Oktoberfest, kissing cheeks, and hitting balls really far.

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!

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