Friday, March 13, 2015

My Bolivian Experience

By Lloyd Jones

I never knew much about Bolivia or La Paz before I came here. I expected it to be similar to other South American countries such as Peru and Brazil, but after arriving here in La Paz I developed a different outlook on the country. The city itself is not large, but with a population of around one million people it is densely populated and neighbours live in very close quarters. La Paz is surrounded by dusty, rocky mountains which add to the character of the city in their own unique way. There is dense traffic in La Paz, which can put some people off the city and causes a lot of noise but on the up side you don’t have to wait long for public transport; it runs like water. The city has many streets and it seems as though there’s a lot of people and you may not see the same face more than once. La Paz also has nice, relaxing areas like parks and viewpoints where you feel like you´re out of all the hustle and bustle and are good if you need some alone or quiet time. However there are some sights that may make you feel a bit upset; there are many homeless people on the street and people living in extreme poverty, there are children working on the streets to make money who will shine shoes, work on market stalls or sell sweets and souvenirs on the streets. The city has a variety of markets such as the witches market where you will find traditional clothing like ponchos, t-shirts, hats and more, but for a tourist price. There is also a miniatures market where you can find good luck items like a miniature house or money, which mean you will own a house or have wealth, but for them to work they have to be given as a gift. I am yet to visit a market in a town called El Alto where apparently you can find random items for a good price.
I have visited other parts of Bolivia such as the Salar de Uyuni which looks like a barren wasteland but after travelling through there I know that it is actually a spectacular place. You have the salt flats which were once an ocean but now are just a dry, salty seabed and you can also visit the hot springs and the old volcanic steam holes.
I am currently volunteering as a zebra in La Paz, the role of which is to do workshops on reducing noise pollution as it is a noisy city. Another part of the role is to work as a zebra for a day, dressing in a zebra suit and work on the streets of the city but on this cohort we have been doing fewer activities with the zebras. On the upside we have done various other workshops in homes for children who have been on the streets, in which we have been building their self-esteem and communication skills through sports and other fun activities. I found these activities very rewarding. So my conclusion on Bolivia is it is a wonderful, cultural place. There is still more to write about but I don’t think I have enough pages to talk about my experiences here; it’s something you have to see and experience yourself. If anyone does decide to visit Bolivia or La Paz and are told to bring warm clothing just bring summer clothes, especially if you´re from the UK because it doesn´t get as cold as I thought, it’s like sitting in a microwave. But do bring an umbrella.

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