Wednesday, December 16, 2009

If Laura And I End Up In Bolivian Prison

It will be for trying to steal a child. I've got my eye on at least three orphan babies and one kid who technically has parents but I think would have more fun hanging with me. Between taking Spanish lessons, attempting to teach English lessons and sunbathing, Laura and I have been spending time volunteering at an orphanage for babies and recently at a nursery for children who's parents work as street venders during the day. The orphanage just got a premie in and he is so TINY! And looks exactly like this:

Ok, no more beating around the bush. Here’s the deal: One of the institutions we are volunteering for, El Ciruelitos, is a little nursery/daycare in the valley outside of central Sucre that is funded by the Bolivian government 10 months out of the year. Unfortunately, the government cuts off funding for December and January, but the kids have nowhere to go because their parents are mostly poor workers who get ZERO days off. The women who run this place are amazing and decided to keep working without salary in order to keep the kids in a safe place during the days. Fox Institute, the language school Laura Huysman and I are working for, has raised enough to pay the women almost as much as they normally make, but there’s no money to feed the kids. Luareezy and I are working on getting them set up for the next two months with at least enough food for the roughly 30 kids that spend their days there, but we can’t do it by ourselves. Dear Family, Friends and Conrad Herberholt: what better time than the holidays to help people out who don’t have very much!?
The upside of donating to Ciruelitos is that literally 100% of your hard-earned dough goes straight to the little ones. Laura and I go to the market with the ladies who run the place, they haggle to best use every last boliviano, and literally work miracles in feeding so many kids with so little money. You have our personal guarantee that your cash will be spent on weird food that Bolivians like.
Examples of how far US dollars go:
$10 will buy enough red meat to feed the kids for a week
$7 will buy enough chicken for a week of soup
$20 will buy enough vegetables and pasta for the week
In conclusion, we've set up a pay pal account where you can anonymously or non-anonymously donate to the cause, the button's up top! Also, God can read minds and knows whether or not you intend to donate. Think of each dollar as one brick on your house in heaven, and if you're Erica Waliser each dollar represents one fist in the air for agnostic social justice!!!

Love you all!


That's what an old, dutch guy with a huge mustacio said when he won a raffle prize after an intenst game of trivia last night. But that's not the important story here:
LAST NIGHT LAURA AND I AND OUR TEAM WON AT TRIVIA! We won the whole thing people! It was like a christmas miracle! I don't know how many nights I spent at the Kangaroo and Kiwi, the Ram, and Finn McCool's trying to win a freaking trivia night and it FINALLY happened! In Bolivia, during a bi-lingual quiz. Sigh.....I am so happy.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Ok, the stray dog situation on this continent has gotten out of control. I have had it up to here (half and inch over my head) with people not finding it necessary to control their four legged counterparts.
Laura and I were gang rushed by two bloodthirsty pitbulls last night as we were walking home. Neither of us cried because we are bad ass however, our legs turned to jelly once our jugulars were out of range of the jaws of death. We had to stop at the top of our staircase to collect our selves before willing our legs into stability for the decent. It would have been pretty annoying to have fallen down a flight of stairs after escaping a rabid dog attack.
The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the ferocious beasts charging us was the scene from No Country For Old Men when the pitbull chases what's his face into the river and that these dogs probably weren't going to stop charging us either. My second thought was Bo Welch vs. a Wolf, how confident he is that he would win and how confident I was that I would die.
In the end the hounds weren't hungry and let us live. Thanks assholes.


We live with a 3 year old. Her name is Carla and she flip-flops between dressing like a 3 year old boy and an 85 year old lady. She beats the family dog and then cries for a decade when he bites her and doesn't comprehend where his anger is coming from. She calls Laura Lala, calls me Manlo and both of our computers are 100% more sticky than they were before we moved in here.

Hola, Me Llamo Senora Hartung. Bienvenidos a Infierno.

I was under the impression that when I started teaching an English class I'd be assisting, receiving training and eventually leading a class or two. I was misinformed. Second day of class the profesora threw me right into the deep end when she announced that I'd be leading class and that the students were working on Superlatives and Comparatives. After my initial internal reaction, "eeeefff...", it was time to start floundering. "Alright, who can explain what a Superlative is (because I haven't know what that is since I was 11)?" and "Now give me an example of a Comparative and use it in a sentence (please, because I haven't thought about gramer since 6th grade)." were my water wings along with the teachers manual I got that provided a sort of play by play for class, thank goodness. Things are going much more smoothly now, though sometimes I wonder if it's a good idea letting me lead a class having had zero experience doing so or if the teenagers I'm teaching are learning anything or simply going through the motions.
Oh my gosh, worse than the nervousness that came after being told I was in charge of a class was the nervousness of being around teenagers and really wanting them to think I was cool. It was like stepping onto the school bus bound for middle school and REALLY wanting to sit in the back but not being entirely sure if it was coo if you did so. Ugh, teenagers are so intimidating. Thank god they haven't realized it, harnessed their collective power and taken over the world as we know it. Until they do, I remain able to assign tons of homework, test them on it and ask them embarrassing questions about their boyfriends in the middle of class.

Friday, December 11, 2009

We're Here For The Revolution?

Hello again Friends, Family and Conrad Herberholt (who should be working but is reading my blog which I approve of),

This is the literary version of me emerging from the depths of jungle shrubbery after two and a half weeks of being MIA with sticks in my hair and a wild look in my eye, not knowing where I am. In reality I am in Bolivia and have not been anywhere near a jungle because neither Laura nor myself felt it was important to fill our malaria prescriptions before venturing to South America...eeeee. We're sorry mom's and dad's.

Get ready people, a lot has happened. Let me just start with this: I've heard Cantaloop's "Flip Fantasia" more times since arriving in Bolivia than ever before in my life. Which was kind of a lot because I had to do a choreographed dance routine to it in seventh grade for musical theater. If you haven't heard the song, download it, it's a great jam. Moving on...

Laura and I were accepted into Bolivia which, rumor has it, is a great place to start a revolution (I'm looking at you Bryan Maxum). I honestly don't know how it happened. Laura and I showed up with less than half the documents and/or accessories we needed for our visa applications and after a little fancy verbal footwork on the part of our Argentinean friend Gustavo and $130 dollars we were visa-stamped and ushered out into streets lined with enormous bags of coca leaves and lazy dogs.

Bolivia is the coolest place I've ever been. Landscapes started getting cool in Northern Argentina with the Seven Colors Mountains (please see below) and it just kept getting better after we crossed the border.

Bolivian landscapes are incredible, remote and diverse. We won't be venturing into the lush jungle lands of Eastern Bolivia because of the whole "no malaria pills" situation but I'm assuming they are equally as mind blowing as their mountainous counterparts on the western side which we've had the pleasure of perusing. Yep, we are sticking to the highlands, hoping mosquitoes don't dig thin air and adjusting to some serious altitudes. I've never properly appreciated sea level until now.

Hokay, I'm going to get sectional on you real quick:


We crossed into Bolivia through the border town of Villazon which turned out to be a little gamey so we weren't really trying to stick around for long. We thought we'd be catching a train that afternoon to Tupiza but, like everything in Bolivia, that didn't go as planned. The train was scheduled for the next day, not in accordance with the info provided on the website. We ended up having to take the bus, which we were sort of trying to avoid, and it turned out that was for good reason. It was terrifying. Laura and I were not ok afterwards and it took a few days to really be able to talk about it lightheartedly. It wasn't one thing in particular but a combo of suspect aspects that made it soooo bad. For instance: The bus looked like it could have been part of the big, rusty ship in Waterworld starring Kevin Costner. There were no shocks and no road. At one point our driver used a river as a solution to running out of "road". We teetered along precipices, swaying fro m side to side, going entirely to fast. Call me Grandma NoFun but there is no reason a bus needs to be going over 15 miles per hour under such conditions. We made it safe and sound to Tupiza albeit emotionally scarred for life.


Maybe it was because we were so thankful to be alive or maybe Tupiza really is as glorious as it seemed, all I remember is being sooooo happy with everything in that sleepy little town nestled amongst low mountains in Southern Bolivia. Our hostel was amazing and we signed up for a four day jeep tour of Southwest Boliva through them immediately upon arrival then enjoyed two days of aimless meandering around the town and slowly started feeling the effects of being up at 8,200 feet. (Sidenote: someone is practicing "I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In" on a peruvian pan flute outside. Feliz Navidad sir.)


Wow. Wow wow wow. Four days in a jeep in the Bolivian outback was more intense than I anticipated it would be. I pictured something akin to a post high-school Seattle to Cali road trip. It was probably more like what I think trying to survive on the Oregon Trail would be like. Bolivia doesn't just let you enjoy things comfortably, you have to work for them. And we worked through altitude sickness, headaches, sand all up in and around us, monsoon washed out roads and middle of nowhere jeep breakdowns to enjoy the most incredible landscapes on the continent (I know I haven't seen the whole continent but I'm sticking by that statement), meeting llamas face to face, witnessing the sun rise over the salt flats and taking off the chain optical illusion pictures.

Laura and I could not have lucked out more in the travel companion department. The three people we were traveling with were as glorious as everything we were seeing and experiencing! Somehow we convinced our friend from Buenos Aires, Gustavo, to accompany us on the tour (as well as spend his entire two weeks of vacation time following us around Argentina and Buenos Aires). Our other two traveling compadres were Jon and Joanna, a couple from French Speaking Belgium who were super fun and way better at packing and traveling in general than Laura and I. They inspired us to downsize our backpacks and get dirtier (not in the pervy way, you sickos!) during our travels.

Our guides were super fun, our meals were basic, delicious and didn't give us food poisoning and our housing ranged from mud hut to hotel made entirely of salt. When I got sick our cook made me stick my head in a pot filled with hot coals and herbs and breath in all the smoke to make me stop barfing and IT WORKED! Just a little Bolivian magic to sooth the crying white girl in the corner. In my opinion those four days were the best and most trying part of our trip so far!


We ended our jeep tour in Uyuni, a town I am hereby declaring to be the stupidest place in Bolivia. It sucked balls and the only redeeming aspects were revealed in the matching Super Sonics hats we found for $2 and the matching towels provided to us by the 8 year old running our hotel. Initially, Laura assumed they were matching Disney Princess towels and then we opened them to reveal that they were in fact matching (and classy) nudie towels.


We left Uyuni as soon as we could since it blows goats and hopped on a bus to Sucre. Laura and I were pretty nervous right out of the gate considering our last Bolivian bus experience but to our surprise and pleasure our bus was relatively sturdy, the roads were mostly paved and never ran out suddenly and our bus driver was sober. Yahtzee! We did have a fellow pasajero who was three sheets to the wind standing RIGHT next to us for the whole second half of the seven hour ride. At one point he dangled his beer can half an inch from Laura's face and asked if she'd like a sip, she passed and the foamy can was shoved into my face. I passed too and after slowly contemplating our denial of his generous offer he accepted it and went back to yelling something about Evo. Luckily, he got tired and had to have a sit down in the aisle and eventually passed out, spilling his unfinished beer everywhere. Naturally. I have a new appreciation for Joe Metro.
Anywhom, we are here in Sucre, stationed at a sweet house with a huge sun deck, learning Spanish, teaching english, playing with orphan babies and working with Bolivian youth. This place is awesome.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This one's for Aimee

I made a BAD decision eating some South American Activia yogurt. I don't know if Jamie Lee Curtis would support the kind of intestinal regulation I just experienced. It did not leave me feeling regular and happy, it left me feeling tired and hungry again. An unsavory experience overall.

In other news: We spent our last night in Buenos Aires partying until dawn again and it was super fun and bad ass just like last time! I decided to fall in love with our friend Nico for 7 or 8 hours which guaranteed me a dancing partner, hand holder and deep, semi-sober, club patio conversations. Yahtzee! Buenos Aires, you've done a good job.

Laura and I survived our 40 hours of busing, successfully experience Iguazu Falls, one of the wonders of the world and are now sitting out on our hostel's patio in Salta, Argentina enjoying 90 degree weather and a little Daddy Yankee. The bus experience was strange. Our first trip (17 hours) was on Rio Uruguay and we had legit seats! Top level, up front window view, blankets, pillows, little airplane meals which I love and we followed a bus with an enormous squirrel on it for a decade which is just good clean fun. Second round (23 hours) was on FlechaBus which SUCKED! FlechaStupid had wack seats, no blankies or pillows, crap food and movies with no sound or subtitles. What the hell? I really shouldn't complain since we're about to head into Bolivia where the buses are death traps and you have to hold cows on your lap, but at the moment that is neither here nor there.

All the Felchadumbdumbs were worth it because Salta is soooo crackin. It's hot, it's gorgeous, it has a gondola and fresh air! Ahhh, I may never leave. We made a steak dinner complete with rice and sauteed veggies for $4 each. BUDGET BACK ON TRACK! One of three regrets I have from Buenos Aires is how much money we had to spend in that city, the second was the magnum incident when Laura and I purchased a 6 peso magnum of wine assuming it'd be glorious considering our location. It was essentially rancid juice. 4 glasses later we were both sober and realizing that not ALL Argentinian wine is award winning. The third is none of your business.*

We are swooping our friend Urux today from wherever his bus lets him off and coercing him into coming with us to Bolivia, for his company and to shove him in front of us at the border and let him deal with the border guards. Thanks Urux!

Hokay, I'm going to buy suntan lotion and look for snacks and the gondola.


*Third Regret: Real thing or made up to toy with your curiosity? You decide.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A little something for your viewing pleasure:

This is a Jewish family we happened upon. I took a bunch more pictures of them taking lots of awkward family pictures together but didn't know if it was socially acceptable to display them all.

Laura and I tried to learn how to use the camera on my computer. This is the result.

We visited an enormous mausoleum compound and someone had this intense sculpture as their topper.

Aaaaand someone else decided to immortalize this cool lean as their signature move. Different styles, I like them both.

Just a perfect reflection picture I took all by myself, no big deal. It's copyrighted so do not try to make it into a calendar. You'll be tied up in lawsuits for as long as that statue above can hold his dainty side-sit.

Okay. Something Went Awry Yesterday...

In an effort to save money Laura and I opted out of a $80 day in Uruguay for a .75 cent day in Tigre, a city 45 minutes outside of Argentina. Proud of our decision, we boldly boarded a train bound for the Tigre Islands, a beautiful expanse of Sub-Tropical wetlands that has been described as the Venice of South America. We left Buenos Aires with the sun shining, birds singing and smog suffocating everything. We got to Tigre and stepped off the train in our pretty sun dresses and were welcomed by cool fresh air, lush greenery and semi-gray skies. I looked at Laura and said, "I hope it doesn't rain."

Friends, Comrades, Countrymen: It did rain. It practically hurricaned, and for those of you who are sitting there reading this and thinking, "Oh Marlo, over-exaggerating again because she's scared of wind." I'M NOT! Whole towns lost their roofs, power, telephone lines, fruit stands, I'm sure a couple pets went missing also and the streets were flooded around us within 15 minutes. Yet Laura and I stood strong and weathered the storm, out alone in the streets with no cover to be found, like the statue of liberty on the shores of freedom!

Laura and I had prepared for a sunny outing at a fruit and antique market and a possible boat tour through the islands so of course we didn't pack jackets or umbrellas (not that they would have done any good, but still). At the end of the 60 minute* monsoon, Laura and I stood soaked through and through, under shelter that we managed to find right as the rain...stopped. Mid-monsoon we actually found sanctuary on a bus that had pulled over to wait out the storm. The bus driver and his sidekick gave us plastic bags to wear which didn't do much besides create a sort of tiny steam room for my upper body and I was ok with that. We left the bus when bus driver and sidekick asked if we wanted to go to dinner. I wanted to ask them how they figured we would ever want to go to dinner with them seeing that A) We were in the same condition as drowned rats floating down a sewer pipe, B) they were old, married and random, stranger bus drivers and C) we can go to dinner with Argentinean super models our own age. Thanks for the bags though, sirs.

We made it out of the storm and Tigre alive and soaking and arrived in Buenos Aires looking sub-optimal and leaving a trail of rain water behind us as we walked out onto the street to hail a cab. It's needless to say, but I'll say it anyway, the day didn't go as planned. HOWEVER, it was the funniest, most entertaining, frustrating, exciting day of the trip so far and I'm not mad about it. I'm mad about the way my dress smells and the shockingly un-fixable, comb-over hairdo I had to rock all the way home but that's it.

*Approximation. Like I've said before, Laura and I haven't had any concept of time our entire trip so that storm could have been 10 minutes or three hours, I have no idea.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cranky Old Bats

HA! Laura just spent a significant amount of time on a sneaky photo shoot of two old ladies who just waddled into the cafe we are sitting at and this is the result:

YUS! These two are sooooo cranky and now, after noticing us staring and snapping shots, hate us. And are probably talking mess. It's no matter, Mafalda and Ethel, we like you anyway.

Buenos Aires Metroploitan Cathedral

It's a strange experience going to visit and view cathedrals as a tourist. All over the world, Churches and Cathedrals are open to, and thrive on, visits from tourists. Concurrently, they remain primary houses of worship for their immediate communities and many others. I experience the same contrary emotions each time I visit a church or cathedral; a desire to see and absorb the art and architecture of the building and the quick dilution of that desire that comes with the first glimpse of a man crying quietly during confession or woman sitting in the pews staring reflectively down at the altar or off into her own mindscape. The quick clicks of hungry cameras and the ambient noise of hushed conversation seems abrasively loud and my own presence intrusive. I'm not sure if the patrons notice or care about the excess activity, considering they are probably there with bigger issues to address. More likely, this is just a self-conscious observation.

Maybe I need to adjust the purpose of my visit. Leave the tourists and join the soul searchers in the pews.

The silver lining of the "tourists in a house of worship" conundrum: Snack stands right outside the doors when you leave.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

26 Years Under My Belt of Life

One year ago, on Novemeber 5th, I was forcing my friends to celebrate my birth for the third or fourth time in one week by eating at China Harbor, Seattle's largest, most mysterious and sketchiest Chinese food restaurant. This years birthday was right in line, though on a different continent, at an Argentinean Grill and the food came out at a normal pace (unlike China Harbor where they shoveled pre-made food from barrels onto our plates and had it out to us within 4 and a half minutes of the initial order).

Laura and I were taken to a seductive asado restaurant by our new friends Cata and Mayte where we binged on Steak, Papas Fritas and Chimichuri. No one f'd around with salads which I really liked and appreciated. The total per person for a king sized feast accompanied by wine and desert ended up being $12.50 USD. This exchange rate is so much better than that time I went to Belfast and had the value of my hard earned money sliced right in half. Stingy Brits.
They do Birthday candles so much cooler here! My first birthday candle was a lit match stuck in Ice cream, my second was a fire cracker. It made me feel bad ass and also like a big deal.

All in all, a successful turning of the age leaf. Do not question that metaphor, I think I know what I'm talking about people. After all, I am 26 now.

Problem: I Have No Idea What He's Charging Us For

Solution: Request more bags!!!

Maybe it was the 5 hours Laura and I had just spent drinking wine, typing emails, researching what we wanted to do with the next few months of our trip and listening to the seductive sounds of Pure Moods, Vol. 1 at Pizza Libre or maybe we both just can't speak Spanish. All I know is that when we went to buy a bottle of water and two snacks our brains we not equipped to handle the remedial conversation that happened at the check out counter. Within seconds of the first word being uttered from the checker's mouth a thick cloud of confusion set in and Laura and I started spouting nonsense holding out our water bottle, snacks, money and apparently asking for more bags than was customary or necessary. We walked away from the stand wondering what the hell had gone so wrong in a situation that is usually guaranteed to be simple...Moral of the story: When nervous or in doubt, just ask for more bags.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Eulogy

The Pequito Cucaracha passed away yesterday, after spending the day scurrying through the cabinet exploring his favorite nooks and crannies under our pots and pans. He left this world without a sound, without lament or regret. He quietly rolled onto his hard shelled back, stuck his spindly legs in the air and surrendered his prehistoric style body to rigormortis. We didn't know him well, in fact, we barely knew him at all. His life was an unobtrusive mystery to us, a parallel existence sharing our living quarters. In the words of Andy Warhol in regards to the passing of his friend Norman Mailer, "I always thought (he) kept a low profile. That’s what I liked about him so much.”
The little we did gather from his life along side our own was that he was a South American cucaracha, as we are in South America and we knew he was a gentleman, as they are smaller than the ladies. We knew he appreciated the simple things in life as he was a cockroach and they are a simple species.
We will not miss you all that much cucaracha as you did gross us out just a little, but we appreciated you not bringing your friends to party, not crawling on our faces at night and generally keeping to yourself.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I'll Have the Traditional Argentian Dish of Ham, Eggs, Cheese and Sugar Please.

Fact: The three staple foods of Argentina are Ham, Eggs and Cheese. Try to order a dish with none of the above and you're likely to get slapped, if not with a hand than with a look. In addition, food and drink here come con azucar (with sugar). Don't assume a granola bar will be healthy because it is held together with sugar. Juice, unless fresh squeezed in front of your face (which is bomb) is 20% fruit and 120% sugar. Don't question my math, things are different down here.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love me some Jamon, Huevos y Queso but after thirteen days of eating just that I could go for fillet of salmon or fruit salad...*whisper* that won't give me the runs. Eeeeee....
Anyhoo, the other day I think we may have maxed out on Ham, Eggs and Cheese. While sitting at a cafe, Laura put down a ham and cheese chunk and timidly admitted that there was just too much ham and cheese on her ham and cheese sandwich. Interestingly enough, her semi eaten chunk looked alarmingly like a flying squirrel. I have provided a pictoral comparison and brief description of flying squirrels below.

"Flying squirrels are incapable of sustained flight, instead they glide between trees, with flights recorded to 90 meters. The direction and speed of the animal in midair is varied by changing the positions of its two arms and legs, largely controlled by small cartilaginous wrist bones. This changes the tautness of the patagium, a furry parachute-like membrane that stretches from wrist to ankle. It has a fluffy tail that stabilizes in flight. The tail acts as an adjunct airfoil, working as an air brake before landing on a tree trunk."-Wikipedia