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leaves in the wind (martes, 12 octubre)

La Paz, Bolivia


Yesterday I had been planning on biking on the ´World´s Most Dangerous Road´from La Paz to Oroico, but due to the rain from the day before, and the fact that I did not feel like waking up early, I changed my plans again. Prior to coming to Bolivia I´d read about a place called Alexander Café, and part of me was craving Starbucks-style coffee. I walked through the markets and across the bridge and headed towards the business district of La Paz, where Alexander Café was located. It was a nice place that actually has vegetarian/vegan food, as well as soy lattes. I enjoyed a hot, vanilla-hazelnut-cinnamon soy latte and ordered a ´quinoa wrap,´which had all sorts of wonderful Bolivian vegetables and spices in it.

While there, I read some of my guide book and pretty much decided that there are SO many things I want to see in La Paz (well, in Bolivia in general), and that sadly, I won´t be able to squeeze it all into one long-ish weekend. So...I´m coming back at the end of October, when I have another long weekend. At first I wasn´t sure how I should feel about this because usually when I travel, I like to go to different places than the ones I´ve already been, but due to things such as rain, I didn´t get to visit Tiwanaku OR go mountain biking to Oroico, so that made the decision easy.

Plus, it would be cool to spend more time here listening to live music and meeting people. I´ve met so many interesting people here in La Paz, and that´s one of the things I love about travelling. However, it can be a double-edged sword because although I´m constantly meeting new people, I´m also saying a lot of good-byes. I end up having lots of extremely interesting conversations and connecting with people on different levels, but then those conversations become just memories, and friendships are difficult to maintain because of factors such as long-distance. Some of the people I´ve met while travelling have given me different ideas to think about or made me see things from a different light. Sometimes it´s hard to imagine where I´d be or how different I´d be had I not had one short but meaningful conversation with someone.

For example, in Prague I spent two night sharing a room in a hostel with this girl who was biking across Europe, and she and I had very different perspectives on things such as work and postgraduate education. It was not until our paths crossed that I even started THINKING about wanting a masters´degree. Back home where I waitressed in a Mexican restaurant, one of my former co-workers taught me that it´s never too late to change, to open my mind, or to have new experiences, and that I should take time to enjoy the small things, like a beautiful night sky in the midst of an otherwise hectic shift. In Santiago I randomly met this guy in my hostel, and the lesson learned from him was to seize the day, live adventurously, and try new things. In Cusco I met an Australian who taught me that everyone has a place in this world, regardless of how different their lives are from mine, and to love and accept those people as they are. And here, in La Paz, I met an artist/musician from whom I realized that my roots are important---that I can travel the world, live abroad, and immerse myself in different cultures, but never to forget where I came from, because that is also a strong part of my identity.

Sometimes it´s sad to have all these great conversations and then realistically, never see these people or hear from them again. I guess everything happens for a reason and people are like leaves in the wind...you can´t control where it goes or when something will come blowing back again, but you can still enjoy it while it lasts and remember the beauty of it. And if our paths are meant to cross again, they will. That is how I feel about travelling and meeting new people. Plus, having the chance to meet different people is way better than the alternative which is not going anywhere and not diving into new experiences (which for me, is also not an option).

So I´m pretty excited that I´ll be returning to La Paz soon. There are so many neat places in Bolivia I´d like to visit...Potosí, Salar de Uyuni, Santa Cruz, Lake Titicaca, just to name a few.

After lunch I walked around the northern part of the city because I hadn´t really seen much of it yet. The sun was shining and it was a gorgeous day outside. I stopped for fresh juice and then visited the Museo de Etnografía y Folklore. It was really interesting. There were displays of different textiles made by different groups of indigenous people. The exhibit showed how the patterns, colors, and styles changed depending on their location, available materials/dyes, and specific use (practical vs. ritualistic). There were also exhibits showing different masks, which were used in the precolonial times as well as afterwards. The mask room was dark with just a few floor lights to illuminate these giant masks, which were also displayed on mannequins wearing the clothing that would have been worn with the mask. Some of them were representations of different animals or gods, and some of them were actually pretty creepy. After the Spaniards came, all sorts of theatrical festivals originated in Bolivia to commemorate different saints or biblical stories, so many of the costumes and masks were of the Devil. At one point, I got really freaked out because the lights stopped working and the room became entirely pitch black (there were no windows in the room, probably so light wouldn´t affect the masks and costumes). I had no idea where I was in the room, and no one else was in there. I really didn´t want to accidentally walk into anything and break it. Also, it was kind of eerie being in there where I knew there were all these creepy looking masks. After trying to wait for my eyes to adjust to the dark (which they didn´t), I finally got out my camera. Although you´re not allowed to take pictures inside the museum, my camera was the only thing I had that could produce a light in order for me to see where I was going to get out of the room. I was definitely relieved when I got out of there. The rest of the museum had different featherwork used by the Bolivian people, and a whole room of ceramics/pottery. Again, the styles of the featherwork and pottery varied depending on the group of people who made them, their purpose, their geographic region, and social status. I learned a lot in the museum and with the exception of the lights blacking out, I enjoyed it.

Then I walked back to the neighborhood near my hostel where I got an hour-long massage for a really good price. It was super relaxing and I felt much more calm afterwards. I still cannot believe how inexpensive massages are here. I paid about US $7 for my massage.

Then I met up with some other travellers (from parts of the States and Australia) for some empanadas. I actually found some empanadas that were vegan and that I could eat. They were spinach samosas, and they were hot out of the oven and tasted wonderful. For the first time in a while this trip I had a longer conversation in English as my fellow travellers and I exchanged stories and experiences. I enjoyed some vegan / tofu sushi before meeting up with Julio, who I randomly passed on the street. I decided to head back to the hostel rather early (11pm) since today I had to get on the bus to head back to Iquique.

Today I slept until 9:30 even though I´d been planning on getting up a little earlier in order to visit one last museum before catching a taxi back to the bus station. I hadn´t counted on my stomach feeling mildly queasy, but fortunately I´d brought some over the counter meds with me, and soon was feeling much better. I packed up my things, found a painting to give to my host family, found a soccer jersey for Kyle, and got headed on my way. On the bus I read for a while, wrote, and did a lot of staring out the window, enjoying the landscapes of the altiplano. I tried to get some sleep but it was impossible.

At the border when we crossed back into Chile at Tambo Quemado, I got really worried because when I gave them my passport, they asked for a copy of the paper I´d filled out when I left Chile. Although I thought I´d saved it, couldn´t find it anywhere. The security guy called me into his office, asked me a few questions (where I´m from, how long was I in Bolivia, etc). I showed him all of my Chilean visa paperwork and he pretended like he wasn´t going to let me back into Chile, but he did. I had to declare some of the souvenirs I´d bought (a few necklaces made out of seeds), and was asked about that too. He and the other security guy were kind of laughing about it and joking around that they needed my phone number to verify something. I´m glad that I didn´t have any serious problems because of that stupid little piece of paper, but oh well. Then after I left the office, another guy searched my bag, and again, I got asked a lot of questions about where I live, where I work, why am I in Chile, etc. Sometimes I think I should dye my hair and get brown-tinted contacts so I won´t have to answer the same questions over and over again, but then again, in some ways it´s kind of nice that people here are interested and friendly to foreigners. The guy told me that I should go to Bolivia again so I can cross through the border again.

When I got back on the bus, the Bolivian lady sitting next to me was freaking out because she couldn´t find her carnet (identity card). Bolivians and Chileans can cross into each other´s countries without a passport as long as they have their carnet with their RUT numbers. The Chilean police were not going to let her into the country without it, so our whole bus had to wait while she searched through all her things. Fortunately she found it.

The rest of the bus ride was long, boring, cold, and uncomfortable, but it was definitely worth it because I really enjoyed Bolivia. I can´t wait to go back! But now...off to another week at school. I´m thinking of going to San Pedro de Atacama either this weekend or the next...

More adventures to come:)

permalink written by  Sara Florecita on October 12, 2010 from La Paz, Bolivia
from the travel blog: año de dos inviernos (Chile 2010)
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Sara Florecita Sara Florecita
1 Trip
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-I am participating in the Inglés Abre Puertas program run by the Chilean Ministry of Education.
-Hobbies include travelling, writing, reading, learning Spanish and Italian, long-distance running, music, and art.
-I am a college graduate who is trying to find her place in this world.
-I...

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