Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sun King

When Lennon and McCartney wrote this song for their final album, they were thinking of the power held by their manager, Alan Klein, an idiot of a fellow, whom John liked but Paul hated. Thus the split the following year ... and so it goes.

For my money, this song title refers to the red skin on my face ... the result of the Sun King of the heights of Bolivia and Peru. It only took a few minutes at the top of Calvario in Copacabana for my skin to turned parched. Then when I reached Peru the following day, I spent a few more hours in the market place at Puno and paid the price for not having sun screen. Here it is called bloqueo and comes in a small envelope for about 5 cents US. I bought five of them. Cough medicine costs even more.

Now here's the odd thing ... I got this sunburn dressed not in a bathing suit on the beach but in four layers of clothes and coats holding back a nasty cough earned in LaPaz. On this sunny sunny day in Puno, I wore a Tshirt under a long sleeved Tshirt, and on top of that a flannel shirt and then a windbreaker with hood. Yes, I wanted to prevent further coughing and cold, so I dressed warmly. Even though the temperature was 65 or so, the clothes were not uncomfortable, because it is so DRY!!! Rather, they were a help to ward off chill in the shade (and to protect me from VERY strong sunlight when I stepped out of the shade). It's like walking on the moon. Shade is about 40 degrees, and sun is about 70.

OK, the other thing I really like a lot is watching the toilet flush. Only down here in the southern hemisphere can one enjoy the contents of the bowl flush COUNTER CLOCKWISE. What a thrill.

Ah ... the famous Coriolis force. Now that's something the tour books don't tell ya about.

Many thanks to the Maryknoll community here in Puno for giving me a room for 2 nights before I take off Monday for Cusco. Their house is very convenient and friendly and loaded with tons of English books and USA video movies (all pirated). I will leave here Monday afternoon and send my next post from the friendly marketplace of Cusco, Peru. Hasta luego.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

From Me To You

Welcome to Copacabana. On the shores of clear and crisp Lake Titicaca in western Bolivia.

Leaving LaPaz this morning was no picnic, as I still have a sniffling runny nose. The high altitudes and chilly nights do a number on gringos.

Here is a shot of sunny (but chilly) Copacabana, Bolivia. It is one of the furthest most western spots until you cross over into Peru, which I will do on Saturday, I think. This place is GREAT. The sun is beautiful, the lake (Titicaca) superb, and the people more friendly than you can imagine. This evening I had a GREAT dinner at a spot up the street from this Internet cafe, and tomorrow I will scope out the cathedral (just to the left, out of the picture), and hope to climb the little mountain from which this phto was taken. It is the slow season here and I think I am the only one in my hotel.

Lake Titicaca is the highest lake in the world, and my runny nose tells me that Copacabana is even higer up than LaPaz. BRING SWEATERS if you plan to come. My suitcase is empty because of all the layering I had to do with clothing this evening. For springtime, this is a cold place. No wonder the place is filled with blonde-haired tourists from Germany, Scandanavia, and France ... lots of places that are chilly.

Peace for now,

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Old Brown Shoe

So here I am walking along what´s called a "Zona Peotonal" in LaPaz. These are zones for pedestrians only. Like an outdoor mall. It´s just a downtown street with no cars. I am gawking at hawkers, minding my own tourist business when all of a sudden ... I am confronted by a young man wearing a ski mask.

He stands before me and points to the ground. Shocked, I thought he wanted me to lie down in the street because this was a robbery. Never mind there are hundreds of people around in broad daylight. I am surely doomed, I think.

Then it occurs to me ... the passage in the Lonely Planet Guidebook (a must have) that described these street beggars who will shine your shoes for 3Bolivianos (roughly 30 cents). Of course, that´s what this was. He was pointing NOT to the ground but to my shoes (which were indeed filthy black leather from walking Cochabamba barrios).

So, now that understood, I asked how much ... "Tres Bolivianos" he said under the muffled mask. But I waved him off out of habit, not wanting to be bothered. Then I paused and thought, "Come on, your leather shoes are filthy and it is friggin 30 cents Fairbanks!!"

It was one of the best 10 minutes of my day.

The ski mask? Young men in Bolivia are so desperate for any spare change they can muster up, so to avoid public embarrassment from those who might recognize them, they all wear ski masks so as not to be put to shame.

Shame on me for presuming the worst of him.
Shame on me for developing a habit of waving off the poor.
(Yes, I gave him more than 3 Bolivianos!)

Thank you and good luck my friend, whoever you are.

The Night Before

Last night I rode into LaPaz Bolivia on a very nice bus from Cochabamba ... 7 and a half hours. When we finally made our destination about 4 pm Tuesday, I noticed that LaPaz was kinda like ... a bowl of Cheerios.

Picture a bowl of Ceerios, almost totally eaten, with a lot of little soggy Cheerios at the bottom in milk, and many little other Cheerio dudes hanging onto the side of the bowl. That´s what LaPaz is: kind of a bowl of a city, with the downtown area right in the middle, and all around it, little houses and huts and building hanging onto the surrounding hillsides.

OK OK maybe I was hungry as we rolled into town, but it is a beautiful city nonetheless. The picture here can sort of give you an idea. I am here for 2 days as I make my trek along Lake Titicaca and then to Cusco, Peru. The Jesuits here are really nice, and this morning I will get a tour of their "collegio" here (middle school /high school) and then off to see some museums and the cathedral. It seems Bolivian vocations come from parishes more than high schools, so I found out. And the greatest number from LaPaz (probably because it´s the largest city). But cities more so than the rural areas are fertile grounds for vocations. Maybe that´s why the saying goes ...

Bernardus colles,
valles Benedictus amabat,
oppida Franciscus,
magnas Ignatius urbes.

No, it´s not Spanish, it´s Latin, and it means that the major religious orders founded ministry in many different types of places:

Bernard loved the hills,
Benedict the valleys,
Francis the towns,
Ignatius great cities.

OK, I am off to make my way among taxis and vendors in this great world capital.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Hello Goodbye

That's right, another Beatles song title to grace the newest message in my blog spot. I am saying Goodbye way too soon after I just said Hello to Cochabamba, Bolivia at the start of Sepetmber. However, this Tuesday I am headed out for more exciting adventures in Peru; let's just hope there are Internet cafes to allow me to post my capers.

Today (Sunday) was a packing day. I am trying to fit three suitcases of stuff into one. This morning I attended (with thousands of other Cochabambinos) the large open air Mass in the center of town, in honor of the closing of the Year of the Eucharist. It was a fabulous event. The temp was about 78 degrees and very arid. So when I stood in the shade, it was like 65. Also today, in Rome, Pope Benedict canonized St. Alberto Hurtado, S.J. He was a Jesuit from Chile who died in 1952 or so. He was a big promoter of ministry to young people. He also is the patron of the house in which I live, and from which I am moving: Comunidad Alberto Hurtado.

As I type this blog, I am receiving messages from my very talented niece Marie, who is on AIM almost as much as I am ... or Jake. Anyway, here's her message to all ... "uhmmm... sure. i am well and pray that i survive graduation this spring when I will be mass marketed to hollywood" Marie is Cuteness personified and will eventually be on the silver screen. Right now she is just on my computer screen. From her message, we know that she obviously believes in prayer ... Hmmm... maybe she will enter the convent one day!

The other thing I am doing now as I type this is watching the World Series on ESPN (spanish version). The weather in Chicago looks chilly. here in CBBA it is again a very pleasant 65 degrees this evening. Another fine clear night. The Score is 0-0 in the 1st inning. But after I sign off, things may change.

Oh, I almost forgot. A shout out to Stephen Taluja for letting me use his laptop. Stephen's web site is a link to the left on this page, so go ahead and click it to see his new messgaes too. he and I both owe a debt of gratitude to Ryan for signing us up to blogspot and Flickr. Thanks Ryan, and thanks Stephen. Too bad I can't stay around until December with you guys, but hey ... jesuits are

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Free as a Bird

Yesterday was my last class in Castellano (spanish). I had to deliver a little ditty of gratitude (sort of a display of the talents I learned) at a gathering of the whole school after the final class. And I also received a "report card" of sorts. No grade, but favorable comments indeed. I guess they don´t notice me still struggling with el preterito. Que buena!

Anyway, now I am off to the second part of my journey: a pilgrimage of sorts to Peru and points between here and Lima. Freedom has its price though. I have to depend on my own sense of discipline to continue using and learning Spanish while I am there. I also have a few reservatiosn about travelling alone. I have done it MANY times before in Great Britain, Asia, and New Zealand. Folks here tell me the trip across the Andes is easy, and muy interesante, but I still hear horror stories about border crossings and vagabonds. So I am hedging my bets on my good ol´guardian angel. He and I should be able to handle anything that comes along.

Tuesday morning I travel by bus to La Paz (where I will get ... uh ... BE very high). After I see the Jesuits there, I will head to Copacabana for a nice lakeside view of Titicaca (tee hee). Then I am off to Puno, Peru to stay with the Maryknollers there for a day, then DOWN (to 11,000 feet above sea level) to visit Cusco and see Machu Picchu.

Stop by this spot to see what I mean ...

OK, I am off to La Cancha right now. Some of the Holy Cross volunteers want to see this remarkable Bolivian marketplace in the center of Cochabamba, and I will be their (ahem) tour guide! Ha. We´ll see how that goes. More later.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

With A Little Help From My Friends

Yeah ... another Beatle title. Rock and roll.

I just wanted to thank the folks here at the Maryknoll Institute for allowing me to piggy back on their web sites and photos and blogs. I have shamlessly added their links to the left. The latest news is that Roy suffered a jarring attack from a local dog, and he gives a nice account of it on his own blog spot (see link to the left). Also, Ryan has new posts and lots of pictures to enjoy.

As for me, the professors here tell me I have a "final exam" on Wednesday. Surprise. So tonight I am studying. My last class is FRiday and Tuesday I leave for La Paz, Copacabana, and then I cross the border into Peru where I will stay one night in Ouno, then on to Cuzco to visit Jesuits and then Macchu Pichu. I am anticipating the trip, although it will be the first REAL test of my Spanish since I arrived a month and a half ago.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Within you, without you

At our next community meeting, this Monday evening, the guys in the house want me to give a little presentation on my time here in Bolivia. They also want to hear a little bit about my life, my call to the Jesuits, and my take on language learning. They want it to include stuff within me and without me. Yikes.

I didn´t know there would be a test!

So, I have decided to put together a little Power Point presentation including pictures of family and places I have been, things I´ve done. As with all things, I am getting too freaked out. I am preparing too much, and I presume that the entire "presentation" has to be perfect. Time to take a chill break. I need to keep telling myself ... "You don´t speak Spanish as well as Antonio Banderas" ... and sometimes that helps.

Last night we went to a little concert in downtown Cochabamba. The choir and orchestra from the mission San Ignacio de Moxos came to play oriognal music from the 18th century, on original instruments. Sounded a lot like a chamber orchestra performing sacred music, which they did. It included folk dancing and native songs as well. Nice time.

my last day of classes will be a week from today ... Friday the 21st. Hope my grammar and attention can hold out. Til the next post, hasta luego.

Monday, October 10, 2005


You may have noticed that I am trying to incorporate titles and lyrics from Beatle songs into my posts.

Yesterday was Sunday and I celebrated Mass in very poor "barrio" -- a neighborhood just south of town. The congragation was about 5 or 6 Salesian sisters and their friends, about 8 or 10 little kids, and a dog. The dog just wandered in during Mass. I guess it´s been Baptized. Thanks to my Jesuit brother Rafael who brought me there and gave me a walking tour on rocky roads and 90 degree temps.

Today (Monday) I start my last two-week stint of spansih classes. The jury is in and my four teachers (one for each of the 4 hours I am tutored) are superb. Especially Oscar. Maybe I will gather more details this week.

Tonight is really chilly (50s) and rainy here in the city of eternal spring. Best of luck to all who read this (especially the volleyball team from hell ... and they know who they are).

Check out my links to the left if you want to see more. Or click on Ryan´s name beneath the picture below, and he has more photos to show.

Go White Sox!

Saturday, October 8, 2005

Good Day Sunshine

Well this is Saturday October 8 ... time to add a few more thoughts to the blog.

Last Wednesday, I returned from a 5 day trip to the jesuit Missions in eastern Bolivia. These missions were little churches founded by the jesuits in the 18th century, right before the Pope put the ol' kabosh on the Jesuits. The churches stood for 250 years or so, until they were rebuilt by a guy named Hans Roth in the later 20th century.

These churches now radiate a spirit and history of the early Society and a hope for the church in Latin America. We laerned a lot on this trip, but unfortunately all we have to show are pictures. Some of the links to other people's sites can give a better picture of what we saw.

For me, I ahve 2 weeks left of spanish classes here at the Maryknoll Language Institute. After a week in the misisons, I feel a little rusty in spanish, but that should pass in time (I hope). Maybe the last two weeks will give me that last shot int he arm. After that, I am headed for Peru. One major site I am looking forward to is Machu Picchu. If you type that in to Google or into Altavista pictures, you can see what I mean.

Well, here are a few thougfhts about my present situation. As of mid-October, I am in the town of Cochambamba, Bolivia. Cochbamba is a smaller city down the mountains from La Paz, a mere 8,000 feet, but still high. I usually find myself breathing for extra air once or twice a day here. The air is always clear and crisp. There is no humidity to speak of, and the temps range from a chilly 50 degrees at night to a high of maybe 80 in the afternoon. Very pleasant. They call it the city of eternal springtime. Indeed it is the place where folks come on holiday from chilly La Paz and from tropical, humid Santa Cruz where I was last week.

On September 1, I arrived at the airport and was taken to the Jesuit community only two blocks away from the Maryknoll language school where we study. The community is called Comunidad Alberto Hurtado, after a famous Chilean Jesuit who is to be canonized this October 23 of this year, by the way. The community has three priests living here, most of whom are teachers at the local university and also work in Jesuit apostolates. There are also 6 or so scholastics who live here: guys studying for the priesthood. Myself and Tom, another American Jesuit, bring the house to about 12 people.

It´s very comfortable here, and very simple. The house itself looks more like a rustic Florida motel. Rooms open up onto a central garden and there are no screens or storm doors or anything. The floors are all tiles and the walls are either brick or plaster. Dust is everywhere (cause it never rains) and bugs, pets, birds, and critters are ever present. It´s not unhealthy, but I do seem to have a family of rats living under my bedroom floor. They keep me up at night and bother the heck out of me during the day. There is hot water in the showers, but not in any of the sinks. The house is very airy and open all the time. You can´t go from room to room without going outside. My room is stark, you could call it a cell, really. Since I didn´t bring a lot of clothes, there isn´t much to fill it up. I have a few books and of course all the Spanish material that the school gave me.

Cochbamba is right now on the same time zone as New York: eastern time. That changes though when the US goes back to standard time. Then we will be an hour earlier here than in New York. Here in the community, our daily routine is pretty simple. The first thing in the morning is Mass at 7:00 am. One of the rooms is a chapel where all 12 of us can fit pretty well. After Mass is breakfast (desayuno) which is toast or cereal or a small sandwich, which we make for ourselves if we want it. Coffee too. If we boil the ¨dirty¨water from the tap, it is OK to drink. So there is hot water on the table in a thermos. Since our classes at the language school start right at 8:00 am, Tom and I have to wolf down a piece of toast and then run to class, ready or not.

The next meal during the day is at 1:00 pm and that is the main meal for folks in Latin America. It is called “almuerzo” and is served like a grand dinner usually: soup, veggies, meat, rice, bread, and a fine dessert. The community has a woman come in to cook and to do the guys´ laundry each day, since everybody works outside the house or goes to school. Since my Spanish classes end at 11:30, I come home usually about 12:30 for the midday meal. And after that, of course is siesta. The whole city basically shuts down and everybody takes the famous Latin American nap for an hour or so. About 2:00 pm, works starts up again. For me, I start my homework, sometimes at school or here in the house. But every night I have “tarea” ... homework in the evning. Then, long about 7:30, guys collect in the dining room again for a final meal, also on your own, which is called “la cena”. It´s lighter, sometimes leftovers, sometimes take-out, sometimes people skip it. But after that, guys usually head for the TV room or read or go to bed. I turn in no later than 10 at night, usually trying to figure out conjugations. Or I go star gazing.

But Spanish is always going on around me … of course, I am in Bolivia. And that is helpful. Morning noon and night. The only channel on TV in English is CNN, although they do have MTV and VH1 in Englsih with subtitles. American movies play on HBO with Spanish subtitles. The Simpsons are dubbed over in Spanish. So, it´s hard to understand Homer. Speaking is OK, because the guys in the house allow for my mistakes, but in school it is trying. Listening is harder than speaking because everywhere people speak with harder vocabulary and with greater speed than I am capabale of handling (right now at least). That will surely get better with time.

Last week, the school arranged a trip to the famous Jesuit missions of the Chiquitos east of Santa Cruz. There are about 6 little country mission chapels that have been established by Jesuits in the 1700s, and they still exist as churches. If you want to see a little website about these missions, go to .

At night before bed, I read a bit more about two sites I am anxious to see in Peru: the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu (which is just northwest of a city called Cuzco) and the city of Lima itself. Lima is large, busy, and dirty, but it is the central hub for a lot of ministry that Jesuits do in the city and around the area. Since I entered the Society, I have heard so much about our work in Peru, but now I´ll hopefully be able to visit and help out if I can.

That is the latest from >Bolivia. Remember always that God is good and brings us countless opportunities for grace and growth ... if we only would see.

Peace to all who read this. And in your free time, drop me a line at


Friday, October 7, 2005

It´s getting better all the time

A big shout out to my pal Ryan Greenberg for all the help making links and avenues for us to check out pictures and other curious happenings on the Patrick SJ webnetwork. He has connected me to a software site called Flickr which allows me to include pictures in a user-friendly format. Also, on this page, you can see two links above: the one for photos leads you to Flickr and my photos, well ... mine and others, so enjoy. The other is a link back to my home page. Also, the links sections shows various places that are my favorites. Click at your own risk.

I will now try to upload some of the pictures we have taken during our recent outing to the Jesuit missions of the Chiquitos.

Until the next post, Ultima optima.

Cristo de la Concordia

Photo by Ryan Greenberg.
Here is a nice view of Jesus overlooking Cochabamba.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

My Excursion to South America

Greetings from the Republic of Bolivia.

I will attempt to provide some running commentary and a little background of my trip to South America during the fall semester of 2005.

First, I need to learn how to transfer text and photos to this blog, so be patient. Thanks.

In the meantime, here is a link to an article from Company Magazine from 2003 when they did a story on the same trip that I took last week. Hope you enjoy.

Until the next post ...