Day at the Markets

Trip Start Mar 11, 2009
Trip End May 06, 2009

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Saturday, March 28, 2009

Despite the dark clouds and heavy rain on the day I arrived here, yesterday (and today it seems) was full of sunshine and just when you think itīs getting -too- hot, the breeze picks up and cools you off. Perfect.

La Paz, like Lisbon (and San Fran, I would imagine), is all steep inclines versus steep declines. They may love to eat bread (and I love to eat bread) but a person certainly works off all the carbs just by walking a couple of blocks north or south. The city, itself, is built like a bowl in a deep valley. Though we are still very high up here (somewhere near 3700 mts above sea level), Iīm not feeling it. I suppose the breathing trouble in Cusco prepared me for La Paz and though, after walking for a good thirty minutes uphill, I find I run out of breath faster than usual, it isnīt affecting me any other way. After daily headaches and bursting lungs, Iīm very thankful for the ability to breathe. As well as the fact that La Paz, though busy and overwhelming (too much traffic!) doesnīt leave you feeling like you have a coating of grime and gasoline on you when you go outside for more than five minutes.

There is an interesting mix of people here. Walking down the street, you will run into crisp business suited men and women weaving in and out of traditionally dressed, wrinkle-faced grannies with massive sacks on their backs selling pounds of coca leaves or loaves of home baked bread. The children could be shiny and spotless in their school uniforms, their sparkling shoes pitterpattering down the uneven streets, swinging their book bags and laughing all carefree. But they are also barefooted, dirty faced and wearing torn clothing while shuffling over to you with their filthy hands stretched out for any spare change you might be carrying. The women at my hostel, around my age, all speak perfect english (to a degree where they even understand my sarcastic humour! wow. most native english speakers donīt get my sarcastic humour!) whereas the family down the street who run the little restaurant I go to for dinner canīt even understand my poor Spanish and we all end up in a fit of giggles when we try to communicate with each other.

My first market was the Mercado de la Brujas. Witches Market. Most of you will be able to imagine how thrilled I was at the mere fact that there was such a thing here. Walking to it I passed a very busy street (a main one, I assume) and then got lost in a slew of alleywayīd (yes, I make up words) mazes. Entangling myself in Bolivian culture, walking around food stands, drink stalls, shoe shiners, old men knitting on doorsteps, kids playing with plastic bottles. Finally, I found the street I was looking for.

I was disappointed to see there were no shrunken monkey heads (seeing as I had it on good authority - Aaron Shipway - that there would be some) but the dried up llama feotuses cheered me right up. The stalls were full of tiny statues, talismen, spices, herbs and all sorts of witch-like implements. There were snake skins, leopard pelts, bottles full of "good fortune" (donīt ask me what was actually in there), packs of cards that looked like Tarot but different. There was packaged love for sale, going so far as to have scandalous pictures on the front and the word "erotique" written in bold lettering. There were boxed spells for stomach aches (either to rid you of yours or give someone their own), general illness, good fortune, good luck. Anything you could have possibly needed was there, as far as I could tell. The boxes coated with a layer of dust that probably started to lay itself down back in 1943.

I walked into one store and watched a transaction between the woman behind the counter (a witch?) and her customer. I couldnīt understand what they were saying (too bad) but she mixed a bunch of herbs, threw in some other random objects, packaged it all up and gave her customer some very stern directions. When the customer turned and saw me standing there, she blushed and hurried out. The seller glared at me with such force that I turned on my heel and promptly left. Luckily, I didnīt see any voodoo dolls for sale there or I think perhaps I would have felt needle pricks in my side all afternoon.

Starving after all that excitement, I wandered around and ended up in what seemed to be a sort of food market. A "food court" of sorts. A tiny covered building where there were itty bitty stalls with cooks in them dishing out plates of food for around 60 cents (rice, veggies, meat and a drink). The people would sit at the filthy table and devour the food at an incredible rate, pay the cook and then get out of the way so that the line up behind them could sit down, inhale their food and do it all over again. I wanted to get in there but after making an (pretty pathetic) effort to get in line, I gave up and left. In front of the building were food stalls and I ended up buying this potato thing (see pics) and a fruit shake. All of which cost me a whopping 80 cents. (More or less.)

The food here is pretty good but they are a bit focused on breads and pastries. And when youīre walking around all day and just want a snack, thatīs likely what youīre going to choose. A pastry full of cheese. Or a chocolate bun. Or something else to that affect. I vaguely worry about getting scurvy here as they arenīt big on fruit and veggies. Though I do tend to find fruit sellers and buy bananas and apples from them. The grapes usually look a little suspect and the strawberries look like they came from last years crate and have been sitting, shriveling up, in the sun for months.

They have set menus for every meal of the day (at the local restaurants). Where you can get soup, rice-meat-sometimes veggies and a drink for a dollar or just under. The soup is always excellent but sometimes the meat makes me wary. I figure, what the hell, Iīve already been sick and now have the meds in my system. So go me! (Knock on wood.....) Sometimes, I just donīt eat it. I have yet to try alpaca..........Iīm not sure if I will.

My hostel is crazy. Itīs full of Irish who love to glue themselves to the bar stools (thereīs a bar in the hostel, upstairs) from about 6pm until close. Sometimes, theyīll take the suggested taxiīs that line up outside the hostel around 1:30am to take people to other bars (because the clubs here donīt get started until around that time and you stumble home around 6am) but mostly they seem to be in a cycle of drinking all night at the hostel and sleeping all day at the hostel. (Not just the Irish either, but thatīs the majority of people in this hostel.) Iīm not sure when they actually leave to do anything.... but itīs pretty amusing to see their hungover faces day in and day out.

Last night I met back up with Patrick from the other day and he came over to my hostel, introduced me to a couple of guys he knew from before and we ended up chatting with some girls from Brazil. It was a drink at the hostel type night which ended up in me going to be around 1:30am because no one wanted to go dancing (why is it so hard to find people who like to dance???) and I couldnīt stand sitting around marinading in cigarette smoke any longer. (Itīs funny how you get used to being out and not feeling like a dirty ashtray the next morning.) We have plans to meet up again tonight and I made them promise to take me out. I made the excuse that nightlife in Canada is usually ending around the same time that itīs beginning here and I need to go out to see just how South Americans party. Take notes. Bring back field papers so that I can teach Canadians how to have a good time. They all agreed that was a must. Haha. Weīll see how that goes.

Today Iīm just going to wander. Itīs so nice not having something planned for every single day. Before I leave the hostel, I am going to try to make some plans to head up to Rurrenabaque, the Bolivian jungle, for next week. Apparently, itīs stunning.

Hope all is well at home and you havenīt got another load of snow!
xox K
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sockmonkey on

Make me a happy kitten?
so if you ever wanted to make me a super happy kitten you could skip back to the witch street and get me a little male deity to match the female one for my altar. about 4-5 inches in height would fit super perfectly. I promise to feed you when you get home if you do ~lol~. I am glad you are feeling better and having much funs. Miss ya.

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