“The party has arrived”

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South America » Bolivia » Cochabamba Department » Cochabamba
December 22nd 2012
Published: January 7th 2013
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On Monday it was time again to say goodbye to yet another volunteer. We met at a restaurant (as always) and had a last dinner together. One of my friends, however, kept talking about these awesome hamburgers they once had a after a night out. Since this was the last chance for Clara, the leaving volunteer, to have it again we decided to go and get it. Madeleine called her private taxi driver, who picked us up after ten minutes and we want to kind of a fast food place where a lot of little booths are on the street selling Bolivian food. On our way the driver missed one of the road bumps and we hit our heads pretty hard. Madeleine was in the middle of telling us once again about how amazing the hamburger we were about to taste was when it happened. Do you know these situations where you are so surprised and shocked at the same time that you just have to laugh? That’s exactly what it was, so we were sitting in the back of the car cracking up about what just happened for the rest of the ride. The taxi driver was really embarrassed and repeated “Perdón, chicas”, but he also had to laugh. When we got to “Las Islas” (the islands), the place with the booths, we decided to invite Eddy (the taxi driver) for a hamburger, as he always picks us up, turns on English music and gets us home for a fair price. At first, he was a bit surprised, but agreed on coming with the three laughing gringas. We got our burgers, which really were good, and Eddy invited us for a drink as a thank you for the food. When I got home and told my Host family I had just eaten a hamburger with my taxi driver at “Las Islas”, they looked at me with that “you-crazy-gringa”-look and laughed.

My boss had told me I could be the editor for next month’s magazine, so I was in charge of everything. I put the articles together, chose pictures with the authors and decided on captions for them. All in all, I did everything to get the magazine ready for design. It was cool that have this much responsibility and to have my boss trust me this much, but also it was a bit tiring. On Wednesday we got to deliver this month’s magazine (I know, kinda late) and when we arrived at one of the cultural institutions we had a little accident. Some background information: The cultural centre’s name is “mARTadero” and right next to it is a real “martadero” () which I find quite odd. Every time we go there and the gates are open, you can see blood all over the ground and huge chunks of a cow or pig hanging on metal hooks. So this time it was no different: gates open, blood everywhere… While Mikkel got out to deliver the Cocha-Banners to the centre, the taxi driver, Tai and I stayed in the car to wait for him. Then a truck, which wanted to get to the ::::::, backed into the side mirror (on my side). It’s scary when all you suddenly see out of your window is a truck few centimeters away. The taxi driver started honking to make the truck driver stop going backwards and few minutes later they were all in a huge fight, yelling at each other. Mikkel came back and asked what happened and we tried to explain it. We sat in the car hoping no one would get mad at us and waited for our driver to return, since he had ran off with his phone and was nowhere to be found. Eventually he came back, apologized to us and we were able to finish the delivery.

In the evening I had a party at my house for my host mother’s sister’s birthday and so I decided to stop by a supermarket on my way back to get her a little gift (some chocolates). But there is only one trufi which goes that way and for 40 minutes I couldn´t catch one. Once I was really close, he actually had a free seat, but when I waved at the trufi, the taxi in front of it came (why the hell do I stare into the trufi driver’s eyes if I want the stupid taxi to come?) and then both of them left. After 40 minutes of waving at packed trufis I decided to take a taxi, although I’m usually to greedy for that. When I finally arrived home my mood wasn’t the best and entering through the door, my entire host family plus many people I didn’t know sat there eating and greeted me with the words: “La fiesta esta aquí!” (The party has arrived). I, however, was not in party mood at all, but Ariel told me I would get there after some glasses (or rather coconut shells) of chicha, the maize wine they consume. Well, he was right. The chicha was disgusting, but after a while I joined into the dancing. They were trying to get me drunk again, but this time they didn’t get me. I preferred to dance instead of drinking and had a fun night. Ariel taught me some traditional Bolivian dances and the younger kids toughed the older family members how to dance to “Gangnam Style”, a huge hit in Bolivia. Finally it was my turn to be at a party in the middle of the week and being loud leaving my neighbors sleepless. At 1 am everyone started to go home, so I went to bed.

Because next week is Christmas and I’m going to travel and so on, I thought it would be best to get all my stuff washed before the holidays. I took all my stuff and went to my laundry lady, but she was closed. Since I didn’t want to risk not having my clothes on time I went to a different laundry service which wanted to charge me 50 Bs for all my clothes ( I usually pay around 20 Bs), so I only left the stuff I really didn’t want to hand wash myself like jeans. With a bag of underwear I returned home and started to hand wash. Of course I had a blast doing it…not. But since it was only my underwear it went quite quickly. I left my stuff outside over the afternoon to dry and when I returned home once again there were some strangers in the yard all able to see my undies. Good thing I stopped caring about such things.

In the evening I was invited by my host family to join them at a family volleyball match. The court was tiny and you were allowed to smash the ball against the wall before it goes on the other side, so the boys and men had a lot of fun smashing that ball as hard as possible against the wall. Still we had fun and after two hours the women left the court and let the men go wild one more time. Suddenly they were all teenagers trying to hit each other with the ball.

After spending most of my time with the family this week, Friday was for my friends. I and one of my friends really wanted to go bowling one day and since she’s leaving next week, this was the perfect opportunity. My Bolivian friend told me she knew the manager and would reserve lanes. Perfect! But then she called me on Friday saying she wouldn’t make it, but told me to say her name at the entrance for our booking. We got there on time (well, four of us. The rest stuck to Bolivian time) just to find out there was no booking on that name. It was just sooo typical Bolivia that they would screw something up. We decided to wait for the rest and go to a restaurant or bar once again. We had to wait one hour before everyone got there (also typical) and then the bowling-guy told us that he can give us some coupons and if we lie a little we can bowl now. We did that and were able to demonstrate how miserable we are at it. Just for comparison: Tai, the best player, had some 140 points, I had 50 something and still wasn’t the worst… afterwards we went to the obligatory bar for a drink. I got some Gluehwein, a desperate last attempt to get into Christmas mood. We went home early to be fit for the next day.

On Saturday we had an excursion with my organization. At 7.30 am we met at the office where we boarded a bus which took us out to the campsite. After 1 ½ hours we arrived in some village and walked into a nursery home. There were only old people or children, as the young people had fled to Europe or the USA in search of a better life. I’m not quite sure where all the kids came from then. Either the older people were pretty sexually active or their parents had left them under the care of their grandparents while looking for a better life. We were showed into the kitchen and helped preparing breakfast before eating all together. It started and we quickly took some pictures before going inside, into a building functioning as a church. There we sat through a mass in Quechua and just watched the people who were very different from the people from the city. They sat separated, men on the right, women on the left and children in the front. After the mass we gave out some toys to the kids Madeleine’s boss had gotten for them. They were all very happy about their cars and dolls. When everything was over we stepped outside on the street to get some fresh air and waited to board our bus back. The older people also came outside and some of them walked a few meters away from us before pulling their skirts up/pants down and pissing next to the street. I have seen this scene before in the city, so I wasn’t surprised, but Madeleine was completely in shock. All she repeated was “Ich komm’ darauf echt nicht klar!” Of course we had to take some shots of it and other things and after half an hour we started our journey back to Cochabamba.

In the evening I met with volunteers at a bar, as it was the last night I could hang out with two of my good friends I made here. At first everything was ok, but when my pizza came I felt like puking after every bite I took. It got worse and I stopped drinking and eating. My friend said: “This is our last night. Let’s share one last drink.” “Sorry, no.”,” A pizza?” “no.”, “water?” “Yeah sure. Let’s do water.” And so I shared one last glass of water before going home with a strong stomach ache. The night wasn’t any better. I got really sick. I didn’t sleep all night and had to puke a couple of times. I thought “Awesome, it’s December 23rd and I cannot leave my bed because I feel so bad”. My host family was quick on getting me some antibiotics (which you can get without prescription. That explains why they put all kinds of medicine into their body if they sneeze twice). I wasn’t too fond on the idea of taking antibiotics, but it was the worst possible time to get sick and so I took it. Still I spent the whole day in bed and managed to read another Joy Fielding novel, just like the last time I was sick for a day.

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