Archive | July, 2009

protests

28 Jul

fireworks, dump trucks blocking crowded streets, hunger strikes, sit-ins, and marching bands provide the setting for my time in Sucre so far – protests on a regular basis.  democracy at its best (or worst)…

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Brief History of US/Bolivian Relations

25 Jul

http://www.democracyctr.org/blog/2009/03/us-bolivia-relations-in-nutshell.html

58 hours later in Sucre, Bolivia

6 Jul

One last bus, this one on rocky roads tabien and with little kids packed into the luggage compartment.

Bolivian nights are cold and this one was no different.  But I’ve learned quickly and this time I’ve worn half of my entire stock.  Three shirts, two jackets, dude stockings, jeans, and a hat.

I finally arrived into Sucre 58 traveling hours later, not including my two day drinking stop-over in Santa Cruz, and my cranky soul searching layover in Cochabamba.

But let me tell you – it was worth it.  Sucre, a grand colonial city of old is a sight to be seen and the perfect place to study spanish.  Internet cafes a plenty, bars and plazas with free wifi, and an exchange rate that makes living easy and comfortable, this is the place to be.

I’ve hooked up with spanish lessons and spend four hours a day flirting with my professor in spanish – which is great conversational practice, plus I learn a bit about politics and local culture as well.  Got around to learning the past tense today, as well as the present conditional, and I really feel like my spanish is coming along.  Tempted to stay here for a few more weeks at the least for sure.

My living situation is nifty, the school placed me with a real live bolivian family and we have lunch together every afternoon.  It’s a sweet deal and a chance to practice spanish – though i spend most of the meals with my tail between my legs, trying hard to understand the conversation but mostly not understanding much at all, but coming out with the occasional joke every now and then.

My Bolivian mom lives with all of her sisters in a patio type of setup where a bunch of different rooms surround a courtyard which also functions as the living room.

Most of the action takes place in the kitchen though where the grandma starts a soup every morning and where we enjoy three course meals everyday.

On Sundays the mid-day meal is even larger and yesterday I had some of the most delicious fish I’ve ever tasted – though my spanish teacher insists I only thought it was so good because I spent the better half of Saturday throwing up (my own special fireworks for America’s independence day) and was thus really hungry for some food on Sunday. She might have had a point.

This Sunday was also the occasion for a taste of corizon de vaco, or a cow’s heart.  I’ve never liked tongue because it looked too much like tongue but here I was, holding a huge life sized heart in my hand, complete with four chambers and large chanels for where the arteries might have been.  Not the best thing I’ve ever tasted, and certainly one with the strangest texture, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be inclined to eat it again – that is unless I have to eat it again as to not insult my host family.

But overall, I really like the setup here.  Learning spanish and being a part of a university enviornment, I’ve met some really intelligent kids here that have humbled me, but which have also showed me that there does exist a type of individual that I get on along great with.  And that’s so far which has seperated bolivia from the rest of my travels – that the travelers here are much more political, and much more interesting as well.

And as a I wrap up my cigarette and beer for the night, so should I wrap up this long tale of my first week in Sucre.  More sure to come soon.

Cochabamba

6 Jul

Central Bolivia, Cafe, Waiting for the bus to Sucre.

Feeling somewhat pointless today.  Wandering from bar to eatery to coffee shop, but not necessarily in that order.  I’m in Cochabamba, the sight of one of bolivia’s most important struggles, but I didn’t know that then.

I’m stuck in town because some travelers recommended I take two buses instead of one to Sucre – because a direct trip wuda meant 18 hours on unpaved, bumpy road.

It was a good idea, but there weren’t any immediate connections, so after one 11 hour ride through the night, I searched for a hostel for a few hours of snoozing, and after flirting with the idea of a cold shower, I went on my way to explore the city I was forced to explore – except that I was tired and cranky (and showerless) and there was nothing to explore.

Can’t get the girl from new zealand out of my head.  not because she was gorgeous (though she wasn’t bad) but because she was the type of girl i am attracted to, a wanderer, a hippie, a bandana draped over her head.  attracted to her life story, the brave decision to delay university and go traveling instead.  i wonder how i can too balance the need for a job, a respectable job, with the need to travel, and with the need to live abroad.

i want to live in coloroado, maybe work on a slope.  i want to live in california, in texas, in mexico, and in spain too.  i want to live in austrilia, in new zealand, and i want to live in new york.  a visit to london, to italy, to europe, a year in china, a day in thailand, a meal in malaysia, a bike ride through ireland, and a motorcycle ride through eastern europe.

and as i sit here and day dream, i spot a policeman who’s positioned to protect the well-to-do diners from the beggars they choose to ignore, show an act of kindness.  i watch as he helps a beggar load his plastic bag with the leftovers of a fine meal.  positioned in the smarter area of town, forced to guard the rich, i wonder if he feels the difference between himself and the uppercrest of society.

Protected: When In Rome

6 Jul

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Santa Cruz

6 Jul

Santa Cruz Plaza, a couldy afternoon at the very end of June.  2009.

I’m in an old frontier city, something out of the old wild west, with low houses and wide streets.  But it seems to have been created with an architect’s pen, carefully designed, aligned, in a grid lock format with rings that eminate from the center.

Regal, ambitious, but with obvious signs of decay, it was sort of like a soviet republic with signs of former glory, except that i can’t be sure it ever had any former glory at all – just a story of poverty, of hope, of despair.

But truth be told I didn’t stray far from a hammock filled hostel that was full of good people, palm trees, and was close to the bars.

I hit it off well with a group of travelers that had been together for sometime, and we spent a few afternoons hanging out, drinking beers, and playing cards.  I even ended up staying an extra night in town with them before we all split up and went in different ways.

The Death Train

6 Jul

The train ride was cold, icy cold. Woke up in the middle of the night to a ghoulish nightmare.  The train was stuck in the middle of a forest , or a swamp.  Maybeiit was a bridge.

I wasn’t sure because of a strong haze and mist.  I’m on the death train, infamously named for the amount of people who died in the 80’s when the train derailed with an alarming frequency.

I head metal clanking.  It sounded like a piece of the train had fallen off.  Then a loud hissing sound, as if the train was too tired, and it exhaled it’s last breath in defeat.  I thought it sounded like gas – and trains, jews, and gas don’t mix all too well.

My watch, the only tell tale sign of my gringo status, as the rest of me is in ragged holes, tells me it is 9 at night.  Good.  We’re almost there.  My ticket says 9:45 so I force myself back to bed.  But soon I was up again, this time whitness to a cultish group of folks, with deep, evil black eyes and martching black attire.

It wasn’t Spanish they were speaking.  Missionaries I thought, or devil worshippers. Either way they ought to be avoided at all costs I thought.  That’s the aura that orthodox jews must give off as well.  Oh well, it’s ok to be hypocritical in the middle of the night.  Speaking of which, what time is it?  Two in the morning.  A butch, incredibly ugly, gentle woman with braids, gold teeth, and contraband wrapped around bright ethnic quilt told me the train was due to arrive at 9.  That’s right, I knew that.  My ticket says that too.  Shit, she means 9 in the morning.  Fuck, that means I’m on a 20 hour train ride.

No money, no food, and no water.  I tried giving dollars, worth seven times the local currency to the small children who invade the train to sell snacks, but they don’t know what a dollar is, and won’t sell me a thing.  It’s freezing too and I think about cuddling with the indigenous woman sitting in front of me, who had that bright ethnic blanket that looked oh so warm.   Instead I wrapped my ankles with dirty wife beaters and boxers, the only things I could find in my bag, and tried to curl up in a tight ball and call it a night.

I would find out the next day that my voyage took me through the coldest night of the year, a night so cold that Bolivians actually turned it into a holiday, and a night I would have done well to travel with a bottle of red or a bottle of vodka…