Life as a Teacher

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Travels in Bolivia and Almost Three Months in Okinawa

On May 5, my friend Andrea, from Michigan, arrived in Bolivia to visit for ten days and see some of the sites in this beautiful.l country.  We  spend the first couple of days in Okinawa, so she could see what life was like here and visit the schools where I teach.  We also celebrated Katie's 23d birthday.  We set out on May 8, traveling first to Sucre and then to Torotoro, a national park famous for it's dinosaur prints.  I did some of the most difficult hiking of my life here, and there were time when I wasn't sure I was going to be able to make it back  Our 19-year-old Bolivian guide offered to carry me on his back over the the huge boulders and steep cliffs, but I have my pride, right?  Bless his heart!  And I know he could have done it.  He jumped, climbed and ran around those rocks as though it were the easiest thing in the world.  In my defense, we ere at 14,000 feet.  Our next stop was Lapaz and from there we headed to Lake Titicaca. A three hour bus ride took us to the island Copacabana.  So amazing.  It reminded me of pictures that I've seen of the Mediterranean.



From left to right:  Sor Nora, Sor Gladys, Sor Eli, me, Eric, Sor Sandra, Sor Nancy, Katie



The following Saturday, we had a farewell party for Eric.  It was so hard saying goodbye, and we will really miss him.  We do have an addition to our group, though.  Katie's younger brother, Tony arrived a few days ago and will stay with us for two months.  It's nice having him here and I know Katie is very happy having her little brother here.  I've been in Okinawa now for almost three months.  I'm very content here and love country life. I am very involved in community life here and feel very much a part of everything.  Sunday we celebrated the Bolivian Mothers' Day and we were invited to a home where we were treated to a real feast....baked chicken, duck, steak, Bolivian sausage, rice, potato salad, corn, and cake for dessert.  I ate until I thought I would explode.  Lot of fun!   More soon... Teecher Judy

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Little House in the Tropics


A common site ....a visitor in front of compound.  That's our house in the background
Here it is...our little house

Catalina, one of the woman we visit as part of our community service.  Katie is teaching her to write her name and she loves to do water color painting with us.
Working out in the community with the kids



Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Yungas, three hour outside of La Paz
Japanese school, Okinawa, Bolivia


Hi Family and Friends,

I had some trouble with this blog, so the pictures are out of order, but at least I finally got a few posted.

As most of you know, I moved to a new site almost four weeks ago.  I am now in Okinawa, Bolivia, teaching English to fourth, fifth, and sixth graders.  Okinawa has a very interesting history.  It was settled by Japanese immigrants in the early 1950's and was declared the wheat capital of Bolivia in 2000.  It's quite a change from Cochabamba.   Cochabamba is the third largest city in Bolivia and Okinawa is a quiet little village.  The sorrounding country side is stunning. Even though there are no mountains here, there are beautiful tropical trees, amazing skies, and miles of sugar cane, soy and wheat crops stretching as far as your eye can see.  The weather is also very different and I'm now in a hot and humid climate.  I'm adjusting to it better than I thought I would and today, Katie and I went into Santa Cruz and bought a great fan, which will help a lot.  There are also lots of mosquitos and there's just no way around it...you just have to use DEET.  I don't like it, but it's better than being eaten alive.

Katie is the other volunteer here in Okinawa.  She is 23 years old and an absolute bundle of energy, funny, sweet and as cute as can be.   We share a small house and since I arrived, we've been busy fixing it up.  We've got our work cut out for us, but even after two weeks, it's looking a lot better, and it is wonderful to have some privacy again...to wake up and be and have a cup a coffee, stare out at the trees and just enjoy the peace and quiet before we head off to teach.   Our house is on a large grass field, in a gated community, about the size of football field.  There are four other small houses aound us where Japanese teachers live.  The Japanse goverment pays them to come and teach at the Japanese school for a couple of years and then they go back home.   There is also one Bolivian family.  We have mango, lime and grapefruit growing on the property, and right now the grapefruit is ripe, so Katie and I have been going out in the mornings, picking a couple off the tree and squeezing fresh juice.  So good!

Right in front of our compound, there is a small plaza or park and to the left of that is the Catholic church.  Behind the Catholic church is the school, which is run by Salesain sisters.  The sisters, living quarters are also near the school.  There are five sisters and our relationship with them is very different than what I experienced at the Hogar.  They are so warm and friendly and we evern share some of our meals with them.    The head sister is wonderful and I feel so lucky to be having this new experience in Bolivia. 
One block to the left of our compound is the Japanese school, which is owned and operated by the japanse community.  The children there are of Japanese and Bolivian descent.  For half of the day, they attend classes in Japanese and the other half is conducted in Spanish.  I teach classes at both schools, but it's a bit easier at the Japanese school because class sizes are smaller and I only assist the teacher.  We only teach for part of the day, three to four days a week, and three days a weeks we spend around four or five hours doing community work.  There are a total of 15 small villages that we visit, so we kind of make the rounds and do various activities with the kids.  We also visit adults in the community and simply sit and visit, teach them a little English, or even sit together and knit or crochet.  There is so much variety here and I love the sense of freedom.

Last week, the head sister invited Katie, Eric ( another young volunteer who will be going back to the States in May), and I to go with her to visit her mother in an area of Bolivia known as the Yungas, three hours outside of La Paz.  We left on Friday night as 7:30 and at 11:30 we we're delayed because of a blockade.  These blockades are something very uniquely Bolivian.  I'll try to explain.  If Bolivian citizens are dissatisfied with just about anything, they can set up a roadblock and no traffic is permitted to pass.  The government allows this very grassroots sort of protest and rarely does anything to stop or prevent them.  It is an accepted form of expression here.  I've already been delayed four different times by various blockades, but this one was the worst.  We were stuck in miles and miles of trucks and vehichles for 20 hours.  We had very little water, little food and our bathroom was the side of the road.  This meant we slept for two nights on the bus in terrible heat and humidity.  We finally were allowed to pass and arrived in La Paz early Sunday morning.  I won't say it was fun, but it was definatly an experience I'll never forget.

I was amazed the beauty of La Paz.  I had heard so much about it being a dangerous city, but I loved it there, with the stunning jagged peaks of the Andes and homes and businesses dotting the mountain sides.   We spend the day with Sr. Nora's sister, rested, had a nice lunch and then spend another three hours in a mini van to get to the Yungas.   Most of the trip was on a windy dirt  road with the most incredible landscape I have every seen in my life.   (Teresa, I'm pretty sure you would have jumped out) :o)  The Yungus is located  in a lush tropical jungle,  high in the mountains.  I felt like someone had dropped my into a scene of Jurasic Park.  It was so mystical and spiritual and beautiful that I  just couldn't quite believe I  was having this experience.  We were there to visit Sr. Nora's elderly mother, who is an adorable indigenous woman who cooked all sorts of great food for us and prepared locally grown coffee  that she had roasted herself.  Her villiage in located on the ancient Inca trail and she shared lots of stories and folklore about the Incas.  She also showed us Inca pots and vases that she had found 50 years prior when they were excavating the grounds for construction of their home.
 
We arrived back to Okinawa Wednesday afteroon and Katie and I headed out immediately to teach a couple of classes.  Friday night I had another interesting experience.  At 7:30 most of the village gathered  to say the stations of the cross outdoors.  We walked with candles, singing  along the way and stopping at invidual homes throughout the villiage that had set up stations in front of their houses.  It was so dark and the sky was filled with so many stars.  I am loving all these unique and new experiences and feel like I'm having a more authentic experience of the Bolivian people here.

My back is doing so much better.  I have a very hard mattress on my bed here and that's helped tremendously.  I really am pain free now and so grateful.   I'll close for now.  There are still so many stories to tell, but all in good time!

Love,  Judy
My farewell party...dancing, music, presents, food and lots of tears

Carnival in Cochabamba, latter part of Feb 2012




Salesian School, Okinawa

Cooling off at the river during our 20-hour blockage with Eric, Sr. Nora and Katie
Checking out the sights in La Paz

In the classroom with Eric and Katie


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Christmas, Vaction in Sucre and Chapare

THE LAST MONTH HAS BEEN FULL OF ACTIVITY.  ON DEC 26 I LEFT FOR A FIVE-DAY HOLIDAY IN SUCRE,   I THINK MY PICTURES WILL TELL THE BETTER STORY THAN MY WORDS, BUT I CAN TELL YOU I LOVED IT THERE.  SUCRE IS A WORLD HERITAGE CITY AND VERY BEAUTIFUL.    I ARRIVED BACK IN CBBA ON NEW YEARS EVE AND WENT TO VISIT THE OTHER HOGAR ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF TOWN.    AMBER AND MONICA, TWO OTHER SALESIAN VOLUNTEERS; THE HERMANAS AND THE GIRLS SHOWED ME A WONDERFUL TIME .   WE USHERED IN HE NEW YEAR WITH MASS, A DELICIOUS DINNER, DANCING, CHAMPAGNE AND FIREWORKS LIGHTING THE SKY.

I ARRIVED BACK AT MY HOGAR ON SUNDAY EVENING AND SPENT THE NEXT TWO DAYS HELPING PREPARE FOR OUR TRIP TO THE JUNGLE,   SOME OF YOU HAVE ASKED ME WHY WE TAKE THIS TRIP, SO I'LL TRY TO EXPLAIN,  I THINK I'VE MENTIONED IN THE PAST THAT MOST OF THE GIRLS  GO HOME AND SPEND FOUR OR FIVE WEEKS WITH  RELATIVES, NOT NECESSARILY PARENTS.  EACH YEAR A CERTAIN NUMBER OF GIRLS REMAIN AT THE HOGAR, EITHER BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO RELATIVES OR THEY CHOOSE NO TO GO FOR VARIOUS REASONS.  THIS YEAR, AROUND 20 GIRLS REMAINED BEHIND.   THE HERMANAS TRY TO DO SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR THESE GIRLS; HENCE, THE TRIP TO THE CHAPARE.  BUT WHY CHAPARE?  THERE ARE SEVERAL REASONS.   OUR HEMANAS S BELONG  TO AN ORDER KNOWN AS THE SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS.  THIS SAME ORDER OF HERMANAS RUN A BOARDING SCHOOL IN CHAPARE.  CHILDREN WHO LIVE IN REMOTE AREAS CAN RECEIVE AN EDUCATION  AND LIVE HERE, AS  IT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE FOR THEM TO  RETURN HOME EVERY DAY.  THEY ALL GO BACK TO THEIR FAMILIES FOR SUMMER VACATION, SO THIS FREES UP A PLACE FOR US TO STAY AT NO COST.  ANOTHER REASON. IS THERE  ARE SEVERAL RIVERS NEARBY FOR US TO SWIM IN AND LAST OF AL,L HERMANA GUADA HAS FAMILY THERE.  HER FATHER OWNS BANANA PLANTATIONS IN THE AREA  AND SO OWNS SEVERAL TRUCKS, WHICH SUPPLIED US WITH TRANSPORTATION BACK AND FORTH TO THE RIVER. 
 
I HAD AMAZING EXPERIENCES THERE AND I WILL NEVER FORGET MY BIRTHDAY.   HR. GUADA REALLY  WENT OUT OF HER WAY TO MAKE IT SPECIAL FOR ME.  HOWEVER, I WILL SAY, FOR ME THE JUNGLE IS NOT AN EASY PLACE.  AS YOU ALL SURELY KNOW BY NOW, I DON'T LIKE CREEPY CRAWLY THINGS, AND, OF COURSE, THEY ABOUNDED THERE.    I HAD LIZARDS DROP ON MY SHOULDERS, DEALT NIGHTLY WITH MY COCKROACH BUDDIES, (HAVE I MENTIONED HOW MUCH I LOVE RAID NOW?) SWATTED AWAY MOSQUITOES AND FLIES CONSTANTLY, AND WAS BITTEN INCESSANTLY BY SEVERAL VARIETIES OF ANTS,  OH, AND THE RATS WHO CRAWLED AROUND THE AWNINGS AT NIGHT.  SOMETIMES I WOULD FIND MYSELF AMAZED THAT THIS WAS REALLY ME, SITTING IN THE MIDDLE OF A BOLIVIAN JUNGLE AND ACTUALLY COPING WITH ALL THIS STUFF.  OH, I SHOULD ALSO MENTION THE CRUSHING HEAT  AND HUMIDITY. 

THINGS I LEARNED:
1.  I AM NOT A JUNGLE BUNNY.
2  GOOD IDEA TO WEAR  SHOES FOR ROCKY RIVER BOTTOMS OR YOU ARE VERY LIKELY TO SEVERELY CRUNCH YOUR TOES, WHICH, OF COURSE, I ONLY LEARNED AFTER THE FACT.
3.  DO CHECK YOUR FOOD FOR ANTS, EVEN IF YOU ARE RAVENOUS, LEST YOU DISCOVER YOU ARE CONSUMING MORE PROTEIN THAN YOU BARGAINED FOR.
4. BE ON YOUR GUARD ALWAYS AGAINST YOUNG CHILDREN IN THE WATER, WHO WILL PULL YOU, DRAG YOU, KICK YOU, CHOKE YOU, AND HANG ON YOUR SEVERELY SUNBURNED NECK AND SHOULDERS (NO MATTER HOW MANY TIME YOU BEG THEM NOT TO)ALL IN THE NAME OF FUN.
 5. ALWAYS KEEP YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR AND AWE OF THE NEW AND AMAZING INTACT, OR YOU WON'T SURVIVE.

ON OUR LAST DAY IN THE JUNGLE, WE WENT TO A NATURE RESERVE WHERE THE MONKEYS RUN FREE.   AS YOU WILL SEE IN THE PICTURES, THEY REALLY TOOK A LIKING TO ME AND IT WAS QUITE AN EXPERIENCE HAVING THEM CRAWL ALL OVER ME, EVEN A MOTHER WITH HER BABY.
ON THE WAY HOME, WE STOPPED FOR LUNCH AND I WAS SO TIRED, HOT AND DEHYDRATED, THAT I LOST MY FOOTING GETTING OUT OF THE TRUCK AND LANDED HARD ON MY LOWER BACK.   I AM SO GRATEFUL AND REALLY FEEL LIKE IT WAS A MIRACLE THAT I DIDN'T FRACTURE ANYTHING, BUT I DID SUSTAIN A SEVERE CONTUSION AND SLIGHT DISPLACEMENT OF MY TAIL BONE.  THE SISTERS TOOK ME STRAIGHT TO THE DOCTOR  AND ARE TAKING VERY GOOD CARE OF ME AND ANNA HAS BEEN WONDERFUL.  SHE HAS BECOME QUITE THE COOK AND HAS BEEN BRINGING ME GREAT MEALS.   I'M ON BED REST FOR A WEEK AND WILL BE FINE.  
THE GIRLS START BACK TO SCHOOL THE FIRST WEEK OF FEB AND I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO HAVING A MORE ROUTINE SCHEDULE AGAIN.  WE ARE WITHOUT RUNNING WATER  INSIDE AGAIN  AND ARE BACK TO HAULING IT IN WITH BUCKETS.  I HAVE BEEN TOLD THIS IS GOING TO CONTINUE FOR AT LEAST TWO MONTHS.  COCHABAMBA IS VERY DRY AND LACK OF WATER IS DEFINITE AN ISSUE HERE, BUT EVIDENTLY THERE IS ALSO SOME ISSUE WITH THE WATER COMPANY WE CURRENTLY USE AND THE HERMANAS  ARE LOOKING FOR A DIFFERENT COMPANY, BUT IT WILL TAKE SOME TIME.   I'LL CLOSE FOR NOW.  LOVE FROM BOLIVIA...(AS THE GIRLS NOW CALL ME)...
SENORA JUDITH  (who/deet)

UPDATE. THURSDAY, FEB 2, 2012  I'M UP AND ABOUT AND DOING MUCH BETTER WITH THE HELP OF PHYSICAL THERAPY.  IT FEELS WONDERFUL TO HAVE A NORMAL DAY OFF, ENJOYING DOWNTOWN COCHABAMBA AND ALL THE WONDERFUL FOOD.

FOR MY SISTER, MARY, SEVEN OF THE NINE PUPPIES ALL WENT TO GOOD HOMES AND WE KEPT TWO OF THE LITTLE FEMALES AT THE HOGAR, SO WE NOW HAVE THREE GERMAN SHEPARDS.  THEY ARE SOOOO ADORABLE.





My room, new and improved!

Erica with one of the pups, around 7 weeks old here

Christmas Eve

Ines falls aleep after eating spagetti dinner Anna and I made Christmas day.  Just too much excitement.

Elaina and I dancing, Christmas day

My hotel room in Sucre...Yep, I know!

The next few pics are of beautiful Sucre...




Hiking right outside of Sucre
Horseback riding later that day






Our first day in Chapare at the river

The girls collecting rocks

Doing my laundry in the river

Eating mangos in the river.  It's a rough life!



One of our new little additions... cold, wet, tired and sound asleep in my arms  


My birthday banana plantation zip line
Happy Birthday Judy and here's some cake in your face
My birthday mass



Hermana Guada mashing peanuts for peanut soup.  So good!

Kind of scary, really.  For some reason they really liked me...a lot!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas in Bolivia Continued...

For me, this pictures the beuaty, wonder and magic of Christmas.  Five-year old Amelia had no idea I was watching her as she introduced her new baby (her Christmas gift) to baby Jesus.

A gift of Italian fruitcake.  Yum!
Pictures after the Chistmas party.
Our Christmas cookies headed for the oven and the girls helping with the baking below...
Angel Anna...she really is!

Angela as Papa Noel

Christmas in downtown Cochabamba