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!
We set off to La Cancha on Monday afternoon with a shopping list, containing:
- A birthday gift for a 7-year-old girl
- A deck of cards
The gift was easy to find; one of the first shops we walked past was displaying bright, colorful scarves, and Lindsay quickly found the one she wanted to get. And because she bought a scarf, she also saved 2 Bs (about 28 cents) on a pair of earings from the same shop (total price for the earings: 42 cents).
Next we searched for the towels. There are no signs for items like in stores in the US – so we had to stop to ask someone where we could find towels. (When you ask, hopefully the person knows where to find the item you want… and hopefully you can understand what they said!) We were pointed to a couple of shops just down the row and both were selling the same towels. The second shop was about $1 cheaper per towel, so we bought bath towels there. Because this shop didn’t have the hand towels we wanted, we went right back next door and bought a hand towel there. Later we passed another towel shop in a different part of the market and found out that those towels were $2.50 more than what we had paid for the same towels.
The hangers and toiletries were pretty easy to find and purchase, so all that remained on our list was a deck of cards. (Such an easy thing to find in the US… so complicated here.) To complicate things further, we didn’t know the word for playing cards in Spanish. Describing what we wanted, we asked a couple people where we could find them. They understood what we were looking for, and pointed us to the toy and game aisle. We stopped at a few shops, but the owners had no idea what wanted. Uno cards? Nope. Board games? Nope. Hmmm…
We kept going, hoping that someone would understand what we were looking for. In this process, we got four different names for cards – everything from “cartas” to “casinos”, and none of the shops we stopped at had them. Finally, we walked past a couple people playing… cards! Excitedly, we asked what they were called and if they had any. They did… but only as a box set that had a bunch of games: chess, checkers, etc. We insisted that we only wanted the deck of cards, so the shop owner opened the box, pulled out the deck, and sold it to us for 5 Bs (70 cents). I’m not sure how much the whole box cost, or what he’s going to do with the box that’s missing a deck of cards, but we got our cards and everything else on our list. It may not have been a big list, but it’s a pretty big accomplishment to walk away from La Cancha with everything on your list!