So here’s the plan. When we were at Oktoberfest, we rode this mechanical bull and it had a number on it to rent it. So took down the number and are going to rent it for a party this weekend. It’s going to be pretty fun – especially when you throw a bunch of drunken Bolivians into the mix.
The family with which I’m living and I are also going to Concepción this weekend. It’s supposed to be pretty nice and I think I’ll get some pretty cool pictures there. It is a city of antiquity and Missions, kind like back home in California – but with less strict rules (like you can take pictures inside).
The big problem, however, is that we just can’t figure out how many bottles of wine to take. Ahhhh, the preoccupations of the upper class.
Also, we got some very good news yesterday. My buddy Nick (with whom I work) and his wife are now expecting! Now, by saying that they both are expecting, I don’t mean that they are both pregnant – only one is. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which (I know, it was a surprise to me, too).
In my massage the other day, I was informed that one of my shoulder blades is higher than the other after asking me if my back hurt at all. This is actually exactly where I have back pain and it’s always pretty constant. I’m sure a chiropractor could pop that thing right back into place – but sadly, I don’t think they have yet been invented in Bolivia. Just my luck.
Ever tried playing pool in Bolivia? It’s pretty hard. We went to a pool hall the other day and I found out that the pockets are about half as big as they are in the US. Pretty crazy – and nearly impossible to get a ball in. Supposedly, it’s to make you play longer and drink more. Pure genius.
Oh, and it’s Halloween today! Yes, they have Halloween here in Bolivia too, but it’s not like in the US. Older people (like my age…heh, older people) just have little get-togethers. Little kids don’t go trick-or-treating or have parties in school or anything. You see, the concept of “free stuff” just doesn’t really work here – as you would probably just get hand fulls of dirt – as that’s the only thing many people have. And you know – I can go get that myself.
So, let’s say that Bolivia gets a grant from the US for $100 million to build a highway system. By the time it gets “completed”, there is only like 10% built and somehow, the money mysteriously vanished. I attribute it to the heat. Things can evaporate here very easily – including money. Ironically though, it doesn’t go up in the atmosphere and rain back down with the next storm…It just vanishes for good. Even stranger – meteorologists don’t understand this phenomenon as much as politicians and Mercedes dealers would…perhaps it’s because they studied in the states.
This evaporation effect was also evident in the Oktoberfest festival here in Santa Cruz over the weekend. Things are just never the magnitude you would expect. In Germany, Oktoberfest is a very big event with a pretty extensive selection of beers, awesome food, tents to sleep so you can rest and go drink, and it lasts day and night for many days.
In Bolivia, it lasts a weekend – and if you’re not careful, you can get overwhelmed by the dilemma of choosing from the one beer on tap. No tents to sleep and no good food, although, I’m sure you could crawl in a bush and sleep after stockpiling a bunch of beers and keep the party going all week if you wanted too. But nevertheless, we went and it was pretty fun. I won a glass by throwing a token in a jar at a booth and we all took turns riding the mechanical bull (which we plan on renting for a birthday party this weekend). I misjudged the alcohol content of the beer and ended up taking a 15 minute nap on the bench we were all sitting at. So they say, I had to be lifted up so the cleaning guy could clean under me. When I awoke, I bid everyone farewell so I could go get some sleep back at the house and the best part is the cab driver only charged me 10 Bolivianos (usually, it’s more like 15 at night from a festival – then you have the whiteboy tax – and then you have the drunk whiteboy tax, and then you’re broke). For those of you not up on the exchange rate, 10 Bolivianos is about $1.25. Now – it could be that I gave each of the three cab drivers driving me home 10 B’s (as I was seeing about 3 of everything at that point), but I’m pretty sure I got a pretty good deal.
The next morning, Omar got me up pretty early (noon) to go to AquaLand! Luckily, I never drink enough to get a hangover so after a shower I was all ready to go. Now – if you haven’t yet gathered, the modifier “bolivian” on anything denotes “much smaller”. So, with that being said, AquaLand is the Bolivian Raging waters – only I imagine more urine. They have 4 slides to choose from, a wave pool, and some sort of a stream that you lay in with your inner tube and go around the whole park with the current. But there is a little inlet to a bar you can go in from that stream and you sit at underwater bar stools and order drinks. At that point, I really couldn’t drink, but everyone else could – and they did. I just said my water was vodka and everyone played it off.
I don’t know how these Bolivians do it here. They stay drunk all weekend and white guys like me and Nick just can’t keep up. I suppose that had I been doing it every weekend since I was like 9, I would be able to hang with the Bolivians as well though.
So after Aqualand, I went with the whole family to the aunt’s anniversary party (40 years of marriage). There is nothing quite as awkward (besides your first physical) as sitting at some strangers house, in the blistering heat and smothering humidity, talking to a bunch of people you don’t know in a language you just learned (Bolivianese) and then kissing them all on the cheek when you arrive and when they leave.
We went to the driving range to hit some golf balls. I golfed once here and not very good so it was nice to practice – although I’m still not very good. I then went back to the house and studied some Chinese and Spanish and Omar and I went to get pizza around 11pm.
In the morning, on the way to work, Nick and I saw a drunk man (in only a thong) walking in the middle of the busy street in the rain (and a thong). We honked at him and as we passed, he threw his hands up in the air and swung them around while he yelled. Rough night, I imagine.
So I made a new plan. Since I had to buy a plane ticket to Peru to get back into Bolivia – I will just go to Lima on the 3rd of December, take a bus or plane (a ticket is $58 bucks) to Cuzco to go see the ancient Incan ruins. From there, I’ll take a bus to Lake Titticaca (the Bolivians like to say that they have the Titti part and the Peruvians have the Caca part – since the lake is shared by the two countries) and then take a bus to Chile to start my adventure throughout Chile and Argentina. I can’t wait!
Man…as I was sitting here at work, I realized something. The plane ticket home and back cost $1,110 dollars. With that money in Bolivia, you could get 111 massages here in Bolivia. At an hour a pop, that is 111 hours. So that means, if you went to the massage place every day 8 hours a day, for three weeks straight – only then would you have spent the same amount of money.
Of course these are the massages without sex. If you want those, you would probably only be able to go 8 hours a day for two weeks straight…Anyways, back to work.
“Ohhhh, you Bolivian citizen?” – said the Chinese ticket agent at the Continental Airlines desk.
“No ma’am. I am not.”, I replied.
“What you do in Bolivia?”
“I don’t know. Be a tourist”
“Well, you need exit ticket. You cannot enter without exit ticket”
“But I have before. I’m returning to Bolivia. They don’t care if I have an exit ticket…”
“No, you have to have an exit ticket”
So 24 hours later and a $280 dollar ticket to Lima, Peru later, I’m back in Bolivia! Hopefully, I can refund the ticket, but I’m not holding my breath. As for the plane flight, if you have never been crammed in a plane for 23 hours in 4-8 hour intervals and several hour layovers – I highly recommend it. There is nothing quite like having a fat man have his fat arm take up half of your seat while you are trying to eat.
I enjoyed being back in the US for a few days. It was nice to catch up with family and see everyone again. My parents were awesome (as usual) and I they made my 7 day stay very comfortable. The service for my grandpa was very nice – with the Color Guard and all and I think my grandma is taking it well. I’m going to start sending her postcards and stuff from every country I visit.
It was also nice to be able to go out and buy stuff. Books, clothes, booze (to bring back) – you name it. A very big change of pace from Bolivia. On my list to bring back to Bolivia was: 10 bags of potpourri, $60 dollars worth of Sardines for resale in some of the supermarkets the family here owns, chocolates, 21 year old scotch, a maxim magazine (in Spanish and English), two gun cleaning kits, and taco’s for Taco Bell. I also got a really cool wine bottle opener for the Spechars (the family with whom I live).
So I handed that stuff out and went to sleep for a few hours. When I awoke, I went down to get a massage (a whopping $10), had tea with the owner and explained that I wanted to learn Chinese and had some books to learn. After the massage, his son called and found a class for Mandarin Chinese for me down the street so I am pretty excited about that. Supposedly it’s really cheap and there are several classes a week (although it starts on Nov. 7th).
I then went to a watch shop and got my favorite watch fixed. I was going to just buy a new one, but then realized – hey, I’m going to be in Bolivia. It can’t cost more than 5 bucks to get this thing fixed. So the taxi driver took me to some little stand on the side of the street and I’m thinking, “I’m supposed to leave my watch with this guy? He can literally pack up and leave (shop and all) at the drop of the hat”. But as it turns out, he dropped what he was doing, popped open my watch and we discovered that he battery was merely dead. A whopping $1 dollar for a new one. Free install. I also had him polish the crystal for another $1. Man o man. So 5 minutes later, I was on my way in a new taxi back home. I unpacked and cleaned up and am now going to go study some Spanish and Chinese. Hopefully I can pick up a little bit of the Chinese before classes start – and I really need to get more serious about studying the formal rules of Spanish.
I spent the past week working out issues with my intestines. They must have gotten mad at me since we made up in Ecuador – but then I drugged them and everything was all right again (Until the next country’s bacteria gets a hold of me, I suppose). I also went golfing. Very very interesting – seeing as the “Resort” is “in progress” and looks like it’s about 10% done. $8 bucks later, we played a game of golf and had a really awesome dinner at the house.
But, I will be taking a break from my break as I return back home to attend my step-grandfather’s funeral. He passed away on Saturday and his funeral is on Friday. I think it only appropriate that I pay my last respects to a man who has played such an important role in my life. From Easter egg hunts, to birthday gifts, to Christmas dinner at his house, to picking me up from high school on rainy days in my pre-car years, Hal has always been a grandfather in place of the two I never knew. I will miss him greatly – as, I am sure, will everyone else who has ever had the pleasure of having him in their lives.
It’s funny how quick you adjust to the local currency. Basically, you’re not going to spend more than one American dollar for a cab ride to anywhere in the city. However, sometimes you get hit with the “gringo tax” and have to pay like another 20 cents. When you ask what the fare is and it’s another 2 Bolivian dollars your like wooooooooaaaa, wayyyy tooo much – and it’s not like your pissed off at being charged more, it’s just that it’s like 2 “dollars” more.
So there are these crazy bugs here called chicharra’s or cucu’s or something, everyone has a different name for them, but they make the loudest, most ear shattering and high pitch, and most constant noise for hours at a time in the spring (yeah, it’s spring here). I’m going to try to record one so you guys can be annoyed too. Only in the tropics, so they say.
Also, I really wish I could record a cab ride in this city. It’s like an out of control roller coaster. First off, all seat belts have been removed, the cars have been converted from having the steering wheels on the ride side of the car to the left side and they didn’t do a very good job so usually the speedometer doesn’t work, there are always enough cracks to make the road in front of you just visible enough, no one pays attention to streetlights or stop signs – as they only need honk a few times as they go confidently into an intersection (the more confident you appear, the more likely the other cab driving into the intersection will yield to you and when you get stuck in traffic, you get to listen to non-stop honking by everyone as though the combined sound waves from the horns will somehow perhaps physically lift the 100 cars in front of you up into the air so that your taxi may pass.
Cops don’t have guns either. They do, however, have whistles. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the whistles are very intimidating – they make a different noise depending on how hard you blow. And trust me, they really love blowing their whistles. They don’t really need a reason…if they see something that catches their eye, the whistle gets blown. If you run a red light or cut someone off, the whistle gets blown. If you run someone over, the whistle gets blown. I assume they keep track of which cars get how many whistle blows and maybe send them some sort of notification in the mail – just so they know.
Or maybe they don’t.