Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

In a short sleeved shirt, enjoying the sun (well, not right this second because I am indoors - outdoor cyber cafes have not yet been developed as far as I know, though it might be a nifty idea depending on the weather and the view... but I digress), I just wanted to wish you all HAPPY HOLIDAYS! May 2006 be full of laughter, change, and good food! I will be back post-Peru (I'm going to Cusco for New Year's, hehe).


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

CICR, Filial La Paz

Wasn’t satisfied with the previous post about the Red Cross, so I’m giving it a second shot…

It all started when I looked up the local Red Cross office online and called to find out about First Aid courses. Few days later, I decided to walk to the Red Cross and see whether I could already sign up for the course, and once there although I was told registration for First Aid wasn’t open until the last week of December, I asked about volunteering and was told that the very next day an “introductory presentation” was taking place with the head of volunteering. I went, and the rest is history. Ok, maybe not history, but yeah. I love that place. There are some strict rules such as no smoking within the walls of the FLP (Filial La Paz) and no public displays of affection… and it is impressive that the latter is respected, because a lot of dating goes on within the ranks! All the people I have met so far beyond just hello-goodbye are inspiring. They take volunteering very seriously, nearly live at the FLP, and are very capable. And the cherry on the cake is that they are a lot of fun, too.

Here, the Red Cross is usually in charge of providing First Aid at major events (concerts, marathons, races, fairs, etc), they are on call during all emergency situations (eg. Election Sunday), and they also run various other projects such as teaching rural communities about basic health, visiting retirement homes and homes for disabled children...

As I am not yet First Aid certified, I am limited in the amount of activities I can participate in and generally stick to backstage volunteer work. That said, there is always so much to do at the FLP that even so they keep me busy! It is hard to believe I have only been involved with the Red Cross here for a little over three weeks, but one thing is for sure – it is one of the best decisions I have made since I got here. In January, I will be doing the intensive month-long First Aid course, and if I pass the final exam (in the last batch, only seven out of 33 students passed – eek), the sky is the limit! For starters though, I will be upgraded to a “real” volunteer, woohoo! Fingers crossed. To borrow an expression I first heard used by my pseudo-sister Shahla… The Red Cross, Filial La Paz? It rocks my world.

Some more pictures below. From top to bottom: Alejandro, Wilson and Sofia at an HIV awareness fair at Las Cholas; Cesar and Janet selling tickets for the TRALALA comedy show at the 16 de Julio the proceeds of which were donated to the FLP; Me contributing to the cleaning of a blanket; and Me in one of the sexy Red Cross outfits (the last two were taken on Election Sunday).

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Good Quote

"Youth are uniquely equipped to change the world because they dream. They choose not to accept what is, but to imagine what might be."

- Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Monday, December 19, 2005

Living History

Yesterday were the Bolivian Presidential Elections... The first truly democratic elections Bolivia has had in, well, forever. It was the first time an indigenous candidate was in the race, it is the first time an indigenous candidate wins the elections, and it is the first time anyone wins by such a significant majority! So Evo Morals, coca farmer turned Farmer Union leader, is now the President of Bolivia. He won with 51% votes, while the runner up - Tuto Quiroga - got a mere 33%... and when he gave his acceptance speech (which included a criticism of the Corte Electoral and the way the elections were run, even though technically that is questioning his win), dear Evo was wearing a short sleeve polo shirt, white with his political party's colours (dark blue and black) on the collar and sleeves, and with a caricature of himself on the front, logo style.

But, to be honest, I think this can work. As the true voice of the people, and with advisors who have experience and knowhow Mr. Evo might initially lack... This country might finally start living up to it's potential. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Three Wise Men or Three Blind Mice?

Tomorrow are the Bolivian Presidential Elections. Very exciting and a little scary, as no one really knows what to expect in terms of who is going to win or what the consequences will be...

The three main parties are the MAS, PODEMOS and UN.

MAS is represented by Evo Morals (see picture, face on the left) who used to be a coca farmer, became the leader of the Coca Farmer Union, and is now running for president. MAS means "more" in Spanish, so his motto "Somos pueblo, somos MAS" translates to "We are the people, we are MORE". Most people think Evo will win, just because he has a majority of the indigenous population behind him, and they make up over 90% of the country's inhabitants. If he doesn't win, the odds of road blocks popping up are quite good...

PODEMOS, which means "we can", is represented by Tuto Quiroga - and as you can tell, their colors are red and white. From what I could see in La Paz, this is the party which has invested the most money into PR - and one of their promises is to give each family a set amount of money each year for each male and female child in the family. If you ask me, that money would be better invested in specific programs for education and healthcare, but then again that doesn't buy as many votes.

The third main party is UN which stands for Unidad Nacional, and whose representative is Samuel Medina. He is the middle ground between MAS and PODEMOS, which gets him a lot of votes... but the fact that he is the general manager for Burger King is against him because 1) the state of BKs here is not impressive, and if you can't run a BK then how are you supposed to run a country properly? and 2) instead of using Bolivian potatoes (of which there are so so many to choose from), he imports potatoe mash from god knows where and makes fries from paste. Eww.

A Smile A Day Keeps The Doctor Away!

Had to share...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Let's go to the Movie-Theater!

One of the main cinemas here is called Cine 16 de Julio and it is located at the base of El Prado which is the main downtown avenue. I found out last week, when I attended a comedy show (benefits went to the local Red Cross office - so I laughed for a good cause, how brilliant is that!?), that the same venue can be turned into a theater! Pretty cool if you ask me. The giant screen goes up and tadah! There's a stage! But that's not all. Other nifty things about this movie theater is that it's assigned seating... so you buy your movie ticket and then pick your seat number and get another smaller slip of paper with a row and seat number (note: this same method seems to be used everywhere). What's insane is the presentation of which seats are available - it's via a wooden board full of holes (designed like the theater, so each hole is one seat), and in these holes are folded up little papers which say the seat number (yes, that means each little paper belongs to a specific hole) and the date. Sometimes they are even color coded for afternoon/evening sessions... So each day the cashier has to sit there and - for each showing - fold up 960 little slips of paper and place them in the appropriate holes, to then distribute them to the public. Archaic and somehow impressive. Last but not least, I want to comment on the photo. It was taken on my way out, looking up - so what you see is one of the side walls of the theater, a loudspeaker, and a piece of the mezzanine balcony. The grey stuff? EGG CRATES. Apparently, they make the sound top-notch because they are the perfect shape to prevent echos and blablabla. Can you imagine how many eggs the architect and workers had to eat? Hehe. Inconceivable!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Zebra Crossing, literally.

Remember how I said traffic here operated based on the Law of the Jungle? Well imagine my surprise the other day when I came across two zebras crossing the street (see picture)! Turns out there is a program sponsored by the mayor to educate drivers, so they respect Zebra crossings (and zebras crossing, haha) and by that same token learn to stop at red lights. The woman in yellow is also part of that program. Thought it was a nifty idea, thought I'd share.

The end.