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Last Reflections on Bolivia

October 2, 2009

I’ve written a ton about Bolivia, but there are still a lot of things I haven’t really touched on. I tried to start listing observations in my journal of things I had continually noticed but never taken note of or mentioned anywhere.

First, Bolivians love their sweets. There are chocolate and cake stores everywhere. I first noticed this in Sucre (which I thought to myself, haha that’s why they call it “Sucre,” the spanish for “sweet.”) In La Paz, there were literally three or four cake shops on the corner of the street across from my hostel, and I would pass a few more along with a number of chocolate shops every time I walked the four or five blocks to the main road.
Second, police are everywhere as well. This is especially true in La Paz, and I always wondered if there was something going on that I was completely oblivious to. They’re gathered all over on the side of most streets or corners. Sometimes they’d even have big guns and those big police shields — that would make me a little nervous when I saw them like that! I just decided to myself that there must be a protest going on somewhere, as Bolivians love their protests are always protesting something. It also seems that Bolivians think that they just put up signs everywhere declaring things it will be true (i.e. all the trash cans here say “Copacabana – the clean city,” La Paz had signs everywhere declaring its progressiveness in one way or another, in Sucre they had a protest/festival for a drug-free Bolivia…while none of these things seem to be quite realized, they are at least idealistic about it, I suppose!)
Bolivian women in traditional/day-to-day dress

Bolivian women in traditional/day-to-day dress

Other things that I’ve maybe touched on: the way most women dress. As it is, many of them are pretty big themselves, but they also wear these huge puffy colorful skirts. Going through the market or driving on the streets, you see vendors selling them everywhere, in every color imaginable. Then they have big sweaters and big bowler hats, and they carry everything (including their babies) in these colorful striped blankets they wrap around on their backs to be like bags.

One of the million store selling skirts

One of the million store selling skirts

Another thing is the traffic. It’s pretty crazy, and pretty much everyone just runs across the road praying they don’t get hit. There are, of course, no real lanes, just like the rest of South America. The most interesting thing, I think, that I only noticed in La Paz, is how the micros (minivans that are like buses) drive around with someone in the front leaning out yelling the destinations nonstop. So if you want to get to this or that street or plaza, I guess you just stand around and wait until a van drives by with someone screaming out that name. It’s crazy!

Traffic getting out of La Paz

Traffic getting out of La Paz

Also, as I mentioned before, Bolivia is THE place to live cheaply. I had originally planned to save all my gift shopping for the end of my trip in Ecuador, but I couldn’t resist some of the bargains available here. In fact, I have done pretty much no bargaining — it almost seems wrong to try to get things for cheaper than they already are. Of course, I can’t really go into details here because I can’t give away anything for those of you I bought things for. 🙂

One thing I can talk about, that I realize I’ve never really mentioned before, is the set menu or menu del dia in restaurants. Sometimes you just really want this or that and forget that this incredible bargain is an option, but today was the perfect example of why it is so amazing. I was at a restaurant and wanted to order this chicken in wine sauce, but it was a bit pricey at 43Bs (about $6). Then I flipped to the last page and saw the fixed menu — and better yet, that one of the entree options was chicken in wine sauce! So for the super-cheap fixed menu price of 23Bs (about $3 — half the price of what the entree alone would have cost!) I got: warm bread and butter to start, tomato soup, chicken in wine sauce (complete with potatoes, rice, and salad — I can’t imagine ordering the entree alone would have offered more food!), and finally chocolate cake. Nice!

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