From Bolivia’s Altiplano down to Santa Cruz, aircraft require hardly any fuel whatsoever, as the course is a nearly free-fall trajectory down 2000 meters to Bolivia’s lush, green plains. They were gorgeous, but man is it another world. We arrived nearly a midnight to a town swamped with development conventions only to find the hotel had lost our reservations. Our guide had to scramble to find us a room elsewhere, and I personally wound up in a palatial, presidential suite in a place across town. The room reminded me of my house in Managua.
I attended a few round tables that didn’t excite me, and where the Bolivians didn’t seem to understand the nature of what we were doing. “Bolivians are tired of being asked about their development needs,” explained our counterpart back in La Paz a bit later: we’ve been doing it for so long, with so many partners, so many different ways. What never changes is after the round table is over, there is no action. I was overwhelmed with the sense of La Paz being perceived as practically an foreign, oppressor government. And my Bolivian friends wasted no time in talking to me about La Paz in a way that made clear the contradictions ran deep and were deeply personal.
Continue reading "Santa Cruz and the Bolivian Lowlands"
From El Alto, Bolivia down to Cobija we drifted downward from the Altiplano like a butterfly, and landed in a new world. 100% humidity, 30 degree celsius temperature: it was like I was back in Nicaragua, but greener and wetter. The earth smelled of wet clay, of vegetation, of burning: the smell of the tropics.
“El Chaqueo” explains Rodrigo, who picks me up at the airport. I struggle to get my luggage, which is picked up and lifted into a heavy cargo truck, and then unloaded by hand into a cement corner of the airport, where the crowd jostles forward to see and identify their belongings. I’m there, too. More than half of them are Brazilian: the border is just minutes north of here. Looking around while I wait for my one small bag to appear, I notice the airport is a one room affair, cold concrete painted celeste azul (what is with tropical countries and that color?) and a series of round, thatched roofs that march upward in concentric circles, lashed with bamboo.
Continue reading "Gas in Bolivia, Steaks in Brazil"
I managed the pre-dawn arrival to La Paz despite being wedged in the middle class of an economy class seat between two weirdos. The first woman was terrified of flying and threw a blanket over her head and trembled the whole way. The other woman was clearly on drugs. Commercial flights are the worst.
La Paz was exhausting and stunning. So high up! And I wound up in a 5th floor hotel room that took me even higher. I’d been warned about altitude sickness and had come armed with some gingko biloba drops, but never really needed them. In fact, the only time I ever really noticed anything was when I stood up quickly to rush for the elevator and arrived feeling winded. The air is thin up there, after all.
Continue reading "La Paz, Bolivia"