Saturday, December 8, 2012

Holding on before letting go 12-6 to 12-8-2012

A paradise of luxury: 

December 6, 2012:
Sometimes it is nice just to relax and let go. Shawn and I spent the entire day laying low, doing laundry, seeing a doctor for my stomach, eating fresh leftover food from the downstairs conference, journaling, shaving a mustache for movember, eating amazing food including the best steak I've had in my life and soaking in the hut tub.

M.D. Room Visit

Free Food

A good day to lay low

Goofing off
Mustache Time
Soaking it all in

December 7, 2012:
The next day we spent time walking to wineries, tasting olive oil, having fancy lunches and just lying still in the moment.
Getting info on the wine tour

Walking and Wine
Great Lunch

Learning about wine

Looking at wine

Smelling wine

Laughing near wine

Old Old wine

Fermenting Wine

Learning about Liquores

Preparing Some Green Liquore

Posing by the bottles

Perfect Day

December 8, 2012
We spent some more time just bieng mellow.  This was the calm before the storm.  Went for a walk, had some great food and celebrated the frist night of Channukkah.
Park Independencia
Yummy food
Yummy food
Fun with food
Room service
Channukah Night 1

What an amazing vacation filled with ups downs and surprises. I would have wanted it no other way.

Here is the trip through Shawns eyes:
We were raised to worship order.
Balanced meals, pristine home, extreme hygiene, decent public schools, extra curricular activites, speed limits, seatbelt safety, homework before dinner, morning paper, nightly news, weekly garbage collection, safe buildings, smiling service, stable currency, market competition, discretely criminal officials, doctors, therapists, law enforcers, debt managers, an array of social dermatologists eradicating most of society's acne.

One can't fully comprehend the endless order we Westerners require until of course you pay cold cash to be in chaos. Or Bolivia, in this case.
Bolivia aims to be second world and settles for third. You can't blame them for failing. A string of corrupt presidents have secretly liquidated at firesale prices Bolivia's abundant natural resources, border lands and national security for personal gain. Naturally, the presidential personal gain was stashed in private Swiss bank accounts and American real estate. El publico never saw a penny.

We all remember hearing news over the years of south American presidents bleeding dry their countries' resources. One can't fully grasp the consequences of a whole country stripped of its own riches until you're there.

Picture dirt roads partially paved in puzzle pieces, piles of garbage strewn on street corners, bad public education in badly funded schools, most streets a home to beggars, young cholita girl beggars with babies clining to them like primates, older sun weathered cholitas, their mouths shiny with black snd yellow gums, maimed beggars with stumped limbs.

Storefronts and offices seem to barely function. Workers move in perpetual siesta mode. The odd sharp ambitious one seems hobbled by Middle Age internet and phone technology. Transactions are paper heavy and time consuming. One simply cannot make international calls, no matter how many Bolivianos you have to pay at the locatorio phone call shops Normally you wouldn't care that you cant make a wired call since you have Skype, FaceTime and Viber on your phone to make international calls, but try to connect to Internet and you fall into a trance waiting for signal...anywhere, unbelievably even at the so-called Internet cafes which are essentially seedy dens for computer games.

The street traffic is a scramble; the incessant fumes and racket of rickety cabs; lumbering, beaten down Incan cholita women dressed in their traditional damask wedding cake skirts, swaying over their robust hips, their loads tied across their chests with a wide sash of colorful striped native fabric serving as the equivalent to our SUV trunks, a small, comic 8 inch high bowler hat mounted on their spherical heads; street food stalls of llama meat skewers, nuts and local spices in large cotton sacks; Mercado de Bruja or Witch Market stalls of native cures in dark viles and bottles or mystical offerings to appease the spirits such as Pacha Mama, Mother Earth, like pickled llama fetuses, small ones in stoppered beakers, large fetuses simply sloshing in buckets; streams of mostly Incan natives and some Europeans trudging up Lombardo street steep hills at 12,000 feet high.

La Paz is impossibly steep. It is a cyclone bowl of mountain slopes all funneling into a deep valley. The streets zigzag like lightening bolts from the valley floor to the hilltops above. 18,000' snow capped peaks encase the city beyond. The city light views from the peak are unlike any I've seen. From the top of one of the steep city hills in La Alta looking down 1'000 feet one feels as if you are a giant looking down upon a tiny snow globe of undulating, twinkling lights. It would be charming and beautiful if not for the rubble of half built houses and buildings everywhere.

Since the government only taxes completed buildings, the Bolivianos have figured it pays to leave walls unfinished and open to the elements, plumbing exposed and windows missing. The ubiquitous dogs skulk along the crumbling walls. You can't quite believe that families either live here or that people conduct business, but they do.

Jared and I saw streets filled with this when we went to the La Alta ghetto one night invited by Moises, the manager of Todo Turismo's one small room bus station after we returned from our three day trip to Uyuni de Salar, the world's largest salt flats.

Moises seemed somewhat indebted to us, possibly because my IPhone had been stolen from the bus station a few days before or more likely because Jared had taken the only photos the night before of our Todo Tourismo bus crash.

If we hadnt been banned from Amazones airlines after I stormed the tarmac to catch our flight which incomprehensibly left before its departure time, then we could have taken Bolivia's only 45 minute flight from La Paz to Uyuni with Amazones insteqd of the interminable bus ride.

However, the love was lost between Amazones and us when I had jumped the Amazones boarding gate and chased our plane onto the tarmac the instant the gate guy told us the plane had left. Jared chased me onto the tarmac in utter confusion, as I ran in front of the plane to block it like a radical student in Tienenman Square blocking a tank. I signaled authoritatively with oustretched hand to the pilot in the cockpit far above me to HALT.

Like the Twinkie Defense, I later pleaded to the international TSA that I was the innocent victim of delusional altitude sickness after going from L.A. sea level to La Paz 13,000 feet only 24 hours before. Of course, anyone who knows me, also knows that a tarmac attack is not unlikely behavior for me if I feel justified. After we were first to check in to the flight, then waited two hours at the one gate assigned to three simultaneous flights, and the early departure of our flight, I felt blindly righteous about getting onto that flight. Yes, I was also blindly irrational.

The pilot and blocked plane were freed of me only when Jared and I were corralled back to the airport by a posse of 9 airport, police and military officials in military garb and guns. A few long hours later at the airport, all of the airport, police and military officials miraculously pardoned, laughing off the pitiful American girl. We collected our bags and now had only to face the music with the Amazones attorney, COO and CEO back at their offices. After Luis, the COO, casually mentioned that we...I...had committed an international felony by running onto the tarmac, a security breach only a half step below treason back in the U.S., and after Jared quietly tried to explain my actions as a sudden bout of hysteria, we struck the oddest sweetheart deal of 2012 between Amazones and us.

We, Jared and I, agreed to shut up about their flight leaving the gate early and they agreed not to report us to the international authorities for felony. In the end, we all smiled, shook hands, patted backs, and Louis generously booked our Todo Turismo bus to Uyuni for the next night. The attorney, a glutton for punishment, even gave us his personal number offering help if we got in trouble again.

We finally made it to Uyuni de Salar, the mystical endless salt flats, a day and a half after the Amazones debacle, by the twelve hour overnight hydrolic drill bumpy bus. We then had one of the most torturous, exhilarating three day adventures there which Jared captured in his blog I sent to you. Lest the torture end, though, our return 12 hour overnight Todo Turismo bus side-swiped a Grapes of Wrath migrant labor truck parked dead center in the middle of the dirt road in pitch black. The bus driver later told the police that he didn't see the truck until it was too late. However, as Jared and I looked at each other bug-eyed when the bus swerved and there was a long, high-pitched scream like the cry of a whale, I immediately told Jared indisputably that the driver had been speeding. Jared just looked at me dully like I was an idiot.

After the shattered glass was kicked aside, and the broken hydrolic on the belly of the bus baggage door was tinkered with so that as few as possible bags would bounce out on the remaining return ride and the driver's coco leaf bag was doubly filled so that he could chew his shaken nerves to numbness, we finally made it back to La Paz twelve hours later.

Moises met us and calmly escorted us to the tiny bus office. Bedraggled, Jared dutifully downloaded the bus crash photos from his camera onto their agonizingly slow computer while I sniffed through every cabinet and drawer like a bloodhound for my missing IPhone.

While I was on my knees trying to get into a locked cabinet, Jared discreetly mouthed to me, Let it go. Maybe his recent weeks of South American travel had taught him that order simply does not prevail in their world, or maybe he was naturally quicker and smarter than I to to just take the loss and move on, or maybe he grasped the universal fact that when things go south, if it's not life threatening or gravely unjust, if it's just a matter of a reasonable sum of money lost, or a minor disagreement or inconvenience, it's probably best to not think twice and just move on. We have many things in common, Jared and I. This, to my great discredit, is not one of them, but Gd give me a modicum of his wisdom to accept the losses that I cannot change and the courage to not fight back except when life and profound truth demand. Neither missed flight nor lost phone qualify.

It took a moment to grieve my IPhone, but Jared was right. I let it go. Moises took pity on us, drove us to our hotel and invited us to join him and his wife later at the Cholita fights in la Alta, La Paz's ghetto. Jared's Cholita Fights blog beautifully captures this superb cultural event, as you know.

Bolivia was a masters degree in madness and mess. La Alta ghetto was an extreme version of this. Of course back home, all the order in the world cannot veil the madness and mess that relentlessly flood our superior ideas of how things are supposed to be.

I am now a convert. Let the madness and the mess be. Move on to more important things. Let it go.


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