Since we have been here for over a month now, we have noticed some oddities about Bolivia that I thought I would make into a list. As much as we love Bolivia, some of these were hard to get used to…
1. For some reason most of the cars have huge stickers across the top of their windshields, then little stickers down the side of their windshields, and then tons of little things dangling from the rear view mirror. With all that crap, I’ve no idea how they can even see the roads! And it definitely makes it hard to look out the window to avoid getting sick while sitting in the back seat.
2. Another driving oddity is the roads here in Bolivia are rarely built in a straight line. They twist and turn more than any road I have ever been on. They are like roller coasters! Constantly doing drastic turns in every which way all while having one side of the road a cliff.
3. Around 2pm every day, every store closes. Every single one. And they all go home to take a siesta and have tea time. I heard things like this happened in Mexico, but I never saw it as drastically as it happens here. Literally, you will not find one open store between about 2 and 5 here in Bolivia. This one took some getting used to because there would be no places to buy water, use the internet, get a bite to eat, nothing. Eventually stores will open back up but no eating places. For those you have to wait until 7:30 when everyone comes out and decides to cook hamburgers.
4. Speaking of food, they love their oil here. It is even put out onto tables as a condiment. Their soup is oily, their rice is oily, their meat is oily, their hamburger meat is oily, and of course their French fries are oily. Everything is cooked with hot oil instead of a hot surface, and it can definitely take a tole on your weight eventually.
5. I always thought that Americans drank a lot of soda, but I think that Bolivians may have them beat. Granted they don’t have 44 oz Styrofoam cups following them everywhere, but they have soda with every meal. And if you don’t like regular Coke, Sprite, or orange Fanta, too bad, because those are all your options. While living here we have had to get used to warm drinks too, since not everyone can afford a fridge.
6. A schedule does not exist in Bolivia. Especially when Carnival rolls around. When we set up a meeting with the ladies for scarves, they saunter in about thirty – fourty minutes late and don’t bate an eyelash. This must come from all the napping they do during the day and all the wine they drink.
7. We just had the opportunity to experience carnival here in Villa Abecia, which is a post within itself, but something I can mention here is there tenacity to continue to party. They would start their parties at midnight and go until 6 in the morning! Then by noon they were all walking around the streets, dancing to music, and looking for something to eat. It was crazy! And don’t even get me started on the drinking… if someone didn’t have a glass of something or other in their hand, someone made sure to fix that right quick.
8. People here don’t seem to keen on taking business opportunities. For example, there are a bunch of hung over people walking around the center of town looking for something to eat and people still close their shops and don’t cook anything. Or if I go up to a woman who sells a fabric I want to make scarves out of, and tell her if she buys more of this same fabric I will buy it from her, she simply says, “no, you can go to La Paz for more.” It’s definitely a different mentality here.
9. Perhaps because of all of the siestas and alcohol people seem a lot calmer here. I’ve been in a few instances where if we were in the states dealing with something similar people would be freaking out, but here no one bats an eyelash. For instance, yesterday we were taking a van from Potosi back to Camargo and fourty minutes before they would drive off they had us all load in the van and just sit there, screaming babies and all. Had we been in the states I feel like there would have been a lot of upset people in that van.
10. Bolivians, I assume, don’t have a desire to try different cuisine. Everything, no matter what city you are in, is the same. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, you will eat the same thing every. Single. Day. It’s crazy. (At least in Uyuni, Potosi, Tarija, and Villa Abecia - Santa Cruz has proved to be different. Thankfully) For breakfast you’ll either have a round piece of bread, or a tucumana ( which is a fried empanada essentially), for lunch you will have a bowl of soup and then a plate with rice, some sort of meat, and sliced tomatoes and onions, and your dinner will be hamburgers. Every day! Can you imagine? And while staying here in Villa Abecia we found a couple who retired from NYC to here, and we couldn’t believe it. Leaving the mecca of food choices for….three options. It’s just crazy.