Sunday, October 7, 2007

Life in Bolivia. Vida en Bolivia.

october 7, 2007

before i came to cairo i spent two years teaching in cochabamba, bolivia... these are some of the emails i sent to my friends during those two years...

august 15, 2005

i am settled in cochabamba... it's a great town... last sunday 15 teachers from my school and i went to urkupiña, 20 minutes away, to see a parade of indigenous dances for carnival... we had so much fun... i will be sending pics to you soon... today i am sending you something a wrote about my first two weeks in cbba... take care my friend...

Cochabamba Adventure…

I arrived in Cochabamba almost two weeks ago… and I a m s o g l a d I decided to come here… why I am glad I came to Cbba ? Here are the top five reasons…

5. the weather… clear crisp mornings and evenings… sunny warm days… 4. the school... friendly teachers… great students… beautiful campus with lots of grassy areas and beautiful views of the city and hills from my huge classroom windows… 3. the town... lots of plazas and tree lined boulevards not to mention the biggest outdoor market in Latin America where you can find any imaginable product for a great price… 2. the night life... bohemian cafes and lively restaurants and bars just a couple of blocks from my place… 1. the cost... the incredibly low prices allows you to be out almost every night… nothing like a delicious dinner at a nice place (drinks included) for 7 dollars !!!

I feel really lucky: I arrived on a Saturday. On Sunday I bought the newspaper to look for an apartment and on Tuesday I moved to a second floor "garzonier" (an apartment behind a family house) very conveniently located (close to school and city life) … lots of windows… nicely furnished… comfortable back yard and pool where I can have barbecues with my new friends and hang my hammock up… nice, helpful and friendly landlord… quiet neighborhood… a couple of teachers who arrived a week it took them almost two weeks to find a place...

I have been out basically every night since I got here… the highlight of the week was the Kjarkas concert… a parent gave ten tickets to the school counselor and he invited all the new teachers… Kcarkas band was so cool… they play traditional Bolivian music with passion … lots of fun… every one ended up dancing around the tables…

So... this is my life in Cochabamba now… I go where the wind blows... I believe in my heart that it was my destiny to come here… I can't wait to see what the next two years will be like…

november 12, 2005

time, life and happiness...

last night i celebrated my 38th birthday with a few friends... we had a great time... we drank and we listened to music and to each other's stories for a few hours... laughter filled my place as punch lines were delivered... i like the diversity of my group of friends... canadians, americans, europeans... the ages range from early 20's to early 50's... jessika and i were talking and she asked me: what makes you happy mario...? i replied "to be free to do what i want..." then i added that "my happiness comes from having achieved much more than could have been expected of me..." this morning as i write this i realize i forgot to tell her that i believe happiness is a choice... an attitude towards life... i strive to live each day and enjoy each moment... life is too beautiful and too short to dwell on the past or to worry about the future... two more years and i will be forty... today i embrace my decision to be happy...

december 5, 2005


the last couple of weeks have been lots of fun in cbba... i went to la paz and lake titikaka for thanksgiving... i made a couple of really cool new friends here in cocha... both the trip and making new friends have been so much fun... i have been in cocha for four months now... the people and the places have made these four months fun and unforgetable... in ten days i get one month off... i will continue to travel in Bolivia... in search of adventures and moments that hopefully will not only be fun but will make me a better person... happy travels for all of us !!!!!!!

december 15, 2005

words... palabras...

... in the summer of 95 i volunteered in a school for deaf children... i realized then how precious spoken words were... since then i try to use only encouraging words... to me words are like the air we breath... imagine a world without words... most of my life is lived in english because of my job... but spanish is my first language and i l o v e reading, writing, listening and speaking spanish... here is a poem by pablo neruda that describes my passion for spanish... the spanish version follows the english one...

january 15, 2006

old... new...

2005 is gone... december was a really good month for me... on the 3rd i organized *family day* with the 6th graders... it went really well... we had lots of fun and raised $150 for the graduation trip... i finished my first semester in bolivia on december 16th... on the 27th i left for the beach in arica to celebrate new years... manuel, paty, raquel, lyla and i partied, watched fireworks and got so drunk... it was so much fun... january 06 is going really well... i went mountain biking to coroico on the most dangerous road in the world... i hiked up to 5 200 meters in chalkataya... and i visited tiwanacu, ruins of an ancient south american civilization... today was the first day of classes... it was a really good day... i am looking forward to seeing my students graduate and hopefully traveling in venezuela, colombia and ecuador in the summer... yay !!!!!

february 15, 2006

last week it rained every day all day... this week so far has been sunny, humid and warm... it sprinkles here and there and it is not surprising for the sky to get all cloudy in 2 minutes and then clear again... in school my students have been doing poetry... they love it... i think there may be a few poets in training in my class... i love poetry and i have read to them many of my favorite poems, both in english and spanish... we have also been learning about greece... and believe it or not they also love it... we had skits yesterday... socrates, plato and aristotle where guests in a talk show... lots of fun and i recorded them on my digital cam... i can't wait to hear them laugh and giggle when they watch themselves on my laptop... the 80's party at sylvie's and selena's was so much fun... so many memories... i can't believe 80's music is considered classic now... am i getting old ? i began yoga-pilates on february 1st... the studio is really nice and only 3 block from my apartment... the instructors are nice... one really pushes you and the other inspires you... i love it... carnival is coming and i am going to oruro, and so is half of bolivia... hahahahaah... february was so much fun... the second two weeks were sunny and warm... i got to go to the traditional university students drinking place (twice): las planchas... the music, the ambience, the friends and the drinking were as bolivian as they could be... first it was lyla's birthday and then the comadres celebration... i also got to go to Oruro for carnaval... alice, aisling, natalie and i went to see one of the most famous carnaval parades in the world... they mentioned it in CCN en Español... we had so much fun watching the dances, playing with water and hanging out... i met a bunch of fun peace corps volunteers and got to dance with the San Simon university tinku dancers... February 2006 in Bolivia will be a month I will remember for the rest of my life... I am really happy and thankful to be here...

march 21, 2006

solo solitude...

... in spanish there is only one word to say that you are either lonely or alone... that word is solo and the noun is soledad... in english there are two terms: loneliness and solitude... i love solitude... solitude is my best friend... she helps me connect with myself... i definately enjoy solitude... arjona says in his song: Acompaniame a estar solo that he is unfaithful to her only with solitude... she is the only who will ever know who i am when nobody is around... she is the one that knows my innermost secrets and dreams... i am not a loner, though... i've always been friendly and have had many friends... i enjoy hanging out with a special someone or with a few of my good friends... partying, talking, laughing, eating, dancing, drinking, whatever... but there are days when i just want to be with me... on those days i watch tv, read a book, magazine or newspaper... i spend time rearranging my photo albums or my memories box, where i have cards, letters, newspaper clips, etc that i've collected since my HS graduation... spending time with my memories, the places and the people that have been part of my life, always makes me smile... i am thankful for the opportunities i've had to meet so many wonderful people and seen so many amazing places... this summer i will be traveling by myself through ecuador, colombia and venezuela... but i won't be alone, i will be with the best company i could have, i will be with me and my best friend solitude...

june 10, 2006

galapagos

10 days into my two-month backpacking trip in ecuador, colombia and venezuela... i just got off the boat after a 5 day cruise in the galapagos... i am in awe of the beauty and diversity of life in these islands... swimming next to 3 turtles, countless bright colored fish, playful sealions... walking next to iguanas of all shapes, sizes and colors, watching sealions feed their young or a moody huge male sealion greet us with roaring moans on a deserted beach... soaking up the sunsets on board, chatting with my fellow travelers, and to end it all seeing dolphins swimming along the boat as the sun was setting... all i can say is w o w... now i am chilling at the small port of ayoras... i just had a delicious shrimp ceviche and a couple of beers... life is good and i am thankful for every minute of it...

july 20, 2006

to live to tell

i am sittting at an outdoor cafe overlooking the santa marta bay in the caribbean coast of colombia... i have been traveling for 6 weeks now... I just finished reading the fist part of the memoirs of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. "Vivir para contarla" The closest translation to that is: To live to tell. I loved it. The power of storytelling at its highest. I bought it in Cali, the most chaotic downtown so far in the trip, from a guy on the street. Colombia has been all and more of what I expected. Gabo´s prose has brought each city and Colombian culture to life as I have explored Cali, Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena and now Santa Marta, an unexpected stop on my way to Tayrona beaches. In each place I´ve had the undeserved opportunity of having wonderful moments by myself and with Colombian friends and travelers I´ve met. A Colombian girl in Cartagena told me she was so sad when they killed Pablo Escobar, the head of the Cali cartel. It was not easy to understand her point of view, and I don´t think I ever will, but it gave me a glimpse of how culture and opinions are determined in our lives by what we live each day. I´ve seen many unique things in Colombia in the last 2 weeks. The first thing I noticed was that there is gambling everywhere. From fancy casinos to little desks on street corners where people bet. I am not sure what they bet on but there seems be at least a couple of places on every street in the commercial areas. I guess that´s why there are also lots of pawn shops. They are called: Compra Venta, Buy Sell. I am not passing judgement on Colombians, I am simply stating what I´ve observed. I´ve also seen hard-working people making a living selling cold water on the streets for a quarter. In Bogota and Medellin I loved the Botero paintings and sculptures in museums and on streets and parks. The disproportioned human figure is what he is famous for. The simplicity of the concept and the innocence of the faces in his paintings are remarkable. In Medelling the museum tour guide told me the story of Rosita, a prostitute who was his lover and who helped him selling his paintings to her clients when he first started. This reminded me of how Gabo non-challantly tells of his encounters with his "midnight girlfriends," as he calls them, in his memoirs. Sex is a big part of advertising, as in most places, but here is a bit more blatant. I was afraid to take my camera out to take a picture of a huge billboard in downtown Cali to prove it, but I will describe it for you: a ten meter wide, five meter tall billboard with the picture of the behind of a girl in tight jeans pulling the string of her thong. I am not sure what they were selling but I am sure they sell a lot of them. Cartagena has been my favorite city so far. History fills the city enhancing the beauty of the colonial arquitecture. Also, the charming mix of people of African, Spanish and Indigenous is evident in the stunning faces of women walking the streets. I met a girl in a coffee shop who told me that she works from 8 to 6 mon-fri in the coffee shop and 10 am to 11 pm sat-sun in a restaurant. I imagine many people have to work that much to make ends meet and I admire them with all my being. In Bogota I saw a mime for 2 hours and I laughed for most of them. I think he is representative of the humor of the people of Colombia. He was really funny. I´d say a mix of Chris Rock and Eddy Murphy, his poignant yet true observantions of man-woman relationships, social status, and daily life were brilliant. So, Ecuador gave me a new respect for nature, Colombia has given me a new respect for people. I am thankful for this opportunity to live and to tell you my thoughts my dear amigo and amiga... Be well...

september 30, 2006

quiet happiness...

after backpacking for two months through 3 countries this summer... after experiencing intensely beautiful moments exploring cities, small towns, beaches, rivers, mountains, waterfalls... after making new friends and creating unforgettable memories, i am back in bolivia... i´ve been back for 6 weeks now... and on this lazy sunday i was going through old love letters, pictures, cards, my travel journal, and i started thinking of the beauty of being happy without thrills and exciting moments... enjoying the happines that comes from getting a tasty meditarrean burger from tuesday... or chatting online with an old or new friend... or meeting an interesting and cute girl and go out on a date with her... hearing one of my students say ahhh, when they understand something i tried to explain the best i could... or watching the pride in their faces as they get 100 on a test, especially the one who never gets a 100... playing soccer with the boys during break and hear one of them yell... al arana, al arana, because they think i am good... getting an unexpected call from the girl who didn´t return my calls for weeks... watching CSI ... or being congratulated by my principal because a couple of parents mentioned to him that i was a good teacher and they were happy their child was in my class... reminiscing as i watch slide shows of my travels on my laptop... calling my mom in LA and listen to her laugh... getting a cheerful hug from one of the orphans when i arrive where i teach english twice a week... or waking up at 11 in the morning on a sunday... reading late at night about an expedition to the everest in which 16 people gave up their lives in search of a goal: reach the top of the world... going to the movies with my students... hearing good news from a friend whose life is at a turning point for the better... i love the adreline rush and excitement that come from vacations and travels, but i also love the beauty of daily life and the gift it brings: quiet happiness...

november 15, 2006

getting older... getting better...

i turned 39 last friday... about 20 friends came over to celebrate with me... they brought wine, cards, a cake and their laughter to share with everyone... sergio congratulated me with a speech in quechua, one of the bolivian indigenous languages... we had tequila shots, took pictures, sang happy birthday and then we had cake on plates made ouf of the cake's cardboard box... around 1 am we walked two blocks to mandarina, a club near my apartment and danced until 4 00... i had so much fun... i realized, one more time, that the people i meet where i go make the difference between being a nomad and being a happy nomad... i am getting older and i am getting better at living life... i am a happy nomad... thanks to everyone who made it to my party on friday and thanks to those who thought of me from far away... may happiness hug you every day...

p e a c e...

envejeciendo... mejorando...

el viernes cumpli 39 años... alrededor de 20 amigos vinieron a celebrarlo conmigo... trajeron vino, tarjetas, un pastel y su risa para compartir con todos... sergio me felicito con un discurso en quechua, uno de los idiomas indigenas de bolivia... tomamos tequila, tomamos fotos, cantamos feliz cumpleaños y luego comimos pastel en platos hechos con la caja de carton del pastel... a eso de la 1 am caminamos dos cuadras a mandarina, una discoteca cerca de mi casa y bailamos hasta las 4... me diverti mucho... me di cuenta, una vez mas, que la gente que conozco a donde voy hace la diferencia entre ser un nomada y ser un nomada feliz... estoy haciendome viejo y estoy haciendome mas feliz viviendo mi vida... soy un nomada feliz... gracias a todos los que llegaron a mi fiesta el viernes y gracias a los que desde lejos pensaron en mi... que la felicidad te abraze cada dia...

p a z...

november 30, 2006

hemos perdido... we have lost...

Poema 10

Hemos perdido aun este crepúsculo.
Nadie nos vio esta tarde con las manos unidas
mientras la noche azul caía sobre el mundo.
He visto desde mi ventana
la fiesta del poniente en los cerros lejanos.
A veces como una moneda
se encendía un pedazo de sol entre mis manos.
Yo te recordaba con el alma apretada
de esa tristeza que tú me conoces.
Entonces, dónde estabas?
Entre qué gentes?
Diciendo qué palabras?
Por qué se me vendrá todo el amor de golpe
cuando me siento triste, y te siento lejana?
Cayó el libro que siempre se toma en el crepúsculo,
y como un perro herido rodó a mis pies mi capa.
Siempre, siempre te alejas en las tardes
hacia donde el crepúsculo corre borrando estatuas.

Poem 10

We have lost even this twilight.
No one saw us this evening hand in hand
while the blue night dropped out of the world.
I have seen from my window
the fiesta of sunset in the distant mountain tops.
Sometimes a piece of sunburned
like a coin between my hands.
I remembered you with my soul clenched
in the sadness of mine that you know.
Where were you then?
Who else was there?
Saying what?
Why will the whole of love come on me suddenly
when I am sad and feel you are far away?
The book fell that is always turned to at twilight
and my cape rolled like a hurt dog at my feet.
Always, always you recede through the evenings
towards where the twilight goes erasing statues.

Pablo Neruda

december 20, 2006

the journey

i love to travel for many reasons... one of them is that it opens my eyes and heart to the moments that i may miss in the daily routine at home... the last 5 days i have enjoyed those unexpected moments... just today i saw: an old lady giving a cup of cofee and a piece of cake to a young man with crutches who begs for money on the street... a political protest of the workers party and the anti-riot police protecting city hall... earlier i enjoyed watching children feeding pigeons in the main plaza... i also enjoyed listening to a blind old man playing tango with his acordeon while i had a delicious steak dinner and wrote letters to my mom and grandparents... i let my heart guide my hand and a few tears fell on my cheeks as i wrote... but they were tears of happiness and gratitude for being alive... all day i walked, i wandered... sometimes with map in hand i looked for a museum or building... at moments i walked aimlessly and i simply observed and listened... the weather was perfect... the sun shined on me... i took pictures of a pink house and a blue balcony with pots of red flowers... i saw how downtown began to slowly be empty as people went home... my hostel is in an old building with a balcony overlooking the pedestrian street... i was looking for an internet cafe when my heart was saddened by the sight of a mother and her three children rumaging the trash bins for something they could use or sell... what a contrast with the many manicured ladies who walked the streets earlier carrying lots of bags... i am thankful for having this chance to observe, learn and enjoy life... tomorrow i will visit the place where che guevara was born and raised... and at night i will be 10 hours on a bus to buenos aires... the journey is my destination...

december 26, 2006

... another reason i love to travel is the unexpected moments... right now i am in awe... never in my life would i have imagined that i would reach the edge of the world... i arrived in ushuaia this afternoon... right now i can see the my hostel´s cabins, painted brick-red and green with strait and the mountains behind it...500 years ago ferdinand magellan circled the world for the first time coming through here.. unbelievable ... then there are moments when you feel like the universe smiles at you... yesterday i found an airfare half the price i was quoted a few days earlier.. and yesterday i shared a quiet fun Christmas dinner with my friend, an argentinian girl i met in Costa Rica six years ago, and her sister, brother-in-law and adorable two-year old niece ... antonella... her expressions as she opened her presents and as she watched the fireworks from the balcony overlooking the city will be in my heart forever... the day before, we went to the playground and i took pictures of her in the swings, later with the excuse of teaching her to count, she gave me 10 little kisses on the cheek... in Salta last week i met a brazilian couple who in their 60´s still have the adventurous spirit i admire in people... they drove 20 hours in their convertible, 10 hours for two days from brazil... i had the pleasure to spend a day with them on a wine-tasting tour... on the way there they joked in portuguese and marcelo, the argentinian guide, and i laughed even when we didn´t undertand everything they said... in cordoba i sat on the steps of the cathedral at night and chatted with a girl who wants to go to costa rica from argentina by land... she asked me many questions... we laughed and talked until i walked her to the bus stop at one in the morning... in the next two weeks i will wander around the patagonia and the tierra del fuego... more unexpected moments to come...

may 2007 bring you and your family mucha vida my friend...

greetings from the edge of the world...

january 10, 2007

the journey ends, the journey begins...

sunday i go back to cochabamba, monday i go back to school... as this month-long journey begins to end, i am looking forward to sleeping in my bed, making my coffee in the morning, watching the early news on tv and getting to school to my kiddos...

i love to travel and i love to live...

each day is an adventure, in far away lands or in the daily routine of life... today i visited moreno glacier near calafate, argentina... it was simply amazing... here are some pics i took... salta, cafayate, cordoba, alta gracia, buenos aires, ushuaia, punta arenas, paine towers, puerto natales, calafate and moreno glacier are now an unforgettable memory for me... thanks for sharing it with me my friend... finally, i want to thank you for your comments on my words and pictures...

mario

may 8, 2007

the countdown

the countdown has begun for me to leave bolivia...one more month and i will be in guate... three more and i will be in cairo... i can't believe it !!! it seems like yesterday i was at a kjarkas (local folk band) concert having ron abuelo during my first weekend in cochabamba... i have truly fallen in love with this city in the last 2 years... i will miss all the people i met here... i take with me so many memories...sigh... so, in two weeks i am traveling to sucre, a colonial city of white houses and government buildings... simon bolivar along with local generals signed the declaration of independence of bolivia, peru and ecuador there... i wonder what he would have thought of having a country named after him... my last adventure in bolivia will be the first week of june when i travel to uyuni salt lake... the perfect end to my two years here, a surreal place in every sense of the word... as if you step inside a dali painting... so, what you´ve been up to? if you are in guate this summer let me know...p e a c e and thanks for reading my musings my friend...

mario
ps i was at a "los autenticos decadentes" concert last friday... they are s o m u c h f u n... check them out sometime http://www.losautenticosdecadentes.com/musica.htm


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