Thursday, January 29, 2004

Damn I don't wanna leave! I've had such a crazy day!

After writing my last entry, I went into a travel agent and finally worked out some kind of plan as to how I get to my flight in time. 30 mins and $100 later, I had a flight from Cusco to Lima, and a bus ticket from here to Cusco, via Copacabana. But my new plan means I have to leave at 7:30 tomorrow morning. I figured better to have an extra day to make sure I can see Machu Pichu... but now I'm not so sure! La Paz has been surprising me all day! First I went for a random stroll and came across a street has about 50% sports shops and 50% witchcraft stalls. The sports shops sell football jerseys, bats, balls etc, while the witchcraft stalls sell llama foetuses, dead birds (big ones), dead armadillos, magic potions for every ailment (particularly lack of love or sex), magical talismans... and much, much more. Each stall had an old lady sat beside it wearing the full traditional bolivian costume, which is just what most of them wear here, not just a tourist gimmick like in many countries I've been to. I went and spoke to one of the ladies to try and figure out what the dried llama foetuses were for. As far as I could gather they were for health and luck. In fact, from what i understood, pretty much everything on the stall was for health and luck!

After wandering around this area a while more, i stumbled into the main plaza, and saw a big crowd of people apparantly watching something of great interest. Camcorder in hand, I walked over to the crowd and climbed up to the top of the wall to see what was happening. No sooner had I poked my big white nose over the rim of the crowd than the comedian who was performing in the previously concealed arena saw me and took full advantage of my appearance. He came straight over and pulled me down into the middle of the crowd and began asking me questions, which I answered as best I could with my limited spanish. After each couple of question he would fire off a quick punchline in spanish which I couldn't understand but which every one else found hysterical! There must have been a good 400 people there, all laughing at me! Then he added a bit of physical comedy to the act by trying to kiss me and afterwards coming back to try and grab my dick. Eventually he moved on and I sat down on the step to enjoy the show. It was classic slapstick humour and the crowd loved it. I was pulled back in to be laughed at about 5 more times during the show, but it was all in good humour... I think... :) Then near the end of the show they went around asking for money... then five minutes later selling snack bars... then five mins after that selling photocopied 4 page joke books with their photos on the front. Needless to say I bought one.

When the show finished, the girl who was sat next to me asked me my name, and we got chatting (if you can call my spanish conversations "chatting"). Her name was Pamela and she is a student here in La Paz. She started telling me about something to do with miniatures... my other little friend, an 8 year old shoeshine boy who I'd bought a joke book, was confirming everything she said with enthusiastic nods, so I figured she must be telling me something interesting. She offered to take me tomorrow, but I told her I was leaving early in the morning. The she said she could take me right that second if I liked. Feeling that familar butterflies in the stomach feeling of stepping into the unknown, I said hell yeah, why not, and we headed off towards the main road. It had been so long since I'd been in this situation.... I think the last time must have been in Indonesia.... it's such a cool feeling, putting yourself in the hands of a complete stranger in a supposedly "dangerous" country just because you have a good feeling about them and want to trust them. Invariably these encounters end up leading to adventures you never would have expected, and at the worst end up with you politely explaining that you already have a carpet and don't want to buy another one thankyou very much....

So Pamela led me into a minibus and we set off into the unknown. She asked me what language we spoke in england. Ummm, english. She asked me how to say "No me molesta" in english, which seemed like a fairly odd thing to ask in the first 5 mins of meeting someone. As far as I can guess it means "Don't molest me", or "leave me alone". Surely she didn't think I was about to start groping her? I stumbled over a few attempts to explain the english version of "molest" before managing to change the subject to something a little more appropriate.

We soon arraived at our destination and after a couple of minutes walked into the entrance of a huge open air market. All of the stalls were selling, just as she had described, miniature things. The first stall I came across was selling money. Dollars, Euros, Bolivianos, all carefully photocopied and printed out in a variety of sizes. You could buy huge bundles of dollars for 1 boliviano (10 cents). Then there were stalls selling mini packets of cereal, mini tools, mini telephones, mini just about everything you could possibly want, which as I later discovered is the whole point. After many confusing attempted explanations, I finally manged to ascertain that this market is part of a yearly festival in which people buy miniature versions of everything that they want a real one of, and hopefully next year they'll actually get the real thing. Understanding this made some of the mini items seem a bit perplexing. Like for instance the mini dish scourer, and the mini toothpaste, and the mini chicken to name but a few....

Then we came across the fun-fair. It had all the games we have at home, but simplified. Simple gambling games where you spin a wheel, ball throwing games, pop guns, pop bazookas (never seen them at home!), and one cool game where you have a fishing rod with a metal ring at the end of the string, and you have to try to hook it around the the top of a bottle of soft drink and lift it up. I tried it, it's bloody impossible.

After wandering for ages, Pamela and I headed into a food stall to have a drink. There we started having a very strange conversation about pubs. Pamela was telling me that it was very difficult to either go to or run a pub here, as people only made them in the winter. I couldn't figure out why this was, so pamela explained that in the summer they were making milk and cheese from cows. Mmmmmm. Getting more confused by the second I tried to backtrack through the conversation to try and find anything that made any sense, and eventually figued out that we weren't talking about pubs at all, but papas, which means potatoes! Okaaaaay. By now neither of us could remember how we had got onto the subject of pubs/potatoes in the first place so both agreed to just let it go....

Then Pamela gave me her necklace as souvenier, put me in taxi, and went to meet her 4 brothers (younger... phew!). What a lovely story hey? Bolivians rule! :)

So there you go, that's my groovy day in La Paz, and tomorrow I have to head off again at 7:30am. I so wanna just hang out in the same place for a few days... oh well, I guess I'll get to do that in Madley! (My home village, 7 miles from my home town, 100's of miles from civilisation...)

ok, hasta luego

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