It occurred to me that travel blogs that read as an account of what any particular traveler has been up to is insufferable; it is like hearing about one’s dream from the night before or reading Ulysses. The fact of the matter is that traveling is mostly procedural and rote but is punctuated by moments of absurdity, wonder and merriment that keep it exciting and encourage us to continue. But for the most part our days are spent reading, playing Rummy, and asking one another “did you just fart?”
Food has been a struggle, to say the least. South America’s slogan is: “Come because it is wonderful—leave because of the food.” If the food isn’t bland, it is salty to the extreme or, even worse, it will tear your insides apart and bring you to the edge of finding religion. Although Americans have a reputation for being rude and whatnot, Jean and I are protective of strangers’ feelings to the extreme and feel like we are offending the waitress when we don’t finish the food, which has led to a very good system where Jean is on the lookout for staff while I scrape the “food” into a napkin and then stuff it in a pocket. This food usually goes to one of the many feral dogs wandering the street (which, by the way, we stopped naming due to the fact that there are thousands of them and either call them “perro” or “shithead”).
La Paz was a special little city comprised nearly entirely of unfinished red-brick buildings covering a bowl-shaped valley. The buildings are largely unfinished due to an ordinance that allowed owners to skirt paying taxes if their home was under construction, so, Bolivians being pragmatists went 90% of the way and called it quits. Although, this may be a load of bull because the quality and tone of construction that we have seen everywhere on this continent has been the same in the sense that there appears to be a complete disdain for aesthetics and a rule of “function and what is form?” Hidden plumbing? Rarely. Bury electrical in walls? No way. We had a room with an overhead light that was suspended by the live wires. We saw a man yesterday run a cord thicker than my thumb straight to a high-voltage power line and tie them together (live, of course) with duct tape. Jean got mildly electrocuted touching the shower handle in a bathroom. Outside of the safety issues, I can respect this practice of “ehhh, fuck it” because, ultimately, it really doesn’t matter. (note: I’m being a bit reductive—there are a couple of well done structures and aesthetics do matter to people here because art flourishes)
Anyway. La Paz, right, sorry. It was a surprisingly nice town and we liked it enough to stay there for a week. The setting in the valley is astoundingly pretty and the nearly 20,000 foot mountains looming just outside of the city are a real sight. Also remarkable is the billion dollar gondola system that was recently installed to shuttle the citizens around town. It sounds like this was necessary since the buses/drivers were on strike for 28-out-of-30 days in September. Plus, these people are always protesting something and come out in force overwhelming the streets, crippling traffic. On top of that, the drivers are maniacs and honk their horns at pedestrians as a legitimate warning meaning “move fast or I will literally run you over.” I was sitting shotgun in a minibus and I swear the driver was aiming for a pedestrian. There had been so many driver/pedestrian accidents that the city employs people to dress up in zebra costumes and help pedestrians navigate the intersections because that is obviously the appropriate solution to the problem.
Aforementioned, I’m not tying to give you a day-by-day synopsis and clearly can’t stay on track so how about bullet points:
- We saw a couple outside of our hotel getting real hot-and-heavy while an infant sat on the man’s shoulders. Hottttt.
- There is a witches market where you can buy dried alpaca fetuses for good luck.
- Not a single day has passed where we haven’t heard or seen fireworks or a marching band. I love that they love to party.
- There is a flea market in one neighborhood that was so big we walked for hours and never saw the end of it. I bought a Chicago White Sox hat for unknown reasons.
- We almost stayed in a teepee but ended up not doing so. Boring bullet point, deal with it.
- Jean apparently likes the word “queue” rather than “line” and is clearly going out of her way to use the word.
- Bolivians dont like Americans but seem to like Jean just fine.
- 12,000 feet is really high and the air is thin. Sometimes we get out of breath putting on socks.
- We watched WWE style wrestling starring “Cholitas,” women in traditional Bolivian clothes. It was something.
- People pee wherever they wish in La Paz. I’ve seen a lot of dongs. I heard a story from someone about a Cholita walking straight towards her, abruptly stopping, hitching up her skirt and peeing in a gutter.
- There is a massive cemetery that we visited and it was real neat but kind of sad because we’re all gonna die someday.
That’s all. We’re in Cusco and happy as clams. Maybe I’ll write again and maybe you’ll read it but in the meantime keep your eyes peeled for care packages with dried alpaca fetuses inside.