Sunday, March 14, 2010

They do things a little bit differently here

After two of the worst nights of sleep in the history of sleeping at night we arrived in La Paz, Bolivia. And while we expected things to be different, things are really different.
One of the things I forgot to mention about our first lunch yesterday was that everyone we watched buy food before us from the women with her cart would take the bowl, tell her where they were taking it, and then head that way. Seeing as we had no where to go I pointed to the curb and suggested we eat there. She immedietly whipped out a low wooden bench from her cart and we ate from there!
So eating is the first main difference and how much of it happens in the street and how often serious eating takes place. People always seem to be eating, and eating a hearty meal. No cookies and mate here.
Second: the buses. We were spoiled, oh so spoiled, by Argentina. Even though weve been taking semi-cama (the lowest quality) buses since we left Madryn, those were still pretty nice buses that made the greyhound a shameful manner of travel. Well...the buses here make the greyhounds look nice. The bus may have once been nice, but both of our seats were broken (Joshs leaned to the left and mine didnt go back all the way) and the semi that I was sure was traveling in front of us turned out to be us. The engine was loud. Really loud.
The road was also unpaved, but much smoother than Route 40 which we took to get from El Chalten to El Bolson. However, this resulted in a fine dust that caked inside my nose as it entered the bus constantly. Enough complaining though, none of our stuff was stolen and we each ate a soup and a main meal at the rest stop for 30 bolivianos total. Thats about 5 dollars. So far we are loving it.
When we finally arrived the view was incredible. The city is nestled in a valley amidst the highest snowcapped mountains, and every available space in that valley up until the moutnains begin has been built upon. The shiny corregated metal roofs shined in the morning light and it was a sight to behold.
The road circles around and down like the path a penny takes in those big penny funnels they have at museums, and we finally arrived at the bus station where we unloaded and decided not to use the public showers available to us there. From there it was a short walk to El Carretero, our hostel recommended to us by our good friend Emilio from BA.
Its a nice enough place, full of hippies and interesting looking people. Best of all is that our matriomonial sweet costs 35 bolivianos a night each. Its got a private bath that isnt the cleanest, but what do you want for about 6 dollars a person? The kitchen is also out of gas, but who wants to cook when there is an abundance of amazing street food?
After a necessary nap we found out there is a Sunday fair called Feria del Alto. After wandering around a little and taking in the people in their Sunday best we found the street we were looking for and boarded a ceja. There are no colectivos like in BA here. There are mini buses and vans that have the destination on the front as well as a man or women shouting it out along with the price with most of their body out the window or door. To my relief we arrived at the right place and headed up some windy stairs and arrived breathless at the top. We were the only gringos for miles. It is a feria for Bolivians full of everything one could ever need. Clothes, car parts, food, shoes, the thick whool stockings the woman traditionally wear here, cds, dvds, nail polish, ect. We also stooped into a little covered stall where we ate chicken, rice, potatoes and this wierd cousin of the pototao with a dessert of broth for 10 bolivianos. I say stoop to emphasize another difference. For the first time ever Josh and I are the tallest people around.
We decided to walk down and made our way slowly down the staircases and streets that send you to the center. The houses there have an incredible view but are also incredibly poor. Some didnt have windows, many had metal doors and they were almost all contructed out of these hallow exposed bricks. There were soccer and volley ball courts, and steep streets with bio hazardous cars heading down backwards. Once we got to the main street there were even more vendors selling mostly vegetables at first, but as we neared the cemetary there were also women on blankets selling beautiful flowers. We entered the cemetary where all the women had on their best black bowler hats and matching shawls and where the burial niches are all above ground and the coffins are not viewable like in BA. Also unlike BA, we were the only tourists. Everyone there was visiting a deceaced loved one.
We continued down, noticing how different things are here. Its rare for a person to have all their teeth if they appear over the age of thirty, but it doesnt stop people from smiling. People are also quite pushy and unaware of who they are pushing. People walk in the streets unafraid of being hit by traffic (very different from BA) and people are constantly stopping for a fruit drink, a bite to eat, or a chat with a friend. We ourselves stopped for some more prickly pear which we cant get enough of. Also, they peel it in front of you so you dont have to worry about it being dirty. We were walking down hill for what seems like an eternity, and I am now exhausted. We are definetly feeling the altitude in our shortness of breath but so far so good on the stomach. What we need is a long good nights sleep and that we are going to get.
Another difference is that right about now, around 7:30 pm, is dinner time here. We are thankful for that!! As soon as we eat we are heading to bed!!
I have snuck in a few photos which I will try to upload tomorrow!

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