I arrived safely in Bolivia yesterday after 24 hours of door-to-door travel. I was weary, but in good spirits. I slept nearly the entire flight from Miami to La Paz and was happy and more than a touch relieved that my Mexican Spanish was well understood in this South American country.
Yesterday I met with one of our employees in Santa Cruz — Bolivia¬¥s largest city of more than 2 million people. She showed me around the city and took me to an excellent restaurant for a traditional Bolivian dinner. The food was muy sabroso, as they say. Grilled chicken seasoned with lime juice, white rice with parsley, pinto beans, grilled yucca with tomatillo salsa. Yes, I could easily be fat and happy in this country.
I asked Ruth why there were so many tourists from Japan on my flight to Bolivia. I wondered if it were a strange coincidence, or if she knew of a Japanese community in the country. She said after WWII and the bombing of Hiroshima, the city of Santa Cruz extended their friendship to the Japanese and let the country know that anyone who wanted to come farm in Bolivia was welcome. There would be land available for them to start over. Many Japanese took up the offer and today this large city is peppered with pagoda architecture, TV stations in Japanese and a market full of Hispanic and Asian delicacies. It is the odd cultural story like this that makes me love travel. Who would have ever guessed central Bolivia was the home to a large Japanese farming community?
No photos yet, but I promise tomorrow to take many. I¬¥m off to a rural community for four days to work with our surgical team. Apparently they are short a nurse, so I am actually going to work in the operating room as a helper. I¬¥ve never been anywhere near clincal health in this manner, so I¬¥m more than a bit nervous. Hopefully I don¬¥t faint at the sight of blood.
One more quick note — when I was in Santa Cruz with Ruth, she kept pointing out the indigenous people who were selling different trinkets on the streets. Many weren¬¥t selling anything, but were begging. I couldn¬¥t help but stare. Their clothing and features are so distinct. The woman have long, jet black hair they plait (thanks Min!) in two perfect braids that run down their backs. Their babies are swaddled in brightly colored blankets that look hand-woven — blankets not terribly different from those of the Native American reservations in northern Arizona. These women are tiny and their skin is dark; their black eyes shine with beauty. Ruth could tell the region the women had traveled from by their clothing. The brightly colored blankets were from Potosi — the silver-producing region of Bolivia. The other ladies in more current clothing were from Cochabamba, to the north.
Off to find my group and get something for dinner!
Wishing you well,
P.S. In the US, no toothpaste or deodorant. In Bolivia, no knitting needles or scissors. Damn it! I am going to be stinky and miss my needles once I ditch my checked luggage and travel to Peru next week.
P.P.S. Alma, if you read this, bring books! I¬¥m already through two of the four paperbacks I brought. (No knitting.)