La Paz. This 1,something million inhabitants city seems so much bigger than it is. It is a bustling metropolis; Confusing, noisy, smog filled, yet so welcoming, charming, and filled with wonder. Women in traditional clothing and the ever present bowler hat jut along the streets side by side with smartly dressed teenagers, businessmen, and raggy looking street performers.
You can get anything in this city. Markets practically overflow with clothes, food, juices, fruit, toys, mechanics etc.
The only thing missing here is wi-fi. We’ve been almost without wi-fi for a week. Unable to plan ahead our journey to Uyuni. We are leaving tomorrow. We don’t know where we will stay in Uyuni or what company we will go with to see the salt flats.
We live in a house in the northern part of the city. Close to the main road that runs through all of La Paz. It is noisy because of the constant stream of cars going by. But we have a kitchen and electricity, except for in the evenings. I have even been able to wash our dirty clothes in the sink out in the yard.
I am recovering from the stomach flu. Luckily it only lastet for one night. I don’t know what it was I ate. Maybe it was an orange juice from the market in El Alto, but I am not sure. By som impossible streak of luck A wasn’t affected. I guess she already had her bad luck when we took the bus from Lima. A was amazing the night I was sick. She padded my back and told me everything would be okay, she knew how terrible I was feeling. “Just let me know if you need anything, mom”, she kept telling me. My sweet A.
I washed my hair in a pot the other day. Our electric shower is boiling hot and it is virtually impossible to stand underneath the running water without getting scalded. I have been taking showers standing beside the running water using my hands to cover myself with water until they got too burned. A has decided not to try out the scalding water. I think it’s a wise decision.
We have been riding the teleféricos, wandering around downtown, going to markets and relaxing. A has enjoyed listening to audio books on her iPad. She has been enjoying our stay here more than I, I think. Her ability to settle in a place, even if it isn’t the most pleasant place we have stayed, is remarkable. She finds what feels good for her and then does that.
We met a woman in Morillo street who used to live in Denmark 20 years ago. She invited us into her home. But unfortunately she hasn’t been home the times we have tried to visit her. She spoke some Danish and wanted to speak some more with us, so as to awaken her knowledge of the language. These kind of things have been happening to us a lot. In Lima we met Daniel, a taxi driver, who let us ride with him for free and told us about his city. In Colca Canyon we met a Chilean family who gave us a bag of coca leaves because they were going back to Chile the next day. And in Arequipa we stayed with the most wonderful people one could wish for. So much friendliness and so much warmth and will to help. It is magic. Even in La Paz.
You may have noticed that La Paz isn’t my favourite place. But I think it could grow on me. If we stayed longer and perhaps in another place. But I still like it. The strangeness of the city, the surprising sights, the mountains that surround the city. Yet it also fills me with ambivalence. The stark contrasts between rich and poor, the many beggars on the streets, the hustlers, the corrupt police.
Our host is really nice. Adrian, he helps us whenever he has the time. He has taken us for salteñas and around town in his car. He has told us about his country. About Evo Morales and his desire to become a dictator, about the women wearing traditional clothes and coming to the city with their children in the months around Christmas to ask poeple for money, about El Alto and La Paz, about Sucre, and many other things.
A and Adrian have fun playing games in the evening and teaching each other Spanish and Dansih respectively. A’s English is so good she can easily hold a long conversation with someone. Her knowledge of Spanish is also growing. She uses little phrases and words in Spanish for fun when we talk, and she is curious about everything she sees and hears. It is truly a journey of learning and discovery that we have undertaken. For the both if us. We are learning about the world as well as learning about ourselves.
I am confronted with my fears often. People have told me I am brave for going on this journey. But I don’t feel brave. I am scared of so many things. Scared of the unknown. Even scared sometimes of asking for directions if I know I can’t ask in perfectly correct Spanish. But I am pushing myself through my fears, doing things anyway. And A is an ever present joy in my life, on our journey. So filled with joy, and wonder, and will to know. She is a delightful travel companion and I couldn’t wish for better company. I doubt I am as delightful to her sometimes. With my stressing about where to go, when to go, what to eat, and so on.
I am still learning. And that is what counts. We are learning together. Living together. Travelling together. And we enjoy it ❤