Neighborhood Map (Mapa del Barrio)

This was the first video assignment I completed in September 2008 in my first weeks in Cochabamba, Bolivia showing a general walk through part of the city.

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Lost Cell Phone and Crazy Lady
December 18th, 2008

Lost Cell Phone and Crazy Lady

I have two more fun stories that occured before I made it home and made things coming back from Bolivia a little more interesting. My flight schedule to make it home was the following Cochabamba, Bol to Santa Cruz, Bol, to Miami, Fl, to Chicago, IL. As we struggled to get through security in the Santa Cruz Airport, somehow none of us (about 7 students from the program) had paid our “exit visa” which was $14. The money was gladly taken as we were then put into another line without getting any sort of reciept or dot matrix printed paper that is usually associated with plane tickets in Bolivia. After hearing on the loud speaker that our flight was leaving in 15 minutes and we had not made it past regular security yet, emotions intensified as we scrambled to find Lia, who was trying to buy a bottle of Bolivian wine before we left.

For international flights to the US there is a special hand checked security that everyone must go through in addition to the regular deal. Not too intense, but after I made it through I realized that I no longer had my cell phone. The day before as I was walking around the city I even remember thinking, “Man if I got robbed now, I wouldn’t even mind it as long as I didn’t lose my cell phone” because it is the same one that I use in the US.

As we were getting settled in our seats in the airplane, another girl in the program was like, “yeah I called your cell phone and some guy answered, he sounded kinda confused…” and I immediately thought that I HAD to call my cell phone to see if I could possibly get it mailed to me if I lost it with someone in the program or something. As I nervously called my own cell phone an unknown voice answered and I asked him if he was in Cochabamba, and he replied “No, I am in Santa Cruz and I am an employee for AeroSur (the airline company)” HOLY COW, great news for me to hear at this time as I told him, “I’m on the plain leaving for Miami any minute and that I was sitting in 24F” and he responded saying, “OK meet me at the front of the plane.” I unbuckled and scrambled to the front of the plane, which had not yet closed its doors, to see a guy in a neon yellow reflective vest and full rain suit on with my cell phone in his hand reaching out to give it to me. I didn’t even ask anything about where he found it I just thanked him about three times in the course of 10 seconds as I ran back to my seat thinking, “Wow, not only can I not beleive that that just happened, but I’m STILL in Bolivia.”

So when you hear horror stories about Latin America and people being killed, stabbed, mugged, and having expensive things stolen from them, remember that there are good stories too, just like anywhere in the world. It’s our own dang minds that remember those horror stories that triumph over the more positive experiences that happen.

Story #2 Crazy Lady

Sitting in the Miami airport overnight, waiting for your morning flight can bring about many interesting situations such as the following…

After finding a cozy little spot, setting up our camp, Andres, Lia, and myself were all sharing the last hours together watching movies on a laptop in the Miami airport. We were joined by this lady who would have seemed to have been drunk, but there was not even the slightest odor on her breath, even at an uncomfortably close face-to-face distance, nothing seemed weird about her overall appearance. As we watching our movie, she began singing alound in a louder tone than normal christmas carols to herself along with the background airport music. She made her way over to us coming very close (physically) to the both of us and asked “SO….Watcha doin?!” Both of us didnt really respond and I eventually said, “Watchin a movie.” Internally, she must have broke out into some wierd mentality about Santa and Christmas elves as she asked me, “Have you ever noticed those vents…? Ya know, by fireplaces? That’s where Santa’s elves hide, because EVERYONE knows that Santa can’t possibly watch everybody and those mall elves, those are all fake see. But those vents, that’s where the elves hide and they watch you all year to see if you are good or bad.”

At this point I was really glad that I was tired because otherwise I would have burst out laughing. Andres acted like a robot glued to the laptop screen without even a blink of response to this women as I unfortunately said, “Yeah….OK” She continued to bug us as we acted as though she wasn’t there.

Earlier in the evening I remember her talking to some random guy saying, “ARE YOU LOST!?!? Do you speak ENGLISH?! Ya know I know French and a couple words in Spanish.”

Later during the night I escaped to the bathroom and left Lia and Andres alone with the crazy lady, who I guess tried to talk to them, but they both began speaking Spanish and completely ignored her to the point that she actuall went back and sat down in silence.

The last incident was repeated as the loudspeaker repeated all night, “The Transportation Security Administration would like to remind you of 3-1-1. Pleace put all liquids or gels no bigger than a 3 oz container in a single plastic ziploc bag, and remember, only one per passenger. Thank you” During each one of these she would interupt and yell out, “Why do you keep telling me this?! You should just DO YOUR JOB! I got a big thing of toothpaste here thats bigger than 3 oz and you guys didnt even find it. Just do your job and stop yelling at people!” In addition to the crazy lady, our night was filled with a contstant update on the time every 15 minutes and because of this, sleep was not easily found.

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ISP Week 3 and then some…
December 9th, 2008

ISP Week 3 and then some…

My project has come to an end and I’m waiting for the whole thing to encode, but I here is a preview of just how good it is…that’s just the jewel case cover!

CD Cover

Local Effects of Climate Change: A Bolivian Story about Glaciers and Water Resources

After translating Spanish audio to English text for over 20 hours in the last 2 days, I’ve come to realize that I seriously cannot type or write proper English anymore… and there is a difference between it’s and its.

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These pictures are from my second trip to the glaciers where I went to about 5,400m, which is about 17,300ft, and yes that’s me holding a giant rock.

I say goodbye to everything that has happened here in  Bolivia, where for the most part, the prices are more than averagely low, the internet is way more than averagely slow, the air you breath in the city is more than averagely contaminated, the people are more than averagely short, the garbage dump is more than averagely made up of mercury and other heavy metals, the weather is more than averagely dry, the diversity of landscapes is more than averagely pleasureable, the people are more than averagely indigenous, the fruit is more than averagely diverse, the quantity of rice and potatoes is more than averagely consumed, public transportation is more than averagely crowded, glaciers are more than averagely dissappearing, the average person is more than averagely likely to talk to you, the amount of people with pale skin and blonde hairs is more than averagely extinct, the nature is more than averagely incredible, and the use of English is more than averagely messed up.

Here is an exerpt from my experience on Nov 21 going to the glaciers, it has quite a few funny cultural moments.

Today may have been the best day of my life. I started out by not sleeping a lot and waking up at about 6:30. I got all my stuff ready, my clothes, cameras, food, etc. and like always I was feeling pretty nervous about the Bolivian time thing. So here, depending on the occasion, things may just start an hour late, an hour and a half. There was an official big seminar that I went to that started 35 minutes late like it wasn’t a big deal at all.

So Cynthia, a doctoral student here told me to meet outside the ingenería building at 7:30 and so all I know is that Im suppose to meet her there, and that some French organization somehow helps out. So I arrived at 7:36 worried that they all will have left, and one of the best opportunities of my life had taken off without me. As usual, this was not the case. It took me about 45 seconds to find a 4X4 jeep that had a sticker on the side that had a French flag and a Bolivian flag with some French writing. I figured if I stayed there that I wouldn’t be left. I saw two gringoish looking guys standing across the street just waiting and I figured they might be part of the whole deal. Sure enough, no more than a minute later, Cynthia showed up and kissed the guys (common greeting) and I met both of them and we all hopped into the jeep. Turns out, neither of them are gringos and they both very fluent in Spanish and Cynthia and Carlos were very happy to practice their English. We went on the highway on the way to El Alto and we took this shady looking side road that popped out of nowhere on the highway which was like a 270 degree turn and we progressed through a poor neighborhood that wasn’t exactly La Paz and wasn’t exactly El Alto. We then progressed to what was the start of any geology trip, OFFROAD EXTREME. And by that I just mean that it’s a dirt road on the side of a cliff without guardrails. The thing that was different than most geology trips however, was that we were in a 4X4 Jeep and Doc Hansen was not driving. I think its quite possible that Ive conquered my getting into accidents fear and here in Bolivia I’ve only seen two people ever wear seat belts.

We saw a sweet overview of the valley of La Paz from a thinner channel valley that no doubt used to be a large glacier runoff stream. We continued into the Altiplanoamongst pretty bumpy roads with some sections that were very smooth. The start of the trip consisted mostly of mining villages and a couple of lakes that are dammed up. One actually you could see about a football field size of a iron stained earth from the residue of iron from where water used to be. Then…the big boy Huayana Potosi in its full capacity with snow and glaciers.One of the best things Ive ever seen. We continued along to the “other side” of the basin. As soon as we got to the other side, it was as if we were driving on those sand designs that you can make in jars. I also taught Carlos and everyone for that matter how to say fog instead of fuck. That was interesting…

“I have worked with the fuck”

“Wait what?”

“I work in the fuck”

“Uhh (half laughter) what?!”

“The glaceirs are really high and sometimes there is fuck like that over there”

“OOOOOOHH, you mean FAAAUUUGGGG”

“Yes Fog”

“Yeah its more like FauGGG, if you end it too fast it just sounds like you’re saying fuck.”

“Man I really need to practice my English”

Toward the beginning of the trip there was like a toll kinda thing that we had to go into in order to pass and the driver got out and went into this little building thing. I asked the people in the car if I could get out really quick and clean the window so I could take better pictures. They of course said “sure go right ahead” so I got out used the inside of my T-shirt and started jumping up and down in an awkward fashion cleaning the window. All was done in about 30 seconds. I got back in the car and they both looked at me, laughed and said, “You’re so American” and I kinda just sat there and was dumbstruck and I said “why do you say that?”, “First of all, you could have asked for something, you didn’t need to use the inside of your shirt, and second of all, you did everything so quickly, we aren’t going anywhere in a hurry. Americans always want everything so fast.” After they said this I kinda just sat there and laughed as I realized how ridiculous I was and how my culture has raised me. When you try to infiltrate another culture, you don’t want to do any harm you just want to try and blend in and not offend anyone, and I just wanted to make sure they were not going to have to wait for me. In one story we read this semester, there was a culture that the only way to truly be accepted is to offend someone of that culture or be rude to them. Kind of an interesting perspective eh?

For the rest of the day I was blessed to have some of the most beautiful visions Ive ever had in my life. One thing that I didn’t even think of was the llamas. There were a SHIT-LOAD of llamas and it was awesome, I actually felt like I was in Bolivia. The thing that I had no idea about before going was the temperature and how my body would react to the altitude. The temperature wasn’t any colder than Chicago, but it was very windy in some places, and not very windy in others. The other thing that doesn’t happen is Chicago, is the sun being so strong. You really can feel how strong it is the whole time and good thing I had a hat and sunscreen. I was wearing underarmour a t-shirt, and a coat, and sometimes it was too hot for the coat. Before, glaciers really intimidated me. Although I didn’t actually go on any, I really want to now. I followed Cynthia around, who was checking hydrological stations that measure the height of certain streams every 5 minutes. Carlos went by himself to the glacier and survived. The trip pretty much consisted of talking about science, in Spanglish, with people who were a little bit older than me, but close enough that we could really enjoy each others company and it didn’t seem like there was a power difference, and taking a bunch of pictures and video (which they told me along the entire ride that if I ever wanted to stop that we could).

To my luck, as we returned to the EPSAS housish station, a group of about 10 really high up government people found us and wanted to know about the study and I got all of that on film although the sound is probably out of the picture because of the wind and microphone awkwardies/problems. Although it was totally ironic and awesome that we ran into them. God as so frickin put me in the right place on this journey.

As we returned, we went a different way. The large lakes and beautiful mountains evolved into grasslands with more rounder peaks, llamas, and the occasional house. The not so frequent indigenous people were seen every once in a while along the side of the road just chillin out or sometimes looking after their donkey or llama.

The grass slowly evolved into more Adobe villages and finally something that looked like civilization. After about .5 km into the village there were even naturally made speedbumps. The village morphed into a more civilization until we found the asphalt highway that connects Lake Titicaca with El Alto. One of the most beautiful trips I’ve ever seen and I will certainly not forget it. In addition, all of it was free and they were all more than glad to help me out with my documentary.

Oh yeah, as I was walking at night past the university there were about 30 students and about 50 special cops escorting them somewhere with an additional 20 in front of the university hanging out. These cops were special because it looked like they had full body armor, they were in all black with helmets, and almost every single one of them had their own personal motorcycle.

So as I walked by the university, there were three younger girls (probably about 17) giggling with each other in front of me. I was far enough away from them that I could see as they passed literally EVERY SINGLE head of the police officers turned and immediately looked at their butts. It wasn’t just they looked at the girls, it was more a of a turn, nod the head down toward the buttocks area, follow until they are out of sight, and lastly, my personal favorite, the look at the closest fellow officer with a grin that potentially grows into a nod of approval.

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ISP Week 2
November 27th, 2008

ISP Week 2

Last week after meeting a bunch of people, I met some more people, interviewed them on video and did that everyday for almost the whole week. However…

Last Friday I went with some doctoral students in a 4×4 off into the boonies where the glacier Tuni Condoriri is and I talked with them and filmed and took about 2,500 pictures (thats with timelapse). One girl named Cynthia is monitoring hydrology stations and it was funny because I thought she was a grad student and my age, and she said “some people think I’m even 20!” and I asked, well how old are you…turns out she’s 27 and she has been working on her doctorate for a year or two. The other guy Carlos was measuring the exact level of ice and snowfall on the glacier and he is quite a funny guy as well. I will see both of them later this week and a cool music thing at a bar that’s every Thursday and I guess it’s pretty big.

I saw a couple hundred llamas as well as some sicknasty mountains, snow, and lakes. It was just a wondrous sight, especially for a geologist.

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Saturday I went up to El Alto the city that borders La Paz which is pretty much like a very large poor city with a highway that goes out into the Altiplano and Lake Titicaca. There was a parade that was frickin awesome because the costumes are some of the best things I’ve seen in my life, the colors were brighter than any clothing I’ve ever seen, and there were some pretty good lookin chicks as well, (not to mention all of the drunk Bolivians that wanted to share a beer with me and my buddy). The tradition of parades are pretty much that everyone on the side has a lot of beer and they walk into the parade and give beer to all the guys who are dancing in the costumes, and by the end of the parade (I think its 6 hours) everyone is either drunk off their asses, or dead tired.

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Other than that I’ve met quite a few students here and am almost in the “in crowd” with the environmental students and there were even some girls taking pictures of me, which they were trying to do very smoothly, but it was completely obvious what they were doing. In that sense, I think the blonde hair is great. I also just like meeting Bolivian students because its just awesome to know that I’m halfway across the world and I can relate and fit in, not that that’s what I try to do at Hope, because in a lot of ways it is the opposite.

Sunday I interviewed an Aymaran, who is the like head ambassador of Bolivia and he gave me all that sweet indigenous perspective about nature, about grandmother fire, and how rivers cry and how we are out of equilibrium the mans words were like impromptu poetry, it was a very cool experience.

The whole independent study project has been about the best thing in the world because it’s a project and not a class. I only have one thing to do…make a documentary. I don’t have to worry about turning in little things here and there, I just have to worry about building everything on each other, organizing my days, and finishing on time, which I like a lot better. I can work whenever I want; I just have to have things finished by the 10th of Dec. It’s a great project, but I still have quite a bit of work to do.

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Independent Study Project Week 1
November 18th, 2008

Independent Study Project Week 1

So I’ve been in La Paz for almost a week now doing my independent study. La Paz is the highest (in altitude) capital in the world. The hilliness of the entire area by far beats that of San Francisco. This also makes for some great views because of the changes in elevation and peaks everywhere. Here are my most exciting stories so far…

I was in a taxi with two of my fellow classmates going to their house and they told me “mini buses don’t go near our house because the street is too steep.” I thought it was pretty funny and then when we were in the taxi going to their house, the taxi actually stalled out on the hill because it couldn’t go any higher. The taxi literally was peeling out because it couldn’t get traction and the hill was too steep…what a fun time…especially going down the street backwards at about 30mph.

Secondly, the first minibus ride that I had, I jumped up front and as soon as I sat down I recognized the tune on the radio. “You’re all I ever wanted, you’re all I ever needed..YEAH” NSYNC…they were playing NSYNC in a minibus in La Paz, Bolivia. I literally laughed out loud and thought to myself, “man I think I could live here.” Not only that, the next song was followed be another NSYNC song. The guy had an NSYNC CD. Oh and PS NSYNC has like two of their songs (This I promise you, and Gone) in Spanish for those of you who are into that.

I saw James Bond before all of you unless you downloaded it illegally. I thought it was pretty awesome, but even more awesome was the fact that it was the first movie that I had seen that had anything to do with Bolivia (as far as Hollywood movies go) and I was in Bolivia seeing it. The first thing I have to say is that none of it was filmed in Bolivia and it was actually filmed in Chile. Ironically, this part of Chile used to belong to Bolivia before their war that lost them their connection to the sea. The other thing is that, not more than 12 hours after seeing the movie, I was actually in the La Paz airport, which is where they “were” in part of the movie. Oh and PS, the La Paz airport does not say in big red letters “La Paz Airport.”

I was walking around yesterday in the main strip near the post office and there was half of the lanes closed and a bunch of miners protesting. They were pretty much just screaming every once in a while, hanging out, and holding a banner. Pretty standard for Bolivia, especially La Paz because it’s where all the government stuff is. There was also a bunch of cholitas (the name for women who wear the indigenous pollera skirt with blouse and bowler hat) that were blocking another side street with signs that said they wanted more money and that the government was a Cajaro! which I believe is a swear word that doesn’t really translate but is kinda like bitch.

The market here is awesome. I think you can really tell a lot about a society about where people buy their stuff (if they buy them at all). There is a section-ish area for everything that you need. For example, there is a section of bathroom things, so there are toilets, baths, shower doors, you name it all in different stores on the same block. There is also a lighting place where you can find all sorts of different light bulbs, electric cables, adapters, lamps, and even halogen lamps made in china that don’t work! But hey! They are only $3 so I guess its worth playing around with for a few hours (I needed some lighting for interviews and halogens are the best for film…but only when they work…Calvin where are you!?!?). The colors and visual appeal of the market is indescribable. I will have photos later.

On an update on my project so far I have interviewed the president of the winter sports club that’s called Club Andino Boliviano (CAB) of Chacaltaya the highest ski resort in the world. I accidentally met a group of scientists working on a Biogas experiment and got a whole tour of their lab and talked with the two professors who are coordinating it as well as two grad students. From here I got a meeting arranged with the head guy of glaciology and paleoclimatology, who I had been trying to contact for some days. After this accidental meeting, I met the girl who I had talked to on the phone who I thought was a secretary, but was actually a student who is part of the environmental organization that is putting on seminars on glaciers this week. I had actually passed the whole group in the hall without even realizing it and when I asked the people in the office about the seminar they really had no idea…its funny how information works here. I then met like 6 Bolivian students, went to where the seminars are going to be to check the soundboard so I can record everything. They were VERY willing to help me out and as long as I share the video goodness they are down.

Today I met with Edson Ramirez, the glaciologist and he showed me the whole institute, some of the projects that are going on, introduced me to his grad students, and showed me the photogrammetry lab they have as well as an anaglyph (the 3D red and blue glasses) map of La Paz, El Alto, and the surrounding Andes. I might even go up with the student to one of the research sites this Friday. WOOT WOOT!

So far I have been VERY lucky with information and accidentally meeting the right people, and in turn them introducing me to more of the right people. That is all.

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Lake Titicaca, La Paz, and El Alto

Last Saturday through Monday we spent in Copcacabana a touristy town right on Lake Titicaca. Yes, there is a lake called Titicaca and it is the highest navigable lake in the world. On our journey there, we had to cross the lake with our big tourbus through a method you all know as taking the fairy. Well I would say that the Bolivian way is not that different, it just looks a lot scarier. They load up any car or tour bus that comes and the people get out and take seperate boats across. This way the people can watch their own bus sway back and forth in the waves on a boat that is pretty much just 2” x 4” ‘s.

As we approached Lake Titicaca, we stopped several times to get out and take pictures because of the shear amount of beauty, I would say that it could be the prettiest thing Ive ever seen. As we approached Copacabana, a small tourist town on Lake Titicaca we stopped to take pictures of the sunset which once again may be one of the best I’ve seen (sorry Lake Michigan ☹ ).

The next morning we set off on Lake Titicaca on a boat that was a lot fancier than I was expecting. It had a lower layer that was kinda an interior, a back that was exposed, and 8 people could go on top where there were benches to enjoy the spectacular view. Our adventure led us to the “Isla de Sol” or Sun Island. We walked around this place for probably 3 hours and I almost had a heart attack from seeing some of the best rock formations Ive seen in my entire life. There were sandstones there that were almost completely white. This may have been one of the best parts of Bolivia so far, except for the fact that everyone in the class of course wanted to know each rock that they stepped on for the next hour. I even gave a little mini history on the plate tectonics of the region to the class, because the lake used to be part of the ocean, but due to mountain uplift it has been cut off. PS Science is just as fun in Spanish as English.

The next island we went to had like an artesian well or something that supposedly had water that keeps you young forever. With the amount of sailing and the imaginary look of everything I felt like Zelda filling up all my empyt bottles to replenish all my hearts (Zelda is an old videogame for those of you who dont know).
That night I ate some chocholate fondue and some chicken at a little restaurant for just over $5 and after that I definitely slept well. As we left in the bus the next morning we stopped at a graveyard where a tradition was taking place for Día de Todos Santos, I think that means all Saints Day, but Im not really sure what people do for that. Here they decorate the graves with a lot of food including animal shaped bread, popcornish stuff, fruit, and heavily artificially food colored cheeto like things without the cheese. I got some sweet oranges, bread, and other goodies as well as a lot of great photos.

The first day in La Paz was sweet. We started the morning off by receiving a lecture by the head embassador who taught us all about Andean culture. It started out to sound like one of those cultural things where I’d like to understand, but no matter how hard I tried it just sounded like a bunch of BS, but I there was a moment where everything clicked. The picture was literally rotated and I could see the truth. He had a picture of Monchu Pichu in Peru and he tilted it on its side and there was a VERY clear depiction of a face in the whole scence. He did this with about a dozen photos and there were VERY DISTINCT human figures within the natural setting. It was incredible! Now I have to look at all of my pictures sideways to see if I have anything in them. My professor already told me that I do so now I just have to look harder and FEEL the picture instead of looking at it.

Later in the day we went to an Aymaran artists gallery. He is pretty much the man and I wish I was rich so I could buy all his stuff because I love it. His name I beleive is Mamani Mamani and he paints with VERY vibrant colors and lots of curves. It was interesting to see his work and to hear him talk about how he incorporates his culture into his work.

After this we went into the government palace, which would be kinda like our White House. We got a tour and got to see some cool stuff. It was rumored that we were going to have the opportunity to see Evo Morales (the current president of Bolivia) because of some hookups, but we didnt. Evo used to talk to the students in our program every year when he was a cocalero and starting up in politics, but hes pretty much too famous now.

The next day we went to El Alto, the city like on top of the mountains (La Paz is in a big valley) and we went to a university that was created by the people. Pretty much a bunch of students rallied together to get this thing started because they were being descriminated against in the La Paz universities and there werent any others in El Alto. The concept of having students start a university might possible be one of the most foreign actions within a similar societal setting that Ive ever hear. In the US, you pay and you goto college. If you cant afford private, you goto a state. If you cant afford a state you goto a community college. Its an interesting situation to think about not being able to goto college because of this situation, but I could never picture something like this happening in the US.

In the next 24 hours after this, I felt like I finally found my place in Bolivia. We saw an organization that gets kids of the streets and gets them doing productive and entertaining things as well as having fun. Each kid pays 5 Bolivianos each month (about 80 cents) to be in the organization and they have to be at least 8 years old. Look at the video below to see why I fit in with these kids.

BTW, for background info, next wednesday I will be free and on my own with no classes and nothing to do but a 4 week long independent study that consists of me going wherever I want in Bolivia and making a film about whatever I want…as long as it is about an aspect of Bolivia.

So Friday was our free day. I had one meeting scheduled to meet with a guy who works for the Bolivian government on a panel that helps design social development projects that are affected by climate change. About 30 min before the interview I found out all of this and that they actually had a website with LOTS of publications so a lot of the meeting consisted of him showing me the website. Nonetheless, I met the guy, got some good information, and will definitly be working with him in the future.

Last and actually the best! is that I met with a professor from UMSA, the public university about my project and it just so happens the university is starting an 18 month long research project on the melting glaciers just outside of La Paz. There are a whole bunch of undergrads, grads, and professors working on the project, and it looks like Im going to be able to spend a week in the field with them helping them with research. SICKNASTY TO THE MAX EXTREME! One of the glaceir experts who works for the university also has done photogrammetry before and I am going to see if I can convince him to let me do some photogrammetry.

So I will be on my own in La Paz for most of the rest of November blending in with all the other gringo tourists. The one thing that scares me a little bit about La Paz is all of the truffi’s (which is about 75% of the cars) have someone screaming out the window where they are going, but they all sound like auctioneers. The only thing out of 3 days I could understand was 1.50 Bolivianos and Universidad. On another note, Ive gotten a few more compliments on my Spanish from Bolivians saying how rare it was to see a gringo speak that well.

Things have gotten busy and I have absolutely no idea how busy I will be in the next month, but if you dont hear from me its beacause Im having a good time doing science and film. I hope to set up some more photos as well as post some of the glaciers and all my project stuff.

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Rural Bolivia and Computer Troubles…I mean Fun!

http://www.tylerdepke.com/static/kuari/Diario_Foto_de_Kuari/Blog/Blog.html

Week 6 & 7
October 19th, 2008

These last two weeks have been incredibly busy and tomorrow I leave for Santa Cruz for the entire week. Part of one of my assignments was to make a photo journal (link above). The site isnt completely finished uploading so if you check it tonight (Sunday) it probably wont all be there.

I spent 4.5 days in a little pueblo called Kuari that has a population of about 700 people. The primary language is Quechua, but spanish is taught in the school system. The people there live off the land and mostly grow potatoes and abba (lima beans) but also heard sheep along with raising cattle, chickens, and the occasional rooster.
The bus of gringos arrived at the main school at approximately midday with about 100 indigenous people of all ages staring in aww at the sight of a tour bus packed with gringos. Most of us had a hiking backpack or a small schoolbag filled with our lives for the next 4.5 days. The families gathered around as the coordinator started with one family, looked on the list and then shouted out a gringo name. My name was about 4th up and as soon as my name was shouted out, the girl that was there for the family was like “no, no, no, una mujer” no no no a woman! Well I’m glad that on this side of the globe my manliness, muscular figure, and aroma of raging hormones can actually intimidate people.

So I ended up going with a family of one of the other gringos because my family was busy. I spent the afternoon playing futbol and having an adventure with the kids. I think there were 9 kids in the family and two very young ones from Brazil that only spoke Portuguese. One of the kids had a bike without tires (just the rims) that he would ride in the concrete water channel on the side of the mountain. As we returned I asked to ride it and got as much of a mountain biking experience as I probably every will here. I cant even imagine what a 6 ft gringo riding a trashed bike without tires that was probably made for a 10 year old down a mountain side must have looked like.

I spent a lot of time there thinking of why I was there, was there even a point, and HOW THE HECK am I suppose to understand a rural culture and a way of life that just seemed so “simple.” The biggest conclusion I came to was that as much as I thought I understood life like this before, living in the middle of nowhere, not ever leaving, and living off the land, I never had and will be a long time until I do. I’ve been in the middle of nowhere before, Ive pooped outside without any problems, but the truth is Ive never LIVED like that. On all those CAMPING trips, I’ve been on vacation. I traveled, things changed. Here, en el campo, nothing changes. Life’s tough, very repetitive, work is hard, and the chances of leaving are very slim.

I brought all my cameras, which run about $1000 altogether, a sum of money that I dont know how people in the campo can understand. They pay 28B’s (about $4) for electricity every month and I never heard anything else that really cost money. The father of the family asked me for money a couple times during the stay, making it really awkward for me, but the reality of the situation is that throwing money at the situation doesnt help. Like many grassroots projects, the people are paid in commodities like food, soap, or other things they use in their everyday life. As bad as I felt not giving him any money and walking around with expensive cameras, a lot of times, the people just spend the money on alcohol and make an even bigger problem of the situation.

The kids of course were fascinated by the cameras. Some of them had never seen cameras before. There was a weird shyness about the cameras where at first they would run away if I tried to take their picture, but as soon as I clicked one, they would immediately run up to me wanting to look at the picture. Not to mention this, they wanted to take pictures of everything known to man. “Hey look theres a wall, TAKE A PICTURE. WOAH, THERES ANOTHER WALL, AND A TABLE!”

One night I went with my two brothers ,9 and 10, to their grandparents house where we found a bunch more kids working with their father. When I arrived in my red Patagonia jacket with my camera bag at my side everyone stopped and looked at me as if I was naked for a good 20 seconds. This is where I met Alfredo, one of the older kids. He was 17 and his biggest interest in me was wanting to learn english. We shared some very funny experiences with that and I tought him how to say, “Im from Chicago and I wanna Polish sausage” with a Chicago accent. The Quechua-ish mix of spanish and english made for interesting sounds, but I can definitely say his English is better than my Quechua.

Later that night, as we were going to bed, we had some pillow talk that consisted of him asking a question about every 10 seconds and me responding in fascination as to what exactly was going on in his brain because of the types of questions, the best of which is the following:

“Who painted your hair?”
Umm, no one did.
“No, who painted it?”
Its not painted its all blonde, is natural. In the United States there are a lot of people with blonde hair.
“Does EVERYONE in the United States have blonde hair?”
No, theres a lot of people with dark hair too. There are even people with red hair! Its a giant mix of colors.
“Wooaaoow”

I feel privileged to be the first blond-haired person that some of the people there had ever seen. Sometimes I don’t know if I get the looks because Im a gringo or because I have the blond hair…all I know is that it doesn’t help me blend in.

I had two nieces there that were about the cutest things on the planet. One of which didn’t speak any spanish so it was all kinda facial expressions with her. There are several pictures of them that I will be posting, one of which is them playing in the toilet that is not yet installed.

One thing that I will mention is that every male over the age of 12 asked me how they could get into the US. How much it costs for papers, how much money you can make on a job, what kind of jobs there are, how I could get them in, how could I get them papers, etc. One of the funnest questions I thought was “How many floors/levels does the largest houses in the US have?” I guess wealth is measured by the number of floors you have in your house…not a bad system of judgment I guess, just a little weird to think about. However, I also received questions like, “Do you have bathrooms like this in your house?” They were in the process of making bathrooms that if I had to describe them would be fancy camping bathrooms. They were made of all brick with a toilet (made of that regular white material…the word escapes me right now…my English is detiorating), a shower, and a sink. Not bad, but how do I explain that all my life I’ve grown up with a bathroom thats at least twice the size, INSIDE my house, AND that there are three?

Oh yeah, everyone wanted to know what time it was in the US at the exact moment they asked me. When I told them on the East Coast its the same they were pretty much amazed.
Ive already written about the whole field stay in Spanish several times so Im about outta gas here. If you know Spanish good for you because there will be a photo journal gallery with a lot more details.

Week 7

So my computer broke. I installed Final Cut Pro and a couple other apps in the Studio at the 1 of 2 Mac certified stores here in Cochabamba. Give them your computer for a day, get it back with Final Cut Pro, Color, Motion, Compressor, etc. and pay a large fee of $16 dollars and bam you are all ready to make a movie…(Oh yeah, I wouldnt recommend installing updates because that will totally screw up those sweet programs you just got) Hmmm…or should I say ARRRR!

I went back to the store quite frusterated because I’ve never had software problems ever with Macs and now I was going to have to pay someone else to fix my computer problems, something that I just hate doing.
Another $21 dollars later, I find myself with a fully functioning Mac with all my files intact, and even some small extra programs oh yah know like Adobe CS3 Flash, Dreamweaver, InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop.
I dont know what is more frusterating, trying to explain complex computer things that I know I understand in Spanish, but having it come out like I’m a 3rd grader trying to fix my mathblaster so I dont fail math class, or having to pay for shady computer fixer upper service.

I shouldnt say that ALL my programs were intact, there were a few small free ones that I use all the time that you can just download from the internet. Sure, no problem, just suffer the download speed of 2.6 kb/s. For those of you who dont know anything about your computers, Im guessing if you had dial-up, ya know, remember when you had to use a phone line to connect to the internet with that sweet sounding electronic explosion. DI DI DI DI DIIIIIII…..KEEPOOCHSSCHSHCSHC KEEPOOCSHCSHSCHSHSHSHSHSHAA you would probably have at least 30kb/s and those of you on DSL are pushin anywhere from 100-300kb/s.

I remember deciding this a while back, but I could never permanently live without the internet or the existence of a personal computer. I think its because thats the only way I express my creativity (besides my random human kareokee machine ability). As much of an outdoorsy guy I am, I gotta be plugged into the matrix to get my fix of communication with the larger world. Yes the man is holding me down.

My Spanish has improved significantly and I’ve been told this by many people. Hey! I may even be up for the Most Improved Spanish Award! ☺ For those of you that dont know, Depke’s have a tendency of receiving “Most Improved” awards. I guess that means that we really suck at a lot of stuff, but we have the biggest capacity to learn the fastest. Either that or people just feel sorry for us. In all seriousness, as long as I am at a close distance I can hear about 98% of the words coming out of their mouths. The problem is I can only comprehend about 80% of them and if there is one that I dont comprehend I will sit there and think about it and miss the following three sentences.

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Thieves and The Cancha
October 3rd, 2008

Thieves and The Cancha

Fri 3 de Oct. Week 5

We had the most interesting classes we have had yet this week about the history of Coca in Bolivia and about the water wars in Cochabamaba, both of which are intense and the root of the situations is pretty complex so I will not go into these right now.

I was on a micro (public buses) today where there were 3 people working together as robbers. I got on when it was quite crowded, and like it usually is, you are all up in peoples business, but today it was even worse. I was pretty much being pushed into the driver. At one point, my leg almost prevented the driver from being able to shift into 2nd. I only had one coin in my pocket and my wallet and cell were both in deep pockets in my bag. My bag was kinda twisted around my side awkwardly and there was more body contact than usual. After we made a stop, a lady turned to me and asked if they had taken anything. I was a little oblivious to the fact that they were robbers but I could feel something was a little awkward and I told her, I dont really have anything for them to take. I checked my bag and pocket and everything was OK. The girl next to me however was missing her cell phone. She was quite distraught, but not the end of the world. For the first time, I was part of a conversation on a public bus between more than 2 people. Like most places, people usually don’t talk on the buses, but people were definitely talkin. The weirdest thing is that of the guys of the two guys and girl who were the crooks, was dressed really nicely and I think even had a gold necklace on.

For the first time today, I visited “The Cancha”. The Cancha is the market in Cochabamba. If you’ve never been to a third world country, the local market is equivalent to a genetically modified Sam’s Club on the streets. There are sections of different genres of products, but you can find just about anything there. My mission was to find a water bottle, bread, fruit, and coca.

Im not exactly sure how many blocks in takes up, but I would say the general feel of it is probably 8 x 4 blocks or so. The outskirts generally have more americanized clothes and are more of small stores. As you dig deep into the heart, you get into a densified area that is just space on concrete where vendors set up any given product. The meat section makes me a little naucious because it has an odor that trigers about a dozen different dead animal smells. The pasta aisle is what impresses me the most. Each little store probably has about 15 bags of different types of pasta, and each bag I’m guessing is probably about 75 pounds of pasta. The funniest thing for me is still the bra vendors. Maybe its the fact that women try on the bras on the outside of their clothes in the middle of the streets that is funnier. I mean, there is no easier way, its just a different concept and to me it just looks funny.

My adventure from the Cancha ended with a safer bus ride and the most beautiful sunset I have seen yet. At the start of the ride, the sky burned orange and the silhouettes of the palm trees seemed as though they really were on fire. The clouds had a pink reflection of the sun that complimented the orange tones like a pastel marker pack. The coolest thing was that, when crossing the bridge, to the right was the city all lit up at night like an airport in the middle of the mountains, and to the left was this beautiful sky.

I will be living in a rural village for the next week so wish me luck in surviving that! The family may or may not speak Spanish (Quechua area) and I guess Im pretty much going to be eating potatoes, but not much different from Cochabamba, just less meat.

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Week 3 Photos
October 3rd, 2008

Week 3 Photos

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Week 4 Photos
October 3rd, 2008

Week 4 Photos

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