Sunday, October 02, 2005

Update from Cochabamba, Bolivia

Well, it´s Sunday afternoon in Cochabamba. Things have been wonderful. The people we´re with are fine.

Last night we went out for a fantastic dinner! I had two large pieces of steak, and it was covered with shrimp in a red sauce that was just through-the-roof yummy - in a very nice restaurant - for under $10. Prices here are insane - bottles of wine for a dollar or two, internet for an hour for 25 cents - all kinds of crazy values. If I were fluent in Spanish, I really could see retiring here.

This afternoon, we went up the mountain to a place owned by Taqina, a brewery, and hung out. Bolivians really run with that¨"Sunday is the day of rest" thing, so they have this great restaurant with terraces overlooking the city, with playgrounds for the kids, so the parents can hang out, enjoy a lazy beer, and let the kids run around.

The people here are also fascinating. The little kids are absolutely beautiful - big brown eyes, dark hair, dark skin - gorgeous. The older people have such character - they look like they should all have their portraits hung. And you see so many people walking around in traditional dress - bowler hats, bright colors, shawls, voluminous skirts. It is incredible.

The hotel we stayed in last night has a pretty little courtyard where you can hang out and read. Tonight we go to our worksite, so we´ll be staying elsewhere, and I hear it´s much more primitive, but I´m sure we´ll enjoy it.

It´s fun to experience such a different life. If you look at it one way, this place could be frustrating and a pain in the ass. The traffic is ludicrous and the main sport seems to be trying to find pedestrians to hit. The service in the restaurants is hilariously slow and they serve different people at the table at wildly different times, but, the thing is, you just go with the flow. It just doesn´t matter if you get your food in 10 minutes or not, when the whole country runs at that kind of pace.

I regret not speaking Spanish, but people are kind. I´m trying hard to do my best. I bought a couple diet Cokes yesterday, and I have the guy a 10 Bolivano note ($1.25) for a 7 Boliviano charge. He could tell I was a total gringo because I had pantomimed my question as to whether he had a corkscrew for sale (no, but that´s okay). So he was being slow and patient with me, to the point of counting out the Bolivianos he was returning to me. "Unos, dos, tres," he said, to which I confidently responded, "Quatro." He looked at me confused, wondering if I was demanding more money, until I pointed to my head and explained "Stupido."

So far, we have eaten well and slept well, and seen incredible sights. And I know we´re going to be having so many more great experiences.