Goodbye, Santa Cruz

Well, it’s time to say goodbye to Santa Cruz. I leave for Peru tomorrow and will be returning to Bolivia soon on my way down to Argentina, but not to this region.

We just got back from a weekend trip to Samaipata, a small town in the mountains – away from the humidity and pollution. My buddy Aldo has a house up there and it was a weekend of relaxation, eating and drinking (as if there were anything else to do in Bolivia). The ride up was very interesting: a snake of a road with bits and pieces missing and a few signs before hand warning you to merely be careful (no joke, a sign says “be careful of the road” and about 100 feet later, there is a whole lane missing for about 10 feet, leaving a massive hole into the canyon below). Sometimes roads just disappear in Bolivia.

So what are my impressions on Santa Cruz? Well, there really isn’t that much to this town, although it is one of the biggest in Bolivia. Driving down the streets, you see the same things (stores, statues, markets, poor people) over and over again. Bolivia faces a big problem with being land locked (not having a coast with which they can easily import and export goods) and having a major portion of its population extremely poor and uneducated.

With ignorant and unhappy masses, civil unrest is always looming and this does not look good for foreign investors. The police are very corrupt here (you can buy yourself out of anything for anywhere from $6-$12 US and most of them don’t even have guns, for fear that they will sell them). People are very scared of crime here and there seems to be nothing here to protect them or prevent it. No one pays taxes here except big corporations, and that leads to anger and tax evasion, and leaves very little money for Santa Cruz (after the politicians have taken their cut). Santa Cruz is also very lacking in the customer service area – the products sell themselves (for whatever price you look like you will pay) and everything closes from 11-2 during lunch, even though that is when most people can go out to buy stuff. And after lunch, on the way back to work, you can always be sure you’ll see a guy relieving himself on the wall in front of a crowded intersection. It’s also very hot and humid here every day without rain about once or twice a week.

On the good side though, you can drink the water out of the tap (hey, that’s quite an accomplishment). I am very glad I got the opportunity to live here with a family and that I also got to work here.

When you are rich, the not so great things about this country aren’t really as prominent and when you are a traveler, you merely take note – they are more interesting than anything. This really is a different world. It is not until you get to really experience life in someone else’s shoes that you can even begin to understand their perspective. I won’t get this opportunity for the rest of my stay in South America, as I will only be spending a maximum of about 1-3 weeks in each of the countries I visit next, with leaves very little time in each city. And I will never forget the hospitality of the family that took me in and my buddy Nick. This has truly been an experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

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