Monday, February 27, 2012
Monday, February 20, 2012
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
The language school helped us organize a trip to Torotoro, a national park pretty close by, for my first weekend in Cochabamba. Our group was made up of four girls from the school and one much older Spanish man who must have felt very much out of place. Our guide, Rico, was a young man, whom we had no idea spoke English until he busted out in a perfect Californian accent revealing he´d grown up in the states, but not until we had properly embarrassed ourselves.
The 100 mile distance from Cochabamba to Torotoro took four hours which gives you some idea of how bad the roads were. But we were greeted by a much nicer hotel then I was imagining. It was more of a big house to ourselves with a personal chef.
After a good night's sleep we hiked through the canyon to a beautiful waterfall where we were able to go swimming. We were gawked at by all the Bolivians and more than one photo was requested. In the afternoon we visited the caves. It was slightly terrifying for a person with a small case of claustrophobia, as we had to wiggle our way through more than a couple of tight places. But I'm glad I did it! On the way back to the hotel the car broke down while crossing a river, but luckily very close to home and it was magically working the next day.
Sunday we did a hike where we got to see tons of fossils, but by far the coolest thing was seeing dinosaur footprints in the afternoon. One of the girls questioned the authenticity of the prints saying she thought it was a tourist trap, but I'm saying they are really real. Some of the prints could have been something else, but many were very obvious and would have been extremely difficult to fake and rather pointless for the smallest national park in Bolivia that gets relatively few visitors.
Saturday, February 11, 2012
The school explained to me that the most common way of paying them is to take a cash advance out on a credit card. This way you aren´t charged a fee for every $200 you take out of the atm because that is the most you can take out at one time. The owners of the school took me to the bank to do this. The first bank said my card had a chip their machine couldn´t read. The second bank told me that no bank would be able to read an American Express card. Bummer, but it was only card one and I had three more. So I headed to the atm with my debit card. That´s when it
was taken by the atm. I started to get a little worried but there were no charges put on it when I checked online and I had two more backup plans.
The next day I went with two other students
So on to the next debit card. Nope, it didn´t work, I was starting to freak out. I immediately emailed that bank. They said it was activated and there shouldn´t be a problem. Oh, great! So, on to the last resort - my dad´s credit card that I carry for emergencies. Long story short, it didn´t work either, not the first time or the second time after my Dad called them.
The good news... I was able to find one atm where my second debit card will work, but the ten others I´ve tried still tell me my card isn´t valid. I guess I have to hope there is a Bisa Bank everywhere I go.
What´s the lesson here? I guess to just roll with the punches!
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
It's been a week and I'm just barely getting to know everyone. Meals will continue to be slightly awkward until I'm able to learn a bit more of the language. It doesn't really bug me to not understand what is going on, as I never did in Korea, but I think it makes the family pretty uncomfortable. Love it- hate it- the TV seems to always be on, actually I've never seen it off, so that takes some of the pressure off for conversation. Plus laughter is an international language and the constant telenovels provide plenty of laughter even if I have no idea what is going on.
The family includes three generations and three dogs. The grandparents take care of me, but their son, daughter, her husband and two children also live in the house. Although it really isn't one house. The parents and children live in one little house and the rest of the rooms all open into a courtyard. There is also a girl, Maria, who is always at the house, but after a few days I figured out she must work for them. She's only 14. When I asked one of the teachers at the school about it she said that Maria probably comes from a very poor family and she may earn as little at 500 Bolivianos, about $70, a month for being here seven days a week and I don't know how many hours a day. She is here when I wake up and when I go to bed. Thankfully, in a lot of ways, they treat her as part of family.
The grandparents are very kind and understanding of the language barrier as is the uncle. He is always trying to ask me questions even if I can't understand. I'm pretty sure the son-in-law hates me, or at least the idea of a stranger in the house, but the rest of them seem to like me and the dogs love me. The kids can't quite figure out what to think. The girl is 12 and I'm pretty sure she wants to get to know me because I catch her staring at me all the time. The six year old boy is hysterical, but unfortunately, I can only catch about five percent of what he says because he speaks faster than anyone I've ever met.
I think I will be very happy to call this family's home my home for the next month!