Thursday, May 30, 2013

Since Sunday, May 26, 2013

It’s Thursday, May 30, 2013, and we’ve got a lot of the project completed. At the rate we’re going, we may be finished with all of our construction by Sunday rather than next Wednesday. Gabe and Axel (Gabe’s friend) arrived Monday night and have been a huge help to our project! Our days here at CETHA are pretty much comprised of eating breakfast, reviewing our agenda for the day, working till lunch time, eating lunch, nap/rest time, and working again until dinner. After dinner, we prepare for the next day by treating drinking water and going through a construction plan for the next day. Once all of our errands are finished, we hang around and have fun conversations…though we find most of our conversations leading to food. Monday night though, we borrowed a student’s guitar and sang a few songs for them. Wes played the guitar while Ben beat boxed, sang, and hummed like a trumpet. They’re both pretty much their own band with us as their backup singers. The students got a big laugh out of Ben’s beat boxing. So did us. We asked the students if they could perform for us, but they said we had to wait till cultural night on Wednesday. After singing Stairway to Heaven, Lion Sleeps Tonight, and a couple of other songs, we all gazed at the stars. The stars here are so mesmerizing! There’s hardly any light pollution, so we can see the Milky Way, lots of constellations, and stars twinkling like sunbeams!

Clean plate club!
On Tuesday, Christina and Ben headed out to Cochabamba with Damian to attend a CETHA meeting and buy more materials. From the CETHA meeting, we were able to gage possible future projects we could do. Tuesday was also our hardest working day, since we had to work with concrete and do a lot heavy lifting.

Framework to hold concrete in: patch tank hole and insert an outlet pipe
Gabe and Axel mixing concrete
Paul and Gabe mixing concrete
Wednesday turned out a bit different than we planned. Ben and Christina weren’t able to return till late in the evening and we are all pretty worn out from Tuesday’s work, so we ended up having somewhat of a rest day. And by rest, we mean, we did more cardio than heavy lifting. We started our day as another typical work day, but realized that we still didn’t have all of our materials, so Gabe and Axel went out to Cochabamba for the day. It’s a little crazy how we have to travel about 4 hours away to get our appropriate materials. While they were out getting supplies, the rest of the team hiked up to CETHA’s upper spring. It’s not that far up, but the climb there is pretty steep. After assessing their upper spring, we hiked up some more to the top of the mountain for fun. Altitude difference was definitely working against us during this hike, but the view was worth it. We were pretty much on all fours, using trees and shrubs to help us climb. There were a lot of rocks, but they weren’t helpful at all! I call them deceiving rocks, mainly because they look sturdy, but they crumble into powder or break off with just a light touch. After enjoying and soaking in the view, we tried to figure out how to get down. It was a lot of crab walking and sliding down the mountain.

Upper spring box
Upper spring box view of CETHA

View from top of the mountain
Thankfully, we made it just in time for lunch! We actually had meat! It was goat meat that they prepared earlier that week. After a wonderful siesta time, the students asked if we could play soccer with them at another school because they finished school early that day. We were a little unsure because we initially planned to continue working throughout the afternoon, but then they said that they wouldn’t be able to play unless we did. I’m pretty sure it was an excuse to force us to say yes, but we didn’t mind. Haha. We’re glad they want to include is in their activities! So, we walked over to a school in a town called Jatun-Kasa, down the road (30 minute walk). There were a lot more students in this school, mostly girls. Girls and boys play separately, so the guys played the first soccer round. Ben, Wes, Paul, and the professors teamed against the students. I think our guys did pretty well! They lost, but considering how easily tired we get from this altitude, they did great! While the guys played, Christina; Alec; and Laura, hung out with the other students. They were a little shy at first, but quickly became comfortable with us. They were all so beautiful and adorable! A lot of the girls were interested in our cameras, so we showed them pictures of our trip so far in Bolivia and let them play with our cameras. One of the best ways to get pictures of the students is to let them play with your camera. Then it was the girls turn to play soccer. We didn’t do so great…hahaha, but it was a lot of fun! After our soccer match, the guys and Christina played basketball and Alec played hackey-sack with the girls. Those girls are natural hackey-sack players, it was awesome! We did great in our basketball game (height advantage kind of helps ;) )!! Before we knew it, it was dinner time!
Thunderdome! Basketball/Volleyball/Soccer court all in one
Girls soccer match
Huddling to look at pictures
Beautiful students
Apparently, every Wednesday is cultural night, so the students prepared a string of talent shows for us. They danced, played guitar/chiranga, performed a comedy skit, and discussed their culture with us. They have such a colorful and beautiful culture. By their request, we performed a little as well. Christina and Ben explained our culture and then we sang a few songs: Lion Sleeps Tonight, Let it Be, Brown Eyed Girl, and a Wagon Wheel/No Woman, No Cry/Don’t Stop Believing mash. Yea, EWB-NCSU travel band right here! We’ve really enjoyed our time here at CETHA so far! We’ll write about today’s adventures later, but siesta time just finished and it’s back to work! Hasta manana!


Another work day for us! The weather was pleasant today though; it started out warm (about 70 F) and carried out through the day, until the sun went down and it was coats, scarves, and hats time again. We usually have some kind of fruit after lunch (so far, we’ve had bananas and mandarins), but today there was no fruit. We call them our dessert. No worries though, because Gabe and Axel brought sugar canes and a lot of mandarins with them! It was our first time having sugar cane and we loved it! Aside from working throughout the day, Gabe, Kia, and Christina had a Q&A with the students about our culture, politics, agriculture, geography, and history. Man, the community here really is great! We ended the night playing Rummy and eating peanut butter right out of the jar!
Sugar cane!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Breakfast here starts at 7:30 AM, but because it’s Sunday, breakfast isn’t really served. We did, however, get hot chocolate. Still quite hungry we snacked on almonds from our snack bag and dreamed of food until it was lunch time. Later in the morning, Zolio, one of the professors, gave us a tour of the school with the students. They have three greenhouses, a guinea pig house (without guinea pigs), a small duck pen (without ducks), a chicken coop (without chickens) and ltons of little agricultural pockets of land wedged into the VERY steep slope. After our tour, we had an introduction and Q&A with the students. They seem really energetic and weren’t shy to ask us questions. They wanted to know about our culture, what kind of animals/crops we had, and how to say some English words. So in turn, we asked if they could teach us a few Quechua words (their indigenous language that remains from the Pre-Incan period…very different from Spanish). After the intro/Q&A, we went to work with our project. The students even joined and helped us! We actually got a lot of work done! Lunch starts at 12:15 PM, so we (including the students and professors) went to eat lunch. It’s kind of funny and cute how the students take turns peeking at us while they eat. The meals here are pretty substantial. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day. The students usually leave for the weekend, so they left after lunch. After meals, we have a time called “siesta” where we rest before working again. Second favorite part of the day. After a great nap, we went back to work. Again, we got a lot done! Hurray! We couldn’t really do much without the other group, so we hung around the school for the rest of the day waiting for them. This is when time really slowed down! It literally felt like we’ve been here for a week, but really it’s been less than 24 hours! We played soccer with one of the professors, but we couldn’t really play super competitively because of the altitude. The second group finally arrived at around 9:30 PM! It was a sweet reunion. It seemed like we haven’t seen them in weeks! We all caught up and called it a night. Overall, the project is progressing according to plan and we’re on schedule!

Side note: Wes says hello to his family! Christina says she’s alive! Alec says HI! Paul says “Hi Mom, hi Dad!...and my sisters too.” Laura says Hi to Mom, Dad, Bobbie Ann, and Sergio.

Kia enjoying breakfast
Some of us and some of the students
Connecting the polyethylene pipe to the tank from the professor's building
Dessert: mandarins! (Christina's silhouette)
Before picture of the tank
Tank at the end of the work day

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Today was our big day! Our group was finally headed to CETHA to start what we came here for. Our day started out with meeting Damian, our main contact from CETHA. After reviewing the materials list with the group, Christina, Paul, and Kia accompanied Damian to buy most of the materials. However, because of space constraints, we had to split the travel two CETHA in two groups over the weekend. Christina, Wes, Alec, and Kia were in the first group. The trip from Cochabamba to CETHA was about six hours! So many road trips, however this road trip though had the best views! Winding through the mountains and valleys to make the 4000 foot ascent to CETHA resulted in some absolutely breathtaking views. However, we left pretty late, so we got caught in the dark. Luckily, it was a full moon, which made the road trip even more magical! Not only did we have a full moon, but the journey there was insane! We had to cross through riverbeds, jungle-like tunnels, and two mountains where your car was literally meandering at the edge of a cliff. The drive reminded me so much of Jurassic Park that I almost expected dinosaurs to jump out. A few students and professors greeted us when we arrived to CETHA and helped us unload. This community is so welcoming that it makes this project so much better!

Going over materials list
Buying materials. NC shout out!
Buying wood in the middle of nowhere
Packed and ready to head to CETHA!
Driving through a river on our way to CETHA

Friday, May 24, 2013

A quick note before we begin: We arrived at CETHA (our project site waaaayyyyy out in the boonies)! We don’t have internet access though for the next 10 days, but Ben and Christina are making a quick day trip to Cochabamba, so Ben will be able to put up these few posts as one but there won’t be any pictures.We´ll come back later and format everything but we figured an update would be good.

It was a bit of a slow morning for us all, but we headed out to the bus station for our 8 hour road trip to Cochabamba! I wish I could say more things about this bus ride, but we all pretty much slept the whole time. We rode on the top of a double decker bus and had the front seats, so it was like watching Bolivia as an IMAX movie. Quite exciting! Speaking of exciting, we saw LLAMAS! Packs of wild ones, up in the mountain. As we crossed the grand high plains of Bolivia (known here  as the Altiplano), we were struck by the vastness of the open spaces. Deserts would run for miles and miles, sprinkled with a few abandoned looking towns and water seemed quite scarce. It was obvious to see where rivers and streams would run through, but they were pretty much dried up. We arrived in Cochabamba a little late into the evening, went to our hostel, and ventured for some dinner before an early bedtime. Our day really was spent on the bus…

View from top of a double decker bus. Stuck in crazy traffic while leaving La Paz.
Bathroom stop along the Altiplano

Thursday, May 23, 2013

After a good 12 hours of sleep, we we’re all ready to do some more exploring in La Paz. We woke up with the sound of fireworks exploding. We later realized it was a continuation of the miner’s protest that has been going on now for about 3 weeks. Apparently, very few stores open before 10AM, so we couldn’t really go to any of the markets. No worries, because Gabe was on his way to meet us for breakfast number 2. We ate saltañas, which are basically like hot beef pot pies, but you can eat them with your hands. Very delicious. And we drank Fanta! The Fanta here uses real sugar, so it has a different kind of pleasant sweetness to it. 
Walking in the Plaza de San Francisco

The empty markets

Una salteña de carne! Es muy deliciosa

Afterwards, we continued our city exploration and browsed through different vendors. Things we saw were textiles (super colorful, like the rainbow woven all together into pants, tapestry, wallets, and much more), charangas (small, high pitched guitars), and lots and lots of llama fetuses. Eeeks! We made our way over to a quaint colonial street called Calle Jaen. It was a lot less populated and was filled with artisan shops. Our main goal was to go to a folklore and ethnography museum, but it was closed at that time. Instead, we went to a museum showcasing the musical instruments of Bolivia. It was an absolute blast since we got to play with some of their instruments. The folklore and ethnography museum was a very nice and modern display of Bolivia’s history.
A local shop owner showing off her 100% alpaca textiles
Calle Jaen - A restored colonial era street with many artisan shops

Grabbing lunch on Calle Jaen
 A display of drums and Ben playing an interesting combination of washtub bass and bass drum

 Ben and Wes exploring the musical instrumet displays
The group posing in the museum´s premier Charanga concert hall
The main entrance to the ethnography museum, located in a restored colonial house

By this time, we were all pretty much exhausted and ready to sleep. After resting for a bit, Gabe brought us to a nice local Bolivian restaurant for dinner where we had lots of meat. The serving size was huge that it could feed three people rather than one! We finished off the day with a nice game of cards and rested for our road trip to Cochabamba the following morning.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hi! We all made it to Bolivia safe and sound. First group (Team Alpha) came in on Tuesday and the second group (Team Beautiful) arrived on Wednesday. The hotel we´re staying at in La Paz has internet! What luck! It´s just a tad bit slow, so I´ll keep this post short and sweet with pictures to feast your eyes. :) Today is our last day in La Paz. Tomorrow, we will ride a bus to Cochabamba where we will meet up with Damian (our contact from CETHA) and pick up our supplies. And from that we will finally head to CETHA, Asanquiri. 

Plane view coming into La Paz

Yesterday was full of exploring! After a much needed nap for the second group, we walked around La Paz and toured Church of St. Frances and an art museum. We also used that time to try and adjust to the altitude. 13,000 ft of elevation can really get to you! Climbing two flights of stairs alone will leave you panting as if you ran a mini marathon! Doesn’t really help that La Paz is literally hills, hills, and more hills. Thank goodness for altitude sickness medicine. The city is so vibrant and full of life! The children here have the rosiest and chubbiest cheeks I have ever seen. Dogs are everywhere, but we can’t play with them. Pigeons also roam the street, but we don’t want to play with them anyways. Feisty little creatures. There are many colorful vendors and graffiti on every street, so your eyes never get bored! Same with your nose…lots of smells, both good and bad. The food in general is meat and starch with a wonderful array of spices, the first group even ate some llama steaks! One thing that you will always see around here is the Cholitas and their colorful attire.

Typical breakfast at our hotel: bread roll, toast, crackers, juice, coffee, and butter/jam

Church of St. Frances
Exploring La Paz
Awesome Spanish courtyard at an Art Museum

Strolling in La Paz

Feisty Pigeons

After our walking adventures, Gabe’s mom met with us at our hotel where we rode with her back to her house. Gabe is a member of our EWB NCSU chapter who happens to live in Bolivia. So awesome!! Traffic/driving here is horrendous mainly because there are no traffic laws…laws are mainly suggestions. Pedestrians cross the roads as they please. They do, however, have overly cheerful and very sweet people in zebra suits that help pedestrians cross main roads. So we got to Gabe’s beautiful home where he and his family graciously hosted us. We ate terrific food till our stomach’s burst, played with their dogs, and had wonderful conversations. To say that the Hoskins are amazing is an understatement. Thank you Hoskin family!
La Paz is covered in artistic graffiti 

Happy Zebras

The guy in this taxi is wearing a UNC hoodie...Go Wolfpack!

Riding in a taxi on the way to Gabe's house
Kia playing with Lisa and Auggie
Us (minus Kia) and the Hoskin Family!
After our wonderful lunch with the Hoskins, Gabe drove us to the mountains to drop off his brother, David (he does downhill mountain biking…pretty extreme!). The view from the mountain was breathtaking! You could really see the layers of La Paz: the valley, altiplano, and the mountains. The drive up there was quite frightening though. Sharp turns with your car literally next to the edge of a cliff, definitely an adventure! The mountain had some pretty awesome rock formations, lots of stalagmites…they looked like fingers clawing at the side of the mountain! Gabe drove us back to our hotel and we all pretty much called it a night thinking it was late into the evening, but really it was 7:30 PM! Yea, we got about 12 hours of much needed sleep.
Gabe looking out into the mountains on his SUV
David downhill biking

Panoramic view of the mountain (Wes and Ben are the two shadow people)

Breathtaking view of the valley and altiplano
So a short post was false, but it was sweet! There’s just so much life in La Paz that I can’t condense it in a sentence or two. I haven’t even talked about Team Alpha’s first day here or today’s events! But it’s way past midnight and I need to catch some sleep before our journey to Cochabamba tomorrow morning.