Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Vroom vrooooom!

At Los Sargentos, I ride mornings with a group of people who ride early and then go to work, and are mostly men. Actually, they are all men. And one day, the coach (Cedric is his name) asks me if I know how to ride a motorbike or a quadratrack. Thinking back to Israel with Tamas, Philippe and Marton, I said yes to the second option, and was then invited to go on a full day ride (including a parrillada/BBQ) on May 7th.

[Pic of us getting ready to head out.]

That Sunday I went riding around 9am and then changed into the gear Cedric lent me before picking my machine and chatting with the crazy hard core people around me. We left shortly after 11am, went through town to Cota Cota, into the Valley of the Souls where the Illimani looked like it was an arm’s length away, into unknown and unidentified territory, up hills, down hills and finally we stopped at Tahuapalca to enjoy the mega BBQ prepared by Renato and Johnny. Two burgers and two chorizos (big yummy sausages) each, plus unlimited soda. Can you say fantabulous?

Of course, on the way back I followed the three clueless but fast riders, and realized I was alone when I stopped to take a picture and no one caught up with me. Kept going for a few minutes, then stopped and took my helmet off, and silence. Not a single motor sound! I went back the way I came but after a few hundred meters I realized that was pointless because even if I made it back to the BBQ site, I wouldn’t know which way to go! So I turned around again and headed the way I went the first time around. It was deserted. Up a mountain, down a mountain, up another mountain, through a closed gate (I opened it first, duh – but its presence confirmed I was not going the same way as the rest of the pack!) and eventually, I got to a town. Started asking for the road to La Paz, and following the directions I got I eventually made it back. It was actually brilliant to be alone with my quadratrack, on the road, in the sun, in the Bolivian landscape – especially once I decided not to worry about gas and to deal with the question of how to transfer the precious liquid from my emergency tank to my actual tank in case of need only!

Got back around 6.30pm (rushed to avoid being left out after the sunset!), much to the relief of Cedric and a few others who got worried about my being MIA. Me being the only girl didn’t help, but ultimately me following people who took the wrong route and whizzed home was legitimate and I wasn’t even the last to arrive! Not sure I will ever be invited to such an excursion again, but no regrets – it was a fantastic Sunday and I confirm that I love going fast. Next step, learn to ride a motorbike? Hehe. That remains to be seen.

Photos coming soon (i.e. as soon as blogger decides to cooperate):
Me on my Quad
Illimani, cacti, moon
Me home

Friday, June 02, 2006

Taller APAA

Two days after the APAA course ended, another course, called the “APAA Workshop” was beginning in Coroico (small town in Las Yungas, a warm and exotic area of Bolivia), the point of which was to train participants to become APAA instructors! This course was to be national and interinstitutional, with participants coming in from Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, and La Paz, representing volunteer firefighters, the SAR organization (Search And Rescue), and of course the Red Cross. See photo on left for the team who attended this mad workshop! Although I had a good chance of being invited to participate (based on my results in the APAA), I was not part of the initial list of people chosen to represent the La Paz Red Cross because the bosses thought I wasn’t going to stick around and therefore sending me was in a way a waste of human resources and skills training. Boo! Luckily, another volunteer (one of the identical twins, Mauri) decided not to go because he had his college graduation on Friday, and so I got a call at 1am inviting me to travel at 7am! Needless to say, I didn’t hesitate, and the next five days were a whirlwind of intensity, studying, bonding, and not sleeping.

The Workshop took place at quite a nice hotel near Coroico called Rio Selva, which had hammocks all over the place, five pools (two big ones and one shallow one with kiddie slides in it, among others!), delicious buffets for every meal, a disco/karaoke/bar, and direct access to the river. The weather was perfect, a little cool in the mornings and evenings but warm and slightly humid during the day. The biggest downside to the experience? The bugs, voracious blood suckers with a talent for picking the most awkward places to bite (eg. Between fingers, or in the middle of your back). Check out the view we had from the pool (photo on the right)... and yes, those are my feet.

Within one or two class sessions, we were split into three working groups. My team, whose designated workspace was a sketchy local on the edge of the hotel property, consisted of Freddy, Javier, Marco, Eric, Eliel, Richard, Windsor, and I. Over the five days, those lacking the official “Curso Para Instructores” (a course on how to teach, how to behave as an instructor, how to setup your learning space, etc) got a crash course, we reviewed techniques and updated changes, and then proceeded to prove ourselves (for the most part) capable and worthy of being instructors by giving a lecture and giving a practical class. You could fail once and try again, and that was it.

In five days, I think I slept approximately 10h. A few lunch breaks were pseudo-sacrificed, as I skipped dessert to rush to my room, change, and jump into the pool before rushing back to my room, showering, and going back to class. The amount of water and candy/sugar consumed by yours truly and whoever was sitting next to me was impressive, as we relied on cold water (which later on I decided was river water barely boiled and iced to below room temperature, yay immodium!) and sugar to stay awake and relatively focused. Oh and every morning from 6 – 6.30 we had “physical training” which involved warm-up and a team competition such as The Worm, Roman Chariots, Piggyback…

The last night a few of us hit the disco/karaoke/bar, it was a blast. As a result, a few people made it late to Graduation, but everything worked out and needless to say that the busride back was more fun than a barrel of monkeys – to be expected when the dozen people in each bus have just spent a crazy five days depriving their bodies of sleep and bonding through hardship and laughter. In my bus, that translated to laughing till our brains hurt, having a terrific shaving cream fight (see photograph on the right... And yes that person in the middle right with a white tank top and shaving cream on her face? That would be me.), and ultimately all falling asleep nearly in a heap until we pulled up in front of the Filial in La Paz.

Good memories:
- Me being the innocent victim of the tradition of pouncing on the person sitting in the middle of the car/bus/mode of transportation while going through a tunnel and messing up their hair (don’t ask)
- Me sitting between Pepe and Javier on the first day and having a blast (while paying serious attention to the lectures – yes, I can multitask when need be!)
- Marco falling asleep while he was my assistant, and saying “nothing to fix, all is well” when questioned on my performance once it was obvious I was going to repechaje
- Marco reading an objective without really waking up during Freddy’s presentation and it sounding like Rocky when he’s bleeding like a mofo and screams “Adriaaaaan”
- Marco showing up 1h late for the last session pre-Graduation, putting his hand up to contribute to class, and drowsily stating – when called upon – “um, I forgot what I wanted to say”
- Gustavo (the evaluator) falling asleep during Marco’s presentation and Claudia (his assistant) refusing to wake him up
- My group going to the river and following Manuel (another evaluator) onto a rock nearly in the middle of the water… leading to Adri Mondaca falling in and pulling me in with her (I just got my bum wet though)
- Me using non-scientific terminology and failing to give a definition of “skinny” (all I had was “the opposite of fat”)
- Pepe and I resorting to laughter during pre-Graduation sessions to avoid falling asleep (mostly at how others were falling asleep)

- The food

Pictures coming up as soon as I figure out how to make the Blogger uploading tool my friend again...