I was up early this morning and got myself organised with almost military precision. I had promised Tina that I would Skype her this morning, as we hadn't spoken in a while and the time difference meant it would be Christmas Day in Australia. Having scoped out local Internet cafes that had video capability, which are few and far between in Bolivia, I headed to the closest one which opened at 10am.
I was rather pleased with myself that I had arrived early, and would be the first through the door. Sadly, my feeling of serenity was short lived as the Internet cafe wasn't open, and didn't open for some time. I began to grow rather impatient and although Harrison, Tim and I tried everywhere in a two block radius, nowhere had 'Skype con video'. My patience was beginning to wear very thin and if I'm honest I think it began to scare the boys a little. After almost an hour of waiting, the guy I had spoken to last night arrived to open up and I began to calm down.
After I had wished Tina a Merry Christmas, I left the boys and headed into town. I had read about the Mercado Negro in Lonely Planet, which was close to where we had been two days ago. I wanted to get into the Christmas spirit, so decided to check it out and grab a couple of bargains to take home. It was an enormous maze of makeshift stalls that sprawled over several blocks, and was more clogged with people than the market at El Alto had been. Seeing as it was overrun with people buying last minute Christmas gifts, I decided to wear my rucksack on my front for safety. Every turn I took I could see yet another street filled with stalls and throngs of people. I soon got bored and so decided to male a quick exit as the crowds pushed in on me from all angles. Unfortunately, whilst forcing my way through the crush of people, some light fingered reprobate decided to relieve me of the wallet I had bought at El Alto. Sadly I didn't realise until I was pulled up by a couple of the security guards that patrolled the market. I felt sick to the pit of my stomach that I had been so stupid as to leave it in my back pocket in a known pickpocket area. I mad a hasty retreat to a quiet side alley to escape the Black Market, and console myself in the fact that my stupidity had only cost me $b50 (£4.65).
Not wanting to let this mishap get me down, I decided to continue shopping for gifts. I happened upon a small patio area with a few shops in and went in to have a look. After a bit of haggling, I managed to bag myself a couple of bargains to take home with me. The only thing that was left to do was to buy a token Father Christmas hat to wear tonight for the hostels Christmas party. I meandered back trough the streets towards Calle Comercio and managed to find a Cholitas stall with a few hats left. I picked one up along with a few silly presents to give to the boys, before heading back to the safety of Wild Rovers.
I parked myself in a quiet corner of the bar and had a bite to eat, as almost everywhere in town had begun to shut down for the evening. I tried to blog, but just couldn't get into the mood or rhythm to write. It had finally started to sink in that I would actually be rather lonely this Christmas, given that I was in a different hemisphere, let alone a different continent to my family. It would be strange to wake up tomorrow and not be filled with the usual excitement that came with giving and opening Christmas presents, and the joy of massively over eating for the entire day. Thankfully I was rescued from my feelings by Harrison, who had arrived back at the hostel having managed to find an amazing elf outfit as well as sneaking in a few crafty bottles of wine for later!
Before long, the evenings festivities had begun, as the boys produced some 96% proof alcohol that they had bought whilst in southern Bolivia. They explained that when they were travelling through Potosi, they visited the cooperative mines, where it was common place to see the miners drinking this stuff before, during and after work. Drinking this stuff neat can only be described as attempting to drink medical alcohol in an attempt to kill your insides! It was simply awful, but it did set the tone for how the night, and indeed the early hours of the next morning, would continue.
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