Pickpockets: Let them pick paper!
20 Dec 2009
Pickpockets are a reality when you travel to some locations, especially during the holidays. There are many ways to reduce your risk. Here's an easy one: After placing your belongings in your front pocket, place a fold of tissue just inside the same pocket so that it's most accessible. Everyone wins. You get to keep your money and the pickpocket can wipe his tears over the one who got away. I learned this trick in Bolivia and use it every day abroad.
Festivals & Events
Wear a raincoat during Carnaval
06 Feb 2009
It doesn't matter if it's raining or not. It doesn't matter where you're going. Always wear a raincoat during Carnaval season in Bolivia -- especially if you can't pass for Bolivian, and most especially if you have blond hair. During this raucous celebration, water balloons abound, and children take particular pleasure in hurling them at unsuspecting gringos. I arrived in Bolivia smack in the middle of Carnaval, and the very first time I ventured into the streets of La Paz, I had an entire bucket of water dumped on my head. It wasn't quite the welcome I was looking for.
Say farewell to vegetables
09 Feb 2009
Bolivians are not big on vegetables; meat and starch comprise the bulk of most Bolivian meals. I've never been a big meat eater, and I had to accustom myself to eating meat two to three times per day. My host family's favorite dinner was steak, french fries, and fried eggs. There were some vegetables available: We often started meals with a vegetable-based soup, and occasionally some steamed cabbage found its way onto my plate. But beware: Salads are few and far between.
Hey, that's my drink!
06 Jan 2010
If you go drinking with Bolivians, don't be surprised if a considerable quantity of your beverage ends up on the floor. A common method of alcohol consumption is communal -- three beer glasses among seven people, or two buckets of chicha circulating around a party. Before drinking, it's customary to raise your glass (or gourd) to someone and pour some of your drink out. This bit goes to the Pachamama, the mother earth. If you are in a bar, it's preferred to dip your finger in your drink and flick some out rather than making the floor impassable. Either way, don't mourn the loss; in some instances it could just be what saves you in a marathon Bolivian drinking session.