Saturday, February 15, 2014

And finally, let me present...Cristo de la Concordia!

Annnnd we did it!  This morning a little after 7am, Hady (a Franciscan Lay Missioner), her host sister Ceci, and I climbed the roughly 1,500 (read never.ending.) steps up to the largest statue of Jesus in the entire world!  That's right, I said "largest."  Standing at 112.2 ft, this larger-than-life Cristo is even taller than the much more famous "Christ the Redeemer" statue located outside Rio de Janerio, Brazil.  And as if 112.2 ft wasn't tall enough, once you add the 20.5 ft pedestal, you get a total height of 132.7 feet.

The climb was arduous to say the least and multiple times lead to some very real flashbacks of hiking up Gavin Hill (shout out to all my Sitka, AK people!!) with its similarly e.n.d.l.e.s.s. amount of stairs.  But thankfully, just like Gavin, the top of this hike lead to some amazing views of both the Cristo AND the rest of Cochabamba lying below.  But I guess I'll let you be the judge of that!

Above is a picture of a *very small* section of the stairway leading up to Jesus.  I took the picture looking down so you could see how steep the climb was!  I'm thinking my legs will be telling me all about this hike in full detail tomorrow :)

And here we have a view from about 3/4 of the way to the top.  Besides it being beautiful (thanks to my awesome camera and zero thanks to my picture taking abilities...), it's a great look at the Laguna Alalay or "Alalay Lake" located in the southeast area of Cochabamba.  Two of the other Maryknoll Lay Missioners, Marc and Lexie, live very close to this lake.

This picture does a nice job showing how Cochabamba is a city located in the bottom of a "bowl-like" valley.  You can just make out where the houses end and the mountains take over.  However, with more and more population growth in Cochabamba, the sides of the mountains are becoming more and more populated.

And here's what you've all been waiting for... PICTURES OF THE CRISTO!!


I put up both pictures just so you could see how much my camera changes an image.  The picture on the left is without any sort of special setting (notice just how big the statue is compared to me and my two friends doing "exercises"--ie showing off for a boy--on the left).  Clearly the picture on the right is the one using the "magic" setting on my camera.  It sure makes the statue stand out and highlights the clouds well!

Below are two more landscape pictures taken looking down from the backside of the statue.  Again, notice the line of where the houses end going up the mountains in the top picture.  

I took the picture below to show how there are still some rare farms located in what is now considered the middle of the city!  Cochabamba has grown so quickly over the past 10ish years that many of the areas that were considered rural not too long ago have either been converted to roads and houses or completely surrounded by the urban sprawl.

So there you have it.  I'm sure there will be more posts about El Cristo in the future since it's possible on other days to actually climb up into the massive statue!  There are many small "peep" holes that dot the body of Jesus (please refer to the above Cristo pictures to note said holes...) which make for fun pictures and even higher, more vast views of the city lying below :)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What the girls are wearing to school these days: Bolivia style

School has recently started up again after the end of summer break and the students are out in full force!  My own beloved "host neice" now attends school in the afternoons, which has cut into our playtime (ie me being bossed around time) tremendously.  And although I complain sometimes about the comments that come out of her mouth, which are typically a bit degrading of my spanish or how I dance (shfslafhdsla;fhdl;ah), I'm actually very sad about her new absence.  However, this new estrangement is not the reason for my blog.  Nope.  The reason for my blog is to tell you about the uniforms most of the girls wear here in Cochabamba (and maybe all over Bolivia??  Not a fact I'm exactly sure about...).  They wear what one of my teachers told me today is called a "guardapolvo" which translates loosly into English as "dust cover."  However, she thinks (and I agree with her) that a more discriptive translation would be "medical lab coat."  They are clean crisp white lab-looking jackets that the girls wear over a set of shorts and a t-shirt.  And accordinig to my teacher, the girls wear thier guardapolvos the entire school day, excepting gym class.  Below is a picture of my host neice looking VERY cute in her guardapolvo.  (Side note, most uniforms also include the elastic-necklace tie, navy socks (sometimes white), and black shoes.)

I asked my teacher where this tradition comes from, and she did not know.  However, she said that the school uniforms in Cochabamba have always looked this way for as long as she can remember.  Since most of the schools here are private, or at least semi-private, along with the uniform also comes a specific set of rules on how to look appropriate at school.  My teacher told me that in most schools, boys are not allowed to wear their hair long (in fact many will get a hair cut a couple days before school starts), they're not allowed to wear earrings or other facial ornamentation, and in many schools girls are not allowed to wear make-up or style their hair "crazy" (she couldn't give me an exact definition of crazy...).  But not to worry, she also told me that nose rings *in girls only* are probably allowed :)

So there you go.  Apparently the Bolivian government is talking about getting rid of uniforms all together next year, but my teacher doesn't think that will actually happen.  She says the schools already have their hands full keeping the students "looking presentable" (ie without make-up, piercings, "crazy" hair, too-short guardapolvos, etc) WITH the wide-spread wearing of guardapolvos.  She can't imagine what mayhem would break loose if the students were allowed to wear "street clothing" to school.  I told her from my experience, it's not always a pretty sight ;)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Another trip to Paradise :)

This past Friday afternoon once again found me hiking in Tiquipaya, this time not just with Bill (another Maryknoll Lay Missioner), but also with his wife Eileen and the Franciscan Lay Missioner couple Mary and Nate.  There has been incredible amounts of rain these last couple days (feels more like weeks, years, eons) and Eileen wanted to see what the abundant water had done to the waterfall I had visited with Bill a couple weeks back.

 On the left is a picture of the river you walk by on the first part of the hike.  I could not believe how much fuller and faster it was this time around!  On the right is a picture of 3 out of us 5 hikers--Mary on the left, Bill in the middle, and Eileen on the right.  This picture was taken on the bridge that as I mentioned in my first Tiquipaya-hiking post, Eileen gets to walk over every morning on her way to work!

About halfway through the hike, the path splits and the one to the waterfall heads left, crossing over and following a small trickle of a creek that eventually feeds into the river seen in the above picture.  HOWEVER, "small" and "trickle" were definitely not words to be used for the "creek" that was present on Friday.  In fact, the creek was so high and swollen with rainfall, that it was impassable.  Below is a picture to prove that I'm not exaggerating.

The water may LOOK like it isn't deep with a strong current, but it is.  As Mary so wisely put it, one would need a good sturdy stick (or some great trekking poles) in order to even attempt crossing over to the other side.  And although it was sad for us to not be able to cross and reach the waterfall, it was much worse for the woman and her daughter we met at this place who needed to cross in order to reach their village located on the other side...  Yup.  Some people walk this path everyday not just for pleasure, but as their way to and from home and town.  After hiking a bit up and down the  banks of the creek looking for a safer place to cross we had to finally give up, wish the mother-daughter pair the best of luck, and head back to Eileen and Bill's house.
Along the walk to Bill and Eileen's, you can get great views of Mt. Tunari, central Bolivia's highest peak, clocking in at a little over 1700 feet above sea level.  Below is what it looked like on Friday, surrounded by many low-laying (probably soon to be rain-producing) clouds.  So beautiful!  We are definitely going to have to plan a trip up to that peak sometime in the near future.

Not only were there great views on the walk to Eileen and Bill's, there was also very interesting road "paving" construction going on--a type of paving that involves zero concrete and is done entirely with manual labor.  

The picture on the left is of all the materials needed for the pavement process--ie piles and piles of rocks and clay-like sand.  The picture on the right is an almost completed paved part of the road.  The process starts with rocks--moved strictly by human lifting and wheelbarrow--being laid out into straight rows (as you can kind of see on the part of the picture in front of the wheelbarrow).  Next, the clay-like sand is dumped over the organized rocks and stamped into place.  It is a loooonnngggg back-breaking job, but according to Bill it very much helps with keeping the dust at bay in the dry season (clearly not this season), so I guess it's well worth it :)  Upon getting to Bill and Eileen's house (sorry no pictures), we all sat out on their front porch, drank tea, chatted, and listened to a couple songs Bill sang accompanied by his guitar.  All in all, I'd have to say it was an incredibly wonderful and relaxing afternoon.  I'm already looking forward to my next visit!

Let's talk bathrooms and showering

Some of the more *major* adjustments I've had to make while living in Cochabamba have centered around the area of the bathroom.  Let's first start with using the toilet.  The biggest difference has been *not* throwing the toilet paper in the toilet.  I think that those of you who have experienced this other places may agree that in the beginning it is VERY hard to break yourself of the habit of immediately placing the toilet paper in the toilet after use.  However, I am glad to say that finally after about a month here, I am now in the habit of throwing said used toilet paper in the small garbage can usually located directly next to the toilet.  See picture below:


You can just see the top of the garbage can in this picture.  I actually prefer this type of toilet-paper garbage because you don't have to use a hand to open it--you can just push the little swinging lid and drop your paper right in!

Now on to showers!  First, a picture:

 (Before I go on to explain the shower head, please note the fairly large spider chilling in the ceiling--he/she keeps me company almost every single shower.  I still haven't figured out where he/she goes the times I end up how showering alone...)

Ok.  And we're back.  The white shower head is what is called a "suicide shower."  This is a great little contraption heats the water just before it comes out--changing it from a very cold, VERY uncomfortable temperature to a pleasantly warm shower temperature! And how do I know what the temperature is before it's magically transformed?  Well, like most things in life, each suicide shower head is a bit different and needs a fair amount of trial and error before consistantly working well.  MY very unique/special shower head for instance works opposite than most of the "normal" suicide shower heads...  With most suicide shower heads, the less amount of water pressure going through the shower head, the warmer the water.  NOT in my case.  In order for the water to warm up at all, I need to have the water pressure going at least at medium strength, any lower and the "warming" feature doesn't kick in.  This very imporant fact now works greatly to my advantage since not only do I now have warm showers, but my water pressure is INCREDIBLE compared to most of the other suicide showers I have heard about.  However, before I figured out this little *glitch* I took many a cold (read frigid, freezing, tear-provoking, etc) shower after listening to well-intentioned advice that I just needed to drop the water pressure even lower in order to allow the water time to heat up before trickling down onto my head...  Luckily, those showers are now faint (horrific) memories of the past :)  And how do I know when the water has crossed over the pressure threshold and this warming feature has kicked in?  By a flicker of the light of course :)


The above "naked" light bulb located in the middle of the bathroom ceiling is my savior every time I shower.  Although it's shining nice and bright in this picture, it drops down to a beautiful dull glow the very second the warming feature starts its work on turning my shower water into the stuff of dreams :)  This change in lighting is the only indication I have that my shower water will in fact not feel glacial and make me gasp for air when I venture to step under it.

And finally, a few last bathroom details :)  

Below is a picture showing the different water knobs for the shower--don't be fooled though, only the one of the right works!  The other one (ie the one to turn on "hot" water) is just for show :)  This is also true for the knob in the middle, which I think is technically for changing the location of where the water comes out of (sorry for the dangling preposition mother...), ie the bathtub faucet or the shower head.  I don't think there's actually a way to get the water to come out of the faucet part.


And lastly, here's a picture of my sick, located at the edge of the bathtub/shower (please also notice the lack of any shower curtain--I've only seen shower curtains in a couple bathrooms, they don't seem to be very popular here).  

And there you have it!  As you can see, I've got everything that I need! The only crucial item missing from these pictures is my water bottle filled with potable water.  The water in Cochabamba is unsafe to drink, so I bring water with me to use while brushing my teeth each morning and evening--a very small price to pay in order to keep my belly free of amoebas and other nonsense!