Monday, February 9, 2009

Bombed in Sucre

Carnaval in Sucre means water - a lot of it! Waterbombs, squirt guns, water pistols... the die hard carnevalistas even use shaving foam to dive-bomb their victims. I got hit by 2 water bombs, which wasn´t too bad as bombing gringoes seemed to be an extra fun for the locals. But they didn´t count on Martin! ;-)

When some little boys threatened us with their water guns Martin overpowered one, got his gun and chased him all over the place. Exactly in that moment three Spanish girls walked by... one of them had accepted a drink from Martin the other night in the "Joyride Cafe" but was too arrogant to say hello when she met us in the market in the morning. Martin had been really disappointed by this behavariour and now had his chance to satisfy his thirst for revenge! He aimed and full throttle shot the water on her! She even was too arrogant to react and we couldn´t stop laughing! As it seems the Bolivians around us enjoyed it too!

Here is a picture of crazy Martin in full action! I really hope we´ll keep in touch and will meet again sometime somewhere - with Martin you can´t be bored, not for a second ;-)

Sucre - "wer noch niemals in lauschiger Nacht..."

On Thursday afternoon Susanne and Ryan left me to go to Uyuni. I would have loved to join them but time is running and didn´t want to risk being late for my flight to Rio. I accompanied them to the bus terminal, we said goodbye and agreed to meet up in Berlin and Seattle, accordingly. Its always great to travel with nice people for some time but then its also sad when its time to say goodbye...

I decided to stay one more day in La Paz but couldn´t decide whether to go to Santa Cruz directly or stop in Sucre for a day so I tossed a coin: heads-or-tail - and Sucre won and I bought a bus ticket for the 15-hour bus ride to the South.

On my last day in La Paz I went to the Coca museum (pretty boring), had a lot of coffee and good food at "Alexander Coffee", tried to get my nails done (not a good idea in La Paz!) and continued to read Paulo Coelho´s account of his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. I made it to the fifth or sixth chaper but was pretty disappointed by it: the persons and incidents he encounters on his voyage seem to perfect and too much of a coincidence, it doesn´t sound very realistic - more like he had planned out the pilgrimage at home at his writing desk or as if he interpretes the encounters according to the principles he wants to point out. I put the book aside and decided to swap the book at the next hostel or bookexchange...

When I ran into one Argentinian guy I had met in a hostel on a rainy afternoon in Cabanaconde just one hour before leaving to Sucre I had to make a little concession to Paulo Coelho: there are a lot of coincidences when you travel and yes, they might seem unrealistic! If I had known what Sucre had in store for me... ;-)
After a long but unspectacular bus ride I arrived in Sucre on saturday morning and went in search of a nice hostel. The first one looked ok but there was no free room before noon. The second was not very nice and also quite far from the center... and the third one smelled of old ladies. Not the nice grandmother smell of fresh cake or old fashioned perfume but the one you encounter on old ladies at the doctors or at church. My back started hurting from carrying my heavy backpack and I decided to forget my budget limits for a day and checked into 4 star "Premier Hotel". After refreshing a bit I took off to explore Sucre. On first sight it looked nice but calm, if not to say boring. It is said to be the most beautiful city of Bolivia but if you´ve seen Cuenca en Ecuador or Arequipa in Peru, Sucre is just one more colonial city. I checked out the Ethnografical museum - very similar to the one in Peru - the exhibition of masks is very well done but unfortunately they closed at noon. Around 2pm I had seen most of the streets and churches (all of them locked) and as the city still seemed very quiet I started to wonder if I should go to the bus terminal and look for a bus very early the next morning...
Just when I was thinking of this I saw someone sitting on a bench on the main plaza, the face and blong hair looked kind of familiar... when I got nearer the person got up, smiling - and I saw that it was "mi amigo navideño" Martin! Martin, with whom I had spend a great christmas eve in Piura, whom I had met in Cusco by chance and whose boat has sunk on the Amazon! For the third time on our trip we´ve met - without planning to do so, pure coincidence! I will never ever critizise Paulo Coelho - traveling has its own laws and unbelievable coincidence definately is one of those.
Very happy about this unforeseen "Wiedersehen" we sat down on a bench and tried to catch up on our travels. Unfortunately the little show shine boys, too, thought that it was very interesting. They sat down in a circle around us and wanted to know if I was Martin's girlfriend. When he told them that I was just an "amiga" they told him off everytime he put his arm around me or touched me on the legs. High morals, those little guys ;-) When obviously he wouldn´t stop touching me - Martin is a very warm and outgoing person - they requested a "kiss, kiss" and burst into laughter. One of the little guys knew all capitals of the world by heart - quite impressive, but still we refused to buy them food or give them money. There are so many of them and if you give something to one you have to give it to all or a fight will break out. When they wouldn´t leave us alone we retreated to one of the lovely cafes near by with balconies overlooking the plaza. Martin asked me what my plans were for the night and I said I haven´t any he decided to stay one more night in Sucre to celebrate our unforeseen encounter. We both agreed that somehow our positive energies kept drawing us together, no matter where and we should seize the opportunity and "rock the capital" ;-). (Even though La Paz de facto serves as capital, sleepy Sucre is the constitutional capital of Bolivia!)
We got our bus tickets for the next day, enjoyed a huge fruit salad, some fresh chese and bread in the market and then went back to our hostels to get ready for a big night out :-)
By the time we met again, most restaurants already looked deserted - Bolivians or South Americans tend to eat earlier than Europeans, it seems. We found a pizza place that looked nice and not too empty. Martin ordered red wine - but bad lack, all used up. So he opted for beer and me for a water, which they had. I asked for a veggie pizza without cheese - no problem in Germany or Italy, but not possible in Sucre - "the pizza would burn without cheese". Ok. So pasta with pesto, please. Half an hour later the waiter reappeared, without pizza but with the news that the veggetables for the pesto were used up, too. Even though Martin's pizza allegedly already was in the oven we paid the drinks and left. So far for service mentality in the Bolivian (contitutional, but still!) capital. The night before Martin had an equally unpleasant experience with the waiters in gringo-ridden "Joyride Cafe" but as it seemed to be the only place around the plaza that wasn't about to close we gave in and ordered the 4 person "tapas table" - just delicious! And we did our best to smile and say a lot of "gracias", "no se preocupe" and even managed to get some smiles back from the waiters.
Around midnight we decided to have a look upstairs, to the dancefloor... and stayed untill they closed ;-) We met the "Taxi Schisser" or cap wimps - a group of 3 Germans who arrived on the same bus as Martin and asked him if it was save to take a taxi. When we arrived they were sitting in a hook, true "Taxi Schisser"-style - but after they saw Martin rocking the place, they got up and joined us. Hopefully they will meet a lot of Martins our their trip would be very boring indeed!
From the "Joyride" we shared a taxi with Fernando, the one and only tall and hansome Bolivian, an Irish guy and an Englishmen with a broken arm to another disco. As the taxi didn´t have a radio we agreed to sing. Martin and me of course performed an unforgettable version of "Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb eins..." in combination with an instrumental "Hey Jude" from the guy with the broken arm. We stayed at the second place until it closed, too, and I walked back to my hotel with Fernando, and Martin, who wasn´t in for much walking, took a taxi. I got home by 6:00 and considering I only slept like 3-4 hours this hotel really became the most expensive one of my trip ;-)
Martin and me, "nordish by nature" in the colonial city center of Sucre...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lost in Translation

Bolivia provides good entertainment by translating Spanish signs into English. On the border you get invited to "to go the toilet" in big red letters on the public toilet. In Copacabana's main street you can "rent biking". But the best translation could be found on this menu: "Drunk at once" ;-)

La Paz Packages and Zebras

There are definately a lot of things in Bolivia that need improvement (restaurant service, transport...) - but there is one thing that I hope will never change: the central post office in La Paz! I went there at 8am this morning with 4kg of clothes and gifts to send home. I didn't have a box, neither packing material and had no idea how this would work out... I arrived shortly after the post office had opened and a friendly lady at the information send me downstairs to the "señora" wo does the packing and who was just having her breakfast. In Germany they would have ignored you until was brakfast over, in Hungary maybe killed you right away. Not so in La Paz, "Come in, Mamacita Linda, how can we help you, amiguita?" All smiling she put her breakfast aside and took my stuff. Her colleague, equally smiling, joined her and they started packing my stuff into a big box. They wrapped the fragile stuff in my sweaters without me telling them to. I didn't know what to say anymore - the post office staff I've met so far did an outstanding job on surviving the work day without once using their brain cells. Anyhow these two ladies managed to pack my stuff, joke with me and sing and laugh... I haven't met so lovely and happy people at work for quite some time! When they packed my big woolen jumper from Peru they asked if it was for my boyfriend to keep him warm while I was away. No, I said, its for my parents. "Oh, disgrace, you aren't sending anything for your boyfriend" - they joked. "Not even a kiss?" They reminded me of Peruvian taxi drivers, whose favourite subjects usually envolve around boyfriends, kissing and romance. Alberto and I usually were a big disappointment to any taxi driver, as we wouldn't kiss or provide romantic details. I did my best not to disappoint the wrapping ladies and promised to send a kiss or two. And as it seems, sending gifts to the "padrecitos" was valued as well.

When I went over to the cashier with my perfectly wrapped package he greeted me with a smile and a "Buenos dias, princessita" from afar. I have been called all kind of names in German post offices, but never anything close to "princessita" ;-).

Unfortunately I do not have more stuff to ship home - I would love to go back to these friendly and happy people anytime! Maybe I should apply for a job there ;-)

But... there is also another cool job in La Paz that caught my eye: the Zebra!
To regulate chaotic traffic situation and make it easier for pedestrians to cross the street, peple dressed as zebras stop the traffic and help you cross the street. They could do it in a serious and business like way, like a traffic police officer, but they do it dancing, shaking theyr striped behind, waving to the drivers... When we first saw a zebra on our way to the hostel we couldn't stop laughing and our taxi driver had to explain to us the concept of zebra traffic regulation!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bolivia is Titi!

Even though guide Eddy had tried to hammer into us that Peru was "Titi" and Bolivia "Caca", we all agreed that it was definately the other way round! Copacabana definately is Titi - which should become our battle call for our stay in Copacabana! ;-)

When we arrived in Copacabana, the sun was shining, the lake was turquoise blue and the whole town was decked out for the Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria. The cars were decorated with flowers and ribbons to be blessed by a priest in front of the cathedral and it seemed that everybody was dressed in festive dress. I especially fell in love with the busy little beach full of food stalls, paddle boats and Bolivian families having a picknick. All afternoon there was music and dancing in the streets and when the sun set it got really crazy. People of all ages where drinking and dancing and the whole town was one great party! Of course we joined the dancing and soon met many fellow backpackers from France, Denmark, Argentina... and the Chilean history teacher! Making out with a girl he had obviously just met! Who would have thought that of the quiet history teacher - still waters run deep ;-)

Around 2pm the music stopped and I went back to the hostel thinking the party was over. But a soon as I was in bed the music started again. When I woke up around 7am it was still playing or playing again. I have no idea if had stopped at all. When we went down to the plaza to have breakfast there were still people drinking on the street and the music and dancing went on. We took a little break from it and hiked to a little village called Sicuani from where we took a boat to the Isla del Sol. After dinner, of course, we joined the party again. As it seemed, most people had kept on drinking and it got definately more rough then on the first day.

When we were walking down to the plaza we saw women in full festive dress peeing on the streets and children trying to pull their parents home. The plaza was flooded in what seemed a mix of pee and beer and even though it was not later than 9pm most people seemed to be really wasted. And the Chilean history teacher was making out with another girl. Ryan suspected that he had eaten the first one. Judging by the way he was kissing her this seemed very likely and we agreed on calling him the Chilean Cannibal.

Ryan was keen on making some local friends and finally found some lovely ladies from La Paz who willingly shared their beer and hats with us. Unfortunately they were dragged home by their daughters soon after... Around 2pm we also made our way home through drunken people, beer and pee and tried to get some rest to be "en pleine form" for our last day in Copacabana - and the bull fighting that was scheduled for this day!
When we heard about the bull fighting we were a bit sceptical at first - would it be a cruel spectacle like in Spain? Would they hurt or even kill the bulls? Or would it be like the Pamplona bull race? We decided to give it a go and went to the ring at 3pm. People had told us that it would start at this time but the stands were still in construction and neither bulls nor spectators to be seen. Ryan, Susanna, Ellen - a German girl we had met at breakfast - and I sat down to enjoy some prickly pears and watch how the stands were being constructed. Very adventurous and nearly as entertaining as a bull fight ;-) At 3:30pm they were nearly ready and for 7 Bolivianos we got a seat in the front row. Slowly, more and more people kept coming and the stands filled up. The "toreros" also arrived but thank God they were nothing like the ones you know from Spanish bull fighting. They were dressed in jeans or sport clothes and most of them pretty drunk ;-) We asked one young and pretty sober guy to take pictures of us on the stand and that was when the fun really started ;-) The young guy took one picture with Ryan's camera and then went away. I wanted one with camera, too, and a really, really drunken guy accepted. He was so drunk he could barely stand but he was determined in taking a great picture. Shaking and babbling he directed us to smile and the whole stand, maybe the whole stade was watching and laughing. He even spoke some English ("Very good", "Welcome", "One- two -three") and we were in tears! I was scared that he would drop my camera but he took a great picture of us ( see above) and I got back my camera save and sound! Susanne was not so lucky - he dropped her camera and then half jokingly pretended to throw it up to the stand! After this comical introduction we already had a feeling that this bullfight would be more about killing beer cans than bulls. At various times completely sloshed men would stumpled into the ring, doing all kind of strange moves, falling to the ground, babbling and the spectators would call "torro, torro" (bulls, bulls) and burst into laughter. When the first bull was let into the ring somew of the drunken guys more or less jumped on him and got turn to the ground. But most of the time the bulls just wanted to go home and where not very enthusiastic about fighting. This caused yells of "Take home the sheep", "We want bulls with balls" or aimed at the wasted "toreros" - "Don't fall in love with the bull" or "Kiss the bull" ;-).
The best scene was definately when the bull turned his back on the heroic "toreros" and slowly walked towards the ice cream guy, not to attack him, more in a curious way. The ice cream guy just waved him away and kept on selling ice cream. So far for the dangerous bulls of Copacabana ;-) The bull fighting here definately is more about beer than about bulls and I bet that toreros got hurt worse than the bulls - by stumpling over or beating up each other. Definately a very entertaining afternoon!