Wednesday, September 30, 2009

¡En español, por favor!

Only ten, four hour classes left to go, and we decided we had better get serious about learning this language. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve slacked a bit in the homework area while our volunteering and other activities have taken over!

However, now that we are getting into the more difficult aspects of the language, there are times where we both would love to just be done with it. We’ve come up with some alternate strategies to seeing this through – one includes stealing a local kid that knows both languages and taking he/she with us (bonus if he/she can carry our bags!) or we could play rock/paper/scissors to see which one of us has to continue on with school while the other gives it up! Hmmm.

We have scoped out one kid. Thelma is the daughter of our hostel’s owners - she is six years old and has attached herself to us whenever we are around, even sneaking into our room through the window (she gets in trouble from her parents for bugging us). We have a good arrangement – she helps us with our Spanish, and in return we let her play with our IPods.

Neither are particularly good strategies, we’ll admit. But both easily seem more appealing then class on some days…especially on Monday when I actually asked our teacher: “¿Tu tienes una arma?” Translation: “Do you have a gun???” Do we really need to learn 4 past tenses and 3 future tenses? Please put us out of our misery.

In English, please!

Pete’s introductory English classes have taken off! Yesterday was the first one, and an overwhelming 15 kids showed up – 5 more than the maximum that Pete tried to impose! Pete and Andy (another volunteer) first reviewed the numbers 1-20 in English, and then proceeded to play three games of bingo. The games were a big hit, with the winners each getting to choose one item from a bag of candies that we bought as prizes.

Then Pete reviewed simple phrases of introduction and each kid had to use one salutation and introduction in order to dip into the bag of goodies. Some of them obviously knew more than others so it was an easy treat…but the other kids did also seem very eager to learn.

Friday will be more bingo (will teach numbers 20-40) and then either about family or body parts – I’ve been busy helping Pete by making search-a-words and a crossword for the kids to play and earn their prizes.

I think we are having as much fun with this as they are!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A pretty tame weekend for us after a very busy week!

Friday was our usual mixture of Spanish classes in the morning, swimming for me in the afternoon while Pete started to prep for giving English classes next week. I only had three kids for swimming, which was the smallest group yet, and let me spend a lot of time with one kid who needed some help with his backstroke. Every day for the last ten minutes, the kids are allowed to just play in the water (“bano libre” – free swim!), during which now some of the older kids constantly want to race against me. Now, for my beloved friends and family who know me well, it is NOT in my nature to lose on purpose…I had to show these kids my moves! I won two races easily, and had a very close match in my third race. I’m giving them incentive to work harder and beat me – that’s a legitimate teaching technique, no??

The class was smaller on Friday partially because two of the kids I regularly help have “graduated” to join the groups in the deep end. While I barely had anything to do with that, it still made me feel a little proud!

We went out for dinner that night with friends from school and joined them for a few drinks afterwards, but bailed as they headed out to hit the “happy hour” circuit among the gringo restaurants.

Slept for about 10 hours that night, and then had a 3 hour mid-morning nap on Saturday after volunteering some more time at the swimming pool that morning (every two weeks, the club meets to do time trials of all the participants – allowing them to track progress). Late in the week I hadn’t been able to shake the feeling of always being completely exhausted and lethargic. Then I realized the likely cause – with no red meat in our diets, I am missing out on a required dose of iron!

Over lunch in the hostel yesterday, I was discussing this with another girl in the hostel and she suggested one place in Sucre that she knows which served good steak. Well, as soon as the words came out of her mouth, Pete and I had made our plans for dinner that night!

After yet another quick siesta in the afternoon and before dinner, we ventured over to one of the most highly regarded local museums. The ASUR museum houses displays of the textile industry (very important in the Bolivian culture). Small indigenous villages throughout Bolivia are characterized by the dress code they follow as well as the type of weavings that they produce. Was extremely interesting to see, and I will try to upload some pictures later.

And then – onto DINNER! I was never more excited for food then I was last night! And the restaurant didn’t disappoint. Pete had potatoes stuffed with goat cheese and cavier as a starter, and we both had filet mignon for dinner - Pete’s in a red wine sauce with mushrooms and mine with a roquefort cheese sauce. I could have cried I was so happy, it tasted so good! All of that, with a couple of drinks, for about $25 CDN. Oh…you can bet we are doing that again! On the way home, we also stopped at a “farmacia” and picked up some multi-vitamins. Hopefully this will help boost my energy levels this week.

However, this upcoming week should prove to be a little slower for me. There is no swimming at all, the pool is hosting the Bolivian national championships next weekend so is closed all week to prep. I’ll probably spend my spare time helping Pete, who has decided to host games with prizes to help the kids learn English (i.e. bingo)! Otherwise, I will also start planning out our next route. With only four weeks left in Sucre, we need to start thinking about where we are going to go next!

Dirty Spanish!

In our Spanish classes lately, we spend a good half of the class just conversing with our teacher, which has been very helpful for us. We talk about everything from what other countries we have visited to the work that we do at Nanta every day.

On Friday we were talking about Canada and Bolivia – comparing what we liked and disliked about each. We were explaining to her how we think the chocolate from Sucre is so good and unlike anything we have ever had before. Pete started to say how he thinks it might be because there are no preservatives in the chocolates here. Not knowing the Spanish word for “preservatives”, he just guessed by saying “preservativos” – this technique of just adding an “o” to the end of the English word does works sometimes!

Well, it didn’t work this time. The correct Spanish word is “conservatives”. “Preservativos” are condoms. Our teacher’s face went slightly red… =)

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Despite eating Oreo’s for breakfast this morning and stopping at the store Chocolate Parati a little too often, I’m pretty sure I’ve lost quite a few lbs since leaving Canada, and Pete is sure he has lost something substantial too. There are a couple of reasons for this – one being that neither of us has been in a car since our taxi from the airport. We can walk to just about everything we need, which can amount to a lot in one day. Yesterday I walked for almost 2 hours in total – to and from school, to and from the swimming pool, back close to the swimming pool for walleyball (volleyball in a squash court), and then out for a beer after walleyball and back to our room. Yesterday was pretty extreme, and I am feeling the effects of it this morning, but I would say on average every day I am walking close to an hour.

Another reason is the food. We aren’t starving ourselves by any means, but with the absence of any kind of red meat in our diet and ingesting so many of their insanely tasty vegetables, everything is fitting a little looser these days!

Check this out – in the central market, there are two rows of ladies who do nothing but make fresh fruit juices – patrons pick out the type of fruit(s) they want, they are blended along with their choice of base (orange juice, milk, etc.), and voila! Pete and I each got almost two full glasses of fresh juice for just over $1 total. SOOO good!!

I am sure once we hit Chile and Argentina and park ourselves in their wine region for a couple of weeks while enjoying their famous barbeque, all of our health/weight loss progress will disappear… =)

Tuesday night we had the most tremendous dinner with some of the people in our hostel. We were invited to join in on a traditional English feast with some newcomers. Pete contributed some bruschetta, and then later we feasted on roast chicken and potatoes, leeks, cauliflower with cheese sauce, broccoli, peas and carrots – all smothered in a light gravy. Oh, and there might have been a bit of wine involved. It was by far the tastiest thing we’ve had since we got there, and was a great chance to converse with some really incredible people who have been many of the places that we are going.

Pete cooking in our wee shared kitchen.


This week in the pool has been MUCH better for me. Albert and Randi, an older Dutch couple (of course – we live in Little Hollandia!) who run the swim club, got back from their holidays this week. Things are now much more organized and they have promised that I will never be left alone in the pool again. Next week, however, we will be without the “real” instructor and another volunteer (again, a Dutch guy!) is going to join me in the pool instead so that the club can help save some money. It will be a little nerve-wracking to be on our own, but I feel much more confident that I can handle it. Now that I have been there every day for a week, the kids are used to me and even listen to what I say (sometimes). A tremendous feat…for me, anyways!

Pete isn’t having much better luck from last week. Kids aren’t showing up for their scheduled English lessons, and being in the bakery can still be pretty frustrating with the other people that speak only Spanish. Rather then just having scheduled “open-house” English classes, he’s going to create little lesson plans about specific situations (i.e. “Introductions”, or “In The Kitchen”!) and even advertise for them.

We’ve got just over 4 more weeks to go here - I really hope that this works out for him and he can get more out of this experience that so far has been pretty discouraging. Hard to believe that yesterday marked one month since we left Canada…how time flies…

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Love Day!

Chalk it up to things I never thought I would do in my entire lifetime…

Celebrate Valentine’s Day and the first day of spring in September, at a bar packed with equal parts Bolivian and Dutch, while listening to live Bolivian folk music and then watching Pete participate in a Bolivian vs. Gringo drinking game. The Gringo’s lost - but I must note that Pete represented well as the team anchor (two wee Dutch girls lost it for the team).

Surreal. But incredible!

Have I mentioned that Sucre should be dubbed Little Hollandia? I swear – about every fourth or fifth person we meet is Dutch. We still have only met one other Canadian and one American. We are truly out of our element.

Again, just searching for another reason to party, Sucre celebrated “el dia de amor” (the day of love) yesterday – while the Bolivians (not sure if it is all of South America?) do recognize St Valentine’s Day in February, yesterday was their BIG day, meant to coincide with the first day of spring. After our Spanish classes yesterday, we walked through the park right beside our school amidst tables and tables loaded with cakes, chocolates, and cards. Pete bought me a piece of chocolate cake (less than $1!) for my present. You can’t beat a day that allows you to have cake for lunch!

We spent last evening also celebrating the one year anniversary of Café Amsterdam – a little pub not far from our hostel that is a strong supporter of Nanta. Last night was a party for the volunteers of Nanta – jars of sangria and chuflay were dished out like candy. I swear that neither Pete nor I were drunk, yet hangovers plague both of us today. Must be the altitude.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hi Uncle Ken - this one's for you...

Hey Uncle Ken!

We're still alive.

We just had lunch and now we're going to head back to our place.

Love, Spud

P.S. I hope this wasn't too long for you...xoxoxo

Saturday, September 19, 2009


It’s been a tough last few days for both Pete and I at Nanta, and we are glad to have some time off this weekend. We’ve both been struggling with the inadequacies of our Spanish and some disorganization in what we are supposed to be doing.

Day 2 in the pool was disastrous! I had 12 kids this time - after a few minutes of just splashing around in the water, one of the lifeguards came up to me and explained (as best as I could tell), that the other instructor wasn’t showing up today and so I was on my own for the hour.

Good grief! How in the hell am I supposed to teach 12 Spanish speaking kids, ranging in age from 4 to 12 (and thus, their skills are all over the map), and in only 1/3 of a single pool lane? I don’t, that’s how.

Finally the lifeguard must have sensed my frustration and thankfully came over to help. Ruth (the co-ordinator at Nanta), also stopped by to see how things were going and I explained the situation to her. She promised me some help (and more room in the pool), but also said that they were hoping I soon could be the only instructor as it saves the organization money. Uh oh.

Day 3 was a little better. The real instructor was back, plus I drug another volunteer along with me who has much better Spanish then I do. It was still pretty disorganized with 15 kids, and I spent most of my time with a young boy named Manuel who didn’t even know how to float. It was nearly impossible to actually teach him anything in the limited space we had to work with, but by the end I almost had him floating on his stomach.

I came away frustrated again, feeling like I am not actually doing much for the kids. It is near impossible to actually teach anything. I guess I just have to realize that at least I am helping these kids have a good time in the pool and get some exercise. I am less of an instructor, and more of an enabler. I guess that is still a good thing – I just need to adjust my own expectations accordingly. I wish I could do more.

Pete has spent most of his time in the kitchen and/or bakery. All of Thursday morning he helped a local 19 year old named Dora making bread. They were able to communicate somewhat, but finally Dora asked: “Que seba?” (What DO you know?) after Pete frustratingly had to answer “No comprendo” to several of her questions. That afternoon he did help one girl with her English homework, which he did enjoy.

Pete really wanted to have more interaction with the kids though, so this morning we stopped by Nanta just before after breakfast to visit with the kids. Three little 7 year olds attached themselves to us, so we spent the morning chatting with them and Pete even got into a game of “tola” (tag) with them! That was pretty fun for them all. We only stayed a couple of hours though and the little girls seemed pretty heartbroken that we weren’t staying longer. I can see how many people say that this work can be addicting and hard to leave at the end of their stay.

Pete playing tag with Juan Carlos

Pete with Anna Christina and Juanita

Despite our frustrations, there are many things that make us happy at the end of the day!

- After swimming on Thursday, three little girls were fighting over who got to hold my hand on the way back to the center. One of the kids kissed my arm in the pool. Another wanted to give me a back massage. Some of these kids are just so desperate for positive human contact that I am more than happy to oblige. Perhaps I should just provide hugs for an hour instead of crappy, broken-Spanish swimming lessons!

- I found a bar that actually serves Canadian Club! Estoy muy feliz!!

- The chocolate in Sucre kicks Bernard Callebaut’s ass (and yes, it’s even better then Rosebuds Sharon!) Seriously. Oh, and it’s super cheap. I’m in trouble.

- Monday is the first day of SPRING! So (in Pete’s words) – Suck on that, northern hemisphere! =)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Volunteering! And, a history lesson.

I am beginning to feel restless. I have just finished reading Long Way Round – a book by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman about their trip around the world on two motorcycles. The challenges they faced and situations they overcame while riding through some of the most foreign places I can imagine (Mongolia, Siberia, etc.) were astounding.

We are quite cozy in our little existence in Sucre. I feel ready for the challenge of a new destination, especially as we meet new people every week and learn all about the places they just came from! Perhaps I was always meant to be a nomad? Hard to say, it is still very early yet… =)

For now, we are grounded in Sucre for an estimated six weeks more. Our Spanish classes will continue, albeit less frequently. We are less concerned about learning new things as being comfortable with using what we have already learned. Next week we will stick with only three days a week as we turn our attention to other things.

Pete and I are now committed to volunteering for the rest of our stay in Sucre, and we couldn’t be more excited about it! I am sure that this experience will give me the challenge I am looking for.

Nanta (pronounced “Nyanta”) is a drop in center for street kids. Up to 250 kids a day are provided breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea every day except Sunday. There is a shower facility, computer room and school room. Organized activities for the kids include arts and crafts, music lessons, and they even have a swim club. While it may sound glorious, the space that they are currently operating is in a pretty poor state (I will try to post some pictures when I get a chance). There are some paid workers at the center, but a lot of programs are run by traveling volunteers who can commit some time when passing through.

Nanta is entirely funded by private donations. Unicef and other such organizations will not assist the facility as most of the kids are supported in their street work (90% of kids over 12 and 50% of kids under 12 at Nanta do some form of work in the streets – shoe shining, selling chiclets, etc to support their families). Nanta also gets no help from the government – Bolivia is very obviously divided into two distinct regions based on political thought and Sucre is on the wrong side of the current government.

I am going to help the swim club every afternoon. For Nanta to be able to offer this opportunity for these kids is a big deal. Swimming in Bolivia is very much an upper class activity to do, and so the kids who frequent Nanta would never otherwise have a chance to be in a pool and learn to swim. While they do have two paid instructors to teach the kids, I’ll be working with the younger kids who need extra help in the shallow end.

Yesterday was my first day with the kids in the pool! When they first learned that I was there to help them swim, they were eager to show off their skills as well as have me show them what I could do. While the real instructor focused on helping the kids with their front crawl, I spent most of my time with a smaller girl named Natalie who was obviously behind the others. I struggled, given that our Spanish lessons haven’t focused on phrases to use in the pool, but I was able to demonstrate for her: “Mira a mi!” (Watch me!) It was so awesome to see her face light up when she would improve and I could say: “Muy bien Natalie!”

On the way back to Nanta from the pool, I practiced my Spanish with an older girl named Nancy. She knew some English as well so we were able to have a good discussion – to the point where she even managed to comment on the fact that I had no babies of my own yet. Nice – glad that I can now get harassed about that in more than one language!

Pete has many activities on his plate! Every Tuesday and Thursday, he will spend his mornings as a pastry chef – helping to cook some little treats for the kids with their afternoon tea and to sell to local restaurants to help bring in money. In the afternoons he will be offering drop-in English classes for kids that need help with their homework (he has two students scheduled this afternoon already!). For the other afternoons in the week, he’ll be helping drag kids to the dentist (they will find any excuse not to go!) His first day is today, so while I write this he is probably elbow deep in dough.

And while he does that, I am off on a little shopping spree – I need some flip flops for the pool and a pair of shorts to sleep in. My “spree” shouldn’t cost me more than $10 I am sure!


A history lesson

Pete and I finally found time to visit one of the recommended museums in Sucre. Called “Casa de la Libertad”, or The Liberty House, it contains artifacts, paintings and other items to do with Bolivia’s independence from Spain, including housing the declaration of independence in the actual room it was signed in back in the day.

2009 marks their 200th year of independence - or so the posters say. In actuality, 1809 was the year that they started fighting for independence – they didn’t actually gain it until 1825. However, for whatever reason, 1809 has been adopted as the official year. I think they just wanted another excuse to throw a big party this year!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

We survived the festival weekend! This party in honor of the Virgin Guadalupe’s birthday in Sucre is supposed to be one of the biggest celebrations in Bolivia, and is definitely the biggest event of the year in Sucre. Yet by 7pm on Saturday night we were sitting in our room, only listening to the party going on outside. We were warned by several people to be sure to be in before dark - apparently, as the festival wears on and the locals get more wasted, they like to pick on foreigners! So, we did as directed, and sat at home early to write about it instead. Boo.

See how safe we are being, Mom?

While we were out perusing the streets though, the sights were incredible! Friday was the children’s parade – where every school, day care, etc. in the area were involved. Hundreds of colorful costumes, and YES, what seemed like a bazillion marching bands in the streets. The kids were sooo cute in their outfits, I will admit that my Brangelina-spidey senses tingled a few times!
Friday served as the warm-up for the big event on Saturday. We met some friends in the main plaza early and bought seats in bleachers for 20 Boliviano’s each (~$3 CDN). I use the word “seats” loosely – they were so crammed together that half the time we could only stand and just rest one butt cheek on it. But it was worth it for the good view that we had.

I don’t think I can even really describe what it was like without being able to show the 100+ pictures and videos that we took! Amazingly colorful costumes and dances. A lot of audience interaction, and the kids that sat around us just went nuts everytime something new came around the corner. Pete even got to be a part of the parade! One group of senoras was pulling people from the crowd to dance, so Pete got up and joined.

And now it is Sunday morning, and the streets are kinda smelly, somewhat empty, and really dirty. Must have been a helluva party! The party is also STILL going on, marching bands are still in the streets and costumed locals are everywhere. Here we had hoped for a very quiet Sunday - hopefully everyone is partied out by tonight and I can finally sleep without my ear plugs in!

Here’s a couple of pics, but don’t forget to check out my facebook link for all the pictures:

For those of you that are having problems viewing the link, we are trying to download another website to use for posting our pictures…but downloading anything here requires a LOT of time and patience!


On Friday we finished the “present tense” portion of our Spanish classes! Hard to believe that we covered that much in two weeks, but we feel pretty good to be done such a big part. Our teacher told us on Friday what I already knew – we are good at writing in the language, but there are still a lot of errors in our speech. We obviously haven’t been practicing enough, so instead of learning new things next week in class, we are going to just work on having conversations.

I think a lot of it (for me) has to do with being super nervous about sounding like a total idiot when I do speak in Spanish – our accent is so unlike everyone else, and I find it hard to put correct sentences together without writing them out first. That, and sometimes the little bit of French I know slips in there! Like the other day, someone asked “como esta?” which is “how are you?”, and I answered: “Bien, merci!” Damn French!

Hopefully after next week, Pete and I will be able to speak faster than 10 words a minute, and have the confidence to use the language more regularly. We often have to keep reminding ourselves that we have only been here for 2 weeks, and it is pretty amazing what we have already learned thus far!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

And now a little break from regularly scheduled programming. For the last month my beautiful and talented wife has done the writing for our blog. Sure I’ve had insight into the writings, but it’s mostly “Pete did I miss anything, or does this sound ok?” With ample amount of time on our retired asses I have decided to try my hand at writing. Don’t worry, I won’t subject you all to my unpolished shit all that often, but bear with me.

This last week (and still going on) is “my birthday week”. For those of you that don’t know what birthday week is, it’s a celebration that was started by Dalene some years ago and has now become a ritual in our lives - for one week surrounding our birthday, we pamper whoever is being celebrated. Funny thing is, I just found out this week that I share my b-day with the Virgin Guadalupe. Here I thought they were having all these parades in the streets because of some set-up by Dalene (just kidding).

So for the past week, Dalene has been very excited for my birthday and the week that surrounds it. Strange that I don’t share that same excitement, but seriously I think that starts sinking in when as you get older, or as Dalene has put it in an earlier post “become old losers.”

A couple of times Dade has asked me, “do you want anything for your birthday?” and better knowing that I will never get a foot-rub even if it is birthday week, each time I respond with “nothing”. There is absolutely nothing material in this world that I could want for my birthday. Part of the reason that we left our lives back in Canada is so we can give back to the people who really do need not material things - they need the essential things to live.

At this point in my life I truly feel I have everything I need. I have my health, a loving wife, family and friends. I’m experiencing things that very few people in their lives will ever get to do. It is truly inspiring and I really can’t ask for anything else.

We just came from visiting a drop-in centre (for street kids) to inquire about volunteering. We are going back on Monday to figure out exactly what we are going to do...their first thoughts were to have Dalene teach younger kids to swim and have me teach English and take kids to the dentist! I am VERY excited for this. Who knows? Maybe it will progress into something bigger and could become something we do more of along our travels.

Anyway, to those who have wished me well on my birthday, thank you so much for your thoughts. We are truly blessed to have the family and friends we do, and we are always thinking of you.

Until next time,


Editors note: Have you ever seen Pete’s feet close up? If you have, then you will understand why in the ten years I have known him I have not given him a foot rub. Even during birthday week. D.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bolivian Cooking

Friday night we were invited by our Spanish school to participate in a Bolivian cooking class held in the kitchen at the school. Once we got there, we realized it was less of a cooking “class” and more of a – we’ll-just-cook-
you-dinner-and-get-you-drunk-for-real-cheap-thing. My kind of party!

The traditional Bolivian dish was tasty – potatoes cov
ered in peanut and pepper sauce on a bed of lettuce. It also included tomatoes, cheese, hard boiled egg and olives. It was difficult to try and get all of the flavors in one bite, but when we did, it was delicious! It was accompanied with “chuflay” – a traditional Bolivian drink made of some Bolivian booze (no idea what it is - all we know is it is made from grapes), Sprite and fresh squeezed lime juice.

Practicing for the Real Party!

Almost every night since we arrived in Sucre, Pete and I have sat in our room at night and been startled by the sounds of firecrackers and marching bands. Usually it happens after we have gotten ready for bed (we’re old losers so this is super early). Sometimes we have wondered aloud whether or not we should go to the main square to see what is going on - but every time, laziness has won out and we’ve stayed put in our jammies.

Well, twice this weekend we were actually out after dark and got to see what is going on. We discovered that next weekend is the biggest festival that Sucre sees all year – The Virgin Festival (and no, I don’t believe that Richard Branson has anything to do with this one). Starting at 8am next Saturday morning, groups of dancers and musical performers will start at one end of Sucre and march to the middle until about 3pm. And, for the past two weeks, several groups have taken to the streets to practice their routines at all hours. Each night the center of Sucre was practically shut down for traffic because not only are they practicing their routines, they are practicing their partying!
Last night, I finally had to put in some ear plugs in order to get some sleep - they went until 1 am!

Can you imagine…hey friends, it’s my birthday next week, so perhaps we should get together every night and practice blowing out candles and drinking, so that when my REAL birthday gets here, we know how to do it right!!

Imagine all the cake! Mmm…


Two Canadians, two South Africans, two Germans and one Swede walk into a bar… (insert punchline!)

These are some of the awesome people that we’ve met through our Spanish school! Given enough time in that bar, I’m sure we could have solved all of the world’s toughest problems (those that Bruce Willis can’t solve at least).

Our two new South African friends (Dave and Mark - from right) just left from their short stay in Sucre and are returning to their bike tour down the west coast of South America. They are a hundred times more adventurous then Pete and I will ever be, which is why you should check out Dave’s blog! Dave promises to upload a video of Mark drinking a frog smoothie soon! (Acckk!)



Yesterday we got up early to catch a bus to Tarabuco – a small town about 65kms from Sucre that holds a large market every Sunday, attracting people from all around. The main tourist draw is the textiles that Bolivia is famous for – each type of weave is symbolic of the area or family of which it is made in. The 1 ½ drive made it worth it on it’s own – up and down a windy mountain road with the Andes laid out before us!

The market itself was quite large, containing textiles, food, jewelry and a lot of common household items. The prices are of course jacked for the tourists that come, but we did manage to come away with a couple of items.
(insert pics) With some time to kill, Pete and I did a little exploring of the town. This is the first bit of real poverty that we’ve seen besides beggars in the streets of Sucre – and we were in awe of it. I would never have considered Sucre to be a super modern city, but it sure is in comparison to Tarabuco. And I am sure Tarabuco is still a step above so many places we have yet to see – really makes us appreciative of what we have in life - and apprehensive of where we may be going to next!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

As you can see from my post below – a lot of our time has been devoted to our Spanish lessons! When we’re not in class and studying, there have been a few things to keep us busy these days.

Monday night we went to a local gringo hangout called the Joy Ride Café to eat dinner with friends from our school and to watch an award winning documentary called “The Devil’s Miner”. It is based on the life of a 14 year old boy named Basillo who works in a silver mine to support his family. It is set in Potosi – a small city close to Sucre. For hundreds of years, Bolivians have been sacrificing their lives to work in this dangerous mine – it is called the “mountain that eats men alive” as there is estimated to have been 8 million lives lost through this work. It is also estimated that there are currently 500 children working in these mines today. It was a devastatingly sad movie that will surely play on our minds when we go to visit there as we leave Sucre. It also makes us look a little differently at this city we are staying in – the beautiful white washed buildings were built based on the income from the silver deposits. What an incredible cost.

Tuesday was a fairly sedentary day. After class we headed to the main square for lunch and then spent the afternoon doing homework. Tuesday night was the first time Pete cooked dinner for us at our hostel – there is a kitchen available for all of the guests to use but there are two Dutch families here that hog all of the evening in there! We had to strategize to get in there early and then just eat a cold supper later (Pete made a delicious rice salad!) Talk about a cheap way to live – we went to the supermarket in the afternoon for some groceries: bag of rice, soya sauce, oil, salt and pepper, balsamic vinegar, vegetables, a couple of bottles of pop, mustard, tomato paste, bar of soap…all for $10! If only we could get in the kitchen all the time (hopefully the Dutch families leave soon!)

Wednesday I dealt with my first bout of my-body-is-not-used-to-this-food-so-it-is-going-to-“run”-outta-me-if-ya-know-what-I-mean! It wasn’t too bad, but did slow us down for the day. We had planned to play wallyball with our friends from the school, but had to bail due to my "condition". Was bound to happen sometime soon I guess! If only I had Pete’s stomach of steel, as we’ve been eating almost the exactly same thing and he has been fine!

I also learned a valuable lesson on Wednesday. Before we came here, I had done a lot of research on what to wear, what to pack, etc. I had read that the locals don’t wear shorts, so to do so would make us standout for sure. Well, I tested that theory today, and boy did I ever feel uncomfortable! Everyone was looking at me quite funny. Once I came home after class and lunch, I stuffed those shorts into the bottom of my backpack, and they won’t resurface until we are at least somewhere more touristy where I won’t stand out as much!

So here we are late Thursday afternoon - decided to have lunch at the hostel and came out for dinner. Our plan is to eat one meal out a day so that we can catch up on the computer (most of the gringo restaurants have wifi so we can use our own laptop) – sick of sitting in slow internet cafés. Looking forward to the weekend! Tomorrow night our school is putting on a cooking class to learn how to make a traditional Bolivian dish (you gotta know Pete is excited about that!) Saturday we are debating taking a hiking tour to a town near here that is actually situated in a dormant volcano crater, and then Sunday we might head to Tarabuco, another small town near here that has a huge market with food, textiles, crafts, and other goods made locally. May start my Christmas shopping early (considering how long it might take to mail it!)

We’ll see how heavy our homework is for the weekend first!

Until next time…xoxo
Dalena y Pedro

Learning Spanish

We are 4 classes, or 16 hours, into our Spanish lessons. While these last couple of days have definitely been tougher then the first, we are breezing through lessons. I feel like we have found the magic diet pill, or the perfect get-rich-quick scheme – by immersing ourselves fully into our lessons and the culture, I am sure that we will be confidently speaking the language in no time.

Outside of our lessons, we are putting in another couple of hours of study plus constantly quizzing each other as we walk down the street and point out different things.

“Te gusta el gallo?” (Do you like the rooster?)
“No, no me gusta el gallo.” (No, I do not like the rooster.)

“Ese es tu perro?” (Is that your dog?)
“No, ese no es mi perro.” (No, that is not my dog.)

The toughest part of it all is the memorization of the many nouns, adjectives, etc. that get thrown our way every day. While some of them are easy due to the similarity with their English or French counterparts, others are completely unrelated and require employing some strategy to ensure they stick with us.

So, we have subscribed to the Michael Scott (a la “The Office”) theory of word association to help us remember some of the tougher words. Here are some examples, see if you can follow our train of thought!

The word for sour in Spanish is amargo
- I love my friend Margo!
- We have been known to have the odd drink when we are together
- When I drink, I like to have whiskey
- Ooh! A whiskey sour would be delicious right now!
- See…amargo is sour!

The word for rough in Spanish is aspero
- Keep in mind that the word for dog is perro
- The other day, we say one poor perro being violated by a group of other perros. From behind.
- Therefore…aspero is rough!

Okay, so I didn’t say our strategy was appropriate, just effective… =)