Saturday, December 28, 2013

Things you Need to Know Before Visiting La Paz

  • You will not find a clean wall, gate, or fence anywhere in the city. They are all covered with varying quality of graffiti.
  • If you want to go out for supper, think again. It is difficult to find anything open before 7 or 8pm. If traveling with a toddler who’s bedtime is 8:30pm, this proves to be a bit of a challenge.
  • Their big meal of the day is lunch and may leave you feeling full for days. Lunch includes soup, bread, a small salad, the second plate (which is usually some sort of meat and potato, or meat and rice), and finally you end the meal with a piece of fruit or pastry. Bolivians make some seriously delicious soup! 
  • In addition to feeling full, you WILL feel sick at some point. It’s best just to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for that inevitability. Also, there is a strong likelihood that going to the bathroom will be abnormal probably 70% of the time.
  • When cooking for yourself you need to adjust all recipes for the altitude or you’ll end up with flat, squishy chocolate cake, or pancakes that just don’t hold together. There are many websites that can help you with this.
  • You will not completely adjust to this altitude. You will likely find yourself panting and/or partially blacking out a few times a day.
  • The altitude (and the monster hills you climb everyday) will make you lose weight. Depending on your size at the start, this could be a good or bad thing.
  • There are very few strollers here. Most people just carry their kids in their arms, sans baby-carrier. I challenge anyone to an arm wrestle when we get back…or a baby carrying competition.
  • You will find amazing coffee for cheap!
  • People don’t really care that you’re here. You aren’t an anomaly, and you aren’t special because you are white. It’s nice. You are free to carry on without any celebrity status.
  • Even though people don’t care that you’re here, they are very nice and are willing to help at a moment’s notice. They are even willing to put up with your terrible attempt at Spanish.
  • Most travelers and tourists seem to already speak Spanish. If you don’t, you are probably stupid and are definitely in a minority.
  • Language classes are cheap, so you don’t have any excuse to not learn!
  • People in La Paz, and perhaps Bolivia, speak Spanish with little to no accent, in comparison with their neighboring countries, so they are easy to understand. This also aids in language learning. 
  • You never know what is going to be open and when. So when you leave your house on a mission, be prepared to be disappointed. Perhaps it’s best to have an alternate plan, and be ready for that to fail too.
  • Speaking of open...this city seems like it is on social lockdown. All gates and fences are 8 feet tall, and are topped with broken glass or barbed wire. I don't know who my neighbours are and I'm not sure how to figure that out, short of ringing them at their gate. Also, little neighbourhood shops that are open midday are only kind of open. You aren't able to enter have to look from the door and point at what you want. Either there is a high level of distrust here, or a high level of threat. 
  • The Internet doesn’t always work. This is good for those of us who are used to having it all the time. You can’t stream anything quickly. In fact Facebook friends, could you please stop posting videos? I can only see the thumbnail.
  • The stray dogs are not scary like Thailand stray dogs. They are not aggressive, and keep to themselves.
  • People here seem to love dogs. There are dog grooming places everywhere, and no end to places where you can purchase dog clothes, dog shoes, and puppy paraphernalia. Around Christmas there were Santa dogs a-plenty.
  • Christmas is at midnight…so when someone asks you over to their house for turkey at 1, they don’t mean 1 in the afternoon. They mean 1am. Don’t show up to their house midday (that may or may not have happened).
  • It is incredibly easy to get around the city. Transportation is cheap and accessible, as long as you know where you are going. It’s best not to travel around 6pm or else you may be hanging out the door of the bus just to get a spot.
  • There are very few single occupancy vehicles. This pleases me.
  • There are even fewer bikes. Although, I don't blame them...I don't want to cycle up these hills either.
  • If you're a small kid in Canada, don't'll be the same size as other kids your age here.
  • If you are a kid, and you’re blonde, and you don’t like being touched or looked at, it’s best to learn the art of closing your eyes, or putting your head down early. In all likelihood you’ll eventually adjust or learn how to cope with the attention, just like a little someone I know did. 
Well, I hope that helps with any future plans of visiting La Paz. This place is spectacular, wild, and wonderful all at once. These observations are just the small ways in which we have needed to change or modify our own outlook as we learn how to live here. Some things have been hilariously different, and other things have been tremendously hard, but we are thankful for the opportunity to live here and discover how other people exist.

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