Monday, January 24, 2011

One month 'till Carnival

Similar to Brazil, Bolivia is all about its Carnival celebrations. Big time. I’ve been told on many occasions that I have to stick around for the beginning of March since the festivities are simply not to be missed. Unlike Brazil, however, the way that the Bolivians go about celebrating this special time of year focuses less on Samba parades. I’m unclear on the details, though the reoccurring theme throughout these conversations I had seems to focus on one thing in particular: water balloons.

Despite hearing about this several times, Carnival was not the first explanation I thought of last week when I was standing in line at a bakery and all of the sudden something wet hit me in the face. My first thought was that someone had dumped water out of their window and it had somehow blown inside. Turns out that wasn’t the case; I was in fact sniped by someone in a passing bus. Everyone else in line came up to me, telling me not to worry and that this was just what children do this time of year. I guess they were worried that I may take it personally. Considering I’ve been here for a little over two weeks, I wasn’t too upset that one of my enemies was to blame, I just wished I wasn’t wet and was worried that some water had gotten into my mouth and I was going to get sick again.

Carnival is late this year, which means even more water balloon time, and I’ve been told by fellow volunteers that you become more of a target if you look foreign. Without getting too problematic, I’ll just say that it is safe to say that I don’t look very Bolivian, so I’ve been a little more on edge since then. While walking on the sidewalk later on in the week, I passed a little boy filling up a plastic bag with questionably clean water. Not wanting a repeat of the bakery incident, I pointed at him, and sternly told him “don’t even think about it.” He looked up at me confused and a little freaked out before shuffling over to his mother’s pushcart which he started to clean with the water he collected. So, maybe I have some work to do in terms of discerning which children are the ones I need to look out for.

For, “interesting things I’ve seen while running this week,” the dead guy last Wednesday probably takes the cake. Don’t worry, he wasn’t murdered, he was just old and probably sick. That makes it better, right? He apparently hunkered down in the reeds right by the Laguna in town and that was that. I passed him getting taken out by an ambulance with a big crowd around the whole spectacle. So, that was a little sad...

This weekend was super fun though! I went with a group of volunteers to the El Chapare region of the country, which is where the president is from. The highlights were staying in a hotel owned by a guy literally named Ray Charles Gomez and the monkeys. We went on a hike where all these spider monkeys come and want to hold your hand and drink your water. I’m suspicious, however, that they just put up with the hand-holding so they can play with your water bottle. The baby spider monkeys were hilarious. Also super habituated to humans, they looked like little black aliens. Their heads, feet and hands were way, way too large for their bodies, and they would stumble around and grab stuff with their tail to keep from falling over. I don’t have any pictures yet, but hopefully some of the other people from the trip will put some up that I can post.

Hope all is well!


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