life in the jungle Saturday, May 9 2009 

so, i´ve been staying in a cabin in the middle of the jungle here in bolivia for a week now. I was working with a BEAUTIFUL ocelot named vanesso, but he hated my guts! he would full-force attack me and try to end my life all the time. So the switched me with this other girl, and now i´m working with an obese, affetctionate ocelot named lazycat. She´s in heat, and she´s so exhaustingly horny all the time that she won´t walk more than 3 meters without resting for 10 minutes. Apparently my old ocelot really loves the new volunteer. I wonder why he didn´t like me?

Life here is tiring! it´s emotionally frustrating to work with these cats. we get up at dawn every morning and go to bed late after many games of chess or cards.  AND, there are  SO MANY different kinds of cool bugs to look at! All the time you see ants of all different shapes and sizes organizing themselves or building something incredible. They have such civil societies! On my walks with my cat I have seen butterflies with clear wings, insects that look exactly like leaves and twigs, and all sorts of different kinds of mosquitos. I´m bitten all over, but apparently during the wet season there is a record of a man slapping his arm and killing 40 mosquitoes in one go! damn!

There are tarantulas everywhere! two nights ago I had one in my bed, under my mosquito net with me while I was sleeping. I also saw one the size of a man´s hand with the fingers crawling around my bed. They are really nice creatures, though. They won´t hurt me.

SO MANY MONKEYS! every day I see at least 15 on my walks with my cat. Capuchin monkeys follow me and my cat everywhere, singnaling warnings to their family and sometimes making weapons to throw at us. There are really cute tiny little spider monkeys too. The best monkey, though, is Marocha the spider monkey who lives on camp with us. She spends her entire day being a bully. She chases wild pigs around and pulls out their legs so they fall over, and steals candy from the kitchen and gets high on sugar. She´s so cute and really manipulative!

The wild pigs are supposed to be the most dangerous animals in the jungle. A pack of wild pigs can kill a jaguar. They´re really vicious.

What else should I tell you? EVERYONE here has some sort of gross health issue. Most people working with the jaguars have jungle fungus that goes all over their feet and up to their knees. One girl got Bora-Bora, which is when you make the mistake of wearing wet clothing (impossible to avoid this) and then somehow a week or two later a caterpillar hatches out of your skin. I do not want to get Bora-Bora.

For fun people go to the next town and listen to the minimal selection of songs on the juke box, which is pretty much limited to reggaeton, 90s hits, and michael jackson. we also drink terrible alcohol, suc/h as potable, which is rubbing alcohol that is safe to drink (hence it´s name, which means ´drinkable.´) This is 190 proof straight alcohol that practically turns to gas when it hits your tongue. It doesn´t even feel like you´re drinking anything! It´s a strange sensation. I don´t get obscenely drunk down here, though, because it´s money that I´ll never see again that I need for further traveling.

I miss you guys! I have to go get cash from the western union. I will see you soon. My birthday´s coming up! I will have survived against all odds for 19 years on the 21st.

have a american springtime, i can´t believe i´m missing it

caroline

ps. happy mother´s day to my MOM! I love you mom! you´re the best!

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Damn! Curse my lazy self! Sunday, May 3 2009 

Hey guys.

It has proved harder than I originally thought to faithfully upload my blog. There is so much I want to tell you! So, while you guys have been left in the dark, I´ve been doing some traveling around Bolivia. I passed through Lake Titicaca, which is beautiful, and made my way to La Paz. La Paz is a strange and beautiful city. It is full of traditionally dressed women, called ´cholitias´ who wear bowler hats, big sparkly skirts, and intricately woven sweaters. There are more Aymara people here than Quechua.

The fascinating thing about this is that nobody knows where the Aymara people come from. Their language is the oldest in South America, and there is no recorded history of their existence. The Quechua people, who are descended from the Incas, stretch from the southern regions of Colombia all the way to the north of Argentina. The Incas were a conquering society. But the Incas let the conquered cities keep their religion and way of life. Isn´t that great? Aymara people are a lot harsher, more scared, and secretive than the partying, friendly Quechuans. They are all beautiful people.

So, what do I remember over the past few weeks? What do I really need to tell you? I went camping on the side of Mt. Illimani,  who symbollically represents a father/creator in the local spirituality.  I ate a steak for the first time since I became vegetarian months and months ago! It was so delicious that I ate much more steak than any human should ever eat, and afterwards I declared that I was going to give up all meat and eggs and milk for the rest of my life. I felt like such a barbaric animal!

I´ve also learned a lot about the socio-political situation in Bolivia. Before I came here, my idealistic little self used to idolize Evo Morales for being the first indigenous president in Latin America. Little did I know how terrible he is! I am so naive. His radical left-wing politics is too radical even for the socialists in this country. He is a fighter, not a diplomat, and will stop at nothing to ensure that his agenda is secure. Just a few weeks before I arrived, he surrounded the congress with his army, not letting it dismiss until they passed a bill that was in his favor for the upcoming election. In short, Evo has shot himself in his own foot by following his socialist agenda. The landowners in The East (the lowland jungles) who had been making a ton of profit for the country on their large farms, aren´t allowed to keep their land any more. The land is divied up and supposedly given to those who have none, but the people who get the land do nothing with it; and the truth is, much of the land doesn´t end up in the hands of those who need it anyways.

A couple of days ago Evo staged an attempted assassination of himself to garner more support for his party. He also used this as an opportunity to kill a couple of right-wingers. As you can probably draw, the country is in a huge racial, social and political division between the people of the mountainous altiplano, who support Evo, and the people of the jungle, who support the opposition party.

ANYWAYS:

What really gets to me is that 90,000 of Bolivia´s 9 million are street children. That´s 10% !! I couldn´t believe that when I heard it. It´s the largest percent per population in South America. I was living in La Paz with a friend, Jaime,  who had met Johanna in New Zealand. He started an organization that helps the street children, mainly shoeshiners, write and sell a monthly newspaper. They are allowed to keep the profits of the newspaper if they attend the free weekly school that he offers. How great is that?! The kids have a chance to meet up, and play and learn.

Jaime also told me that a couple of years ago he did a survey of 200 street children who live in the more dangerous part of La Paz- and out of those 200, 100% of the girls had been raped, and 90% of the boys. I can´t believe how fast some of these kids have to grow up down here. You look in to some children´s faces, and their eyes look like they have lived 40 years when they have only lived 8.

By the way, I´m writing this from Ascensión de Guarayos, in the middle of the Jungle! I had forgotten that the jungle is HOT AS BALLS! damn! I´m sweaty as hell! I leave today for Comunidad animal rescue place. awesome. At the risk of losing your attention, I am going to continue my journel in another entry. bye!

Biking the death road- not dead Wednesday, Apr 22 2009 

they made us hold our bikes in wheelies for a long time

they made us hold our bikes in wheelies for a long time

I biked down the death road yesterday, 4.20, with a guide who was a bmxer and a dude from switzerland who MIGHT have been a bmxer. I was eating dust! But I was also going WAY FAST to try to keep up with this bmx guide of mine. So I lost control of my bike a couple of times, but never fell. After a little while of going way too fast, I realized that I was being dumb and so I biked reasonably for the rest of the way.

I have so much more to say, so many more pictures to give yo all of YOUZ, all the people I love. I miss you so much, ambiguous blog-reading mass!

caroline