Tuesday, December 9, 2008

a sun-kissed farewell

one last çiao
one last descanso
one last un poco de todo

With burnt faces and lips from our last few days of travels, we look back on our time here and say ´hasta luego.´ Until later. We hope and trust that this is not our last time in Bolivia...and so we can go: Letting go of what we originally thought this journey would look like and staying connected to what it has been and has made us.

We are changed.
And here we come- home.

Last night in Bolivia

So it's a cold and rainy night in La Paz as we pack our bags, drink one last Bolivian beer, and wander around the streets trying to soak it all in (Bolivia that is, not the cold-ass rain). Fortunately we had much better weather during our last few days along Lake Titicaca. Copacabana was gorgeous. Isla del Sol was gorgeous and fascinating. We only wish we had more time to walk along the beach, eat fresh trout, visit ancient Incan and Tihuanacan ruins, and stare at 20,000 ft. snow covered peaks. It was a good way to finish up our time in Bolivia. Not only did we enjoy the beauty of this country, but we also strengthened our appetite to come back here. This trip may have been cut short, but I don't think our time in Bolivia is over. And that makes leaving a little easier.

So I guess this "Diario de Bolivia" is about over. We'll try to put up a few more pictures when we get home. Home. We'll be there tomorrow night. Back in the states where gas is now like $1.80 a gallon (it was about $4 when we left). Back in Illinois where our wonderful governor was just arrested on some pretty scandalous corruption charges (yay! I'm so proud).

So, hopefully we'll see all of you soon. Thanks for tuning in. Peace.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

so changes...

"If the beat of the drum changes,
so changes the dance of the feet."
-proverb of Benin

I found this quote a while back, have applied it to our and others' lives since, and find it very applicable in this time in our life. Times they certainly are a changin,' for life has taken some unexpected turns and we find ourselves making new decisions. No, we are not pregnant.
Our news is that we are coming home. Yes, we were always planning on coming home, but in the past few weeks some things have happened at home to speed up the process a bit.

My Grammy, with whom I am very close, has taken some major hits at her health. She is a beautiful, almost 93-year old woman who has lived through so much, been a cancer survivor (several times), raised 3 daughters, loves her family and friends and strangers so well...and who has taught and continues to teach me (and so many) so much about life and love.

When Chris and I planned for and agreed upon this trip, it was under certain conditions- one being that we had healthy-stable grandparents. It has become true that Grams' health has been compromised considerably, and we have made the decision to follow where it seems life is leading...to dance to the new beat of the drum that we are hearing.

It has been really huge for us to make this decision and really sad to put our original dream on hold. We know that we are young and we have years to continue exploring what lies ahead in life. But right now LIFE calls, and we´re going where it feels right to be in this important and fragile time for Grams. We are so grateful and have learned so much in our time here already. We are sad to go and have been grieving and living intentionally since considering the idea.

It's funny how things can change so surprisingly and so quickly...how a "plan" to live somewhere for 9 months can suddenly turn into 3 months. But it's life, right? We don't live in this world alone. And as my grandpa used to say so often: "Life's for livin'!"

So, how we'll be living our new life (come mid-December) will be in a little place on Raymond St. in Danville...close to Grammy's house and walking distance from many places. I'll be spending most of my time with family, being and helping where help is needed. And Chris will be putting that Teaching Certificate to use at one of the local public schools. We hadn't dreamed that we would be returning to our homeland and our home-city, and under such conditions...but we embrace the turns that life has taken and go willingly, looking forward to what lies ahead.

Always together, be it grieving or celebrating (or both)...
always dreaming, and dancing as life leads.
Your Bolivian-lovin' friends,
Korie and Chris

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Working at CAICC

So, we have just finished our third week at Centro de Apoyo Integral Carcelario y Comunitaria (CAICC--you can check out their website at http://www.caiccbolivia.com/). The time, as usual, has gone very quickly. (Tia) Korie spends her days being mobbed by 2-5 year-olds, who are really good at helping you stretch your limbs, if you're feeling a little stiff. When I go in there, I'm afraid they will pull my fingers and arms off, so I try to stay away. Instead, I stay with the older kids, some of which must not know that they are older, because they still grab you and try to jump on you as if they were toddlers.

So, CAICC is a very affectionate place. It's nice to feel welcome and wanted, especially when you are having a hard time communicating with words or understanding what the hell is going on half the time. That's what I've spent my days doing, trying to figure out what's going on and what I can do to help. There is obviously a lot to do at the center, because all of the other adults are running around like mad. It's just me, standing around, wondering what to do, trying to catch one of the adults speeding past me to ask ¿Como puedo ayudarte? The kids are often left to manage themselves, and they do a pretty good job of it most of the time. I've kind of figured out that it's my job to hang out with the kids and help manage them if they need it, which is ironic, since I am the least able to communicate with them.

Most of the time, I try to strike up conversations (albeit, awkward ones) with the kids, who are anywhere from age 6-18. They usually start out okay. I mean ¿como estas? isn't that hard. I'm great at starting conversations. I can ask all sorts of things like, how are you, how was your weekend, how many siblings do you have, what do you like to do, etc. It's maintaining the conversations that is hard. Once I've asked my first question, I am immediately at the mercy of my surroundings and the person I'm talking to. If it is relatively quiet around me and the person speaks loudly, slowly, and clearly enough, and has the patience (and interest) to repeat things numerous times, than we can do okay. Sometimes this happens. And that's nice.

It's much easier when there's an activity going on. I love that soccer is a universal language and that I already know how to speak it. The kids go to the canchita and play a couple times a week. During any given week, they also play volleyball (the second favorite sport in Bolivia), practice judo, play traditional Bolivian instruments, hear speakers, do homework, create crafts to sell, bake bread (also to sell--the center is in constant need of funds), play chess, read books, run around, jump on me, clean the bathrooms, clean other rooms, sweep the sidewalks, eat lunch, "wash" their dishes (better not look too closely), recycle stuff, and get their teeth cleaned in a colorful bus-turned-dentist-office, which I must say is a far cooler way to visit the dentist than I have ever experienced.

There's a lot going on at CAICC, and it's great to be there. The kids are great. Most of them seem older (and tougher) than they actually are. Most of them live, or have lived, in jail with their parents, most of whom are in jail on some sort of drug charges. (The drug laws are pretty scary here in Bolivia, worse than the US even.) Because of my limited language skills, though, I don't really know too much about the individual lives of the kids (except for the visible clues, like black eyes--one sweet kid came to CAICC with one yesterday, making me cringe and long for the mandated reporter laws of the US). I would love to ask, but am afraid that I will ask the wrong thing or ask in the wrong way or something. So I just get to see the lives of the kids while they're at the center and am left to wonder what their life is like at "home." In the end, they're still kids, who obviously desire attention and affection. It's nice that our limited Spanish doesn't limit (too much) our ability to help provide these basic needs. And that's why we're here. To help love kids and help provide for their basic needs. And learn a lot from them along the way. So far so good.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hopeful tears

At 2am Bolivia time- we just finished listening to our new President´s speech. For maybe the first REAL time in my life, I feel pride in our country. With tears running down my face, knowing the complexities of the situations in the world and in our country, I feel hope for days ahead. Chris and I celebrate, dancing and laughing! And from our livingroom in Bolivia, we toast our Taquiña Stout beers to peace and unity, and the changes we will work together to see come!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A few more pics from Bolivia

Chris and our guide jumping into some rapids after our rafting adventure in Villa Tunari

In the village of Payrumani--our camera doesn't do the mountains, or Korie, justice

Korie and her language teacher, Sylvia, at Bolivia Cultura

In an old convent in the village of Tarata, known as the hometown of an infamous Bolivian dictator who once gave a huge chunk of Bolivian land to Brazil in exchange for a horse.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

27 and back from the jungle

Hola friends!
I think Spanglish is an honest representation of my thinking and speaking at this point. Unfortunately, not fluent yet, but there´s still time. We finished up our daily language lessons at the end of last week and then took off on a quick trip to see a different part of Bolivia. We hopped on a bus for a 3-4 hour trip into the Chapare region. The diversity in nature around here is amazing! It was beautiful to watch the land transform from dry valley, to pinetree-spotted hills, to steep mountains of dark jungle green. That´s where our trip stopped- in a village called Villa Tunari. We hiked 2K to the place we were staying in the forest and enjoyed swimming in natural pools, climbing around the rocky river, and tasting fresh fish and cheap wine. The next day we moved into the villa, proper. The second place we stayed was right on the edge of a cliff overlooking the rushing river. We had thoughts of kayaking for the next morning and somehow found ourselves on a whitewater rafting adventure instead. Just us and 2 Bolivian guides- it was really cheap, really fun, and the only way to spend the hot sunny day in the jungle! We got to jump off the raft, float down the river, and see the land from the perspective of the rio! We loved it.
Now we´re back in Cochabamba and looking forward to our upcoming work with the children in a nearby town called Quillacollo. It´s just outside of Coch, and the center where we´ll be working welcomes about 150 kids everyday (with just 7 staff members). Schooldays around here are either 5 hours before lunch or after, so whatever half-day the kids aren´t at school, they come to the center to study, play, eat, create, etc. We will be going to visit tomorrow and begin working Monday. Wé´ll let you know more details as soon as we learn more about what things look like and our place in it all. Thank you for your love and support always, friends. We welcomed this 27th year with cake and icecream, new friends, and gratitude for the life we are living and things we are learning together.