Monday, December 21, 2015

I didn't forget I was supposed to be writing these

I totally forgot I was supposed to be writing blog posts. This one will be kinda long because I recently went on probably the greatest two week trip with the best group of people out of anyone in the entire world. But before that we celebrated Thanksgiving here and everyone made a dish from where they are from. It was a really cool thing to see all this half-assed food that everyone worked hard on. I didn't make anything because I was lazy (what a surprise) and I wasn't really sure what to cook that was Wisconsin-y. The more I think about it the more I could've made but now that's like a month ago so whatever.

Today is 4 months here in Bolivia as well. Crazy to think I only have 6 or 7 more months left here. I don't want my Bolivian life to come to end. I love the life I have here and I love all of my friends and my family. Also I'll be getting a new family too. On January 16th I am switching to a new house. It's interesting because my next host brother I had met in Wisconsin last year.

Okay, I'm gonna try and talk shortly about the trip aka the best thing ever:

First, we got onto a flight at 5:30 in the morning to go to Tarija. Tarija is a city in the south that is famous for it's wines. When we arrived we went to an overlook of the city and got some free time to wander the streets. We went to a lake as well. We stayed a night in the city and we toured 3 vineyards the next day.

Next stop was Cochabamba and it was rad as hell. I really like it because it felt like Santa Cruz but in the mountains. We went to the Christ the Redeemer statue there which is the biggest in the world (suck it Rio) and got to go inside it. Inside we found written on the wall "RYE 14-15" so we promptly wrote next to it "RYE 15-16." I hope that the next group finds it and is able to write on the wall with us. We also toured some historical districts in the city as well.

After Cochabamba we made our way over to La Paz. We flew in at night and we stopped on an overpass in the upper part of the mountain city (one of the highest cities in the world) to see one of the most beautiful sights. We saw what seemed to be like the rolling waves of city lights. It was a beautiful sight and also the one part of the trip my phone died so I couldn't get any photos, which I feel was like a lesson to enjoy things. The next day we went to a witch market and there were dead baby llamas everywhere. After that we toured some other places and stuff and blah blah blah. Then they had us spend like 3 hours in a Cinecenter which was weird but I texted my friend Micaela who was an exchange student in Wisconsin last year and lives in La Paz. It was crazy to see her in Bolivia, a lot of memories from a great period in my life came back really quickly and it was nuts.

We then went to Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. We spent hours on little boats getting to Isla Del Sol and I must say that was another one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. We hiked for almost 2 or 3 hours to get to our hotel.

We went back to La Paz for a day before we headed to the next city. We got a little time in the witch market again and I texted my friend Teresa who was a major reason I did exchange and the reason I even knew what Bolivia was. It was one of the most surreal moments I have ever experienced in my life. I hadn't seen her in over a year and then bam I'm in her city over 4000 miles from where I had last seen her.

After we took a bus down to Oruro where we stayed for a solid 30 minutes because honestly it kinda sucked. It was a reminder that I was indeed in the poorest country in South America. We got on a train which was pretty awesome and took it down to Uyuni. We arrived at like 3 in the morning so everyone went straight to sleep  in the hotel. In the morning it was time for the best day of the trip and one of the best days of my life:

We went to a market where everything was like little salt stuff and I got a llama keychain and an ashtray as gifts for people. After the market we went to a train graveyard and climbed around and took cool photos for a while. Then we went to the outskirts of the salt flats where there are like little bits of water that bubble up from below. We then drove out to the flats. It was freaking insane. I have never seen anything even remotely like that in my life. We took photos for almost hours and then we had a picnic for lunch. After we took more photos we headed to the island in the middle. It was a crazy formation with cactus that were almost 10 feet tall. We even found a geocache there. After the island we went to the base of a mountain there and went to a place where they buried bodies and stuff and saw some human remains. It reminded me of hamlet for some reason and then I spent the next solid 45 minutes quoting Shakespeare. We then went back out to the flats to watch the sunset. Fucking insane as well (pardon my language but that's the only way to describe the beauty and even then it doesn't do it justice). After the sun had set we made our way back to our hotel which was the first hotel in the world made completely of salt. That night we were all hanging out in the nicest hotel I have ever been in and we saw the stars for the first time since I had arrived. Palmer was in such a good mood, he forced me to let him teach me how to ride a bike. I never thought I'd learn how to ride a bike on the world's largest salt flat under the stars. Nuts.

After the Salar de Uyuni we went to Potosi. We went into the active silver mine in the mountain there and it was a straight up terrifying experience for almost everyone. I enjoyed it but it was odd to say the least.

After Potosi we went on over to the last city, Sucre. Sucre was beautiful. It was a city created because the Europeans wanted a city to live in that wasn't Potosi (which I don't 100% blame them) and the result was gorgeous. We toured the city and then went back to our hotel. The next morning as we were going to our last airport we had mixed feelings. Some people, including myself, didn't want the trip to end and there were others that were sick of it already. By some weird thing our flight got cancelled and we were to have an extra day in Sucre. The airport paid for our hotel that night and they got us the nicest hotel in Sucre. It was so nice it had a secret museum in the basement.

The next morning at 5 we were supposed to head to the airport but I didn't wake up till 5;30 so they all went to the hotel and came back for me and a few others that overslept because I told them the false info that the time was for 5:30. Oops.

We've been back in Santa Cruz for a little over a week now and being away, even on the greatest trip of all time, made me realize how much I missed and how much I'm going to miss little things from my city like sitting on the church steps in the center, the cafe con leche guys in the plaza, taking micros around a city of circles and many other things. I love you Santa Cruz.

I love you all too,


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Another Sunday

Well it's another lazy Sunday here in Bolivia. It's kind of scary that these blog posts are getting harder and harder to write. I feel like it was just an ordinary week. It's strange that this life is becoming my life and no longer a surreal event. Which that in itself is quite the surreal event. Strange.

Last blog post I forgot to mention how I went to a fashion show I think. I don't remember writing about it but it was sweet. My friend Sage's host sister was one of the models!

I stopped biting my nails for the most part. I know that's not really something y'all care about but I think it was a big part of my character and it's helping me be the new me. Whoever that may be. It's nice for guitar because (given that I'm in Latin America) every guitar is a classical guitar and no one uses picks. I have longer nails on my right hand so it's easier to play. While I'm on the topic of music I had something heartbreaking happen to me; so as some of you may know I don't sleep very much and when I do it's for strange times. When I couldn't fall asleep I used to just plug headphones into my mini keyboard I brought but the batteries died :(. I gotta find some more but they're expensive here for imported things. Especially since we don't have a coast line (thanks for that, Chile).

On Friday I went to one of my favorite places again, Mercado Mutualista. I go there all the time so it's not really like a big phenomenon I wanted to talk about. What I did wanna talk about was this one guy selling coconut milk out of like this big tub thingy. It was 2 bolivianos for a glass ($0.30). It was one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. But so is pretty much everything I get to taste. This guy was so freaking cool though. I was with Bryce and Sage when we got it so we were speaking some english like next to this guy. He didn't speak it but he thought we were funny and gave us like a ton of the coconut stuff you can eat from the coconut. It was great.

I don't know what to really say. Pretty normal week except for some stories that I really can't share with everyone. Sorry for the non-thrill inducing post this week, with my depleting funds I can't really have an adventure every day anymore.

Your friend,


P.S. Shout out to the clippers soccer team for winning the state championship for futbol (soccer)! I say that because I knew I wouldn't care even in the slightest if I wasn't currently living in South America where futbol is a REALLY big deal.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Alright my bad about not posting for like the past three or four weeks. My downfall started because I was on a trip to Concepcion, a small village a few hours outside of Santa Cruz. Rotary paid for the entire trip to the Orchid Festival. Which was awesome and nice of them. The trip was great and I definitely didn't realize how much I miss being able to go on nature walks whenever I wanted. It was a trip that included the other exchange students in the cities of Oruro and  Sucre as well, They aren't as lucky as us in Santa Cruz because there's so few of them. On the flip side to that they're lucky because they don't have the same amount of opportunity to speak English as we do. It was a great bonding experience between the lot of us; It was even Brett's 19th birthday and we all stayed up till midnight to celebrate playing cards and such. Even though it was an orchid festival, there really wasn't that many orchids out there. At one point we ended up in a small village town outside of Concepcion and we got to dance with and play games with the locals. The trip has been a high light for sure and I can't wait for the tour of Bolivia trip and the Macchu Piccu trip in March.

The next Sunday I couldn't write the blog because I stayed the night at a friend's house. She lives close to the airport so we all stayed there for Marie's last night and went to the airport in the morning. Marie was from France and she was really funny and nice. She was having problems with her family here and Rotary wasn't really too helpful. I don't know the full story but she ended up going home. It was pretty sad. It was also a bummer that later that day was the goodbye party for Gina. She left on that Tuesday so Monday we went to Hard Rock Cafe. Exchange life is a lot of goodbyes and "hasta luego."

It's kind of crazy that it's already November. Yesterday was Halloween and we dressed up to go out to the plaza. I didn't really think about a costume too hard and ended up just drawing cat whiskers and a nose and went out like that. The plaza was absolutely packed. It was full of families and everyone was dressed up. The most common costume was that almost every girl over the age of 17 had like their faces painted half as a skull of Day of the Dead. It was a fun Halloween.

I feel more accustomed to everything here. I know how to get around most of the city now since I am pretty much running out of money and I have to take the buses everywhere. The buses are crazy and everytime I get on one it's a dance with death. The streets are crazy and the bus drivers are the craziest of them all. I love them because it's only one Boliviano (15 cents) to ride one. Nothing is really that weird to me anymore and I really feel like a member of this city now.

Love you all,


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Happy Santa Cruz Day

So here I spend most of time in La Plaza 24 de Septiembre and I was always wondering, "why is it called 24 de Septiembre?" Well as it turns out that's like "Santa Cruz Day" and it's the foundation of the city? It's the anniversary of the city or something. It's kind of like the 4th of July. I was in the plaza eating ice cream with my buddy Palmer at a really cool rooftop restaurant that we always go to at night. It was the 23rd and right at midnight there were tons of fireworks dotting the city-scape and it was quite the beautiful moment.

Because of the holiday, I had a four day weekend and it was rad as hell. I pretty much just kinda lived the life up and it was so great. At night I meet up with friends at the plaza and we walk around and go to different places; I love the lifestyle I have here. During the day I do different things. It's mostly lazily move around and get ready for the day until like 1 or 2 before I do anything. This week though was a lot of starting my VISA work so I can continue to stay here legally.

There was a feria here that I went to yesterday and it was really interesting. I realized that sometime really weird things can be different. I didn't know that there were other kinds of cows. They had a whole bunch of cows that were just straight white and had these weird, tumor-looking things on the backs of their necks. It's straight meat and apparently it's really good tasting. I can't wait to try it.

After the feria I went and met up with some friends in the plaza. This was yesterday and it made me realize how much I like being foreign here. I was kind of bored at the table cause I came so late so jumping into the conversation and what-not was hard and all they told me about was the stuff I missed so I didn't really care. I saw a group of girls come in and sit at a table near ours. I turned to exchange student Aaron and asked him if he wanted to go talk to them. He was like "sure." So all I did was get up and sat by them and said, "hi, my name is Josh and this is my friend Aaron" and that was it. They talked to us all night and we ended up not having to pay for anything because of it. The girls were from La Paz so I just kind of talked about my friends Teresa and Micaela that were exchange students in Door County. But since they weren't from here I got to actually suggest things to do around the plaza. It was at that moment I felt like I could start to say that I actually live here, not just that I'm staying here. It was pretty cool.

This weekend was homecoming at Sturgeon Bay. I was a little bummed for about 5 minutes that I missed it but then I remembered why I enjoyed the dances. I like the dressing up, all the festivities, the dancing all night with good friends, acquaintances, and people you just met. Then I realized I've been doing that all weekend for the last 4 or 5 weekends (I am bad at keeping track of the time here) and if I was in Door County I'd pretty much get 3 chances to do that (homecoming, sady's, and prom) but here the schools do festivities like that pretty regularly to make money for their big senior trips (my class' is to Cancun next year). And if there aren't any of those I can go to the center and go to any of the almost 100 different places to go dancing. Everyone here is really friendly so that if (pretty much when because people will just grab us and dance/talk to us) we get separated we can always instantly make some new friends.

I am honestly not fully looking forward to school just because of how much of my day it takes up. Although, last week I was just really tired and was feeling pretty lazy so I just went to school at around like 10:30-11 and when I checked into the office they were just like "it's no problem." A major perk of having a super nice host family and just being an exchange student. I really like the 4 day weekend and I'm looking forward to my summer vacation that's coming up shortly. I liked not really needing to do to much and just living the life here; it's so great.

Love you all

P.S. I was requested to post picture on the blog here instead of just being exclusively on my Facebook but the thing is is that as of now, I do the blog via my computer and I take pictures with my phone so I just upload my photos from my phone because I am far to lazy to transfer them to the computer. Maybe one day if I have enough free time I'll figure out a different method but as of now, this is far easier. Sorry.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Month

One month ago (I think?), I started the journey here. Well, tomorrow will be the one month (I think) anniversary of being here technically but I now haven't been in Sturgeon Bay for a month. It's been great, I have been meeting a lot of great people and I feel like my Spanish has increased as much as it would in a year of studying in school. I do end up speaking a lot of English here since I go to a bilingual school and all my classmates want to have conversations that I can't participate in when they are in Spanish and also talking to the other exchange students. Lately, I've been understanding more and my amount of saying "what?" has gone down significantly. 

Lately I've been having a lot of dreams involving the people back in Sturgeon Bay and they have been making me feel really weird. Like the first 5 minutes of being awake I've been feeling homesick and then the moment I step out of bed and look out the window, I am reminded of why I came here. Because it's amazing. At the conference at Grand Rapids in July, they told us all we should have a comfort food. I decided mine was going to be a bowl of bananas and strawberries; the other day I had a bowl of it and it was a shock to my system because it was just better. The fruit was so real and I just thought about how processed all the food in the U.S. actually is and how gross that is. I still like the U.S. because it is a cool place and I have to do a presentation on where I'm from and researching it makes me realize that Wisconsin, even Sturgeon Bay, has a really cool and unique culture. 

But so does Santa Cruz and Bolivia. I love everything about the culture here except for one thing: crocs. The worst shoe that's ever been invented and is nationally hated in the U.S. is actually an acceptable article of clothing. Everything else here is absolutely amazing. 

I don't really feel like typing anymore now so I'm done. Oh and today I ate cow tongue but the thing was is that I had it before in the U.S. at El Sazon in SB so my host family was shocked that I was just cool with it. The juice here is really good because it's actually the juice from fruit unlike back in the States. I don't know I thought I had more to say but I just forgot I guess. 

Love you all

P.S. I just downloaded ios 9 and I think they changed the font on the keyboard but I may just be paranoid. But otherwise I think I like the update

Sunday, September 13, 2015

My First Blog Post About My Exchange Year In Bolivia

September 13, 2015

It's been somewhere around three weeks since I started my year as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. Before leaving Door County I made sure that I made every moment count; I spent a lot of my time taking in the sights and doing everything that I liked doing and wanted to do. I mean by that it ended up being a lot of sitting in Steven's basement and wondering what we should do next. Timmy, Steven, Logan, and Marcy were with me on my last night and we said our final goodbyes in the morning (I didn't spend my last night in my bed but sleeping on a couch completely by accident). That morning my good friend Jan came by to help me fulfill a promise I made to him about how my last meal in the States was gonna be a Citgo doughnut. My parents drove me to Chicago that morning and said our goodbyes. That was a crazy day. A lot of waiting in airports and gate changes.

My first day felt like it was it's own month in itself. I saw my host family for the first time and was harshly reminded of where my Spanish actually rested. My host brother was leaving for his exchange to France that Monday so I only knew Carlos Andres for three days in total. It was actually good for me in a way because he was having goodbye parties in those days. At one party I met my "extended family" who are just the biggest bunch of sweet hearts. We had a churrasco which is a sort of Bolivian styled barbecue. We have a lot of those. Like at least once a week. At another party I met his friends who also had their own churrasco in the afternoon and later I met the whole class a little party at Valentina's house. It was nice to meet a lot of people before I started at school.

My school day goes from 8 until 4 and it's a huge open air building. We have a full uniform but on fridays we don't have to wear it. I'm in what the equivalent to a Junior class in the U.S. would be because I only have until December before I go on Summer vacation. The whole class gets the same schedule and mover around together throughout the day. I am still confused  on what a lot of the classes are and what the schedule is because it's different everyday. All the grades have three classes: A, B, and  C. A and B are sorted by alphabet and the C class is for the AP students. I was put in C class because that's where my host brother was.

I won't lie I'm not really homesick but I do miss a lot of people. But most of the people I miss live in places like Spain, South Korea, Belgium, The Czech Republic, Germany, France, a couple in Bolivia that I'll be seeing soon, and more I'm probably forgetting at the moment. With that being said, it wouldn't be much of a difference if I spent this year living in Bolivia or living in Sturgeon Bay. I have more of a longing for all the people I love and I do miss a good amount of people in Sturgeon Bay (y'all probably kknow who you are) and I end up talking to them a lot, giving almost daily updates on the Bolivian life I'm living. I didn't hate it there in DoCo but I knew that I couldn't take being there for another year. I am a person that craves adventure and attention (that's why I love theatre so much) and there's probably no better way of getting that than being an exchange student. I knew a lot of what the peninsula had to offer but it wasn't that until I went to take my senior photos with my mom and the time that Bret showed me this incredible park that I've never actually been to during the day time that I realized that there's always gonna be something new no matter where you are.

My time here has been a lot of eating new foods, trying to communicate in Spanish, and hanging out with people from all over the world (mostly Bolivians but the exchange students have already gotten really close and now with the Spanish classes we are all taking we're becoming like a big family and I can't wait to go tour Bolivia and Macchu Picchu with them). I've seen some breath taking sights and had some wild times already and can't wait for what this year is gonna bring for me.

P.S. I've only met two people with eyes like mine and everyone here says that I am blonde

P.S.S. Thanks to everyone that pushed me to be here, I love you all.