Monday, April 11, 2005

La paz...what a CITY!

The main street, Avenida Santa Cruz, with the San Fransisco church in the background


La´s really hard to find the exact words to describe this unique megacapital...Topographically, it´s center is located at the bottom of a reddish mass of houses that cling on the edges of the hills surrounding this city. At night, looking up through the smoke of the vehicle´s black exist and the numerous power lines, one can see a beautiful sight of numerous blue, orange, and yellow street lights that surround the city like the stars. Under this 'stars' and the real ones, the street life of Bolivia is a continuous buzz of people selling, buying and moving in all the possible directions. Moving from the Chilean cities to this bolivian capital was a tremendous boom in the face, as poverty and life´s simplicity are so apparent and are so shameless...After dropping my packs at the Austria Hostel (near San Fransisco plaza), I went first to eat something and then did some surveying in this big city center, all full of different markets...actually, La paz is a big market, full with every merchandise you can even imagine that can be for sale: clothes, shoes, music discs, souvenirs but also some bizarre stuff (like corpses of dead llamas) or live animals...Its one of the most things that hitted me in this city: the fact that everything, but i mean, EVERYTHING is for sale only shows how much are these poor people are desperate to make a living...and im not even talking about the uncountable show shiners, that stray the streets with their low baseball cap and sky mask, looking for dirty shoes to clean and talking about the people that sell the pope photographs or a hand made statue or figure...this is their life and that`s what hold them above the first i was ashamed of being a western, a gringo, that passes through their city, looking for fun and other leisures, taking advantage of their cheap life style and continue on, leaving only dust and couple of dollars in their pockets...I found comfort with the fact, that even so, I fueled their life with my foreign money and also did numerous tourists that swarm the broken sidewalks...Sitting in the lounge of the hostel, I was surprised a tap on the shoulder showed a familiar face: Sam Gibson, a brit from New castle! Following an email from him, and my reply, he took a city map and found me in the Austria..It was a nice moment, and I put on my down and we head for the streets...Sam and Holi, both were in the Land cruiser with me when we toured the Salar, were in La paz for only one day. I suggested we meet Stefan,if he is awake..turned out that he was asleep and the manager of the hostel woke him up...Opsss...In any case, he was glad to see Sam and after 15 min we left him to sleep and went looking for a nice place to drink beer and close the gap of our experience in the past week...on our way, i was amazed to view people piss in the main street (!) without any shame or any recognition of the environment....Sam commented about this and said that it is very common and he saw this behavior several times during his 36 hr in the city....This was such a shock for me, it took me some time to believe my own eyes!!we found a local place on the main street, which was full of totally drunken locals...and im talking ABSOLUTELY drunk people...A funny thing about this bolivian drunken locals was the fact that they looked for attention and hugged us numerous times, mumbling in an uncomprehensible espanol (well actually for me it was uncomprehensible...)..we moved back to my hostel and we decided to meet the next morning, this time with Holi...I woke up at 7.30 in the morning, full of energy, and darted straight to the warm shower...I have decided to move on the spanish lessons and trusted on the lonely planet (LP) recommendation of a nice spanish teacher...while waiting for Sam at the lounge, Ive called the teacher and fix with her a meeting in the Austria at 3 pm...She charged 3 USD per hour for group lessons and 5 for private the LP book said this the average, i sufficed with that (which is not that good...always look if there is a lower price..always...). Sam and Holi came a few seconds after that and we went to but some food for breakfast (eggs and bread...) and in their hostel i prepared some nice plain omelets...There I met an Israeli girl name Liran, which was looking also for some spanish, I said, a spanish teacher is due to visit my hostel at 3 pm, u can join...I left Sam and Holi (which decided to move to the Austria also..) and went to buy some stuff and returning to the hostel, i was surprised to find the teacher leaving me a message...Ive fixed with her to start this Wednesday and Thursday 3 hours each and in the following week also...Later, Ive went with Sam and Holi to find the Coca museum, which is hidden among the different alleys of La paz...It was an educational experiment, as Coca was found to be a very controversial plant and a key factor in the economy of Bolivia and Peru in the mid 20th century...An hebrew translation of the commentaries of the pictures added some nice feeling to all this compact museum...Me and sam returned to the hostel after a nice meal (Holi was busy doing her haircut), and approx at 7 pm Elizabeth and Heinrich showed at the lounge...Heinrich and Elizabeth are a very nice Austrian couple Ive met in San pedro de Atacama and had some real good conversation. They have done the Salar de Uyuni also (stopping on the road to climb the 5960m high Licancabur volcano...) I also understanded that Mattias, a cool swedish fella which belong also to the 'san pedro gang' was with them, climbing this protruding peak...Cool!In any case, I have to finish in 5 coz they close this place... :( Will be continued....

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