15 October 2007

Jesús Christ Superstar

News, news, interesting news. Always interesting news on the blog of The Steve, no? I finished up La Paz by visiting a museum with a Che Guevarra exhibit (the 40th anniversary of his assasination in Bolivia was Oct. 8) and then, while hanging around the Plaza Mayor, saw Evo Morales himself (prez of Bolivia) rush from an entourage of vehicles into the Presidential palace. Lots of interesting characters went in and came out, including quite a few campesinos in traditional garb. Evo seems quite popular among them. Other people think he's a glorified drug lord.

Next, I took a night bus (full bed, six hours) from La Paz some days ago to Cochabamba, where I have been trying to organize for about a month my first couchsurfing experience. For those who don't know about couchsurfing--and want to be able to stay anywhere in the world for free--Google yourselves on over to their site. I've known about it for awhile, but I never used it before. Then, a friend from Japan (thanks, Jamie!) told me she used it all the time there. I wish I'd tried it before, because hostels and hotels in Japan are "hella" expensive. I didn't think Bolivia would be the first place I'd hit, but an extremely generous German gentleman, Matthias, who lives in Cochabamba extremely generously offers for as long as you like a luxurious bedroom with king size bed and full ensuite bathroom (two sinks!). He's the one who wrote the greatest email ever, previously posted, and it turns out he's a retired banker living a very nice life here in a very nice apartment, which I am now sharing. He picked me up at the bus station at 6:30 am in his 1978 Land Cruiser, fed me, and took me around town and then up to the giant statue of Jesus that looms (is that the right word? glories?) over Cochabamba. Having been quite incensed that the statue of Christ Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro was elected one of the new seven wonders of the world (and not Angkor Wat!), I was pleased to learn (because I have no plans to visit $100 visa Brazil) that the one here is a smidgen taller. Lots of cities in Sur America have these statues. I don't know if it's for religious reasons or if they are just trying to outdo one another (Christ Envy?).

I should add that in an amazing and unexpected twist of fate, another couchsurfer, American Katie, beat me by two days to Matthias' apartment, which is first-come, first-served. But she's cool, so I haven't minded sleeping on a mattress in the living room. She also has a sprained ankle, so she ought to have the comfort I neither need nor am used to. We've been hanging, the group of us (including Matthias' Bolivian girlfriend, Marlena). Yesterday, Matthias drove us to a small town called Morochata several hours of spectacular Andean scenery away from Cochabamba. He loves screwing around with the four-wheel drive, and most roads in Bolivia are basically off-road, so opportunities abound. When we returned for coffee, we ran into his friend Anthony, who is an engineer working on Cochabamba's new water tunnel. I was very interested to talk to him, since I wanted to come here specifically because of the "water war" of eight years ago. But more on that next time, after I've actually visited the tunnel.

Today, I started the morning off by getting a follow-up blood test at the third clinic we went to looking for someone who can test phenytoin levels. The nurse didn't put a catheter in my arm, just a needle, out of which the blood dripped, into a testtube she held under it. Weird. Then, we went to get Matthias' LC washed, had more coffee at the Café Paris, and browsed around (just Katie and I) Cochabamba's giant market, Cancha. Earlier, Katie had broken her sunglasses by falling out of a tree onto them, so she had to buy new ones. At the same "Optico", I found and bought (very cheaply!) what I've been searching for my whole life, or at least since December: glasses with magic frames that can bend impossibly in every direction and second generation transition lenses. Once again, score!

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