Week 11: Sensing La Paz

The last seven days have been full of sensory experiences in La Paz. I feel more at home in this city, comfortable with the altitude, and generally in a good groove.

Sights

I did a Red Cap walking tour with a few Remotes on Saturday, during which we walked around much of La Paz. We learned about San Pedro prison, made infamous by Marching Powder: inmates pay rent at this prison to live in luxury and have their families live with them. The more wealthy ones get their funds through the drug trade. We also saw Rodriguez Market and the Witches Market, which I had walked through last weekend. It was nice to spend some more time looking at llama, alpaca, and fun-patterned things.

A group of us also left the city on Sunday to check out Chacaltaya, 17,600 feet above sea level. We only hiked 80 meters, but the struggle to breathe was SO REAL. The views were amazing! We saw all the way to Lake Titicaca, on the border with Peru, and were captivated by Hyuana Potosi, a 20,000 foot peak that seemed close enough to touch. We then went to Valle de la Luna, or Moon Valley, which was formed when water combined with geyser activity. The formations truly look like another planet.

Another common site in La Paz is “Evo Si” and “Lo Mejor es Para Venir” graffiti all over the walls of buildings and highways. Largely propaganda, these came about when Evo Morales, the current president tried to change the constitution for a third time to allow him to stay in office for another term. As the country’s first indigenous president, he has a lot of support, but also some mixed reviews… Interesting to learn that these seemingly popular slogans were really placed by the government.

Tastes

I had a couple of interesting culinary experiences this week:

  • Gustu, one of the most famous restaurants in Latin America, where I had a 14-course tasting menu with drink pairings. The coolest thing about this restaurant is 100% local ingredients, down to salt from the salt flats. The dishes were definitely interesting, and the presentation was great, but I wouldn’t call it one of my best meals ever…
  • La Paz Street Tour, where we visited 4 locations all over the city for Bolivian staples: Tucumanas (essentially fried empanadas), a pork sandwich, chorizo (sausage, made here with beef and llama, and spiced like a merguez sausage), and anticucho (cow heart, seared on a flame). The food was good, but the best part was the experience of seeing the all-female cooks!  These cholitas (local indigenous women) know how to cook. One has been at her stand for over 50 years and works 7 days a week!
  • Luciernigas, a casual dinner spot nearby where I had a meat that was something like: jerky, then baked for 4 hours, then fried. It was delicious, and the lovely Danish owner was awesome as well.
  • During our walking tour, I tried a rellena, which is a potato filled with meat and veggies and then fried. Yum!

Smells

Our street food tour had some amazing smells of flame and spice.  Unfortunately, there were also some smells of not-so-good food in some of the locations. #Movingalong

There is also the ubiquitous smell of diesel polluting the air. I’ve gotten somewhat used to it by now, but definitely appreciate fresh air whenever I can.

Finally, Rodriguez market had almost everything. Most pungent were the meat and fish sections, but seeing some of the 4,000 sorts of potatoes made up for it.

Sounds

Beeping, all day and all night. The driving in La Paz is very interesting. While the cars follow things like lights (contrary to Argentina), as a pedestrian, you pretty much have to find a gap and run for it. The traffic here is pretty wild, considering it’s not the biggest city in the world. The lack of urban planning is visible. Sometimes, cars will just be stopped with nowhere to move, and rather than patiently waiting, they are sitting on their horns and honking. Not too pleasant. Living on a main avenue, I hear some of this through the night, but thankfully not too bad.

Feels

I’d be remiss not to mention (again) how hard it was to breathe at Chacaltaya. I would have to stop and catch my breath for a few minutes every 10 or so steps. At some points, it almost felt like choking, but the views were well-worth it.

I also got to relax on Saturday at MagicK, a really funky bar that had a yoga-themed room (we even had to take off our shoes), and then Diesel, a bar made of metal scraps. After a long day walking La Paz, being able to lounge was pretty fantastic.

Finally, I got to catch up with my girlfriends, my family, my boyfriend, and my altMBA peeps back home, which was so nice! Technology is truly amazing.


Looking forward to another week in this awesome, weird city, before heading to Lima for Remote Nation next weekend — all three Remote Year groups will be together!

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