Late entry  
Thursday, September 22, 2005, 09:26 PM
It has been a little while since we've entered anything new here at the Bolivian Blog. And it'll be a little while more until we get any new photos up. Our computer went on the blink a month ago and it has had the pleasure of flying to California for a spa day. Get some parts replaced, soak in the natural hot springs. You know, recharge the ol' batteries. So far, our roomate Dan has been incredibly kind in letting us use his laptop when we need. And my brother and sister-in-law have been kind enough to ship our newly fixed computer to Washington D.C. That's right, our computer has more frequent flyer miles than Bush flying between vacation spots. And then, to make matters even better we have a parent of one of the students at Calvert that will bring the computer back to us. We are blessed. Truly blessed. We may even have it back by the beginning of next week.

The interesting political news coming out of Bolivia right now has to do with the upcoming elections. The leader of the Coca growers union, Evo Morales, has taken the lead in the polling for the presidential spot. I doubt Mr. President Bush is real happy about this news. But if I had the vacation days of Bush I would find it hard to be unhappy about anything. Anything. I might even send off a few good ol' American boys to the Middle East to get their asses shot off. Just for fun. I'm simplifying I know. It's for democracy. Really, it is. That and the really cool explosions those big bombs make. It's like the 4th of July every day over there. What could be more American? What small, ultra rich, socially elite kid doesn't remember lighting the alley behind the mansion on fire on the 4th of July and having his poor cousins new shoe used to stamp it out?

Carlye is claiming my first two paragraphs are dripping with sarcasm. Just when I thought I was being most real and honest. Marriages are good for bringing you into focus. The mirror on the wall. It always tells you the truth. Except when it tells me I'm the fairest of them all. Then I'm pretty sure it's lying, I hope it's not, but my heart always knows. Like when it tells Carlye she looks great in those extra small spandex she gets to wear for volleyball games. The ones that are meant for 12 year olds. They are smaller than the junior high basketball shorts I am still picking out of my ass. I digress...

So on to what is happening in Cochabamba, Bolivia, with Carlye and I. We have decided to start a nonprofit charity organization along with my folks and Carlye's brother. It is to be a sister organization to our friends charity, Charity Bolivia . Claire and Gertjan started their charity to provide shelter and a newly constructed home for the kids and the parents that run Colonia Ecologica, a children's home in Cochabamba. Their website is excellent and gives you all the details you'll need. While Claire and Gertjan's Charity Bolivia is based out of England and Holland the nonprofit we're forming will be based in the US and hopefully will soon have tax exempt status. It also will be called Charity Bolivia. So all of you that would like to give to a good cause can also write it off on your taxes. A small amount goes an enormous distance here in Bolivia. And I mean a long way. Carlye and I can go to dinner at one of the most expensive restaurants in town, have drinks, and desert and spend less than $20. And if we do spend $20 dollars...well...that is a mucho bebidas. The folks at Colonia Ecologica wouldn't understand how we could use that much money that quickly. Or why we'd want to. In the US, you can barely take your date for burgers at the local grease barn for that much money, let alone the nicest restaurant in town.

It is also pretty nice to know exactly where your money is going and that none of it goes to administration costs. It will be a little while before the US charity is off the ground, but if you'd like to donate some money to Colonia Ecologica you can do so right now online at Charity Bolivia through Paypal.

The US based version of Charity Bolivia will initially raise money to provide post-secondary education. Currently there is no program in place at Colonia Ecologica to help the kids once they graduate from the Bolivian equivalent of high school. So the money raised will initially go towards providing jobs at Colonia Ecologica for the kids that have graduated and are going on to University or a career. This way the kids don't have to immediately leave Colonia Ecologica when they are done with high school, they get to give back to the place that has helped raise them, they earn income to help with university costs and they learn independence and responsibility. Three of the current kids graduate in 2006 with another 4-6 the following year.

When we raise enough money we'd like to secondarily offer scholarships and grants for university expenses to the kids from Colonia Ecologica. This will be a source of financial assistance to those kids willing to put forth the effort to meet the requirements of the scholarships and grants.

So please, we are really relying on our friends and family to make this dream happen. And I'm pretty sure only our friends and family bother to check this page, so think about it. Doesn't need to be much.

And I realize that I've mixed politics (on a very small and closed minded scale) and our passion (the nonprofit) into the same blog post. One has nothing to do with the other and in the future one won't have anything to do with other. Unless of course you call me a bleeding heart. To which I'll reply I'm a conservative bleeding heart. And also the most liberal republican, the most politically organized anarchist, and the most anti-social of democrats, perhaps even a fence riding evangelical. So get yourself an extra small pair of spandex and squeeze your big.....

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Sunday, September 4, 2005, 02:14 PM
The DoD puts the body count for US soldiers involved in the war in Iraq at 1883. Another source puts the body count for Iraq civilians between 24 and 26 thousand. Vietnam, in comparison, had around 400 US casualties in the first two years with an estimated 17,000 Vietnamese deaths. But these aren't wars you can compare. No economics, no policies, no dead bodies piling up at enormous rates. But, as Gen. Tommy Franks is known to say in regards to tracking civilian casualities, "We don't do body counts."

So if you want to support our troops and a good friend of ours about to head to grad school, check out the following link. JR's Ebay Sale

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Anybody feel like moving to LA and becoming a Laker Girl? I do.  
Wednesday, August 24, 2005, 09:50 AM
Living here in Cochabamba elicits several words from my mouth each day. I find these words daily repeated. And no it has nothing to do with being a Laker Girl and I'm scrapping the cuss words as well. It simply goes along the lines of, "You know, it's another nice day in Cochabamba." Almost every day here is pleasant. Christ looks down upon us from one hill and the Mormon temple shines down from another. If there was only a statue of Buddha and maybe an Indian god, then all would be truly holy and well and balanced.

Cochabamba is a pretty tranquilo city. A great place to live. Bolivia on a whole, in the meantime, is racing downhill toward December. It is during December that general elections will bring a new President to this incredible country. Not just a new president, but a new vice president, and parliament as well as other regional offices. The whole of the governance being replaced, or reelected in some cases. No one seems quite sure what will happen in December. There are the possibilities of more of the protests that caused these early elections in the first place. As of now the President of the Supreme Court is President of Bolivia. Try to imagine for a just a moment, of something similar happening in the US. Can you? Officially, elections are supposed to occur in 2007. The elections are just a couple years early: so goes life in Bolivia. The future, as is usual, uncertain and undecided. People waiting and fighting and arguing over the future. It is important.

Meanwhile, we live in the here and now. What some people call the present. There are still many people in need here in Bolivia. People who want to make a better life for themselves, who are tired of being exploited, or in the case of some people I know, they just want better lives for their kids. Carlye starts volunteering at Colonia Ecologica today. She will be working with three of the older kids teaching them English. Simply giving them some more tools for their tool box.

Can I tell you what an amazing feeling it is working with people like Kiko and Carmen (the Bolivian couple that runs Colonia Ecologica)? They have two kids of their own and another 15 that live with them. In the afternoons there are upwards of 60 kids that go to Colonia to do chores, study, and play. Every kid knows they belong. Every kid knows that they are loved there. It does not matter what life is like at home. Whether mom or dad are even at home. Whether mom or dad even exist. Whether they are abused, mistreated, or unloved outside of Colonia. At Colonia Ecologica they are loved, accepted, and belong. The kids know it. You can see it on their faces. You can watch it in their behaviors. It is an incredible place. I feel honored to get a chance to be around and interact with such great people. Kiko and Carmen give their lives for these kids. I asked the other day when they had time to themselves, to rest? Between 1 am and 6 am, they responded. Every day of the week. They are happy. They are installing values and education into a new generation of kids now, in the present.

So we live in the now, the future will be the now when it is the now and no sooner. Use it for what it is and what it isn't.

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Quotes of the Day 
Wednesday, August 24, 2005, 08:51 AM
"I would not be the whore of my own existence. Can you understand that? I would not be the whore of my own existence." My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

"The state of mind required, looking back, was not to plan, not to sort out: but to listen, and carry on, and discover." Hopeful Monsters by Mosley

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A Feverish Pitch 
Saturday, August 13, 2005, 01:26 PM
It was bound to happen, don't you think? You don't always get the choice to love who and what you want. To deny something you love would be to deny a part of yourself. To deny something in the core of a person. So I chose a public forum to profess a love affair I have recently had. A love I can not deny, because if I did I would deny myself. Carlye was bound to find out anyway. She probably has known since I returned home from 2 weeks in Samaipata, a small town outside Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Carlye, of course, is my only true love and she will, of course, understand.

I have lived in Bolivia for a year now, and it was only two weeks ago that I had my affair. I went to Samaipata to spend two weeks doing massage at La Vispera. It was there that the affair began. I went to La Pajcha to camp and hike in the surrounding hills when I fell in love with Bolivia; the land, the people. The green hills, the waterfalls, the condors, and the kind people have lured me and tempted me with their wares and I have cracked. Their embrace is sweet. I caved. I loved and do love.

A two hour taxi ride over a winding dirt road through valleys and over hills led me to a waterfall called La Pajcha (I believe it means waterfall in quechua). The picture link has photos of my time there. Click on Samaipata and you will see photos of the waterfall, hills, condors, and people I associated with while there. There were only two people living there, an old Bolivian couple named Carlos Peralta and Agrepina Guman. They own all the land surrounding the waterfall and have raised 10 kids there. They have 15 grandkids. Two great grandkids. Carlos can out work and out walk anyone. Anyone. I challenge you. He is 70. The next closest people are a 30 minute drive or half day walk away. And then you'll find 2 or 3 other people.

Love began to strike on my way up the ridge I had planned walking on my second day at the waterfall. A good 4 or 5 hour walk to the top peak of the ridge. The first steep climb already brought condors in to check out the gringo in their land. At one point I had this feeling, like somebody staring at you, or following closely behind you. You know, the feeling of a presence nearby. The feeling was so strong I turned around quickly. I knew I was the only person anywhere nearby. I had a commanding view. There was nothing there. But the feeling persisted. It was about then that a large shadow passed over me. I looked up right above my head and physically reacted to the noise and sight I beheld. I literally ducked. A condor with a 5-6 foot wing span was riding a current of air 5 meters over my head, virtually hovering in one place. I could hear the wind in the birds feathers. It was looking me directly in the eyes. I would not have believed it if it had not happened.

Throughout the rest of the day several condors followed me up the ridge. Each time I came out on a peak or was about to enter a saddle with strong air currents, the condors would arrive to surf the wind. When I arrived at the highest peak on the ridge I took off my shoes and had lunch. I counted eight condors within eye sight. I looked hundreds of feet down into the valley below and saw the backs of condors. I looked hundreds of feet in the air and saw the feet of condors dangling beneath them. Five continuously rode the air currents 5 meters over my head. They took turns checking me out for half an hour until I had to leave. Their shadow and the air in their feathers alerting me when they were just about over my head. It occured to me once or twice that perhaps they were just waiting for me to fall over one of the many cliffs. I imagine I would make quite the meal for several condors. But I never really got the sense of malicious or even natural intent.

Being alone in the mountains and experiencing the local presence of the bird that dominates the Andes gave me an interesting perspective on the area. It is a spiritual land. A spiritual people. I find it hard to comprehend but I feel it none the less. The very air breathes peace into the body and soul and whispers of danger in the same breath. I understand Bolivia a little bit better now. Time operates differently here. And I'm not just talking about the "Maņana" mind set usually thought of when talking about Latino time. The land and people here operate on ages and generations. They don't operate on minutes and seconds; on days and weeks and years. Millenium can go by here with little change. To separate the people from the land kills one or the other. One begins to understand the conflict between the western imposed world and the steadfast timelessness of the Bolivian people.

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