Thursday, April 28, 2005

Fun with LAB!

We begin our winter/summer (depending on where you live) vacation with a trip to Peru.

We bought tickets on LAB Airlines, Bolivia´s main airline, to fly from Cochabamba to Cusco, Peru via La Paz. The flight was on June 9.

LAB, for reasons known only to them, cancelled the June 9 flight. They only fly to Cusco a few times a week, so the closest flights were June 7 or June 11. No other airline flies from La Paz to Cusco.

LAB put us on the June 11 flight from La Paz to Cusco, without our consent, and kept us on the June 9 Cochabamba to La Paz flight. That would give us a roughly 48 hour layover in the La Paz airport. A bit much, I think, sitting around in El Alto at 13,000 feet with the toddlers for two days. Well, it is also idiotic.

We asked LAB to change both flights to June 7. They would not do it without charging us $30 per ticket.

Let us review for a second. 1. They cancelled the flights we bought. 2. They put us on a flight of their own choosing. 3. They insist we pay a total of $120 to change to a flight we actually want.

It was at this point that I learned Megan can tear someone a new a##hole in 2 languages. You are truly bi-lingual when you can do that.

A further wrinkle: While it will cost us $120 to change our clusterf#$ked tickets from June 9 and 11 to the June 7 flights, we can cancel the tickets we currently have without penalty. So, we cannot change the tickets, despite the fact that LAB is responsible for their being messed up, but we can get a refund and just go buy new tickets for the 7th for the same price as our original tickets.

Life in Bolivia.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Crazy disease hit parade

Little Papi spent a fun weekend battling rotavirus, which despite the fact that it kills 600,000 kids a year, he seemed to handle just fine.

Well, I guess if by ¨fine¨ I mean sleeping 22 hours a day, waking only to throw up and to lay some nasty diarrhea on us. There is no treatment -- you just try as best you can to load them up on fluids and try and keep them down.

So, since we have no television, radio, computer, newspapers, telephone or, really, much else, we need to amuse ourselves with fun little games we make up.

This weekend it was Mac Puke Roulette. Here is how it works: Mac, would lay motionless in Megan's lap. He refused to drink, so we would fill up a little syringe with chicken soup broth. Megan would then inject the broth in his mouth. That is one shot. We would continue giving him shots of soup broth, seeing how much we could get in him without him puking. Invariably, we'd say ¨just one more!¨, which would be followed by him puking all of our hard work up. We always gave him one too many shots. Poor bastard.

So, Mackey Boy is feeling much better today and had some Ades calcium fortified apple juice and a tortilla for breakfast. He held it down and had a lot of energy. But he was already skinny before his rotavirus, and now I swear he must weigh 16lbs. He is a little skeleton, but at least he is not victim 600,001 this year.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Rat Bastards

You may recall my bitching a while ago about the fact that we do not have any trash pick-up in Cochabamba. Instead, I would drag the bags a few blocks away to a giant green dumpster. These dumpsters are all over town. Most people, aparently, are unable to figure out what the dumpsters are for, as Cocha has a LOT of trash strewn about its streets (unlike La Paz, Sucre, Oruro and other Bolivian cities, whose citizens manage to find where the trash goes).

Well, a couple months ago we started having trash pick up. It was nice. Three days a week, I would hear the telltale clang clang clang, and Jane and I would open our gate and hand our bags to the trash man, who would throw them in the back of a dilapidated old 3-wheel Gruman tractor. Jane, by the way, more often than not did this in her underpants (¨My legs were hot,¨ she would tell me every day when I asked why her pants had magically disappeared).

Well, a few weeks ago the trash men stopped coming. Aparently EMSA, the trash company, is broke. Its workers are refusing to pick up my trash because, well, they aren´t getting paid. Don´t blame them.

Well, it took me a week to figure out that the trash men weren´t coming back. In the meantime, a pile of 6 trash bags formed in the area in front of our house, next to the front door that lets us out of the massive 10 foot walls that guard our meager possessions from the riff raff (man would burglers be pissed if they targeted us thinking we were rich gringos. ¨Donde esta the f$%king furniture,¨ they would ask each other).

Now, this gets funny because one night I opened the front door to go and lock the gate.

And a herd of some 6 or 8 giant RATS scurried out from my trash pile and escaped under the gate.

The next day, Jheyson and I took all of the trash to a dumpster.

Undetered, 3 of these RATS came back that afternoon. At 2PM. In full daylight. Obviously, I didn´t intimidate them. They poked and prodded around where the bags used to be for about half an hour. And I can prove it because from the safety of our living room, I videotaped them!

Now, let me tell you that these are RATS. These are not cute little field mice like we used to get in our basement back in Chelmsford, MA. Smokey, our cat, would kill them and bring them into the kitchen as gifts.

No, these bastards are gigantic, vicious South American river rats. They are BIGGER than Smokey was. Put a freaking mask on them and they are raccoons. I kid you not -- these are genuine monsters!

We get them I guess because we live just above the Rio Rocha, which is actually more of a trash dump with a small stream running through it, than it is a proper river. We live in a cul-de-sac, which has a big drain at one end. Said drain runs straight to the river. So, there is basically a rat highway coming right to my door.

Now our tale gets really creepy.

Saturday Lourdes was cleaning up the little patio area near our front door. She noticed a lot of rat poop around the front door. Then she noticed teeth marks on the bottom of our front door (which already has an inch gap under it).

The giant rats are slowly eating their way into our house.

Monday, April 11, 2005

It´s All About the Kids

The kid´s day parade took place on Sunday. What a trip!

We got down to Plaza Colon around 9AM, as instructed. Brave enough to come along with us was fellow Portlander Melissa, a friend of our friends Nicole and Matt. Melissa is in town as part of her epic South America trip.

The parade had already started, and we quickly met up with Jane´s class. Jane got dressed in her cute little school uniform of blue skirt and white-orange-blue polo shirt. We made our way to the parade ¨staging area,¨ and I use the term very loosely. Basically, it was complete mayhem.

Now, there is a parade every week in Bolivia. You would think they would be really, really good at parades. They are not. There was absolutely zero organization.

So the kids crowd into this narrow street south of the plaza, filled with other groups of preschoolers. We kind of nudge our way into the crowd and claim a place in the marching order. So do other groups. Some cut in front of us. Finally, after about an hour of jockeying in the sun, we start to work our way back towards the plaza.

Turns out there is no official staging area. It is every man for himself.

As we get to the plaza, a group comes in from the left and cuts in between our ¨parade car¨ (a beat up blue Toyota covered with paper flowers) and our preschoolers. A parade organizer does not understand why this is not a good idea, and tries to let this group cut literally in the middle of ours.


Things get heated. The directora of our school is yelling at the parade official. He yells back. One parent shoves the official and attempts to kick his ass. Other parents pull the official away before he gets hurt. Mind you, thirty 3 and 4 year old kids are watching this.

Me? I am videotaping the spectacle and laughing. It´s all about the kids, right?

We move a little closer to the start of the parade route and groups are merging in from a third direction. It is like when you are lined up to board an airplane, and people are just coming in from every direction. Madness.

Finally we get on the course. But many parents have decided they will march too, right next to the kids. So, we have 30 kids in two neat rows, COMPLETELY SURROUNDED by a cocoon of parents. Spectators literally cannot see any of the kids!!! And it is not just our group -- every group marching is like this. It is a kids parade and you cannot see any of the kids!! Looney!

Anyway, that was our day at the big kids´ parade. Tuesday Jane has to wear a costume to school because it is Kids Day. Lourdes said she can supply the costume, because her neices have some. Jane has her choice between dressing as a cholita or as a cat. Jane has dressed like a cholita before, and I think it is hilarious (a cholita is an indiginous woman, who dresses in the pleated skirts and wears a hat of some sort -- a bowler hat in La Paz, or a straw hat in Cocha). Jane wants to be the cat, though.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

This Week in Bolivia

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but I have been busy doing stuff like finalizing our travel plans for this summer. Trying to coordinate airplanes, hotels, cars, etc. when you are visiting 6 countries is a bitch. Thank god for the internet. I am also working on a story for a big U.S. newspaper, and that takes most of my remaining internet time.

There is a big parade here this weekend, where all the kids from pre-schools will march around town. Jane will be marching with her school. Of course, this means that we need to buy her a school uniform. We also have to pay to take part in the parade. Oh, and there is some holiday next week where we need to rent Jane a costume. And for some reason we need to pay for all or a portion of the school´s gardening bill this month. Can´t figure that one out.

Jane´s school is great, but every damn day they tell me I need to pay more money or buy something. Last week I had to buy a white glove. Just one. The week before it was ribbon. The week before that it was blue and green jello. And they always need it immediately, which can be impossible since most of the stuff I need to travel half way across town and spend 4 hours tracking down. Don´t forget that huge list of crap I had to buy her at the beginning of the school year. It is nuts.

We´re into fall here now, and to be honest I can´t tell that much of a difference. Every day is the same: Cool and sunny in the morning, warm bordering on hot in the afternoon, cooling back down around dinner time. The weather is actually pretty nice here, I will give Cochabamba that.