Friday evening, one week after arriving in Bolivia, I´m sitting in the Casa International living room with Thomás´s two dogs. He is out with this wife and son, bowling, for family night. I´ve just finished The Girl Who Played With Fire, and I´m covered in dirt and paint from the worksite, but there hasn´t been any water for the last two hours. And so I kill time.
We´ve nearly finished the first two pieces of our mission–the digging of the garden and the painting of one previously very orange, very ugly set of shelves. Although we did break the mirror, which we´re replacing, and I ran out of paint before giving one of the doors a second coat. Today we also helped Claire, another foreign vounteer there, drown a mouse and set traps.
Last night, John, Thomás and I went to a wine bar around the corner to have Bolvian wine and chew coca, which Thomás carried in a green plastic bag in his vest pocket. You take a small wad, maneuver it into your cheek, add a little baking soda and just let it be there.
Almost instantly my mind felt clearer and the baking soda made my tongue go numb. The only other documentable effect was that we drank three bottles in a few hours and walked out like it was nothing.
Llama fetuses in the withcraft section of La Cancha, one of the world´s largest open air markets. These are apparently part of offerings made to Pachamama–buried at the site of a new house, for example. But the arrangement all depends on what sort of protection or good fortune you are after. And it´s a gruesome corridor to walk down.
There are also little packets of good fortune–tiny dollar bills and other things made of gold colored foil mounted on a piece of cardboard–that are made to be carried in wallets or in your car.
I had fingered a little owl figurine back in the handicraft section and asked Jean Carla if she could find out what it meant. Wisdom, said the seller–tyical. And for 5 bolivianos, I bought it. Something you can always use.
Most of the graffiti here is people signing there names or occasionally putting penises on people´s security walls.
Cochabamba may not have the most spectacular scenery, and I may be forgoing some of Bolivia´s more exciting sites–Lago Titicaca, the Amazon basin, the salt flats–but it´s spring and it is full of flowers.