The first week of my Bolivian life


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South America » Bolivia » Cochabamba Department » Cochabamba
September 28th 2012
Published: October 4th 2012
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First of all there will be lots of different names appearing in my blogs, so I'll introduce to you the most important people:

Alcira: my host mum

Andrea: my host sister (and Alcira's granddaughter)

Paola: Alcira's daughter who comes over every day

Ariel: Paola's husband

Santiago: Paola and Ariel's son (he's 2 or 3 years old)

Mechi: Alcira's goddaughter who also lives at the house

Those are the people who are around me every day, but of course there are many visitors as well.

On Monday I was picked up in the morning and taken on a walk through the city. I got to meet everyone at my organisation's office and all the important places around (post office, internet café a.s.o.). I then got a Bolivian sim card for my phone, but unfortunately my phone didn't like that and would't work. Well, I was told I won't be able to take my Blackberry out in public without it being stolen anyways, so I got a new phone. It's a neat little Samsung and it even has color display! The salesman was all flirty with the woman who was with me and when it was my time to pay for the phone he was like: "You have beautiful eyes!...150 BOB please."

A funny thing I noticed are some of the t-shirts my host family has been wearing. My favorite ones were the red shirt saying "reduziert" (reduced in German) and the Jersey Shore shirt saying "Fist pumping like champs!" Unfortunately my Spanish isn't good enough to explain to them what they mean, but I was very amused.

Then on Tuesday something amazing happened. As usually I was told "Vamos!" and I followed not knowing what would happen next. Ariel took me for a little trip in his car to get some groceries. Alright, nothing special so far. The car however was freaking awesome! It was one of those super tuned ones with a roaring engine and the biggest audio that would fit in the trunk. Usually when you see one of those passing by you just think to yourself "What a loser". When he turned on the car plus music pretty much the whole street could here us. As an extra little Santi was sitting on my lap singing Rihanna's "S&M" and The Chemical Brothers "Hey Girl Hey Boy", so I had to really pull myself together not to burst out laughing. It was awesome though, I now want a car like that.

At work my first task was to translate a Spanish text into English and it only took me 6 hours for a two-page article (haha I know, that's like forever), but I was really proud of myself that I managed to do it. Right now I am writing an article about the reusing of "trash" (like shopping bags as trashbags, toothbrushes to clean the sink...)

Another highlight of my week was getting a 10 cent coin in a trufi, cause I was told they are very rare. Okay maybe I should explain the transport system first: There are three kinds of cars; the normal taxi, the taxi-trufi (or trufi for short) and the micro. The micro is a normal bus-sized vehicle, but it's the trufi I use. They either have 5 seats (fit 6 people though as two squeeze in the front) or an extra row in the back to transport 3 more people. They don't have a designated time, only a designated drive. What you do is you stand at a streetcorner and wave at the trufi which goes your direction (for me it's number 101). If they're full they don't stop and you have to wait for the next one, so it can happen that there are like three trufi's available within two minutes or none for 30 minutes. The price is 1.70 BOB (about 0.20€). As I mentioned before noone has the 10 ct coin, so you usually end up paying 1.80 BOB. Pretty genius, right? You set up a price, but have everyone pay more anyways (same goes if they don't have other change, so sometimes you'll even have to pay 2 BOB). So this one day I actually got a 10 ct coin which made me feel really special before I had to spend it on my ride back home. Next time I'm getting one though I'll keep it.

In the evening my crazy hostfamily and I went to a supermarket which was quite the adventure. Six people in a tiny car plus the groceries on the way back. In the market I noticed that most of the milk isn't sold in cartons, but in plastic bags, because it is cheaper. It looks very weird though. What I enjoyed most was the four Backstreet Boys songs they played there. Made me miss the 90s parties in the good old Parkhaus.

When I came back on Wdnesday all tired I found out my host sister was selling beauty product. She had a whole palette of different perfumes and put them on my arms, so I could smell them. I think in the end I had at least 20 different smells spread around my arms and couldn't notice any difference anymore. As there was no more space on my arms the rest of the odors was put on my fingers. Then she even did my make-up, so I was one smelly but pretty person. At night I got to enjoy my neighbors fiesta. You learn to appreciate things like "Nachtruhe" which usually bother you in Germany. They were playing music for five minutes (which didn't bother me too much) then stopped, had fireworks (not only lights, but that really loud shit right next to my window) and then played music again. This routine went one for like two hours...

On Thursday I got to meet the other volunteers and we played beach volleyball. It was really fun although we sucked at it and decided to reward ourselves with some ice cream. There is a pretty big group of Germans, but also many Americans, Danes, Japanese and French and people from Australia, Norway and Canada.

Friday night we were meeting in a bar and my host sister explained to me how to get there. Although having a map I got completely lost! It was getting late and dark, not the perfect conditions for a young, blonde girl. At some point I decided to ask some women selling food on the street how to get to my destination. They told me which trufi to take, but since it was getting late there were none around. After some 20 minutes they told me to sit down with them and wait and they called a taxi for me which eventually got me to the bar. I was lucky to have met such nice people who although not understanding much of what I tried to say and me not understanding them helped me out.

I didn't have any plans for the weekend until Ariel and Paola asked me if I wanted to go to a cartuning competition with them. Hell yeah, you bet I do! First we went over to their house as they had to get the car ready, shower etc. and I was put in front of the home cinema and watched "The Expendables". Afterwards we went to Cliza, a village outside of Cochabamba where the competition took place. We drove 140 kmh (no buckles) and with the music turned all the way up. On the way we passed many similar cars and it was awesome. Arriving there were like 50 cars with each one playing a different songs on the loudest volume possible. Instead of describing everything in detail the pictures (which will follow soon, I promise!) will show.

Sunday I went to la Cancha, a huuuuge market place where pretty much everyone goes shopping (there's everything from food to electronics to clothes and toiletries). I was told to be very carefull as it's easy to get robbed. I put all my belongings in a money belt and some money in my bra. All I was left with were some tissues which didn't have a proper place to be stored, so I put them in my pocket. I thought I could put them there as they're not valuable and wouldn't be missed if stolen. Guess what? Five minutes after getting into la Cancha my tissues were missing. I really had to laugh, cause the only thing that could easily be stolen from me was gone after just a few minutes. This time I did't buy anything there, but I know I'll be returning very often going on shopping-sprees.

That's all for my first week, more will follow!


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