Monday, April 16, 2007

Geneva, round III

More pix...

Leaving my uncle's house that night, Winter Wonderland!!!

From left to right: Plume (fluffy white thing), Laetitia (aka Da Vinci), me, Alfonso, Melanie (aka Lalie).

Random random very unexpected moment at a club in Geneva. Still not sure what the hell happened...

Another randomissimo moment at a bar in Geneva... The craziest thing is that everyone was acting normal, not even LOOKING at the exotic dancer!

Johanna and Tamas at the Entrecote - delicious restaurant, great company. Marton was there too. We had the double helping of red meat, fries and secret-recipe sauce and then, dessert - a piece of heaven on a plate. Seriously scrumptdidiliumptuous!

Geneva, round II

More photos from my trip to Geneva, because an image is worth a thousand words!

Delicious fruit tart dessert Veronique contributed to a family lunch. Mhmmmm! I miss eating strawberries (here eating strawberries is a bit of a lottery because if they aren't disinfected properly you can get a weird bug that potentially lodges itself in your brain - insane! and as much as I love strawberries, not worth the risk.)

This is Ana, a portuguese friend who lived at home for a month while she did an internship at the WIPO... We became friends and among other things celebrated St Patrick's day together, at Shakers - ever so stylish, I know. But we got a free had out of the deal, muahaha. Btw Happy Belated Birthday Rebekkah! ;)

One of the pseudo high school reunions I took part in during my stay... The big one was done over drinks one night and then all these other ones were over hot chocolate and soft drinks, haha. It was great seeing everyone again and seeing that despite a lot of movement, some things never change. Here, left to right: Jesse Hartigan (currently in India working with the NGO Barefoot and installing solar power where necessary), me, David Jensen (enjoying life in Geneva, still reading many books at once on topics ranging from astrophysics to metaphyics to Irish poetry and including organic chemistry... no comment), and Cara Wilson (hanging out in Hong Kong for a while, second round, working as a freelance graphic designer and with publishing houses). Ah, Ecolinters!

To stick with tradition, I participated in a cello concert during my stay - this one was on the first day of spring, in a school near my house. The idea was to banish winter and welcome spring but it was so bitterly cold that we played without feeling our fingers (the space heaters like the mushroom shaped one you see in the back? they were more for show)! What an experience. Here you see Guy Noel, John DeVore (my teacher) and Guillaume DeVore (his son) playing a trio to wrap up the concert.

My last week we went to have dinner in Lausanne at my uncle's house. It was delicious - mozzarella followed by meatballs and couscous and ice cream, all accompanied by rich red wine. Yummmm! From left to right: Veronique (the ex-model), Arthur (her son, computer genius in the making), Jean Louis, Mom, Ana, me, and Alberto (my mother's brother). Very fun evening.

Geneva, round I

March was spent back home in Geneva, Switzerland. Well... mostly. My first week was wonderfully quiet, I saw my godparents, spent time with my grandfather and cousin Laetitia (aka Da Vinci), attended International Women's Day 2007 at the ILO, visited my high school to discuss the possibilities of a) doing a clothes' drive for Bolivia and b) setting up a longer term project with Bolivia, discovered the new Pictet & Cie building (see Cricri on the right), had dinner with Verena and her crew, caught up with old friends, went to a job interview, saw family, went to the movies, organized brunch, ate 3am koresh with Markus after he redefined the meaning of "thud"... Aaah, so very great. Photo on left, dinner my 2nd night back with the godparents et co! This here was a pseudo modelage of hats, featuring Pamina (vegetarian wearing dead animal on her head), Christophe (trying one of the Bolivian styles), my mom (sporting a motorbike helmet bc that's as close as anyone will let her get to driving one of those things), and Andrea (showing of a Cholita's hat). Other photo on left, Markus and I post-brunch. Photo on the right, Sab doing her thing at Shakers', hehe. New location, same place.

Then there was the three day escapade with my dad - well technically that came in the middle of what I was describing before, but today I am rebelling against chronological order so bear with me... We went to Barcelona and walked until our legs wouldn't take us a step further, ate lots of fish and tapas and other yummies, visited touristy spots like the Cathedral, the Sagrada Familia, the Picasso Museum, Park Guell, Miro Foundation, etc. We even went to a Flamenco show, and discovered EasyNetCafes, the Easyjet version of internet cafes... Not bad! It was my second time in Barcelona and there is no doubt about it: I like that city. Photos on the left: my dad and I at the top of Park Guell , and one of the stunning inside views of the Sagrada Familia - Gaudi was definitely a genius, his works are much too fantastic to be blamed on drugs. The Sagrada Familia Museum explains some of his work, what it is based on, the engineering and physics' concepts he used to bring it to life... Really nuts. Right up there with Einstein! Photo on the right, inside of the Cathedral with a sighting of the geese who live there! Apparently they make fantastic guards, possibly even better than a Doberman... and of course, they are edible. Not sure if that came into the equation of logic as to why have geese rather than dogs, but there you have it.

Carnaval 07: Wet wet wet!

This year I attended most of the Carnival events with the Red Cross - the Corso Infantil where little kids dress up and parade down the main street in the center of town looking, I admit, adorable (best costume was a little girl dressed like a flower, all in green with a daisy-hat and a little frog on her shoe... priceless!), and the Jiska'anata where adults dance through town in their different dance groups and in full traditional wear. The Corso Infantil was on a sunny day where the general wetness was due to incessant water balloon fights (see photo on left). Wearing the Red Cross uniform with that big red cross in the middle can sometimes make you an ideal target, but considering how hot it gets in those uniforms, a refreshing waterballoon down your neck can actually be a blessing! The Jiska'anata was on a rainy day, made wet squared by the waterballoon and foam fights (see image bottom left)... Relatively uneventful except for the bleachers that collapsed! Only two people were sitting on them at the time, and neither was really hurt (phew!), but they did get the undivided attention of some 8 adrenaline-filled yet breathless-from-running-with-so-much-gear Red Cross volunteers! Personally, I got stuck with a special stretcher used in case of spinal injury, and found out the hard way that my adrenaline only lasts about 3 blocks after which point my lungs shrivel up to the size of a deflated tennis ball. But all in all, a happy, traditional, colourful and - you guessed it - wet experience!


There is a tradition in Bolivia called Ch'alla, a ritual of sorts performed every year on Carnival Tuesday - it can be applied to your home, your office, your sports club, anywhere really, and the idea is to redecorate with serpentines and balloons, spilling a few drops of alcohol and red wine in each corner of the space you are blessing as an offering to Pachamama, Mother Earth. Salteñas are usually eaten, contributing to the atmosphere of holiday and celebration. Here, you see us blessing A-TIC's office, we being Oscar (business partner), Mauricio (administrator), Oscar's mother and Mauricio's mother and father.

A-TIC has been blessed, woohooooo! 2007, here we come.

The La Paz Red Cross didn't want to miss out on the 2007 positivity and did a slightly more elaborate vers
ion, involving fire, coca leaves, and a chorizada/BBQ event for the volunteers! Mauricio was the chef (you can see him smoking himself out on the right, and yes - he is wearing a forehead flashlight to aid him in his chefness, hehe) and then Don Andrés and Reynaldo were in charge of the offering bit. Turns out Reynaldo is a bit of a pyromaniac, but no eyebrows were singed and the fire didn't go out before the whole offering to the Pachamama burnt (apparently if that happens it's bad luck) so no complaints! See photo below on the right for an action shot of the offering...

Trip to the US, round III

What else did I do in Philly? Revisited campus with Lauren, had lunch with another friend Todes (Marathon Grill forever! Hehe), hung out with my mom and helped her through her first important talk - she spoke to Wharton's Huntsman program on multilinguism and doing business in a pluricultural environment... It was delicious. All of it. Finally, my vacation came to an end and I flew to Miami where I got to hang out with family (Maria Alicia, Phil, Juani, Nico et co) and catch up briefly with Eddie... not to mention go to the beach (see view on the left) and eat cuban food, weeeeeeeeeeeee!

Special dinner with Stef and Lauren, Pakistani food - note that this item wasn't even on the menu and had to be pre-ordered! Yes, Stef is a fantastic resource and knows the bestest places to get grub.

Lauren and I on campus.

Me, "in LOVE".

My mom giving her talk... Well, about to give her talk - Professor Bellace is in the middle introducing her and her topic in the photo! In case you were wondering, the students loved her and only grudgingly left after lunch to go to their next classes. Mom, YOU ROCKETH!

Trip to the US, round II

New York. The Big Apple. The City that never sleeps. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Took the train in and went straight to Harry's place in Brooklyn... after taking the train too far and having to backtrack, I finally arrived and was welcomed with freshly homemade bread and a beer - delicious! We went out for a noodle soup dinner and after some walking around decided that relatively quiet Mondays combined with winter cold made Plan B - a movie at the apartment - the ideal way to spend the night! Watched "Ghost in the Shell" which has a lot of potential but deserves to be watched by yours truly when sleep deprivation isn't an issue, ahem. Tuesday was spent running errands after having homemade gravalax for breakfast (turns out the Manhattan Red Cross has an amazing souvenir store - that's me in front of the building on the right, projectors are as expensive in the US as in Bolivia, the best burgers in town are in an unexpected spot to say the least, Colombia has a beautiful campus, the Hungarian tearoom near Colombia has a lethally yummy chocolate mousse cake, and walking across town is exhausting!) and before meeting up with my mother and Allegra & Gang for tea... Serena (my goddaughter!) has grown so much and has such a sweet tooth that she asked my mom to send her cupcakes to Sweden, and little James is adorable! It was great catching up with the Grevelius family, can't believe we managed coordinate a Swede-o-Swiss-o-Bolivio get-together! On the right: Allegra, me, Karl, James in blue and Serena in red. Had steak for dinner and then went for a drink with Tiarnach and mom before calling it a night. Wednesday I had lunch at the Penn Club with someone fantabulous from the Alumni office, and then I met up with Dina! Lots of talking. Went back to Hoboken for the night, met the roommates over a delicious dinner cooked up by Dina (photo on right is us out for a beer... left to right: Leanne, Emily, Dina, me and Christine), and on Thursday... What a day. Took over a table at Cosi's with Dina and Tasha to talktalktalk and catch up, whooshed to Hoboken and back, and the night began. Wine and Cheese with Natasha Gopaul, dinner at Azul with Karla Zepeda, her Swiss boyfriend Blaise, Tiarnach and his friend/mentor from Sudan David, Joel and Dina, and drinks at Gallery Bar in Lower East Side (see boys' photo - left to right Blaise, Tiarnach and David, and girls' photo - left to right Dina, me, Karla). There the turnout was stunning! Rebecca, Harry, Jake, Tiarnach, David, Dina... ooh and the margarita's weren't bad either! Will leave it at that, sheepish grin. Friday I headed to Philly where I spent 3h at New Deck eating yet another burger while chatting with my Freshmen girls (Deep, Nikki, Ko et co), ran random errands (such as becoming the Penn for Bolivia), and made it to Mad4's happy hour (on the top left, me, Ko and Nikki being silly)! Tim made it too, just like old times . Well, almost. Had a scrumptuous dinner with Stefizzle and headed into West Philly for Yaz's birthday bash, not surprisingly more fun than a barrel of monkeys (see Yaz and I on the left, second photo from the top)! Saturday I had lunch with Eirik the Viking and Lindsay and went to see the last Rocky with the Viking before meeting up with Lauren who was in town from Boston/San Fran for 24h! We went to dinner with Stef, another secret spot where we ate the house special which isn't even on the menu and has to be pre ordered! Spicy (I was sniffling like a baby) but delicious! Then Monkey Bar and a club with a random crew and Tim (see photo on left - that basically sums up why Tim and I are friends) where I made up for living a hiphopless life in Bolivia! :p

Trip to the US, round I

After a good 15 months away, I finally returned to the "land of the free"! Flew into Miami, whooshed from one airport to the other and just before midnight I landed in Philly airport... Such sweet memories! Plus it was a cold night, just right for my welcome back moment! Cabbed it to Stef's and had an improvised yet tasty margarita to celebrate our reunion. The first 24h were stunning: it snowed (weeeeeeeeeeeeeee!), I visited the Philadelphia Red Cross (beautiful, organized, massive, inspiring - see first small photo on the right), hung out at New Deck for a couple hours to catch a bunch of my Freshmen crew who are now Seniors (felt like a proud Mom - see second picture on the right: Nikki, Ko, Steph, Priscelli, me and Lisa... Deep had come and gone already by the time I took my digicam out), met up with my hot socialite cousin Yaz, and had a scrumptuous dinner with Stef. I have to say it was incredibly enjoyable and comfortable to be back on campus, basking in that raw energy Penn always radiated... Day two I took the train to Washington DC where I metroed it to Bethesda and was picked up by my mom and Sue... reminded me of Thanksgivings (minus the mom part)! Caught up with the Sadrs, had dinner at Corinne's (her baby is adorable and truly a little man - there is no other way to explain him!), lunch in Georgetown with Dana, went out with Kamran (it is now super mega confirmed that we always have a good time when we go out - especially when security and the law aren't involved, sheepish grin), chatted with Shahla, spent the weekend at the Bay... Delicious.
The other photos are 1) my mom enjoying the snow right outside our favourite place of loiterage in Bethesda, i.e. a ginormous Barnes'n'Noble bookstore; 2) my mom, Corinne, Little Man Lucas and Jesus after dinner; and 3) me, Stef and Yaz at a Marbar party (entertaining, a solid reminder of the kind of parties I never really attended while in College and why I harbour no regrets, haha). I know chronologically the pix should be in a different order, but who said I was going for a chronological visual depiction of this blog post? Hehe.

(New) Home, Sweet (new) Home!

So after various months of searching for a new place to call home, which ranged from real estate to buy, to rent, or to have in "anticrético" (Bolivian option whereby you pay the equivalent of a year's rent up-front to live in a house/apartment and at the end of the year the owner has to give you your money back or the house/apartment is yours! Apparently it's not 100% legal and has to do with a loophole somewhere, but it seems to work... And that's all I can tell you about that!)... and finally I found a dream apartment.

Located half a block away from Plaza Avaroa it is therefore strategically located to be near two supermarkets, numerous restaurants and bars, and walking distance from my Great-Aunt's! Not to mention that I can now roll out of bed and get public transport on my very street corner to go anywhere I need to go! So so practical, it's fabulous. Not to mention that it's on the second floor with two pseudo-terraces (pseudo bc you can't access them through doors but have to climb through the big windows), three bedrooms (my room, guest room and office), a nice sized kitchen, a dining-living room, and lots of closet space. A friend from the Red Cross, Carol, lives on the 7th floor, too - brilliant whenever I need to borrow things like dishes, the oven, the microwave, a phone charger, you name it.

Of course the whole apartment is a work in progress. Furniture is borrowed from Carol and Monica, paintings are scarce and not yet hung up, there are no carpets or rugs anywhere (which contributes to a cold home, I admit)... But the duck bathmat and towel in the master bathroom make it cosy, and my books and DVDs and the few framed photographs I have also give it a homey atmosphere. Soon it will be a real Home, hehe.

In the meantime it's still an amazing place to live and work and have people over at for dinner... No, some things never change.

Photos, from top to bottom: my living-room-slash-dining-room, the bathroom on the right, the kitchen (yes, it's true, I have no oven and cook everything with just two hot plates!), my bedroom (photo taken at just the right angle so you can't see my wall-closet or all the documents/things I have on the floor... bookshelves are on my list of things to buy, as is a bedside table!), and last but not least the office! Here you see Oscar and I working away... Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Life in Bolivia is fantabulous, indeed.

Note: when I moved in I didn't have all this furniture and stuff straight away, but considering I am updating my blog with some delay I thought I'd avoid emptying the apartment to show you what it looked like initially and skip ahead a few steps.

Christmas & New Year at Apolo

Christmas this year was relatively low key, I saw a lot of the Palza side of the family and also celebrated with the Crespos (including Juani who was in town). Few photos of the little cousins, too cute.

Tatiana who was visiting from Argentina, holding a very handsome-looking Pedro Agustin on her lap (left); Carolita jumping for joy at the prospect of distributing presents and finding out what Santa left for her; and Carola and her Gingerbread house (reminded me of my pre-Christmas tradition at the Senarclens' house...) (both right).
New Years was the last party I had in the Apolo apartment. I found out the hard way that most people spend actual new year with family and only then relocate to parties! But it was not time wasted as I took a much-needed nap and spent midnight with Ronald Clavijo (from the Bolivian Red Cross) and Jorge Terrán (ex Bolivian Red Cross-ite, current employee of PAHO) who showed up just in time with a bottle of cider and in good spirits. We saw fireworks and cheered to many good things in 2007, talked a little bit about changing the world and then the rest of the crew started arriving. It was a Red Cross party, and a good one. There was dancing, laughing, drinking - and the fabulous 5a.m. Fricasé! Spicy but delicious.

Lower row of photos: Oscar as a hippie, Andy as pseudo Santa (some say this is what Santa must've looked like in his youth, haha), and the Fricasé being savoured by (left to right) Alvarito, Andy, Ronald and Jorge. And below? Me trying to involve Mauricio in the party - he wasn't supposed to dance because of back problems (i.e. herniated disc!) but I felt bad that he was just sitting there nodding his head along to the music while we danced... so there you have it. And clearly I scared him - he has a bit of a dear in headlights' look, no? Grin.