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Sights, sounds, and sentimientos

July 29, 2006

Yesterday in Santa Cruz, Paul and I enjoyed a breakfast of deliciously sweet chicken and veggie salteños (empanada-like snacks) and fresh-squeezed OJ from the Mercado de 7 Calles; total cost: 7 Bolivianos, less than US$1.  After window-shopping for an hour or so (can you call it window shopping when there are no windows in the markets?), we headed toward the main plaza to change a few travelers checks and buy a snack of cheese bread balls, also a common snack in Brazil.  Along the way, we dodged cars with deftness, as is necessary in a city where most intersections don´t even have a stop sign.

After eating our snack, we walked across the tree-lined plaza to the cathedral to get a better look inside than we had the evening before.  As we sat in the last pew taking in the architecture, an unwealthy, tired-looking man with a dark mustache and troubled, but kind, eyes, walked in and sat down a few pews in front of us.  For some reason, he caught my attention–and empathy–and as Paul and I walked toward the side exit on our way out, I took in a deep breath and breathed out a wish for solace for him.  When I turned around to glance in his direction before stepping out the door, his eyes were turned towards mine.

I had pizza for dinner and an ice-cream sundae for dessert last night.  I never do that.  Aside from the few pieces of broccoli and cauliflour on the pizza, I had no vegetables yesterday–only bread, fat, and fruit.  So far I´m allowing myself to enjoy the indulgence, but I imagine my healthy conscience will catch up to me before we return home.

Did you notice the contradiction between the previous two paragraphs?  It´s a struggle to strike a balance between enjoying the experience while not taking advantage of our relative wealth.  I´ve been trying to buy food, snacks, and souvenirs from street vendors as often as possible so as to put my money where it is most needed.  Unfortunately, because of health concerns, we can only buy breads and snacks from street vendors and typically stick to better restaurants for full meals, but we´re doing what we can to be responsible travelers.

Now we´re in Tarija, Bolivia´s wine capital.  It´s much more Argentina-like than Santa Cruz, which reminded me much more of eastern and southern Mexico.  It reminds me a bit of La Plata, where I stayed for a week to participate in a design charette while I was studying abroad in Brazil.  The weather is also more Argentinian:  right now we´re bundled up in fleece, gloves, and hats.

Paul and I relaxed right into the local culture in Tarija this afternoon after arriving via AeroSur from Santa Cruz.  We ate a large, leisurely lunch at a churrasqueria (also common in Brazil and Argentina), then returned to our hotel for a two-hour nap to finish out the siesta.  I guess we were more tired than we had thought from our 6 a.m. departure for the airport this morning.

Right now we´re on our way back from an Arts Fest-like street fair in celebration of Santa Anita.  One interesting difference (aside from the less expensive arts and crafts):  there were whole blocks full of foosball tables that children and teens were enthusiastically playing along the sides of the main festival route!

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