Title: Freezing to Death in La Paz
Location: La Paz, Bolivia
Being able to breathe is amazing. I love to breathe. However, in La Paz it is definitely a luxury. I flew from Santiago which is around sea level to the altitude of 3600m. Think about it...over 3.5 kilometers in the air. I noticed it right away as I got off the plane. After being severely ripped off with currency exchange at the airport, I checked into my hostel. I think the rip off stems from the fact that Bolivia hates Chile since they took their coast line in a war.
I went to walk around the city and to find out where the hell in La Paz I actually am. Bolivia is a weird place in that one minute you are totally boiling and the next you are freezing to absolute death. At night, you are just freezing.
In the afternoon, I had a headache and was breathing like an 87 year old grandma. Yes folks, welcome to altitude. I went to eat some Italian food by this beautiful town square. The first thing I had to try of course was the COCA tea. It tasted not bad and supposedly it helps with the altitude sickness. I did not care, as it is more of a psychological experience just to say you had some coca leaves. The calzone was really good to my surprise. I did not expect great food in a 3rd world country. Even though La Paz is a total crazy mix of old world with the new. It is very interesting. After the calzone I had a good coffee as well. Do you people think I had enough? The answer is no. I ordered this whopping ice cream dessert, which stuffed me up like a Christmas turkey. Then came the bill and I realized that Bolivia is just too expensive. For all the food I mentioned it cost me 31 bolivianos, which is roughly $4. Yes, people the dollar will stretch a long way here. After that, what is there not to like? I got a room for myself for around $3 a night in a hostel and the juice at the market costs 1 boliviano which is like 12 cents. Simply ridiculous.
Time for Company
The next day they put a girl into the second bed beside me, which was kind of cool. She is from Israel and we hung out for the rest of my time in La Paz. I definitely got the Israeli connection now. On some streets in La Paz, there are more Israelis than locals. So naturally, I got taken to the cheapest restaurants and shops in town. It is kind of cool because every Israeli tells another where to go and what to do so you have it all laid out for you. I bought some stuff at the markets. I also went into the famous witch market and saw the dried up llama fetuses and all kinds of creepy things. The famous ladies with the Charlie Chaplin hats that distinguished them as truly Bolivian are everywhere. They like to carry their kids on the back just wrapped up in a blanket. I am sorry to say that the hats just look enormously STUPID. I think that word would be appropriate.
I went to exchange around $180 since I was running out of Bolivianos and the rip off started again. They took about...here comes the amazing part...$60 as commission. Oh well, that could have given me about a month worth of living expenses.
The markets in La Paz are really cool for some reason. I have seen markets before but La Paz is just cool. You always see minivans called micros driving around with the passenger window open and a baboon yelling out the names of their destinations at the speed of a Texas auction. At first I thought they were yelling at me but then I realized that they are just trying to pick up passengers. It is quite funny to watch without getting run over. For the first time, I saw a police officer change the traffic lights at will. Talk about potential abuse if I ever got a hold of that controller.
I did not see too much of a nightlife in La Paz since Mondays were quite dead and that was the time we went out. Other times, I just spend in the hostel. One thing I loved about the hostel was the boiling hot water that poured on you when you tried to take a shower. I literally had to collect the water in my hands and then try to work washing miracles with the soap as not to get 3rd degree burns. Other than that, classes are good. I am learning more and more Spanish, and try to use it as much as possible when I go out. I like this Spanish immersion program; it's fun.