Monday, March 31, 2008

I'VE CAUGHT A DISEASE... by Katie Cukrowski

I have South American sleeping sickness! And there is no vaccination available!

Since the day we got here, over 40 days ago, I think there have only been something 3 days that I haven't taken a nap. Wow! This Friday, my nap was almost 5 hours long, spanning from right after lunch to just a couple minutes before dinner! I take said nap right after lunch every day because I'm full from the amazing meal I've just eaten here and when I go upstairs to my room, it's nice and warm with the rhythmic hum of cars outside that just lulls me to sleep.

I can't fight it. It's too strong. And it wins everytime!

Now, it's not just me with this "disease", because right around this time every day, the house goes quiet. Even if you are out at this time somewhere in town, there won't be very many people out there either. It's Siesta time, baby!!!

[Pictured are recent photos of Mom, Krista, and me sleeping at various airports (Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santiago, Chile to be specific) on Spring Break. Normally we would be sleeping in our beds, but, because we were all asleep, we have no pictures of such!]

Saturday, March 29, 2008


So, today we went to an estancia, which is a working ranch, where one can ride horses and do a lot of other things as well. The last time the girls rode horses, on our weekend trip to Cabo Polonio, their route was—no kidding—exactly on a fault line where Africa broke off from South America and you can essentially see one of the great land shifts. How cool is that?!
Today's favorite activity, however, beating out the bike rides, the pool table, the good food, and the playground, was the huge, bonafide, fabulously 
pool. OK, it's cool to be around rivers and oceans and lakes—but when it comes to playing in the water, nothing beats good ol' chlorine, the stuff our little mermaids were trained in and that they have in their own backyard! 

Additionally, somehow we had neglected to use the underwater feature on Katie's camera before now. I suspect this oversight will be corrected this summer once we return to Abilene, because they had so much fun playing Ariel!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

WHAT OUR SCHOOL DAY'S LIKE-- by Katie Cukrowski

The blog you've all been waiting for--The school day!

8:00 Mom comes in to wake up Krista and me for the day.

8:30 Go downstairs for breakfast (cereal, toast, bacon, eggs, pancakes, waffles, milk, orange juice, coffee, and tea).

9:00 Chapel starts (AKA: a devo done every Tuesday and Thursday by two college students who switch off weekly).

9:20 Chapel ends and everyone heads off to Spanish class.

9:30 Spanish begins. For the next hour and a half, I'm in a classroom at the church next door with all the other students, my family, and our teacher Amelia (pictured below with Dad). The teaching method Amelia uses is where she teaches something for about 5-10 minutes and then spends the next 10-20 minutes going around the room asking questions to each individual person about what we just learned. When she thinks we know everything about that certain subject she moves on and we start over again. This method really helps because we are speaking a lot and you have to know how to converse with people here, so her method works. We do this every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, but on Thursdays we have a quiz over those last few days. This means that most Wednesday evenings are spent cramming for said quiz. Every week we cover about a chapter in the book (We also have workbooks where we do the exercises that correspond to what we learn each day. They are great because then you see the information in a practical way that you can actually use it).

11:00 Class is over for Krista, Mom, and me, but some of the kids have to stay for a class after that is taught by my dad. So when we are back at the house, Kris and I go into our parents' apartment to do homeschooling. Their apartment has 4 rooms (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and a study/office), and it's in this office where we have all our textbooks and materials for homeschooling. How we've decided to do school here is different from how it is at a school because we kind of pick a subject, Chemistry, for example, and we do like an entire chapter that day, instead of doing one section today, one section tomorrow....,we do large amounts of one subject each day and that seems to work better for our schedule. So another day we might read the entire book we have to read for an English class or a chapter of biology, etc.

12:30 The other class Dad teaches is over now so it's lunchtime. Everyone heads downstairs for this meal and we go into the kitchen where there is a table that has all the food lined up on it and we make a line and you choose whatever you want. It works out really well because you eat what you like and don't what you don't; however, there isn't much that people don't like!! The two women who prepare our meals are named Raquel and Mariela and they serve a nice variety of food choices. We have had very normal things to eat like spaghetti, fajitas, fish, chicken, and sides like mashed potatoes and broccoli which are very good, but then some days we have more traditional Uruguayan dishes like empanadas, chivitos, and Shepherd's Pie, also very good! Everyday there is also a dessert that they make piled with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, or ice cream. Needless to say, this would not be the place or time to start a diet!

1:30 Time to head upstairs and take a nap!!! I believe in the siesta...

4:00 Wake up and continue with more homework.

7:00-ish Dinner time! Mom will either make a meal that day or we go out to eat. Eating out is very easy here and much cheaper than in the States. To get a pizza here is a little under two dollars...about the same price as a drink! We have found a few restaurants we really like and go there often. Right by the house there is also a gelato shop that we are regular customers at. When we don't eat out, however, we have over to the apartment different college kids and have them eat with us. That's nice because then you get to know some of them bettter.

8:00 From now on we have the rest of the day to do whatever. Usually, it consists of talking to friends on the computer, watching movies, playing games, reading a book, listening to music, doing Spanish and lots of other homework, or just talking to other people here.

12:00 Bedtime!

Monday, March 24, 2008


I don't like to swim. I get seasick when I cross the English channel or when I go whale-watching. I even prefer to drink Diet Coke (or Paso de los Toros!) to water. But I love to be near the water. I like the way the pool outside my house in Texas casts prisms of color on the ceiling.
I love the sound, the feel, the very waterness of water. We're practically surrounded by water here in Montevideo.
I even like canoeing or rafting on it, I who am the antithesis of an athlete.
We (the 14 of us who went to Peru for Spring Break)
went rafting on the Urubamba River outside of Cusco, and we had a great time. The Urubamba, by the way, goes to Machu Picchu, and it runs into another river that then runs into the phenomenol Amazon River. We rafted for about 2 1/2 hours, but the trip took all day, what with the hour-and-a-half bus ride each way, the delicious lunch they fed us, the instructions we received in order not to die on the rapids, and the putting on and taking off of wetsuits.

In about a week and a half, we will go to Brazil and see Iguaçu Falls. More water. I love it.


OK, this blog entry may be a little sketchy, but here goes anyway. The coca plant is a HUGE part of Peruvian society. The leaves of the coca plant are said to cure altitude sickness, diarrhea, and a host of other ailments. We saw many t-shirts and signs that carried the slogan that titles this blog, translated as "The coca leaf isn't a drug." Peruvians were selling coca candies, coca leaves, coca herbal remedies, etc. Katie bought a package of leaves for about 33 cents (we didn't let her take them out of the country, however, just in case.) 

For the record, I DO NOT support the use of cocaine. However, cocaine is a LONG ways away from the coca leaf. Really. And the tea is delicious. I drank it every day, and no, I wasn't the slightest bit impaired. My kids drank it. Even Ken tried it, but he prefers regular tea. I agree with the Peruvians: "la hoja de coca no es droga." Or, at least it's not an inherently evil drug. 


We're back from our FABULOUS Spring Break (really, Fall Break for us) in Peru, and now to jumpstart us back to school, I think we all should take a test. So here goes:
1. Which one of the following foods that we tried was gross?
a) goat b) guinea pig   c) alpaca (like llama) d) ceviche (a raw fish dish) e) all of the above

2. What is the favorite soft drink in
 Peru? ________

3. Which of the following characteristics describes drivers in Lima?
a) courteous 
b) excellent 
c) patient 
d) all of the above 
e) none of the above

4. True or False. Karen is too old to stay in youth hostels anymore.

5. A trip to Machu Picchu is _________.
a. worth a thousand words
b. fabulous
c. expensive
d. rainy but still perfect
e. all of the above

6. Which of the following wool products smells bad when wet? a. alpaca b. vicuña c. llama d. sheep e. all of the above

7. There are well over ________ types of potato in Peru.
a. 10 b. 100 c. 1000 d. 10,000 e. one million

8. Fill in the blank. The name of the tall, peaky mountain in the middle of Machu Picchu is ______.

9. The view from our room in Cusco ___.
a. was breathtaking
b. only cost us $18 a night 
c. meant a hard walk uphill
d. all of the above
e. none of the above

10. True or False. The water is potable in Peru.

Annotated Answers
1.b. Guinea pig (pictured), called cuy, tastes exactly like what Krista thinks rat must taste like. The other foods were all yummy. In fact, Peruvian food has spice and lots of taste in general (unlike the bland food that Uruguayans eat).

2. Inca Cola. It's marketed by the Coca-Cola Company, which seems to own everything in Peru not already stolen by the Spaniards. My family loved it too, and Krista bought an Inca Cola t-shirt; she will be in mourning over not being able to get that drink, which tastes like a cross between cream soda and Big Red.

3.e. Oh my goodness. If you want to collect your life insurance, just drive around Lima for awhile. I've seen bad driving in say, Manila, Paris, or Rome--
this is a whole 'nuther league. Another little factoid for you: 1 in 7 cars in Lima is a taxi.

4. True AND False. It depends, because our hostel in Cusco was fantastic (we slept there 5 nights) and our hostel near Machu Picchu was more than adequate as well. In our hostel in Lima (only one night fortunately),
however, our room-with-only-kids-we-know didn't work out, and Ken and I had to share with other folks, one of whom was drunk, dirty, mostly naked, snoring, and yelling in his intoxicated stupor. Horrible. I'm only staying in hostels when we get the whole room from now on.

5.e. Machu Picchu was incredible. We LOVED it. 
We will probably drive you nuts with talk of it. We can't say enough great things about our two days there. A bit of trivia for you: the word "Inca" means "King." Also, for 
the birders out there, did you know that over 10% of all the bird species on earth can be found in Peru? Well, now you know.

6.c. Llamas smell bad, period. You'll be glad to know that any wool souvenirs we bought were all made of alpaca, which is softer than llama as well. Because 54% of Peruvians live in poverty, we bought almost all of the gifts we'll be taking back to folks in the States on this trip. We bought directly from the makers, instead of through middlemen, and we met some awfully nice people along the way.

7.c. There are over 1000 different types of potatoes found in Peru, and countless ways to prepare them. When I say types of potato, I mean that there's one variety that has blue skin and orange inside, another that has a red skin and an orange interior. All the potato dishes we tried were tasty.

8.Wayna Picchu. Good! 
You're doing just great on this quiz! 
Ken and Katie climbed this peak the second day, while Krista and I settled for the city of Aguas Calientes and a mountain that translates to"Happy Mountain."

9.d. We LOVED our hostel in Cusco. [For the record, it was called Samay Wasi Peru (I DON'T recommend the one in Lima, only the one in Cusco); we heard of people paying LOTS more money for what we got.] Cuzco is South America's oldest continuously-inhabited city, having been the seat of Incan and then Spanish power for hundreds of years. It is packed with Incan ruins, tiny little beautifully-paved roads, and over-eager, annoying street salespeople.

10. False. I hope that somebody from the Gates Foundation is reading this blog (unlikely), because somebody with some money needs to give these people potable water. I KNOW the money won't be coming from the Coca-Cola Company, because they also sell almost all of the bottled water in the country, which one must use even to brush teeth. For the record, I really only missed two things about Uruguay while we were away: one was delicious, drinkable water, and the other was
 my FAVORITE drink ever, even better than Diet Coke, Paso de los Toros Light, a light, grapefruit soda sort of like Fresca but way better.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


You may think I take a long time to get to the point sometimes in English; you should hear me in Spanish! I use a strange mix of Tarzan talk (Me go there) and roundabout ways to say stuff, in order to use the few words I (sort of) know (Still I am please from Texas and I studying Spanish since 5 weeks today now until the 8th of May). All of us beginners (and that is almost all of us; there are 21 of us in the moron Spanish class; 2 students are in Intermediate, and 3 are in Advanced) have a long way to go, but we're way far down the road compared to where we began. Today, for instance, I understood many more words in church than I ever have before; however, they don't go together at all to form, say, a meaningful sermon or a communion devotional talk.

But we all are functional now, thanks to the hard work of our determined teacher Amelia and a lot of homework and study. We can go places and do things and actually get things done. 

Example: OK, so there is almost nothing to cook with in the upstairs apartment, and I determine to buy a colander for draining pasta and vegetables and fruit that we've washed. First, walk several blocks to the 
GayMar (next to Two Gays, I kid you not), which sells dishes and things.

Karen: Por favor, quiero comprar … ummm… una cosa para, no, por … (give up this unproductive language route and start down an alternate alley.)

Necesito un "colander," por favor. (blank look; after all, lots of people don't know the word colander in English. Try again.)

Despues de … ummm… que limpiar unas frutas … (lady shows me a scrubber to wash fruit; I see a closed conversational window and open another.)

Para … ummm… (I slide into a lingual portal where all the people are mute and gestures rule) …por el agua (then I gesture stupidly as if the water is pouring out through invisible holes.)

Saleswoman: ¡Ahhh, si! (She shows me a couple of colanders and says "laksljoigoien jepien guwoolle joeon lo0elw0j lwoen." At least that's what I hear.) I stand there awhile, looking for price tags, and, finding none and fearing another unintelligible "conversation," I select the cheap plastic one, thinking I'm pretty sure I can afford that one without having to try to break a big bill, which Uruguayans fear most in all the world and which brings on conversations I can't handle.

Go to check-out.
Different lady rattles off price, "llopnwdoiwpin- lppej onchwi."
I look at calculator, see price, pay that, and leave with a cheery "!Gracias!" to which she replies "Por favor.")
Nothing to it!

Friday, March 07, 2008

I've just gotta tell you...

... about THE “BLOG” OF “UNNECESSARY” QUOTATION MARKS. I go to this blog every few days, thanks to our friend Tim Archer, who found it somehow. It is hilarious if you're a punctuation geek like I am. Pictured is only one of many, many fabulous signs and images, and the blog owner Bethany writes hilarious headlines and descriptions.

End of advertisement. Enjoy!


They've had snow a couple of days back in Abilene, and my friend Gayla hates to be cold. But we here are just finishing up summer by having a week of rain to inaugurate in the Fall. For Gayla, our life from about May 2007 until September 2008 would be a dream come true; it's been pretty much one long summer and early Fall. 

Why? Summer 2007 was followed by Fall 2007 in Abilene (true, there were a few cold days, even some snow, but for purposes of this blog, we'll call it Fall). Then we moved here, where it was HOT summer again; now it's beginning to be early Fall; then we'll return to Abilene in time for summer again to be followed by Fall—yet AGAIN!

Not only are our seasons a bit wacker-doodle, but our time is also. We are 4 hours ahead of those of you who are in Texas today, but tomorrow, when you Spring Forward for Daylight Saving Time, we will Fall Back (because Fall is beginning here!); thus, we will only be two hours later than you guys for the rest of our time in Uruguay.


This beach place is isolated. How isolated? You can only reach it by hiking something
 7 kilometers or by taking one of these huge 4X4 tank-like
 trucks over the sand to get there. There
 are waves crashing all over the place; there are vast sand dunes that go on and on. We ate our lunch on top of one
such dune, where we had spread out our same-blanket-we-take-everywhere, and made peanut
 butter and banana sandwiches. It was great, and I don't just mean because we got to delight our tastebuds with the 
mmm-mmm goodness of Jif Extra Crunchy peanut butter (our last of two precious jars), but also because we looked out at the vast Atlantic, and because we 
were together in this cool place, and because we could see God's wonderful creation
 in yet another of its interesting manifestations.

Also I've posted, just for fun, a picture of some beach-kill. It's a stingray, and, even though I'm no forensic pathologist, I'm pretty sure it died of the big shark bite that took out its whole middle and backside. 

Click to enlarge.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Cabo Polonio, Uruguay

Sometimes, if you're very, very lucky, you get to have church on a gorgeous beach with wonderful people. 

We were those people yesterday morning.

Thank you, Lord.