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.