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.