Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bienvenidos a Bolivia!

But first, bienvenidos a Miami. Paul and I met up in Miami without a hitch and struck out to explore the city during our 9 hour layover. Trying to get to Little Haiti, we took the J bus, got off, and walked immediatley saw a store (white, with stencils of dinosaurs) named "Art by God" that specialized in huge stuffed safari animals. Like the torso and two front logs of a giraffe, mounted on a wall, positioned so it was "drinking water" from the floor. Cost=$17,520. Also a Bengal tiger for $20,000. Strange and disturbing... we walked through the neighborhood of Little Haiti before taking the bus to Miami Beach.

At Miami Beach, we stumbled into a superswank hotel and met a very earnest and eager bartender who eagerly asked about Paul´s hardcore hiking boots and, upon hearing where we were going, asked if we are missionaries. Even though we had to decline on the missionary title (although we are on a mission, of some sort), the bartender told us we were "living the dream." Heck yes!

There are posters at bus stops all over Miami that advertise for Sunglass Hut and state "I miss food I can actually pronounce." I was and am bowled over by the xenophobia and nativism of that statement. But the people in Miami were very friendly and helped us greatly to get on a total of 5 city buses before returning to the airport.

Our flight from Miami to El Alto (the city right next to La Paz) was filled with real missionaries with bright red shirts that had their budget printed on the back. (Trip=$1900. Immunizations=$300. Passport=$75). That sure is a good way to not look like a conspicuous and consumptive tourist... The flight was pretty sleepless (despite my memory foam travel pillow), but we landed in El Alto alive and well.

The cab driver who took us from El Alto to the Rosario neighborhood in La Paz, where we are staying for now, told us about a huge civil strike and march that took place in El Alto the previous day. He said "at least 50% of the population" stormed the US Embassy building in protest. That figure might be an exaggeration, but here's an article from Upside Down World about the protest so you can learn more: http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1321/1/

The altitude and cold of La Paz are no joke. Despite taking altitude medicien and chugging water throughout our time in Miami, I can definitely feel the thinness of the air. I don't feel sick, but light headed and out of breath. The air is very thin- when the plane landed, it barely went through the clouds. It's also cold (it was 30 degrees when we landed this morning!). I go from -40 degree Minnesota winters to 102 degree Philadelphia summers down to 30 Bolivian winters.
But no matter- so far everything's great. We're living in a cute little hostel for the next few days until we decide where it would be most convenient for us to live so we can be close to our research sites. The very steep cobblestoned streets are filled with honking cars, cholita women in large pettycoats with two long braids, and the occasional hipster Israeli tourist. We met some of Paul's friends (along with their friends) for a delicious Cuban lunch, and this afternoon Cesar Flores, a social scientist from Lima who will be living and working with us for the next two weeks, arrived to La Paz from Peru.

So we officially begin! We'll be holding initial interviews over the next few days in order to firm up the contours of our project, which should be exciting. And tonight we're going salsa dancing! I'll post pictures when I remember to take them.

With a light headed farewell,


Claire said...

I'm really sorry to hear about the memory foam pillow--I had higher hopes. Maybe next flight / train ride / long journey it will really absorb the memory...foam.

...Anyway! The whole family loves the blog--it's really excellent, and it almost makes up for the fact that you aren't here to walk with me.

Keep keeping us posted,


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