Monday, May 18, 2009

Oh, Bolivia

Bolivians couldn´t give you a headache with all the kindness they could muster. In my humble opinion. Writing from an internet cafe in the bus station in La Paz.

How did I get here? Let´s take a look. First, I took an overnight bus from Cusco to Bolivia on Friday night with some Maximo teachers. I feel like I have been pretty on top of it this trip, prepared with practical shoes and a sleeping bag, hand sanitizer and almonds, but the one itsy bitsy baby thing I forgot was the 135. I needed to cross the border into Bolivia. Ok, so, no big deal, I have a BCP card (local bank account after I left my mondedero in a taxi the other week) which works in Peru as well as Bolivia. The border holds my passport (sketchy, right?), I cross into Copacobana and .... the only ATM is directly connected to a local bank. I can´t use my BCP card, and I can´t access my benjamins. Lots of time is spend stressing, asking people for help and advice, trying to convince Copacobana that, yes, actually, it does have an ATM that will accept my card, and finally deciding that all I can do is go back to the border to collect my passport, take a bus back to Puno, Cusco (3 hours way), withdraw money at a BCP ATM, and bus back to Copacobana. At this point, three of my Maximo teacher-friends are in Copacobana, and I have already paid for a hostel, so I leave sleeping Nathan with a note (Hey Nathan- I´m going to Puno to get money. Back around 7. Jess) I´m not back around 7. I have to stay the night in Puno, paying for another hostel, and the bus back in the morning as immigration closes before my bus would get back. I can´t contact anyone because our phones don´t work in Bolivia. I watch shitty TV and sleep.

I arrive in Copacobana the next morning, bussed out with greasy hair and a mouth full of unbrushed teeth and walk back to the hostel in hopes with meeting up with Nathan, but he´s gone. After a mediocre breakfast I went back to the hostel to collect my bags and as I am walking around Copa, kindof aimlessly, I hear,¨JESS!!!¨ It´s my crew, with two new additions, Dee and Venla Kokko (volunteers from Maximo on their way out of Peru and on to other places). Guess where my travel-buddies are going? PUNO! In 30 minutes! We had lots of quality time together, from the hostel Nathan and I paid for that I never slept in, to the overnight bus in which I was on the upper level and they were on the lower, to all of the time we spent not together in Bolivia. :)

However, Dee and Venla sweetly offered to sneak me in to their hostel, which was warm, and added the spice of adventure my trip so far is obviously lacking. They are rad, and we got warm on hot chocolate with rum in a local hippie joint. We also had a game-playing marathon, including jenga, crazy 8s, go fish, and pick up sticks, which was so much better when I was five. Not how I remembered it at all! All in all, it worked out wonderfully, and I gained two new cool girls to travel with. Venla, by the way, told me to write that she is this ¨charming, clever, beautiful girl you met that sometimes can get quite drunk.¨ It´s pretty accurate. Dee is the sassy mama-bear with an honest sailor mouth. We´re a magnificent team, and I am so glad to be bumming around Bolivia with them.

Now we´re in La Paz, chilling in the bus station until our overnighter departs for Uyuni. We´re going to tour the salt flats, which I am excited about. Although... since Friday night, I have been on buses for a total of approximately 23 hours. I´m exhausted, and disenchanted with Bolivia, which is beautiful, but the kindness of the people I have encountered so far is nothing compared to Peru. The girls I am traveling with are from Finland and Ireland, and they are getting equally cold treatment, so it´s not just that I am from the EEUU. I am so spoiled by Cusco, where people are helpful, friendly, and genuine, going out of their way, again and again, to help me out and show great compassion. From my travel agent friend´s coworker who walked me to a cheap hostel when I was fresh off the Quillabamba trip and wandering around hostel-hunting in the plaza, to the taxi driver named Felix who is was just the most genuine guy you could ever meet and would, without a doubt, drive me out of any sort of trouble I was in, if only I knew how to contact him... I love Cusco, and I´m looking forward to going back.

For now, I am happy to be in good health and in good company, exploring Bolivia and this new culture and scenery. Pictures will come. I am trying to keep an open mind. At least this makes for good blog material, I hope...

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