaving on a plane in less than 12 hours. It's kind of crazy to know that I'm going to be gone for over two years. I just had a final round of goodbyes on the phone tonight. Even though some parts of leaving make me sad, I'm so excited to be finally on my way. I'll be arriving in Santiago early Wednesday morning where I will be staying for the next week. Then it's off to Bolivia to learn some Spanish. I just got the information about my host family; it's the part that makes me the most nervous. I hope that it all goes okay. Well... it's time to get to bed so that I can wake up and start living my dreams!

viernes, agosto 12, 2005

War Paint

Originally uploaded by erostkowski.
Ryan and me during the International Orientation retreat on the Indiana Shore. It was a fun day of making plaster face masks, writing haikus and swimming in the lake. Orientation basically is just summer camp with a few presentations here and there. Okay.. maybe I am exaggerating a bit but it definitely has had its fun moments.

Room with a view

Room with a view
Originally uploaded by erostkowski.
This is the view from my bedroom window. I definitely have enjoyed my time at Moreau Seminary. This campus is beautiful. No worries Marquette folks-- I still love my mu-rah-ah

viernes, agosto 05, 2005

HCA 2005

Originally uploaded by
Ryan Greenberg.
The domestic orientation ended on August 5; the associates climbed on to Greyhounds and made their way across the country. 60 hour bus ride for some folks. Yikes!

jueves, agosto 04, 2005

Photo Savenger Hunt

Originally uploaded by Ryan Greenberg.
One of the many fun activities during HCA orientation. This is Ryan and me "fitting into a small space" in ND's library. To see more of our campus adventures, check out Ryan's Blog (link located to the right under my profile)

lunes, agosto 01, 2005

Chile is fantastico

Originally uploaded by Ryan Greenberg.
Meet the Chile Associates 2005-2007. Left to right. Caitlin Early (ND grad, orginally from New Jersey). Roy Pequeno (St. Ed's grad, orginally Humble, TX). Ryan Greenberg (ND grad, orignally Utah.)This is the group during our first house meeting.

sábado, julio 30, 2005


Emily, Karen, and Tim
Originally uploaded by erostkowski.
Made a stop in Milwaukee to visit with friends before heading to ND. Pizza shuttle and frisbee by the lake... what could be better?

martes, julio 26, 2005

Goodbye Maryland!

Originally uploaded by erostkowski.
My last few minutes at home. My friends and family doubted it, but I was able to cram my life into a hiking backpack and a small rolling suitcase. So far so good. It's been a week and I'm still not through everything.