Welcome to Bolivia!

Your life can be an adventure or it can be nothing.

Apparently mine is going to be an adventure! Three days ago I arrived in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. Luckily, when I was on the plane I met a nice Boliviano who was ready to teach me Spanish and show me around. We both quickly learned that neither of us spoke the other’s language though, so I anticipated not seeing him again after the flight.

However, Bolivians are known for being wonderfully kind people, with patience like no one you will find in the U.S.! The next day we met again and he showed me all there is to do in Santa Cruz; I am still reeling from the number of shops in the city. In the malls, there are dozens of stores selling shoes, phones, and random articles of American clothing. At the movie theater, there are twice the number of films playing because there are all the English ones (dubbed in Spanish or with subtitles) and Spanish ones. The hundreds of make-shift shops along every street feature everything from fruits I can’t identify to hair dye, and if you ask nicely you can try anything!

Yesterday I took the short 40 minute flight from Santa Cruz to Cochabamba, where I will spend the majority of the next 4 months. On my way to the hotel from the airport, I immediately fell in love with the city! Despite the large number of stray dogs in the streets (and even in the airport) it is a beautiful town; a little bit less urban than Santa Cruz, which keeps it looking a little cleaner. It may have taken me an entire day to obtain my missing suitcase (the concierge literally called ten different numbers for me, each person giving her a new number to call) but the omnipresent background of green mountains and Bolivian equivalent to cheese arepas makes up for it.

When searching for info on Bolivia in the months before I arrived here, I was dismayed to find only 20 web pages about the entire country (in English). Therefore, I’m going to start sharing facts on this blog so that it’s a little less frightening for Americans to venture out to Boliva!

Culture Notes of the Day:

  • Bolivians talk during movies, and no one else in the theater minds. Even if they’re on the phone!
  • Bolivians get scared easily by horror films (and will express this through cries and screams) and believe strongly in spirits and ghosts.
  • Bowling alleys (in Santa Cruz) are almost identical to those in the U.S. – the program that keeps score is also in English, so most of the Bolivians don’t get the stupid little cartoons on them.
  • When you ask for juice, you’ll be asked if you want it with milk or water. This is because they take whatever fruit you asked for (say you wanted Papaya juice, they grab a Papaya) and then put the actual, fresh fruit in a blender with your liquid selection. No juice from concentrate here!

Life Lesson 1: If you don’t speak the language of the country you’re in, you’ve got tot be okay with never being certain about anything. I only hoped I was getting on the right plane to Cochabamba, and I it kind of sounded like the concierge said the hotel would cost 180 bolivianos per night. Long story short, it’s better to pay with too much money and get change, and translate as many phrases as possible when you get the rare  internet connection. Let go of the need to know what you’re doing, where you’re going, or where you are 😉 and it will probably be okay. Maybe.

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