Friday, October 13, 2006

Random Observations

Urban Bolivia is a very easy environment to live in. It seemingly has all the modern convienences one could ask for, coffee shops, plentiful taxis, buses, discos and internet cafes on every block. However, when taking a closer look the basis of these conviences often betray their seeming affluence.
For instance, it is often rutine to hop in the front passenger side seat of a taxi and find yourself staring at the driver´s dashboard. Look to the left and find the stearing wheel jerry rigged to the glovebox for the left drivers seat. In Bolivia, a car is a car, no matter if it was built for Japan or Britian. A bit of tinkering will fix any problem. Taxis never go fast enough down narrow city streets to warrent use of the dashboard, and I usually find it fun to watch the speed dial while killing time. The fuel dial is always hovering somewhere dangeruosly above empty. Public buses often have japanese or korean print meaninglessly etched across their sides, like the middle aged women obliviously wearing a t-shirt with english print. My favorite is "Too Cool for School". Although, I am forced to crack a bigger smile when sitting down at an internet cafe to find a chinese keyboard awaiting my frantic typing fingers.

There are three heroic figures you are sure to find on the walls of any Bolivian restuarant, cafe, or bar. The first is to be expected, Che Guevara. His daughter recently did a speaking tour through the country. The second has more universal appeal, The Beatles. I was suprised to find the third, Charlie Chaplin, hung with equal esteam, usually from Modern Times or The Little Tramp. I think the three are, admirably, a pretty well rounded bunch.

Bolivians are overall, relatively short. It is a lucky day I don´t have to duck an inch or two under the branches of a tree walking down the sidewalk. I have no idea how the lanky six foot plus northern Europeans manage to stay sane or free of head injuries.

I believe the commonality of most striking observations of Bolivian life lie in their contradictory nature. Most frequently I am reminded of this leaving the home of the university professor´s family I am currently living with. Their cute three year old boy, like many around the world, is addicted to power rangers. Next door is the shell of a housing construction project long abandoned. In the course of my weeks here in Sucre, a family has made it there home, installing a steel door and plastic pipes to funnel water and waste down the hill into a gutter. Despite the obvious poverty squatting would seem to convey, whenever I catch the man of the family leaving, he is always wearing a clean and freshly press white button collar shirt.

1 comment:

Annika said...

sounds familiar. my favorite in rwanda was finding that some US group had managed to donate a large quantity of yellow FUBU t-shirts that had permiated even the most remote parts of the country. who knows if anyone ever caught on the the irony of wearing recycled "for us, by us" clothing in the middle of africa.
sounds like you are having a blast. i love and miss you!