Lemon Water

Open Skies, Restful Mind, and a Joyful Spirit: Bolivia

It’s really hard for me to explain how much visiting my family means to me, and how much it affects me. It’s hard to put to words how the landscape itself means peace to me, how deeply ingrained it is that the beautiful red, purple tints in the earth, the rock formations, mean my roots and my spiritual haven. Anytime I come, I actually think or feel spiritual. To me, La Paz is… La Paz is… it’s home.

Partly it is because of my family. Correction: it is the most essential part of the whole experience, actually. But it is strange to think of how tied in the landscape is, the way I literally stare at my city like I’m trying to drink it with my eyes. I am parched. My soul becomes parched, my mind, my heart, everything is suddenly filled with what I don’t always realize I need. It’s liberating. It’s vital to me. Can you imagine how I felt after two years?

It was going home.

Watching the immigrations official look at our passports, feeling the chilly air spinning around me at around two in the morning, the light headed feeling I get from the oxygen deprival in that altitude… felt so unreal. I could hardly believe I was home. It only really started hitting me when we walked outside the airport, and I was almost hit by the fresh, clean, cold air. The tang of Eucalyptus, the way the air felt so much more… alive. Clear. It even tasted of home! It was such a strange difference to the musty, oppresive air in Lima I had become so used to…

Silently watching the taxi driver my aunt had hired to pick us up, Poli, load our suitcases up, drives us down, down from El Alto to La Paz, wondering at how open the sky was, how clear… how free…

The sky in La Paz could almost literally pull my soul up.

I don’t know how to tell you what it feels like when for the first time in two years you drive down the steep winding road to see your home unfolding itself. To see the walls, the mountain, the spires, lit under the street lamps and feel something squeeze you inside and reassure you that this was real, that it… that this place belongs to you. La Paz is a gorgeous place; the spires, the mountains, the colours, the… the… I’m tearing up just remembering the ride.

Of course, I was somewhat grounded when Poli started discussing with my mom about the way that the crime rate had started increasing. La Paz has also been a pretty calm place, as far as I remember. I always boast (yes, boast) of how much safer it is than the other countries I’ve lived in (although, honestly, a lot of places are a lot safer than Honduras, and Peru isn’t exactly clean, either). I guess I really am more of the Air element, but that I lose my head in the clouds isn’t news; my father always says I’m in “la luna de Paita” (The moon of Paita: an expression).

Getting “home”, or really, my aunt’s home, was extremely calming too. While it was pretty damn early, my aunt and one of my cousins received us and helped us climb the flight of stairs with our bags. (Note to altitude newbs: If you are at around 3000 meters above sea level, don’t carry anything heavy for the first few days, or you will suffer from Sorojchi, altitude sickness. Trust me, you don’t want it. It comes from your body not getting enough oxygen from the thinner air. After a few days, your body has produced more red blood cells so you absorb more oxygen from the less condensed amount there. Oddly enough, it has been noted that returning to sea level by airplane after being in altitude results in swollen feet.)

My cousins are lovely people.

The youngest, who was there, is a very talented, interesting young man (I feel weird calling him that… but he is. Or is it man by now? o-o;). He actually does graphic design, although I have seen him in my mind as a healer for a long time now. (Don’t ask… well, Steph can, I guess : D Oh Gtalk.) He is a pretty damn talented photographer, uses photoshop very creatively, and actually gets paid for it (although that has it’s share of troubles…). I only wish he would put his art online, because I’m pretty sure he could sell prints that way, and I like keeping track of things of that. You only have to see the number of artists I watch on deviantArt!).  I sometimes find it very hard to communicate with him, but I think sometimes just listening to him is enough. My cousins are very refreshing people. *nods*

The oldest, who came three (or two?) days later, a very spiritual woman. I love my cousin Diani, and I’m very happy to say that we (and a few others!) travelled together away from parents to Koroico. (More on that later.) She’s had a long journey to finding what she wants to do (education) but I’m happy my cousin is such a mature woman… I liked sharing with her a lot, and I’m glad my brother got very close to her too. It’s surprising how easily we all reconnect despite the long separations. I also deeply admire her, and hope to someday be as happy as she is… to be honest, mosto f my family seems really happy. Diani is a really sweet cousin too ❤ so it was easier to hug her and feel at peace. (I also discovered that I’m not very good at expressing love through words this vacation, but I think my hugs took care of the whole thing.)

The middle child, who I unfortunately saw for a really short time, as he arrived days before we left, is studying cinematography in Buenos Aires. He is doing very well from what I hear, and while I didn’t really get to talk to him a lot (I ended up writing a note saying that even though we hadn’t talked much, I had missed him a lot and was glad he was there, so that he could find it on returning one late night), he is also somebody I’m proud to be related to. Honestly, it’s hard to say how much I love my cousins, and I really think my mom’s side of the family has something I see little in other families… it is a lot more united than my dad’s side, although I would say that side is uniquely temperamental.

My aunt is a very special woman who has supported these three children very well, from my impression, and is actually my godmother. Seeing as how she is the one that always welcomes us, it makes sense that I would love her. Oh dammit, I love my whole family, all of them, and my mind is going mushy from thinking about them, which might be why my descriptions of them are slowly deterioating. I also don’t want to give too much information away. Let me say that I love her very much, that special little witch (don’t worry, it’s her nickname), and her warmth and support, the way she always considers what we want when we get home after a long time (such as a very big box of Salteñas so we can delight in the taste) is special. Honestly, my aunt gives a lot of her to all of us.

After arriving, we spent most of the time acclimatizing, watching movies (By the way, Wall-e is adorable), and my doing the sundry task of homework. (I read and took notes of 17 chapters in my big book on computers for my ITGS class, so I’d say I did pretty well). Unfortunately, my mom got sick, and said it was probably becasue she “was waiting for a safe place to collapse and be sick in” as she “had been on the edge of being sick for a long time now”. We also went to the Tennis Club we belong to (well, my brother and I went) and met a good (old) friend. While we actually didn’t really do anything after seeing each other in the club, it was nice to see him. I actually wanted to go out with my closer friend, his older sister, who is currently studying in Germany, but she wasn’t there. The same, too, with his older brother, who is hilarious and can get along with anybody, but he was also away, studying in France. It’s funny, because my mom commented that she would have liked me to date a guy like that. (Honestly, mom, when did you become a matchmaker? Although I do approve of the choice, I did think of him as a friend first than a love interest.) But that is a different subject.

My brother was also a lot nice, and sweeter, throughout the whole stay. I’m pretty happy about that, and hopefully it will last a while now we’re back in Lima.

I also want to stop a moment and say two magical words: Salteña. Chairo. Those two dishes I missed dearly! Hmmm, the taste of good old Bolivian food… Lima might be the culinary capital of Latin America, but I seriously missed my heritage in the form of food. (I am aware that Salteñas can be found in Lima, and we buy them every so often from a Bolivian lady who lives here, but honestly, the ones in La Paz are better. Hmmmmm *lost in daydreams*)

I mentioned that I travelled with my cousin, didn’t I?

Well, we went to Coroico, and had a great time. We went with another cousin, (more of my cousin’s cousin, but…), her cousin’s maid’s daughter (who is like a sister to her), and a friend of theirs, (who was great, too!). We stayed at somebody’s friend’s house, which was somewhat away from the town so we would end up hiking carefully so we don’t slip in the mud for about 30 minutes to get back to where we were staying. I am pretty happy to report that I am reasonable at cooking in a team (though it was pretty easy cooking), and that we all got along lovely. I’m pretty glad I made new friends, and Laura (my cousin’s cousin’s sister in all but blood) and I shared a lot of tastes; namely, Harry Potter and reading. On the bus ride to Coroico, we spent hours discussing it and the characters, what happened, and how good the books where (and what the bad parts were). I loved talking to her, partly because she was the closes to my age at 16, while the others are… what? Nearly 30? (I suck at ages). Mati, (cousin’s cousin) was also a very fun person to have and talk to, although she did contribute the least to the kitchen. Mari (friend) also guided me through some questions I had (wooo, holistic practices! *shot*). Diani, (cousin) was just plain charming and a love to have all around.

While we were there, we went to some beautiful cascades, and swam there. While the only negative thing in the whole trip happened there, (Laura’s glasses and my sunglasses were stolen), I must say, they were beautiful, and wading to stand underneath the first cascade that felt like hail on our skin was incredibly invigorating. There really is something beautiful in nature, and we all thanked the cascade. The second one we went to was almost like a public pool, although it was pretty fun to swim there. The odd and funny thing was that when we arrived, a group of guys asked to have a photo taken of them with us. (They probably ended up showing them off and saying “see the gringa I hanged out with?” Or perhaps they said we were gauchas, but the truth is very few people realize we are Paceñas.) On the way back we bought some deliciously juicy mangos. We also went to some pools, one in a really nice hotel, Hotel Gloria, so I would recommend it for the view and the architecture, as the place used to be the prefecture or something like that.

We also went dancing for three nights at the discos. We ended up prefering one over the others (Tropical? Paraiso? Dammit, I forgot it’s name!) because it had a far more diverse selection of music, and a lot of more space to dance at. I can honestly say that Laura and I outdanced everybody. We felt like Queens of the dancefloor, and the three older girls kept commenting that we made “bolsa” (literally, “bags”) out of them. The owner was so pleased we livened up his place so much he actually ended up giving us a free round of delicious drinks (something “Yungeño” I believe, I think it was maracuya with Singani? Disclaimer: I did not get drunk. Although I did drink. ) While most of the time we spent the time with beer, we kept burning the alcohol with the dancing. I love this part of latin american culture: the habit of going out dancing. I’m not too fond of the guys who keep approaching you even when you say “no” many times, (Gods, one of those guys was particularly insistent all night with ALL of us!), but we deal. I also got another of those guys who asked to have a photo of him with me – hilarious! I actually told him I was Paceña, so he was very surprised (to my hilarity). We had a lot of fun, and met a friend of Mati’s, and her mother, with whom I’m very impressed due to her ability to dance, dance, dance, and have fun. (Laura and I are still Queens though, jajajaja!)

The after-effect of all that dancing is that the last two nights were spent in peace because we were simply too tired. Our legs were killing us too.. it literally hurt the soles of my feet to walk the fourth day. But we had our fun.

Overall, it was a very good trip, and I am extremely happy I had it. In college, I definitely need to make a group of “backpacker” friends, although that requires a special type of people… (and not so much rich Limean kids who are used to everything. You should have heard how the girls kept complaining in the Tambopata trip!) Although when we returned, we did all fall sick from spending so much time walking around in wet clothes. (Hey, the cascades and pools, with no towels, meant walking around wet till we dried out in the sun!)

When I returned, my cousin Eto had returned from his trip to Chile! This cousin is on my dad’s side, and my uncle and my dad are actually… not on good terms, but it was really good to see him and my uncle. My father’s side of my family is pretty unique if I may say, as in food loving, temperamental and world jogging people go. (I think that it seems almost like they can’t live in the same city, because seeing each other so much would result in fighting, but oh well. I love my family and we do our best to get past stuff like this.)

This is a very sweet cousin, and although he has gotten shyer than the last time, we has a great time once we got back on track, which didn’t take too long. I got to meet one of his friends too, and slept over at his house twice, (once at his mom’s place, another at his dad’s).  He also had the amazing game that is Okami, and I have decided that is one game I need to buy and pass before I move away (if I move to University…). Eto was also pretty fun to talk to, and I’m really glad we had the sleepovers. My brother and I also went with him to a grill at my uncle’s girlfriend’s house (wait… does “girlfriend” apply at that age?) It was funny, because I kept flip flopping between the younger generation (brother and cousin) and the adults there. There were these two adorable Brazilian kids there, and while at times I found it hard to understand them, we got along just fine. I ate… and ate… and ate… and was happy all around. Definitely characteristic of my dad’s side of the family, to be honest.

I also had my two uncles (mom’s side of the family) there. The youngest is my lovely sweet uncle, with an adorable chatty and imaginative son of 5 (Adorableadorabletalkslikearadiokidwhosaysthemostamazingthingsforakid), with whom it is great to be with and and… I’m already melting in the happiness of remembering. It’s really hard to describe him though, so I think I will move on <-<; sorry people, but I also think this post is getting exceedingly large.

My other uncle, my mom’s oldest brother, is a very spiritual genius who is very, very unique. I love him too, and have to say that has the most interesting topics and works. He once wrote a book based on his friendship with an Andean shaman, and knows a lot about Andean cloths and the meaning of the patterns and weaves.

Gah, I really can’t explain my family. Let me mention that I didn’t see two members (my aunt and my other cousin…) but I was thinking about them. I love you Lauri and Mane!

Let me finish with my family’s last big dinner. My cousin, who has studied well, culinary studies, made a Paella for the whole family, and brought his son. For the first time, I saw my nephew… yes. I am a tia. My cousin has a gorgeous three month old boy who will “talk” at you for a long time, as if really talking to your or trying to talk to you, and the most charming smile, a sweet face and eyes, the cutest hands and… yes, I am smitten, from only seeing him once. I was excited to see him, (and his father), because I had been unable to see them before. I had been waiting for a long time to see my nephew, and well…

When I was holding him, I started to cry in happiness.

I love my family. I love La Paz. I love Bolivia.

It’s been one of the happiest 18 daysof my life.


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  1. * sababoy says:

    Over there, really nearer than devil, a kind makes me remember you and loving you, I have a God and a world of hope. I keep my head up and pride that I’m lover and didn’t forger you.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 1 month ago

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