So much to write about since I last wrote! It always seems like the places that I most want to write are the places that it is the hardest to get to a computer!
Anyways, last time right before I was going to make an entry, I was still in Sucre, and having a blast and was in a cheery cheery mood, when suddenly I had a flashback of memory and realized that I had left my ATM card.... in the ATM. Dont you love that, when you remember, but too little too late. I blame the fact that the atms spit your card back after you get your money, rather than before like in the states, but the reality is actually that I am just a bit of an airhead.
So that was stressful, and I would have been royally screwed if I didn´t have my credit card (which I have left in my host family´s house, thanks to some sort of foresight on my part) and I was able to get a large cash advance on it the next day.Way to go rebecca. Ofcourse, I am always locking my stuff up, thinking it will get stolen, and I am the one to mess things up.
Anyways, aside from the night spent calling the bank and whatnot, Sucre was amazing. I loved the market place there. I think that you can tell so much about a place from it´s market. Theyhad fruit juice stands and you could get whatever kind of fruit you wanted blended with water or milk, for like 40 cents. And then, I put my glass down after drinking my very delicious mix, and before I knew it, the woman at the stand had refilled my glass. I though for sure I would be charged for it, but no... the left overs are all included. So good. And worth the risk of getting sick with fruit.
There are a lot of people running around asking for money in the market, or trying to clean your shoes. One boy spent about half an hour trying to convince me that my leather strappy sandals needed to be cleaned by him, when I couldn´t really imagine what would be on them to clean. Here in La Paz, people are ashamed to work as shoe shiners, so they wear ski masks over their heads, and it looks like there are a bunch of bank robbers all walking around. Very strange and a little sad. Anyways, one boy came back asking for money about three times while having my juice, and finally when he brought his little brother by, I bought them a juice. However, the rest of the day it was like a had a stamp on my head ´¨the juice giver¨´ because little boys everywhere seemed to think I would give them something.
Anyways, I left Sucre with some people from the school, and we went by bus to Potosi, which is the highest city in the world. Literally. The bus was threee hours, so not too bad and it was interesting watching them load the bus by lowering my bag off a hook off a balcony. It is damn cold in Postosi too. Also.... I guess this is a good time to introduce the coca leaf, which is grown legally both in Peru and Bolivia. So, yes, the coca leaf can be used to make cocaine. But using coco leaves is not like using cocaine, it´s more comprable to caffine. Many people will chew the leaves and let them sit in their cheek for a few hours, and when you first get here you think that everyone has some sort of cheek tumor. Anways, it is available, if not reccomended when you are at high altitudes, because it is supposed to ease alititude sickness, which I do think that I suffered a bit from. Mostly when carrying my bag around, I would be pretty aware of the burning in my chest, my bosy searching for the other 15% of oxygen that I was used to.
Between altitude sickess and food issues, I have been sick pretty much everyother day. But it´s ok because Bolivia is so so cool. Potosi was once the richest city in south america because of the mines there. Now all the silver is pretty much gone, and they are only mining the cheap supplies of tin and zinc, however there are still 10,000 people working in the mines. I had a chance to go on a tour of the mines, where people were working, and it was one of the more intense experiences I have had. The mines are not a touroist attraction, people actually work there, wo it was sort of haszardous to go, which is why I thought I would write about it after I made it out haha. Basically, we went in for about two hours and were able to see the conditions that these workers were exposed to. We got dressed head to toe in work clothes and boots and went in. There are no lights, only our head lamps, and we literally had to crawl through tiny spaces on our hands and knees sometimes to get through. The air quality is horrible, and the life expectacy of a miner is only about 45 years old because of all the crap that gets into the lungs, most hazardous is the dust actually, but also mold and asbesdous ( how do you spell that-?). We met many miners and handed out gifts of coca leaves and gloves and juice and stuff, which is pretty much expected for traipsing on their territory. We met a boy who was 14 years old working there. The miners all work for themselves, so they supply their own materials, and if they don´t find anything, they don´t make any money. A few times toward the end, I could feel a panic attack approaching because I wanted to get out so bad and I felt like I was going to suffocate- which my body probably thought that I was between the air quality, exercise, and altitude´- and I had to close my eyes and think calm thoughts. I can´t wait to post pictures of this. And a video. really intense for me. Something everyone should do if they are ever here, but I would never do it again. What was so amazing though was how friendly and jovial the miners were- it was inspiring to me.
Anyways. so that was big for me. The same day I took a night bus to Uyuni, which was fricking cold as well, and thankfully I had made friends with the chilean guy next to me, and he shared his al paca blanket so that I didn´t freeze. There is no heat obviously on the bus. And this bus waws seven hours, and they had oversold it, and people were sleeping on the floor of the aisle, and one guy even stood the whole time. It was nice because I knew people from the school on that bus too. Oh man, and at the rest stop, which was literally one little building in the middle of nowhere, a bunch of people had to push the bus along the road to get it started, and I didn´t even realize it was leaving, so I had to hop on it while it was moving away... ahh!!! Oh yeah, and only about an hour of that ride was paved.
The other big experience was a 3 day jeep tour that I just took of the most amazing scenery I have evern seen. It included endless beautiful mountains, the largest salt flat in the world- where it looks like cactuces are growing next to ice, but really it is salt, a red lagoon, a green lagoon, acres and acres of ancient coral as we drove through what was once the sea bottom, llamas, flamingos by the thousand, an old train graveyard, volcanic rock, and active volcano, and a volcanic hotspring. The trip was so amazing that I think that I just have to post pictures because I can´t dscribe it. But it was super fun, and the tour was with five other people in a jeep so I made some friends. I have a few pics on facebook, but I am not able to get them on my blog right now...... ahhh-.
Anyways, now I am in La Paz for Chirstmas, and I kind of coped out and I am staying at an irish hostel that has a big christmas celebration. Not very Bolivian.
Ok, there is no heat at this internet cafe and I am freezing, so I am going to go! Miss you all!!