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.