Hey there! I’m currently writing this post from my cell phone on the train from Oruro, Bolivia, to Uyuni, Bolivia, which is where the famous salt flats are. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to post this (the wifi here is pretty sporadic) but I’ll do my best! (Update: I started writing this post on Wednesday, but it’s now Saturday. I’ll set this up to post on Monday morning!)
So far this trip has been absolutely amazing. I tried to go into this adventure with zero expectations and I think so far that has served me well.
There have been plenty of things that were way better than I expected (e.g., the weather, language, food, etc.) and a couple things that are not exactly what I had in mind (e.g., bathrooms and planning). That being said, I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts from the trip so far. Of course I’ll do full recap posts when I return, but for now I thought it would be nice to highlight my thoughts on Bolivia in general thus far.
Everyone we have met so far has been incredibly kind and hospitable to us. The Bolivians are a peaceful group that like to have fun, and so far I have not seen any acts of violence or crime.
Culturally they have different standards for cleaning up after themselves (there aren’t trash cans in public parks, for example, so they get covered in trash and there are separate workers who come clean them up) and it can be difficult to make plans since they run on “Bolivian time” (aka always late) but those are very minor character differences. Overall I have felt so welcomed and accepted by everyone, even though I don’t speak the language.
Another thing about the people that I just thought was interesting and worth pointing out is that there are definitely different classes of people in Bolivia- those who are native to the land (similar to native Americans) and those whose ancestors came from other countries. I wouldn’t say there is discrimination between the two, but there is definitely a different dynamic. For example the natives wear different clothes (sun hats and colorful ponchos) and work more demanding physical jobs (e.g. the trash pickup I mentioned earlier) whereas the other group dresses normally and tends to have more regular jobs (business owners, doctors, etc.). This is just something that I didn’t know about until I came here, which I thought was interesting.
Wow. This is one thing that has blown me away about this trip. I knew the climate in Bolivia was nice, but I wasn’t expecting it to be so absolutely perfect.
So far every day but one has been sunny and warm, without any humidity. The city we are spending most of our time in (Cochabamba) is in a valley and is surrounded by mountains, which makes for awesome scenery. Every view is picture perfect and I find myself whipping out my camera at every opportunity. The temperature is not too cold and not too hot and the sun is nice and strong.
So far I have loved waking up early and taking my book (er…kindle) up to the roof of Fabio’s aunt’s house to read in the morning sunlight. The only word to describe this weather is perfect. Honestly.
Ok you know I had to talk about the food, right?
The food here has been very delicious and fresh, and everything has been organic (except for those Oreos I just ate a few minutes ago. Whoops!). The one complaint that I have regarding the food is that it’s all very heavy on starches (potatoes, rice, corn, etc) and there are very few proteins and vegetables. The people here also drink SO MUCH Coca-Cola (seriously, a couple glasses with every meal) which, combined with a diet lacking in vegetables and heavy on starches, leads to a rather unhealthy lifestyle.
On the up side, they tend to only eat about 2 meals a day (from what I’ve seen) and usually don’t eat much past 5:00 pm. They also don’t have many sweets and sugary/salty processed snacks, so that’s good. Also quinoa grows wild in some parts of Bolivia (near the salt flats) and the people living in those regions eat a lot of it, which I think is better than the rice/potatoes diet of others.
If you are ever traveling to Bolivia or know someone who is, here are a few other random thoughts/suggestions:
– Many of the bathrooms don’t have toilet paper (and are questionable, at best) so I brought a ziploc bag full or toilet paper with me from home and I’ve been keeping it in my purse at all times. This has worked out really well for me.
-There are a lot of stray dogs in Bolivia, which breaks my heart. On the upside, the vets give free vaccinations for rabies and honestly the dogs sort of look like they’re having fun. They steer clear of the streets (mostly) and run around in packs playing with each other. I always see their tails wagging so I tell myself they are happy. Obviously I want to save them all (and pet them and feed them and snuggle them…) but it’s definitely not a good idea since some of them are really wild and could be sick or aggressive. Seeing the dogs roaming the streets definitely saddens me, so it’s just something you might want to be prepared for if you ever travel to Bolivia.
-The weather changes on a dime. During the day the weather in Bolivia (at least in Cochabamba) is typically perfect- sunny, in the 70s, and no humidity- but as soon as the sun goes down it gets chilly rapidly so you will want to be prepared. I’ve been wearing sundresses and bringing a cardigan with me for later in the evenings, and that’s been great.
-Carnaval in Bolivia is a lot of fun, and there are some really nice traditions that go along with it. I’ll explain more in another post, but if you are ever planning a trip to Bolivia I would go during Carnaval because it’s basically a week-long celebration with a ton of fun activities 🙂
Ok well that’s all I have to share with you guys so far!! As I said this has really been an amazingly fun and eye-opening trip so far, and I can’t wait to tell you all more about it!
Questions of the day: Have you ever been around lots of stray dogs, or had to carry toilet paper in your purse?
P.S. Since the wifi is pretty bad here, I can’t tell if my pictures loaded. Sorry if you can’t see them!! If they didn’t show up, not to worry. I have about a million coming your way in later recaps! UPDATE: They should be fixed now!