Santa Cruz Viejo

This statue is one of the symbols of Santa Cruz. It’s called Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer).

Today Jade took me to the old center of the city, Santa Cruz Viejo–Old Santa Cruz. We try to do an excursion each day since we aren’t working yet and get some shopping/chores done, too. Today, we got a problem with my phone fixed (fingers crossed) and Jade got new glasses. We also walked the Plaza 24 de Septiembre, the center of the old town.

Located in the center of the “Casco Viejo” (old sector of the city), the Plaza 24 de Septiembre received its name in honor of the anniversary of the uprising that led to Santa Cruz´s independence from Spain. In the center of the plaza stands the statue of Ignacio Warnes, a local hero of the Independence War initiated in 1810.
The plaza was still decorated for Christmas.
Bordering the Plaza 24 de Septiembre is the Cathedral, el Club Social, the Municipal Cultural Center, and other buildings that maintain their colonial architecture and are considered part of the “historic patrimony” of Santa Cruz, a phrase that means cultural heritage. There’s not many old Spanish buildings left, however. Most were torn down before preserving the cultural heritage became important.
Cathedral Basilica of St. Lawrence. It’s possible to go to the top of one of the towers, but I wimped out. The humidity is 100% and temps were above 85F on this sunny afternoon. I’m getting lazy in my old age! Santa Cruz de la Sierra Cathedral, is the main Catholic church in the city.

I’ve found some day tours I want to take of the Santa Cruz area, but all are private tours. The price is the same for 1 person as for 5. There are some new teachers starting this year that I’ve not met yet. I’ll see if any of them want to split the cost of some tours. I’m particularly interested in the half-day, city tour to start with. Since we don’t work weekends, we can probably go on Saturdays. There are a couple of jungle/wildlife refuges in the area and there’s a tour of the Jesuit missions I’m interested in, too. Teachers report to the school next week, so I hope to meet some new friends.

Jade took me to a really great vegetarian restaurant. The food was great and prices reasonable. I ordered the Achojcha rellena (a stuffed vine fruit, similar to a gourd, common to the area). The cost was 22Bs (Bolivianos. Roughly 7Bs = 1US Dollar)
Here’s my meal. At the top is the Achojcha relleno. It’s stuffed with vegetables and tofu. Going clockwise: steamed broccoli; a tomato slice with mayo on top of shredded beets, lettuce & radish; steamed green beans and shredded carrots topped with sprouts; quinoa with veggies; and steamed squash (similar to pumpkin).
The drink is acerola juice. It tastes like a sweet and tart carrot juice. Tasty and very healthy.
More info on Achojcha
More info on Acerola
Another square in the downtown. This one has an artisans’ market on Sundays.
This is in my apartment. There’s been a LOT of rain. It’s a bad design for the condos, but the half-bath is located below street level and floods when rains are heavy. There was easily a foot of standing water for 2 days. All the two-story, floor plans in this condo association are the same, so I suspect everyone had the same issue. This room has flooded twice since I arrived a week ago. Based on the smell of the water, I’m never using that bathroom.

Getting settled in Bolivia

Here’s my new roomie, Jade. She’s a vegetarian, great cook and is starting her fourth year of teaching at the school. She’s been invaluable to me and it’s only my third day in country! What would I do without her? The kitchen is pretty well outfitted. There’s a four burner (propane) gas stove AND oven (there were no working ovens in Vietnam, Mexico or Peru!). Also a full sized fridge, and the water from the tap is potable (though a very high mineral content) and there’s even hot water. I’ve not seen potable or hot water from the sink outside of the USA!

My flight to Bolivia from The States was uneventful, but long and tiring. I arrived (very) late Tuesday, January 9th, 2018 and was extremely grateful to see Mariela and Jaclyn, from the school, there to greet me.  I talked with the director, Maria, by phone, as the ladies drove me to my new apartment. She promised to meet me the next day. However minutes later, she sent a text to Mariela saying I should “rest” and she’d call me. She didn’t call on Wednesday. We walked to the school on Thursday, but she didn’t come in that day. Or Friday. So I’ve not met her yet. Perhaps Monday? Schedules are very fluid here.

The landscaping at the condo community includes many exotic, tropical plants.

Information is fluid as well. My roommate is Jade and she’s 26 and from New Zealand (not 36, from London as promised. I’d only agreed to a roommate because I thought she was older, over thirty). She’s starting her fourth year of teaching here, so it’s difficult to imagine someone got “confused.” There’s a third roommate, Miguel, coming in a day or two. (I had not agreed to a third roommate, especially not a male.)

I’m hopeful that it will workout. In fact, Jade has been amazing–my room was ready, the kitchen stocked, she cooked for me, she helped me get cash, showed me around and she’s given me such a huge amount of information I won’t be able to remember it all. She walked me to the school on Thursday and introduced me to several people, is helping me understand the culture, schedule, paperwork. Her Spanish is amazing. I’m so jealous! Honestly, it would be difficult without her help.

This is fresh cacao fruit, the same plant that chocolate is made from. I bought it on our shopping trip!
We sliced open the cacao fruit. There’s not much flesh, but a small amount clings to the seeds. According to Jade, the fruit tastes like “a slimy lemon drop.” Unfortunately, this fruit was past its prime and didn’t taste so good.

I’ve learned that information/truth has different standards outside the USA. I’m learning to roll with it and pick my battles. So far, there are no deal breakers. It’s not what I expected and not exactly as promised, but so far it’s OK.

We got wifi today! Still working on a phone, though, which could happen Monday. Jade moved into the apartment shortly before me, so not everything is sorted.  The apartment is very good: full kitchen (mostly outfitted), a bathroom (mostly to myself), clothes washer and a small “garden” in back. In fact it’s a two-story, 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath house with a detached “maid’s” bedroom and full bath at the back of the house, behind the “garden.” It’s a gated condominium community with pool and (very small) exercise facility (though we still need to be given access to them). Seems very safe. It’s a 15 minute walk to the school I’ll be working at where I’ll teach 4th grade (called year 5, here). Teachers show up January 23, but classes don’t start until February 5, (all a week later than I’d been told). I will probably need to go to the school the week of the 15th, but I’m not sure because I have no information about orientation. In fact, I don’t know if there is an orientation. There are a couple (very small) restaurants and a decent sized grocery nearby, plus fruit and vegetable trucks come by on Saturdays. I’m well outside the city center, but there are buses (that I have to figure out) and taxis are not too pricey. I don’t have a car and doesn’t look like a bicycle would be worth the money–too much traffic.

The front of the condo. It’s a gated community, so most doors are not locked, just a latched screen door. Jade is in the kitchen (window to the left) baking.

I’m hopeful it will work out. I’d be more comfortable if I had more information, but experience tells me that these things usually sort themselves out. And, besides, I have an extra week to prepare, since classes start later than I’d been told. I have a copy of most of my textbooks (no Science book, nor teacher’s any manuals), so I’m reading the classroom materials now. Classes start at 7:30a, but end at 1:30p. In the past, teachers have been released shortly after. My contract says I have to stay until 3:30p, so that could be a new standard. If yes, that will be my class prep/grading time. If no, I’ll probably do that at home.

My bed. Notice the stack of textbooks I’m reading. That will keep me busy this weekend.
My bedroom has a great closet–a real asset in a small room. The window looks out over the back yard.
It’s a horrible photo of the back yard–called the garden–through my new window screen. So glad to even have screens–the bugs are serious here in this tropical climate. January is summer and highs have been in the mid-80’s F. The back wall leads to the “maid’s” bedroom(which we use as storage) and full bath (which will be Miguel’s), as well as a washing area. This includes a clothes washer, a luxury I’ve seldom had access to  in the last couple years.
Here’s the dining area, which is part of one large living room. The french doors lead to the back yard. We just had screen doors installed. Though they aren’t hung perfectly yet, the breeze to the front door is amazing.
Living room. We have no working TV and the AC in this room isn’t working (yet) either.

Here’s the clubhouse. The guys in the pool were grilling something that smelled amazing.
Here’s the pool with some handsome men (hombres guapos) using it. Look at those dark skies. It’s summer and the rainy season, though the rain is intermittent. Hope SOON to get access to this pool!
Through the locked glass doors is the exercise facility. Mostly a weight machine and some stationary bikes. I’d love a treadmill, but no dice. Hope to get a key to this soon, too.
The condos are all the same, except some are two story (shown) and the others are one story.

No good deed goes unpunished

I’ve not done well with people over the last month.

I stayed in an extended stay hotel for the last couple of weeks of my time in the USA. The friend I was staying with in Huntsville didn’t ask me to leave, but based on her actions, I needed to go. Also, I’d been storing two boxes of items (mostly camping gear) at her home. She didn’t want those at her house, either. I shipped them to my family. (THANK YOU, THANK YOU, Matt & Stacey!!) It would have been nice if we could have sat down and had an adult conversation about it, but we know in the real world people rarely do that. Mostly, I felt very unwelcome and hurt that my friend didn’t want me around.

Oh, and this all came to a head on Christmas Day, so you can imagine the fun I had on my holidays.

I’m sorry for anything I might have done. I tried very had to NOT take advantage of her generosity. While a long stay (just under 6 weeks), she was aware ahead of time of the length. She refused rent money. I did all the cleaning, laundry and cooking while I lived with her. I bought more than half of the groceries and gasoline for the car and frequently paid for dinners out. I left her with about $200 worth of kitchen cooking utensils, which I purchased, and I filled her freezer with prepared meals before I left. I tried not to be a bad house guest.

She may feel otherwise. And she’s entitled. It’s her home. She doesn’t have to have anyone or anything in it that she doesn’t want. She’s an adult and doesn’t have to associate with anyone she chooses not to. And she has the right to withdraw her friendship, even if it breaks my heart.

To be fair, she did help me get to the airport at the end of my stay.  It was a lot of trouble at an inconvenient hour and I greatly appreciate it.  But it was so uncomfortable, I wish I had not done it. Among other things, she felt the need to tell me that I was a bad/irresponsible employee who did not finish her contracts and she didn’t think another school would hire me with my record. She’s never seen me in a work situation, and I have finished all but one of my contracts. But she is entitled to her opinion.

On my last full day at the hotel before check out, I was packing up my possessions. I gave the unused food/toiletries/kitchen items to a pregnant woman downstairs. I also gave her $20 cash, since she seemed to be down on her luck. Two hours later, she was knocking at my door asking for more money. She was peeved that I wouldn’t give her anymore.

It’s a bad end to my friendship and my USA visit.

When I say I’m ready for the next adventure, I mean it.

Next Stop: Bolivia