Thursday, November 09, 2006

Pampas Aullagas Oct 28-29

How random is my life? A few months ago thanks to this blog, I got an email from Sean the Techster Geologist in Canada who asked me if I would be interested in taking a trip to a middle-of-nowhere spot in Bolivia to get some rocks for him… It was an offer I couldn’t resist (it makes the top ten of random stories from 2006 so far!), and although it took me a while to get my act together, I finally took the trip! Oscar saved me because he agreed to come along as the driver and did an amazing job at conjuring up road maps with the help of his geographist brother, and helping me put together a tentative budget… Alice and Andrew came along for the ride, bringing with them the gas cooker which allowed us to throw together the delicious veggie tuna tomato sauce pasta on Sunday before tackling the drive home. The route we did was La Paz – Oruro – Challapata – Huari – Santa Quintalla– Pampas Aullagas (photo on right: random landscape near our destination). There was a slight mishap in Oruro which luckily we were able to resolve in less than half an hour (thanks Grandma for being my Guardian Angel once again!), in Huari we visited the beer factory (from the outside because apparently to actually visit the facilities you have to send a letter asking permision at least a week ahead of time… no comment) and then shared two Huari beers, and finally on the road out of Huari Oscar and I switched spots so I got to drive!

Sunday morning we climbed the little mountain next to the village to collect aforementioned rocks, take stunning pics and melt (it was insanely hot – and yes, my wearing a black tank top was not the smartest idea I have ever had!). That's me on the left looking just about as Lara Croft as I get, hehe. Then we collected our car Ruby (a dark green Toyosa 4x4 Runner) and went to the other side of the mountain to get the last rocks and have our delicious lunch before heading back to civilization. Picture on the lower left is the team at the top of the hill-mountain (left to right: Andrew, me, Oscar, Alice).

During the course of this trip we ate way too many of those sweets that had silly jokes on the wrapper, laughed too much at the silly jokes, had a great time filming bits and pieces of our adventure, took pictures until both our cameras were about to explode, and revelled at the diversity of Bolivia – the area around Pampas Aullagas is desert-like, with fine white sand, tons of cacti and lots of llamas (which, did you know, are the camel’s cousin?!).

Miriam Hernandez Oct 21

Quickie: Was in charge of the Oxygen tank at the Miriam Hernandez concert on October 21st, which was actually exhausting because it came after a riding competition in the morning, and the second HIV workshop with the Sociedad Catolica San Jose, and before a small party at Miguel Angel’s place. Can you say long day? But no regrets, it was all worth it. Miriam Hernandez has a stunning voice, and although I admit I had never heard of her before showing up at her concert, I still appreciated the music! That's her on the right in the car, about to be whisked off by her husband/manager/protector... The Red Cross volunteer is Adolfo and the other guy, well, I have no idea.

Play day with the Red Cross

A week after I got back from Cochabamba was the La Paz Red Cross Rally – a day spent at the Military School down in Irpavi, mostly on the military obstacle course adapted to our Red Cross abilities and then by the grill enjoying a BBQ among friends and sitting at cool Coca Cola tables that Embol lent us (thank you uncle Gerardo!). It wasn’t just cuz, it was our way of celebrating the anniversary of my unit (Socorro y Desastres)! Great excuse for a day of nearly all play, no? Hehe. As I was part of the organization committee, I didn’t actually do the obstacle course but instead got to set the whole thing up with the help of Gustavo, Marco and Claudia, and then evaluate the teams which went through it. On the left, me at the top of an obstacle we decided NOT to include - Gustavo is the funny man waving his arms around, trying to interfere with Claudia taking my picture, teehee. There was so much sun that despite the 60some spf sunscreen I used, my arms turned close to black and I was afraid they might fall off! Oops. Yay for them sticking with me. Blood was spillt about 2min after the event started (see photo on the right - see the blood on Alejandro's finger?!), when Adri hit Alejandro in the nose while trying to swing the apple at him for him to bite a chunk off, oops! Swinging was dangerous, the better method (for future reference) was one person stabilizing the apple (often with his or her mouth, sometimes with an arm or thorax) while the other one went for the kill/bite. Below left is Oscar (my business parter - more about that later) trying to survive one of the exercises. It wasn't the most graceful thing I've ever seen but it was definitely amusing, and he made it! We had a lot of laughs, took some great photos, and enjoyed good food. A great day. Then there was the prize ceremony and the cherry on the cake is that all the volunteers of my unit (including yours truly) got a button and a tshirt to thank us for our hard work, weeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

HIV project, Workshop I & II

Saturday October 14th was our first step into the field for the HIV Awareness, Education and Prevention project. We went to the Sociedad Catolica San Jose (Sound familiar? Yes, well it should - I volunteered there for a few months when I first arrived!) to give the first part of our course on STI’s and HIV/AIDS to a group of nearly 20 people, a mix of students and teachers. Pepe and Carol gave the talk while Alice, Clau and I took photos, complemented the information, and jotted down a mad amount of notes to remember what changes had to be made to the Facilitator’s Manual we put together. (Photo on left is Alice helping out during one of the activities.) Now the project is really HAPPENING. Big grin. The second and final round with this group was the following week (Saturday October 21), there we dealt with prevention, self-esteem and behavioural changes. *Does a little dance*. It’s happeniiiiiiiiiiing! Call me a geek, but I am quite excited.

The group of participants plus the facilitators of the second week at the end of the workshop - the Red Cross-ites are the ones in red and white (Alice, Claudia, Risselli and Pepe).

Me giving the last bit of the course on behaviour changes, with Claudia on the right who is helping me out...

National Equestrian Championships 2006 in Cochabamba

October 2nd-8th I spent in Cochabamba for the National Equestrian Championships, which took place at the “Country Club”, an impressive club right by the lagoon. Tuesday and Wednesday I was signed up to compete in the Open Dressage Category, and if it weren’t for Dina my psychological rock who saved me from myself via text messages about 3min before I had to get onto my horse on Tuesday, I might very well have given in to my pseudo panic attack and run away to never be seen again! Thank you Dina. And it turns out my horse was indeed the prettiest (which is what dressage is all about), so I won! I WON! I actually won at Nationals. Insane. Day two was nearly a repeat of Day 1 except without the nervous breakdown and with the added perk of having journalists run after me to interview me! Talk about making me feel like a star! And having won the two consecutive days, Bolero (my stunning stallion) and I became the official National Champions of Open Dressage! Qui l’eut cru Lustucru!

Thursday, Friday and Saturday was showjumping (see pic above for a stunning shot of Bolero and I going over a jump... Ignore the fact that I am headless, that's beside the point). Clearly, Bolero got a taste for being a champion and liked it, because we came in 6th on Thursday and 1st on Friday (see the photo bottom right for us getting our prizes), making us the hot favourites for the Champion title for Quinta Category… except all good things have to end, and on Saturday – having been totally thrown off by my French coach actually yelling out a cheer as I entered the ring – I did the only thing I had to avoid doing in order to win… I fell off! It was so absurd and so agravating that I actually got up smiling, and my coach waited until we were back in La Paz to let me know that I had a 20 point advance and that I really truly just threw away the championship title. Ooooops. On the right, me talking to my coach Cedric after one of my courses.

On Wednesday I went out for Chicha and to play Cacho and Rayuela with Rodrigo, Thursday Alice and Andrew arrived, Friday we went out to Cerebritos for some funky shots (I only had a few symbolic ones) and a long game of UNO with friendly strangers, and yes the ultimate conclusion of the week is that to do well in riding competitions I need a lot of sleep and rest and tranquility, sigh.

Hanging out with the whole Sargentos’ crew was a lot of fun, they are a riot. Didn’t get to eat at the market, but it’s ok – I will just have to go back eventually, teehee. And overall, I was (and still am) absolutely utterly thrilled with how it all went, Bolero is my star and I love the humongous ribbons (plus the three medals!) I won, teehee.

Thanks Alice for the photos! :)

Chicho's Party

Chicho’s birthday was September 19th but he celebrated with everyone in his apartment way up on Tumusla on Saturday after the Cross-dressing event. Everyone was very tired and had it not been Chicho inviting, I think the party would’ve been a flop! There was a lot of dancing, I laughed until my ribs hurt (Yes, ribs. That takes talent, and a lot of laughing)… in particular, dancing with Sofia and making up absurd moves which mimicked fishing and wrestling, among other things.

On the right, a picture of the partiers...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Coronación Bufa

There are no two ways about it, this event is all about cross-dressing at the La Paz Red Cross! The spotlight is on the male volunteers that dress up as women, because somehow it’s just more fun to make a boy dress up as a girl than the other way around, hehe. Photo on the left: Eva Morales (a.k.a. Humberto), a French woman (a.k.a. Edson), Little Red Riding Hood (a.k.a. Rodrigo), Macho me, and Rapper dude (a.k.a. Erika). I was Little Red Riding Hood’s date, and I have to say that wearing that pinstriped suit and dressing up like a mobster was ridiculously fun. Plus my mojo was rearing to go, think I broke a few hearts! Haha – no, but seriously, I was caught off guard at how many girls thought I was hot and sexy as a man! Nearly scary. And it was much too entertaining to use all the bad macho lines I seem to have picked up along the way, teehee. Anyways, the new Queen was Bruno a.k.a Kama Sutra, who definitely played the part of trying to seduce the judges and the public, and had great answers to the absurd questions s/he was asked (oh yeah, because the girls all had to undergo a round of questions, just as they would have in a more… official pageant!).

My oh so macho alter ego with Paola and Luisa.

From left to right: Grover Yepez, La Paz Red Cross President; Pepe; Kama Sutra (a.k.a Bruno); My macho alter ego; and Neyda Uzquiano, VP of the La Paz Red Cross. We took a group photo because Kama Sutra was the new Queen, and Pepe and I got awards for having been voted best friends of the La Paz Red Cross... To those of you in the know, yes, Irony at it's best. Still, a very fun night and I got a cool award with an engraved gold thingy, a Red Cross pin and my photo! Hehe.

HIV Education & Prevention Project

On Tuesday 19th of September, the HIV Awareness, Education and Prevention project Alice and I had been working on for so long with Clau’s support finally officially began! There was a workshop given by Centro Piloto (Government program dealing with HIV/AIDS), see photo on left, which was then complemented quite perfectly by the Thursday talk given by Claudia from ADESPROC Libertad, an LGBT group. Symbolic, perhaps, but very exciting. It’s happening, woohoooooo!

Urban Fest Fri & Sat Sept 15-16

Friday I stood in line for hours and hours, accompanied by Rodri who was in town from Cochabamba and Pepe, so that we could get in early and save seats for everyone else from the Red Cross who had bought tickets to go and see Enanitos Verdes (Mexican rock band, very cool) and Rata Blanca (not sure where they are from but the singer was tiny and they sing hard rock, no comment). It was fun, albeit being a bit bland for some reason...

Saturday was a different story – didn’t stand in line for as long, plus I took a break to go get food for everyone, and then Alice and Andrew (my absolute heroes) managed to smuggle some Paceñas in, and we were there to see Dr. Jet (singer’s name is Lola and she deserves it!), La Mosca (stunning Argentinian band with a crazy singer and much brass - see photo), and Miranda (spacey looking and tunshi-tunshi style music but with a few good songs). Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Alice and Andrew, Australian, engaged, and my personal heroes.

World First Aid Day

The night before September 10th, World First Aid Day, happened to be a Saturday… Clau stayed over and we spent a good number of hours making ribbons to hand out in exchange for a donation (we got a bit more than $20, woohoo!), preparing a poster explaining what we were fundraising for (our kickss HIV education and prevention project), and amidst all that we took a 3h break to go to MamaDiablo because the national rock band Deszaire was playing and they are brilliant. Didn’t get much sleep, but we got everything we wanted to get done done, and had a great time too.

On World First Aid Day (Sunday September 10th), the La Paz Red Cross set up shop on a section of El Prado, giving people the opportunity to do a crash course in First Aid in a little over an hour! Photo on left: the sign-up stand, with our fundraising poster and piggybank on the left... And that's Mauri in smurfwear, he was in charge of registration. The eleven stops were: Evaluating the Patient I and II (see photo below right to see what Oscar and Luisa look like when teaching this, hehe), vital signs, bandages, hemostasia, immobilization I and II, OVACE, CPR, transport, how to make a First Aid Kit, and a demo of how to extract a patient with possible spinal injury from a vehicle. I was in charge of the bandages’ stop, along with Jeannette and Henry. It was fun but a bit tiring because we gave Speedy Gonzalez classes to semi distracted people over and over and over again from 10.30am to 3pm – and at one point as I was in the middle of demonstrating how to do a vendaje en espiral, all of a sudden a TV camera was stuck in my face! Once again, I was on screen, woohoo!

Tia Alicia stopped by to say hi and then went to say hello to some of the members of the board of directors who were around, and as she was the La Paz Red Cross President right around when I was born, there was apparently a lot of hugging and reminiscing and even crying!