As we prepare to leave Bolivia after living here for three years, we have been thinking about both things we’ll miss about being here and things we’re looking forward to once we get to Michigan. Here’s the first part of the list, in no particular order:
Some things we will miss about Bolivia
- Our church, and especially the group of jovenes that we’ve gotten to know over the past couple of years
- The year-round fresh produce
- Our apartment, which is set up great for hosting groups
- Speaking Spanish
- Eating out… for cheap!
- Some great friends
- Singing in Quechua
- Lindsay being average height… for men!
- The looks we get when we carry Caleb in an aguayo
- The Bolivian culture
- Shopping in the market (well, maybe not all parts of it, like the smells or claustrophobia)
- Buying food in bags, like milk, yogurt, ketchup, salt, etc.
- The ease of transportation, between cities, and within the city
- All of the unique traditions in Bolivia
Last week we went shopping, once again, in Cochabamba’s giant open air market, La Cancha. We were originally told it is 10 blocks by 10 blocks, and estimating how large we know it is, that’s probably not too far off. But then, there’s no decisive end to the market, so you could argue it’s bigger than that.
We usually don’t bring a camera since there are so many people and it’s a prime place for pick-pockets. But this time Hans discretely snapped photos while we walked around (hence the crooked shots) and we got a few great ones.
It’s no Target, but it works for us!
Today, when I left for a “quick shopping trip” I had no idea I would be gone for over 3 hours. Such is the way of La Cancha, Cochabamba’s huge open-air market. Because it’s Saturday, the market was hopping and there were a lot of people. (Wednesdays and Saturdays are market days, when fresh produce is brought in and there are more vendors are around. For these reasons, there are also more people…)
Because I don’t normally go on Saturdays for anything but vegetables, I was able to see how the market changes from other days. There were stalls set up in one of the streets blocking out the sun with their tarps where normally there are parades of taxis and buses trying to push through the crowds. It was fun to “window shop”, but there was so much I felt my eyes blurring. I find it hard to concentrate when I go to the market because there are so many items in a small space.
Sometimes I find myself missing Target, Shopko, Walmart, Kmart… you name the store, they’re all about the same. Labeled prices are the exception rather than the norm, and I feel like I always am asking for the price of something (which, I suppose, I am). Often vendors ask what you want and then offer the options they have. Sometimes I just want to be able to walk into a store, pick up what I want, and take it to the checkout. No asking prices. No haggling.
But I think we miss out on relational opportunities when shopping is like it is in the U.S. Every time I buy vegetables in La Cancha, I go to the same vendor. Although I still don’t remember her name, she knows who I am and we chat while I buy my vegetables. Shopping is more than just shopping here, and I like it that way!
…and most of the time, it’s a lot of fun!
I really like living in Cochabamba. When we’re on the phone with friends and family who are back in the states, one of the main questions we get is, “what’s it like to live in Bolivia?” And so, I thought I would try to explain a little of our life here by sharing a few of my favorite things about Bolivia.
- Whenever you see someone you know you greet them with a kiss or a handshake. (Women greet everyone with a kiss on the cheek; men greet women with a kiss and other men with a handshake and pat on the back.) It may not sound like
much, but it’s very welcoming.
- We go to the market to buy almost everything… furniture, clothing, shoes, kitchen gadgets, vegetables, dry goods. (I even bought a 50-lb bag of oatmeal… now I can make as much granola as I want!)
- Public transportation is always an adventure. (Okay… sometimes this isn’t one of my favorite things.) One day as we returned to our host family’s house after language school, traffic stopped in our 3-lane highway. Eventually it started creeping along and we were routed on a side road to a different avenue. The reason? A neighborhood along the road was having a party and people were dancing in the street! I thought it was really neat and was sad that we didn’t have our camera.
Another night, we rode a mini-bus which seats 25 people (pictured). At one point during our 20 minute trip the bus had 45 people plus the driver. It was pretty impressive!
- Friends. We have made several good friends in Cochabamba already and look forward to having more. And our first host family, Grover, Nelvia, and their son, Matias, is our adopted family here in Bolivia. It’s great to have friends here who are already more like siblings than friends!
There are other things I like about Bolivia, but this was just a small sampling… I’m sure we’ll share more in the future!