Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Slow Afternoon

This has been a welcome, but very slow weekend for me. My big activity for the day was to go see a Bolivian movie, The Andes Don’t Believe in God.

I took a taxi to the Cine Center, a large and modern theater, with an admission price of just over $2 before 4 p.m.

The movie was about the mining life, the mix of immigrants, the local vibe, and the women in the southern town of Uyuni in the 1920s. This is a place I would like very much to visit. There are some salt flats nearby that I hear are incredibly beautiful.

The movie was good. Best of all was the immersion in Spanish and the fact that I was able to understand almost everything.

After the movie, I decided to walk around and try to find some lunch. The neighborhood was filled with small but attractive, upper-middle-class gated houses. There were barely any people on the street. And this made me feel unsafe. I had thought about walking all the way to the center of town, but I felt I stuck out as a single woman walking alone and I didn’t want to take the risk. So when I found a populated area near a park, I decided to stop.

I had a delicious buffet lunch for under $2, I listened to a five man band of guitars, accordion and trumpets play pleasant, upbeat music, and I watched a clown make flowers, swords, and bears holding onto a heart for tips. As long as I was within the fenced in area of the restaurant, busy with family diners coming through the turnstile, taking their plate, and filling it with salads, rice, beans, and stewed meats and chickens, it was fine. But leaving that area alone made me feel unsafe. I didn’t like having to call for a taxi and wait for it, nor the feeling that exploring alone here isn’t a very good idea.

Before coming, I expected to feel some anti-Americanism in a country led by someone friends with Hugo Chavez. I have to say I don’t feel that at all. Like in most places of the world, people think Bush is an idiot. I attended a comedy show called The Chaplin Show and several of the skits portrayed humorous meetings between Evo Morales and Bush. But they seem to be OK with American as a country and a people, aside from its politics.

While the majority of Bolivians looking to make money immigrate to Spain, there is also substantial contact with the U.S. One woman I spent time with last week told me her mother immigrated illegally to the Arlington, VA area, where there is an entire street of Bolivians. She has spent the last six years caring for an elderly woman and is now in the process of becoming legal. She combs the woman’s hair and puts make-up on for her. Now the woman is in her final stages and is receiving morphine shots. This Bolivian loves her so much that she calls her daughter daily, crying at how hard it is to watch her die.

It seems to me to be a mutually beneficial situation. The family probably would have had trouble finding an American to care for this woman 24 hours a day with such quality concern for $3,000 a month. And for this 50-year old Bolivian woman, who was considered too old to work in Bolivia, it not only gave her a place to live and a job in America, the work made her feel useful and gave her a new purpose in life.

Since many of the shops were closed, I headed back to my new apartment after lunch. My taxi driver said it was common for businesses to be closed on Saturday afternoons.

“The movement occurs in the evenings,” he said.

Not for me. I’m spending my evening listening to cello music, reading and writing, and enjoying my pretty new surroundings.

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