An unexpected week in La Paz

Trip Start Jan 23, 2010
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Trip End May 31, 2011


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Where I stayed
Hospadaje Jimenez

Flag of Bolivia  , La Paz,
Sunday, October 10, 2010

A guy comes into my three dollar a night hostal and says to me (the now official greeter), "Howīs the hostal". I say good and Don Teodoro comes out to speak with him.
Dude: How much does the hostal cost
Don: 25 Bolivianos ($3)
DudeShared bathroom?
Don: Yes, 35 Bolivianos for a private
Dude to me: Beds good?
Me: yeah, for straw stuffed in potatoe sacks and a piece of foam, theyīre not bad...
No I didnīt really say that.  Lets try again
Dude to me: Beds good?
Me: Yeah
Dude to Don: does it include breakfast?
Don: no
Me to dude: and they charge you a peso to use the extremely funky kitchen, three if you cook a big meal, but youīre welcome to some of my Nescafe.

No I didnīt really say that. Lets continue.

Dude: eehhhh alright. Is there wireless?
Me: Are you fucking kidding?

No I didnīt really say that....but I sure wanted to!

Don: No, no wireless
Dude: eh alright, thanks bye.

Don Teodoro and I smile and he goes back to cleaning the bathrooms (but most certainly not the kitchen, as they donīt clean that) and have another tasty mug of instant coffee.  I love Bolivia


Iīm back in La Paz. Again. For five days. I canīt help but say Iīm less than thrilled with the idea. La Paz is really an interesting city. Built in what can almost be described as a bowl, its full of steep narrow roads, street vendors, churches, plazas, etc.  However, it is STILL a big city, and I, quite frankly, am not a fan.
 
I arrived on Sunday with the intention of spending the night and leaving the next day for the Amazon.  Unfortunately, it was the very day that I arrived that the Coqueros (or Coca farmers) decide to go on strike and block off access into the Yungas region, the area that I had hoped to visit.  Initially I tried to find a way around it all.  Take a taxi, walk across the road blockades, another taxi, more walking and so on.  Then I heard that moving vehicles were difficult, if not impossible, to come by as the blockades had created all kinds of congestion and confusion. 

Then I talked to a tour agency who said they were taking a tour on  backroads to a riverhead and then they would float the river to Rurrenebaque, a few days away (by boat, that is).  However, I canīt really afford the tour, so I asked them if they would just give me a lift to the river on their backroad route.  The tour operator said heīd speak to his boss and get back to me. As it turns out, the only boats that take this river north are tour boats and thus if I were to arrive and look for my own form of transport, Iīd be shit out of luck.  And so I wait.

Five days later, I am still here.  During this time Iīve become the official greeter in my hospadaje courtyard, kept up to date on the road bloackades in the Yungas and the protesters in Santa Cruz (theyīre protesting a new anti racism law, one which seems to be a thinly veiled excuse for media censureship, and the media is going all out with hunger strikes and riots.  I am yet to meet a Bolivian in favor of the law, though many support Evo Morales, the president.  From what I gather, it is an  unfortunate path for Evo to take, as the country undoubtably would benefit from a better written law).  And of course, like the rest of the world, I watched as Chile rescued the 33 miners stuck deep in a hole near Copiapo.

A few comments on the situation.  First of all, wow, it really is pretty freaking miraculous that these men had first survived the collapse, were found, able to live 70 days so isolated and so far beneath the earthīs surface, and were finally reunited with, well, us. No doubt about it.

Second, maaan was the whole spectacle so very, so distinctly, Chilean.  The patriotic nature of the country was literally oozing from every scene.  Flag hats, signed footballs, the infamous CHI-CHI-CHI-Le-Le-Le chant, modified, of course, to fit the current curcumstances (instead of Viva Chile, it was something like Vivan los mineros de Chile), all night parties to celebrate the rescue, and the celebratory blare of car horns that, no doubt, sounded through the country for days to come.

Also true to Chileīs nature was their penchant for romance.  Anyone who has every been to Santiago knows that public displays of affection (meaning full on make-out sessions) are common amongst all ages, and some might say that you really havenīt experienced the country until youīve done some heavy petting in Santiagoīs subway (preferably on the red line during rush hour when it seems couples eliminate any airspace between them and lock lips simply to make room). Anyway, point is, stories of women buying lingere and the most romantic reunions dominated the news.

And then there was Piņera.  Needless to say, Chileīs president did everything he could to bring those men back to the surface.  He had plans A through Z, consulted NASA, constructed Camp Hope and ensured the miners and their families were well cared for. He even spent almost 30 hours standing outside the tiny hole through which the miners were surfaced and welcomed each one with a hug.  However, I couldnīt help but feel his actions were juuuust a liiiiitle opportunistic. 

Piņera is the first conservative president to be elected since  Chileīs dictatorship, which ended just  20 years ago, he is a billionaire in a country that still has severe poverty, and is undoubtably looking to prove himself. And I couldnīt help but feel just a little irked as he flashed his big white smile, eyes blinking uncomfortably, standing next to two bottle blondes (blonde in Chile is ideal, as it is associated with the west, wealth, and the developed.  Never in my life have I seen such a love of blondes-even bottled- as that which I saw in Chile), greeting these men who in theory would never have been there in the first place had their well-being as laborers been taken into consideration by the big business owners such as Piņera.    Well there you have it.

Anway, Iīm giving up my weeklong wait tomorrow and heading toPeru...I think.
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