Puno – Floating Islands of Uros

Like the floating village of Kampung Luong, here there is a floating island of the school (until 11 years old before they go to Puno for further education), the doctor, a place to get purified water, which they pay taxes to the local government for. Unlike Kampong Luong, here the moment you enter you’re greeted with ‘hola amiga’s and persuasions to buy touristy souvenirs. The kids too, sing on the boat for tips. It makes me a little sad, because our key interactions with locals revolved around $$$ – commoditized relations. But I suppose there’s no good or bad, just different ways of living. (How different would it be to do fieldwork here?)
I suppose I know what it is – it is the fact that in kampong Luong you know the locals are sweet and friendly because they simply are. As always money commoditizes (is there such a word) relations; I suppose the fact that the key interactions we had revolved around purchasing of souvenirs / drinks / selling of jackets did make it feel.. Tainted. But who am I to say what is ‘pure’? Just, money money money.
How different would it be to do fieldwork here? Very, I realise. When looking at the things I was told something about paying for school; I did buy a cup. Truths are malleable by personal agendas I suppose.

there’s something sad about this picture

demo of the construction of the house

The little girl sang on the boat as we floated towards the other island. The sun was setting slowly, quietly, as her melody filled the sky. I felt like I was in a movie.

Isla del Sol – Photojournal

October me says: What the, did I take these beautiful pictures? Was I there? And then I look through again, and it seeps in, the mental images.

 

 

 

 

once upon a time i was there

 

 

 

 

2 layers of llama coat

 

 

 

 

 

loved these
I remember squatting down listening to the shopowner explaining the Pachamama calendar thing to me, which I didn’t quite understand. That square thing had something to do with the way they arranged the sun and the moon during the Inca times, to detail the months and the years. Something like that.
It was breezy, but there was the sun. I walked a lot, up the vast piece of land. I miss doing that.

Copacabana, Bolivia

 Operator said they’ll arrive at 7.30, but came at 7 instead and left without me. Other than getting really pissed off at the taxi driver that tried to scam me, (I shouted at him angrily, which I would like to think is rare because I’m usually excellent at acting in front of strangers). Transport woes aside, I’m safe in Copacabana!
Listening to my Spanish podcasts on yet another (long) bus ride, and this quote they’re teaching truly struck me: el miedo de peligro es diez mil veces más terrorífico que el peligro mismo
The fear of danger is ten thousand times more frightening than danger itself
How absolutely, absolutely true. Yo quiero vivir
My filosofía de vida es que sólo se vive una vez, vive tuvida el máximo es más entretenido
I haven’t been writing for awhile, I suppose I’m pretty tired, and the details are slipping by. Copacabana is beautiful!!
It was a grumpy morning, the grumpier of days I had for awhile. I actually lost my temper. If I’m not wrong (i am not), it’s the first time for this trip. I awoke that morning early, an hour before my bus was due to depart. Packed and waited awhile, soaking in the warmth of my bed. The bus, as the guy in the tour office had scrawled, was to come at 7.30am. 7.30am, he had scrawled. Strangely, I had showed Chau the ticket the night before, we had looked at it (the time) together, but now I couldn’t find it anywhere; I had no idea which company it was.
I wonder if it’s because I was talking to the guy about his Japanese girlfriend and how he was flying there at the end of the year. I wonder if he wrote the wrong time because he was distracted thinking of her.
Apparently, at 645 they had come knocking to look for me, but I had switched room from Ghostbusters to Orphange, the 4-room dorm to the 16-people one. No one came looking for me, though the receptionist later claimed otherwise. All I know is I got down early, and was told the bus had left. Was a little upset, but I had gotten a really good deal for Death Road and 330bs would have been reasonable anyway. The taxi fare, as the guy in the hostel said, and the receptionist herself said, would be 15 bs. My last 15bs (after trading 1usd for 5bs with mariona)
And then I can go to a money changer in Copacabana. Maybe I won’t have to make anymore withdrawals. Good plan, I thought.
When we arrived at the cemetario the taxi driver said it was 20, 20 because the cab was called. On hindsight I really do wonder if he was lying. I said I didn’t have the 5bs, I needed to change money. He drove me about 30s to this ATM, where I withdrew money. Because I had only 100bs notes and passed him one, to get a 95bs change, he initially took the entire 100bs note, looked at me and nodded, indicating in some way ‘thanks, i’m accepting the whole note’. Erm, hello. Necessito cambiar, I said. He then said ‘quince‘, wanting 50bs for the stupid taxi ride that I never wanted in the first place, and that was supposed to cost 15bs, and that i was somewhat charged 20bs for and needed only that 5bs, and total 20 is fine but 50?!?!?!?! I was getting annoyed at this point. You said 20bs, I said. He then said he drove me here to the ATM and that it costs 50 in total because of this extra distance. No freaking way am I paying 50bs for this stupid taxi ride, that was ridiculous!! Completely!!!! I got really angry, and I was like NO, NO I’M NOT GOING TO PAY 50. Like really angry. Shitty morning, shitty bus company that gave me the wrong time and left me, shitty 5bs which might not even be supposed to be, shitty driver that wanted to keep my WHOLE 100bs note. No no no. 20, I said. You said 20. Then he said 30, ok 30, firmly. I thought of arguing, then gave a resigned sigh and said ok 30. He gave me the change and we turned quiet. Actually no, I was swearing fuck and shit under my breath because i was incredibly pissed off, thinking of my morning with the bus company that left me, and especially when I think of the 100 / 50bs thing, UGH.
LESSON LEARNT: TRY TO GET THE EXACT CHANGE WHEN YOU CAN. It’s actually not the first time this ‘change’ thing has happened; on another occasion i bought something and bargained a little, but because i gave a ‘big’ note i received change that was equated to the pre-bargain price. But that’s okay, that i accepted because i know it’s comparably small money to me. the 100 bs just PISSES ME OFF at the thought of it. Sigh.
But okok, at least I got a bus, at least I got a bus. Seriously though, I was so angry. Augmented by everything I suppose.
The bus ride was 20 I think. The salesperson who said it was 30, liars. I met some girls from the UK who said I could probably get it at 15 if i bargained. So i did, a little persistently. The first guy shook his head; I proceeded to remove my backpack from the truck. I just didn’t want to pay MORE anymore. Of course, it’s likely because I was in a grumpy mood; it’s not expensive, for one, and for another the monthly wage is pretty low in Bolivia. I knew deep down the <1usd didn’t make as much a difference to me as it did for him, perhaps. Still. I just didn’t. Not after the shitty taxi driver. There are so many bus companies yelling for customers, less than one minute later another driver walked up to me and asked me if i wanted a ticket. Some brief negotiation later he allowed me the 15bs AND gave me my change!!! Sigh. Got on the bus.
It’s quite strange, but I always think about Why something happens when something more unfortunate happens. It’s automatic, my brain, as though bad things are really meant to happen for something else to happen. You know what I mean? So I tried to figure out why it happened. Why did the bus ticket just disappear? Was I meant to take this local bus? Why did this happen? How did it make my experience different?

Did that happen so I got to catch local scenes like these? They were very interesting, and the kind of street bustle here was different from that of the city centre in La Paz.

muy bonito!

I was in the bus, looking out of the window and dazing, when my view suddenly bobbed. Why are we bobbing? It took me awhile to realize that I was on a boat. Why am I bobbing? Did the vehicle grow some kind of paddle like Duck Tours? I looked out. There were others standing outside, and from the view it looked like we were sailing. the door opened. I crept out excitedly. Ah, now I get it; the bus had reversed into this ‘boat’ of sorts. Some women had gotten off, a man asked for money. Some lady (Cholita) looked at me and shook her head, waving her hand, indicating for me not to pay. I didn’t quite understand, i simply ignored. That night I read through my pre-trip notes on Copacabana:
“It takes 3-4 hours to get from La Paz to Copacabana by bus. About an hour before your arrival the bus reaches the Peninsula of Copacabana, a finger of water that divides the lake. Your bus will cross by barges, while passengers hop on a quick 10-minute ferry. This shortens the trip considerably, but passengers are expected to buy their own fare for the ferry. Remember to bring some cash with you to pay the boat captain since the cost isn’t included with your bus ticket. The ferry will cost less than 20 Bolivianos.”
I think I was supposed to pay for the ferry ticket, but i didn’t. Seriously though, Bolivia can be a little strange. Sometimes people pay and sometimes people don’t. E.g. recalling the Rurrenabaque airport tax
Yeah, maybe this boat experience is the experience I got in place of the tourist bus. Meh tourist buses. Go the local way, gogogogo. (Hahaha, sour grapes)

I know, I should stop taking photos of Cholitas secretly but I can’t help it!! It’s just somewhat fascinating, sometimes I see them walking around and I can’t quite believe it’s not a performance of sorts. That hat, that sack, that adorable puffy skirt, those braids. Sigh. SUCH A BAD THOUGHT, Other-ing but it’s truly how I feel I guess. Need more time to get used to it.
After reaching Copacabana I walked a little to look for a hostel. I’m starting to appreciate the flexibility of not booking a hostel in advance. It’s really great actually, to just be able to enter one, know it’s a reasonable price and not hunt for the one you booked. (think san pedro)
That’s one aspect I’ve learnt I suppose, I used to think it’s necessary to pre-book everything but this flexibility, i do appreciate.

Such a big room!! ALL TO MYSELFFFFF WOW

This hostel costs 20bs a night, supposedly shared room but I’m the only one. I think it’s low-season here – the restaurants are priced so cheaply, the menu del dia is 15bs to 30bs. $3usd a night hostel, $3usd set meals with appetizer (soap), main course and dessert. Really!
I ate heartily that day, I ate 2 menu del dias – for lunch and dinner. It’s been so long since i last felt this full and satisfied. I mean, an empanada in Chile is 10usd, no way I could eat properly there. But here, a full course for $3! Life is good. Good hostel, good food; at last, at last I’m living well. (for awhile)
Met a Columbian and we explored the place together. met another Columbian guy. I listened to them, and spoke a little. I would say I’m improving, I’ve improved, really. Understanding more when I listen, picking up the words commonly used, and speaking more comfortably myself.
In Bolivia I hear firecrackers quite a lot. Randomly too, in the day, in the evening, in the night. What kind of celebration is it? Sometimes I ask.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walked a short distance up for the view – met a Bolivian couple on the way, and offered to help them take a picture. They nodded, and each proceeded to take photos with me, before adding me on fb 😂 This altitude makes me feel like a loser, I am panting hard every 5 steps. 😢

 

 

 

 

it was so beautiful in real life, so, so beautiful
breathtakingly beautiful and calm

 

this doesnt quite capture it.

 

cholita cholitaaa

mi amiga de Bogota, Colombia

I remember asking her several times if Colombia was dangerous, after all that I heard / read about. No! She insisted. It was safe, and it was gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. I met another Colombian who said the same. I felt assured after speaking with them, and felt a jab of sadness that I don’t have the time to visit this trip. Partially also because I preferred to shun away from the supposedly dodgier areas. Well after speaking with them, I really do feel like my doors to Colombia have opened.

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at these pictures post-trip makes me feel a little… depressed. My heart lurches with longing.

 

La Paz – Death Road

Well, I stopped my posts because I wanted to access the pictures from the CD that came along with the death road package. Unfortunately I scratched the CD and it no longer seems to work 😦 I’m slightly disappointed that the mental images I have in my mind when I browsed them on the computer in Loki Hostel are gone, and may come to fade. But it’s alright, I still have some of these memory triggers:

Biked down Death road, supposedly the world’s most dangerous roads. It got its name because .., now it’s filled with hoards of tourists daily. Was pretty nervous the night before but honestly, the bus ride back down the mountains – the dust smog that clouds the windscreen and its visibility – is worth greater anxiety.

My October self: I was so nervous the night before though, questioning if I made the right decision. I had to wake up groggily at 6am or something so the bus could pick me up in the wee hours of the morning. I was cold and rather nervous, and I remember being the only Asian in the male-dominated bus, which if I might add, actually made me feel rather sheepishly proud of myself. Lame, but it’s true.

On hindsight, I’m glad I went for it. I’m almost glad I faced the wave of nausea, that resulted in my abandonment of the city tour, and the extra time to look for the tour operator for the next day. I’m always curious about how things work out the way they do. Of course, this is me, happily uninjured, safe, and I’m glad, just glad I went ahead with it. It’s exaggerated though, this whole ‘death road’ thing, considering there was a German father (athletic, if i might add) who brought his 16(?) year old daughter along. She was volunteering in Bolivia for a year. Such a life-changing year it was going to be. I’m truly envious. I wonder if the rest felt nervous like I did.

 

 

The night before:
Death road – I walked along the streets of Santa Cruz and found several tour operators. I settled on the second as 310 bolivianos was reasonable enough. My bus ticket to Copacabana is 35; from 345 I negotiated to 335 for both. Pretty reasonable for the middle standard bike. With only front suspension. Good enough I think….
The first section was that of paved roads, pretty smooth, I did not have to peddle, just allow myself to roll down the mountainous roads. Reminded me much of Da Lat’s motorbike day.
Lunch – a banana, a bun with egg, a chocolate bar and a bottle of coke
Second and third sections were a little more rocky; we rode past waterfalls and cobbly streams that splashed up my jeans and soaked my socks. Despite my annoyance, I grinned. This was pretty fun.
Dusty road
Nothing particularly frightening, I hardly peddled in the first and second sections. We just rolled down, I only needed to grip my brakes.
The third section needed a little more physical energy. We needed to peddle up at some points. As I grunted, pushing one foot and the other down in rhythm, I was reminded of my days in the gym on the cycling machine. I remember that self gritting my teeth and persistently trying to get the best timing, and I rode a little faster. This is just my gym day, the ones I missed for far too many weeks. It’s nice to think that there was that version of me last semester, working physically for this. In moments like this I do feel proud of myself, I like working for things. But then I think about the times I slack and I wonder if I over credit myself, or if I under credit myself because of my Asian mentality. Qian xu, my Chinese teacher once told me. That’s important.
At some points as I rode down I thought to myself, is this me? Is this the person I am now? When did I become this?
What I mean is, I have a conception of my timid self that does not quite match this activity. But does this activity necessarily mean I’m not as timid as I think? Maybe everyone does it. I mean most people do it, it’s that touristy. But I carried a lot of fear last night, questioning my decision (as usual). And now I’ve completed it. It was easy, once again another example of mental-fear. As with paragliding perhaps.  Sometimes I wonder about the person that I am becoming. When did I become so calm about taking risks? What am I doing to myself?
And the other side thinks, what are you talking about, I think everyone does this. More interestingly, I am alone and hence the decision was mine and solely mine to make. I wonder if I opted for the tour because I was curious about the person that I am – maybe I want to opt for new standards to measure myself. What standards? The other side thinks.
==
I suppose you can bargain, but today I found that the average wage of a Bolivian is truly meagre, so I do try not to be too obsessed with every penny.

 

Bolivian Amazon – Rurrenabaque

Amazon Tour: fly to Rurrenabaque
I booked with TAM, ticket bought the day before – for 420 Bs one way; 840bs for return ticket.
A 10bs airport tax is needed at the airport when you depart. A 7bs tax when you return, followed by another 15bs for some unlucky people. By this, I mean that some people were called to go to the opposite side to pay the tax. I was, so I headed there. Unfortunately I only had 10Bs left so I wanted to give 10bs + 1usd but the lady didnt accept; she waved me off at my final 10bs and stapled the ‘Bs 5’ on my flight e-ticket. Later I asked my friend; she paid 15bs. We asked another stranger, she paid none. It’s pretty strange.What I mean by ‘strange’ is that I guess it can be pretty disorganized and some might need to pay, some might not.

I booked it at a random agency along La Paz when I was walking for lunch. According to the paper I have now, it’s http://www.boliviapachamama.com
 

Currently in Rurrenabaque, the gateway to the Amazon. Finally! I’m here! It’s a strange feeling, finally reaching the place(s) you’ve been reading about and anticipating its arrival – i am here, i am here. excited, of course! i’ve also crossed the halfway mark of my trip; i honestly wish it could be longer, like many of the travelers here. or do i? i don’t know, but i think so. get a part time job somewhere, that sort of thing. there’s the ‘practical’ Singaporean in me speaking – would the 5 months be better off here, than if i were home? these 2 months i can say for sure, yes! because here i expand my knowledge of a continent once so foreign, i deepen my love for a language, i encounter landscapes i only had the chance to see in textbooks, and as my first full-fledged solo trip to a continent this far away, it’s (supposed to be) a steep(er) learning curve… (but nah, it really isn’t, the trail is so established it’s really nothing) 5 months, i don’t know. i guess it’s for my future to speculate; i will find a reason when i do. oh, maybe retirement. i am always thinking about retirement. 😀
I love, love days like this, when I get to be completely alone
with no obligations to speak to anyone
lie in my hammock
should i read my book? should i watch a movie? should i write, write write? the best part is i have another day of this – this free self
FEELS AWESOME

 

 

Note how the cities start to grow from the sloping edges of the hills. Interesting.

 

Glimpse of the world’s largest rainforest!

 

 

the taxi stand area, you know, the one that takes you to your hotels after you land and exit the airport

 

fyi

 

spotting wildlife on boats

 

 

 

quite impressed with the new compact camera i bought with the 20x zoom – the monkeys were like 10m away

 

crocodile hunting in the night

 

Such a beautiful day!

SPOTTING WILDLIFE

 

 

 

we groan – we had to get our pants wet murking around the murky waters. I secretly felt a rush of excitement because it reminded me of muddy mangroves in Ranong, and the recent fieldwork in Cambodia.

This was an interesting fruit = apparently the Incas once used this as a form of ink. When you first poked into it it was invisible juice; after scribbling on another surface an hour or so the blue ink starts to appear.

Tada!

Like those invisible ink we play with. But nature, nature always provides ~

 

sloth

they looked like a bunch of leaves from far

meat – piranha bait

busy fishing

Someone caught one! Check out that set of teeth.

riding towards the sunset

this was the sunrise, where the mosquitoes KEPT buzzing, attacking us relentlessly. It was impossible to soak in the romantic atmosphere of the sunrise. Impossible. Not with all the scratching, swiping and cursing away.

This was the later part of the sunrise. Miraculously, the moment the sun risen higher, shedding their yellow-white glow over the land, the (INTENSELY annoying) mozzies disappeared. Wow. We heaved a sigh of relief, and watched at ease, rewarded for the wait.

My agency was Sunset Travel in Rurrenabaque – 1390 bolivian pesos in all – including return flight ticket = ~200usd
Bolivia Pachamama – the tour company in La Paz which i stumbled upon while walking down the streets looking for food with Natalie
I feel like at this point, I’m actually forcing myself to write – the thoughts come as i stroll along the streets, but it does take some effort to sit down and type, instead of lazing on my bed just thinking about my days. Not eager to ‘spill’ as much; i guess i am tired. (or lazy)
The 3 days in Rurrenabaque –
First night I arrived peaceful and happy. The second day in Rurrenabaque we set off for the Amazon; about 2-3 hours on a bumpy van ride, slowing down every now and then to look at some random animal, cows going across the dusty pathway, a crocodile on the right.

When I first got off the plane and collected my baggage:

One of the drivers approached me, mentioning something about ‘agency’ – i hence changed my plans of sharing cab with some other backpackers i had chatted briefly with on the plane, to going along with the driver. I thought he was sent from my travel agency; it turns out the drivers just approach you knowing you have to ‘report’ to your agency first. (it’s true, but the town is pretty small and the hostels clustered in the central area are within walking distance to the tour agencies i think – though i mightttt have had some trouble looking for the operator on my own). Nonetheless he was really nice and we chatted a little, and the taxi fare was only 10 bolivianos – not too bad I suppose, $1+usd – i got to the travel agency that the La Paz agency had registered with and they introduced me to a pretty cheap and decent hostel just round the corner – the Rurre Tucanes Hotel. (hostel dorms also available, 40 bolivianos a night, with wifi, hot shower and breakfast (albeit just bread with jam), the necessities.
With my weak Spanish, I (unreliably) learnt that from the taxi driver that most people here worked in tourism-related sectors – hotels, tour operators, taxi drivers…
We drove past some houses. Some were huts, wooden-looking huts highly reminiscent of those in Baan Rak Thai (the poorer households). I asked taxi driver if his house was like this – he said no, he pointed to another house with concrete walls – that’s his; the other tienes mas picars (bites).
Back to the Amazon tour:
We met at about 9am at the tour agency; packed our mochillas at the top, and then drove about 2-3 hours before arriving to the Amazon forest. I didn’t quite except it to be this far, we did stop along the way for lunch.

—Draft 2 – post-trip me does not have the energy to compile both into a neat stack

First day was…
Drive there, lunch halfway, reached and rested, searched for some wildlife, returned for dinner, night time crocodile hunting
Can’t remember the exact facts anymore e.g size (damn procrastination) but some crocodiles we saw did attack humans. We came close to one at one point, after which it disappeared. I got a little nervous – thankfully I’ve never watched much documentaries on crocodile attacks, augmented by the fact that I was in Bolivia – but certain scenes did flit through my mind. There’s something about the crocodile’s eyes at night – I think they light up or something. Will google.
I did ask a little about Rurrenabaque. About 2000 residents lives here, and there were some community schools or something but could only be established with a minimum of 20 students. Once again I am reminded of how deterministic the place you were born in was to the kind of lives one could lead.
The second day we were to wake up for the sunrise but it was cloudy, so we ‘slept in’ till 8. Program of the day was anaconda hunting. Chances of spotting them was about 10% though, he warned. We put on boots and walked through the murky waters, past the branches and the bushes. Groans in unison were heard when we reached the point where the water level was high enough to seep into our boots. No pasa nada, I’ve had plenty of practice in FA and Cambodia. What are muddy mangroves compared to this? I think to myself, smiling at my last experiences. I love geography.
Before he started the walk we did have a brief introduction to anacondas – he showed us some photos on his phone where they had blue tongues. He highlighted that these snakes are in the wild, their behaviors are unpredictable.he also said that to destroy a habitat is more damaging to the species and ecosystem, than catching a single snake – something like that. So he did in some cases have to catch the snakes with his bare hands. If he had said it casually, I would not have thought anything. But because he had some sort of looking on his face as he said this in almost a resigned, guilty tone, I figured that other tourists have probably lambasted the amazon tours as ecologically unfriendly, unethical etc.
Walked for about 2 hours at least, spotted some creatures, like fire ants, termites, spider web the thickness 1/4 of a strand of hair, some plants, and most interesting of all was this fruit that created a temporary tattoo. Not quite sure of its name, but it sounded like bimanzana (will google eventually); apparently the indigenous people use it for ink. Our guide cut the fruit open into half – ordinary, innocent enough. A fruit cut into half. But the juice of this fruit can stain you for days, he says, showing us a ‘tattoo’ looking part of his arm that had his name in Hebrew. He cut several branches with a penknife, sharpened their tips, and used them as ‘pencils’ jabbed into the ink of the fruits. We went ahead to create our personal tattoos. Give it two hours, he says.
The ink was invisible, I was a little skeptical at how this juice, completely invisible upon its application on my skin, could darken this much. According to the guide, a couple of years ago a group of Israeli girls were fooling around with this fruit, laughing and squirting its juice at each other, including their faces, and had their flights home the next day. Well, imagine their horror a few hours later.
We didn’t see the anacondas. When we emerged from the murky waters back to the boats we were disappointed. There’s only a 1% chance of seeing them, he says. Hm, he said it was 10% at the start…. 10% to 1%, I mentally noted :p apparently it’s more likely to spot them in rainy seasons. (Note to self: google) Still, I understand. It is after all in the wild. Went for lunch, then piranha fishing.
Piranhas – I wanted to catch one but at the same time I didn’t; catching one meant I would have to watch the fish struggle and wrestle helplessly because of ME. I never quite liked the nature of fishing, prawning, eating them fresh after. A hypocrite I guess, I can’t quite stand the removal of the estrangement process, I happily devour the sanitized versions of these meat, ignoring that everyday other humans do the same gestures I find hard to do. Why, because I think I am cruel and not doing so makes me less cruel? Truth is I suppose I do it every time I eat meat. I just don’t think this level of discomfort is enough for me to stop eating meat altogether. Survival of the fittest, I think to myself (consolingly).
It was also the idea that if all of us tourists fished for piranhas, what were we doing to the ecosystem? Admittedly, I wanted to fish for them; I did want our group to successfully get one or some. It would be interesting. But I suppose at the same time there was the nagging question about the Eco-chain or whatever you call it – tourists fishing for piranhas everyday? Multiple groups too. What if I was playing a role in ruining the amazon? In fact, human presence also does to some extent. Was that going to stop me? From visiting sites of nature and Antarctica? Honestly, no…
Caught the sunset.
Explored the town of Rurrenabaque and found kids playing by the lake. Sat and watched for awhile, and was inevitably reminded of the importance of place – how incredibly life-shaping it is, the place / country you’re born in.
About 2000 residents lives here, and there were some community schools or something but could only be established with a minimum of 20 students. Once again I am reminded of how deterministic the place you were born in was to the kind of lives one could lead.
The next morning we woke up early for the sunrise. It would have been romantic, except for the mosquitoes that relentlessly pursued us in the dark. Strangely enough, as soon as dawn broke, they pretty much disappeared.
Back for lunch. After lunch we headed out again, the plan was to swim with the dolphins. Spotted some wildlife on the way.
But before that our guide first arranged for us to fish for piranhas again, seeing how unsuccessful we were the day before. This time we caught about 4, but too small to be cooked and eaten. Other tour groups did eat theirs, which were, as they described, ‘skinny, had lots of bones and tasted like fish’
After some time we decided to abandon these sneaky piranhas that kept successfully stealing the meat bait away, and proceeded to look for dolphins!
I can’t swim so I stayed on the boat, watched some of them float around (dolphin less). We did spot them when riding on the boat, but they soon disappeared. Ohwell! After some flopping we headed back; I suppose it was about 4pm when we got back, packed up and then set off back to rurrenabaque.
The next day was chill. I lay in my hammock, eating my biscuits, finished slaughterhouse five. Wrote a little. Thinking of which book to start on next.
Actually not really. I woke up pretty early, and walked around the town centre. I suppose there’s this part of me that just feels an urgent need to see as much as I can (without compromising my safety, hence in the day) – like if I stay past 1030am I get a little jittery and anxious, even though Rurrenabaque is a really small town with nothing much to do. I just wanted to see everything – see the shops, the things they sold, the people, what they did, how they lived, etc etc I suppose what I can’t stand is lying in my hammock when I still have things to see. So I walked about 3 hours and covered probably the whole town.
At the port area I saw some children and walked up to them. One of them was fishing. Looking at these kids playing reminded me of the children in Baan Rak Thai. I guess in every place there IS a school of sorts; at 1pm I saw children in the same clothes – the uniforms I suppose – walking home. And then they will grow up here, I think to myself. And the kids in Singapore back home.
I walked into a shop to buy some bananas, which costs 1 boliviano for 4 bananas. That is… About 18 cents sgd for 4 bananas. Great! The lady talked to me for awhile, we conversed in Spanish. I feel like I’m more fluent now, always using the same words when explaining myself.
Well. I just napped for about 2 hours. What was I saying? I really want to sleep, but so much happened today.
I guess on this day I also realised that even swimming is a privilege. According to German girl who was volunteering in Santa Cruz for a year, Bolivians can’t really swim because of the lack of need to. The lack of the luxury of swimming pools. Maybe those who live by the rivers do. I suppose that does quite make sense. But learning to swim as a privilege! I forget.

 

 

dar por descontado

Trying to brush up on my grammar, came across this on the site

“One last stereotype to keep in mind…

Here’s some advice I received from an Argentinian lady, so it’s not just me being a jerk.
She says that if you ask most Spanish speakers where something is, it’s unlikely that you’ll hear “No sé” (“I don’t know”).
They want to be helpful, so they will usually try to give you some kind of an answer, even if they really have no idea.
She recommends that it’s good to get a second opinion, particularly if the directions you receive seem like they’ll be far away or expensive.”



Source

Gosh, it is true, that makes so much sense because everyone gave me directions AND there were a couple of times (ESP in BOLIVIA) where I’d walk towards this direction for 5 mins, ask another person only to have him/her saying it’s the complete opposite direction. There were times by which I circled to and fro because the different (and many!) people I asked gave me conflicting directions. Sigh. In Bolivia, after getting lost for an hour, helpless with directions, I took a taxi back (one by which I flagged by the streets – needless to say I was pretty panicky on the taxi because I was afraid it’s some non-radio-cab that was gonna drive me to some strange place) Pretty amusing on hindsight hahaha.

This brings me to realise things about Singapore I do take for granted, not realising how it could otherwise have been. I cherish being able to flag taxis at ease in Singapore, knowing that if I (ever) get lost here I can easily get home with money. Streetlights too – the dark streets of Chile and Argentina triggered much anxiety in the nights, even if it’s only 8pm. Here the streets are always (largely) lighted. I hear these in national day songs and stuff, but it sinks in a lot deeper after experiencing that element of fear when walking home at night along the dark streets.

There are some moments by which I’m sitting somewhere on an ordinary day and I suddenly recall random scenes of my trip. This morning, the scene that flashed was the time I sat by Briana in Sao Paulo eating bread (pao de quieso). We sat in silence, a silence of mutual understanding, munching quietly, using Google Translate when we needed to speak. We sat by the window, the sunlight seeping in to fill the white table and the cool tiled floor.

Just like that. Just a flash of a scene.

La Paz, Bolivia

Uyuni – La Paz

This. This is the city I found myself most lost. Almost pathetically lost, running around in circles.

Gosh, this. This stirs up memories, I even know where it’s taken from – that bridge. La Paz stirs up memories. Probably because the emotions are so intensified here, especially the times I ran home at night (3x up that slope, in this altitude I could barely run too). Also, I stayed here for 2 days longer than planned. All the times I got lost because my sense of direction is extremely bad (proven in this place) and the worst part is many people kept pointing me to different (wrong!!!) directions!! LOL

I learnt to ask twice – once Person #1, and 5 steps later Person #2, and at times even Person #3. Just Every. 10. Steps.

I had a map, but the map was honestly difficult because the streets were narrow and readily cut into one another. I think I have a copy, I’ll take a picture.

 

Bolivia… My geographical imagination of the streets was quite a blank canvas. So in the village there were about 20 families that lived there; the rather dusty doors and little stone houses. In the city of Uyuni I saw more Bolivians – them with their hats and puffy skirts. So adorable? Hahah it’s just so distinct a culture that I couldn’t help liking them for not blending into the globalised clothings in the world. (the tourist desire to seek out ‘authenticity’) them selling fruits, sitting at a corner with the hats. They have a distinctive look I think. (Other-ing)

A Cholita crosses the street; their bowler hats and puffy skirts are a common sight in La Paz. After bombing questions to every English-speaking shopkeeper/ random local I meet, I gather that the Cholitas are the indigenous people who lived in the highlands. Some migrate to the city for work, bringing along their traditional outfits.
Interestingly, the girl I talked to today while eating my 1usd fruit salad had an ex-boyfriend from Singapore – they met through Facebook for their common interest in k-pop. 😱 Reminds me of the morning I heard oppa gangnam style on the Bolivian radio. Need to stop being surprised at how connected the world is.

 

Bolivia has been breathtakingly beautiful though. In my 3 days from San Pedro to Uyuni, I’ve never been surrounded by so much beauty. It’s incredible, and I feel myself gape in awe at the kind of nature that this part of the world offers, that Singapore just doesn’t. It’s sad that it’s such a poor country, when they have such magnificent views (sad because? I don’t know? Happy I suppose, because it draws in tourism. Or maybe I think, beautiful nature = beautiful prosperous society, paralleled; the beautiful nature I see here isn’t quite on the same terms with what I know about this society, where children are allowed (want to?) work from the age of 10.)
I guess I have reached the second-most-feared part of my trip (first was Brazil and its reputed dangers); here in addition to my fears of getting mugged it is the transport. I have this impression (unverified) that bus crashes are not uncommon. Last night we took the bus from Uyuni to La paz, and before Natalie and I left Josephine was talking about how people have been advised not to take the bus at night, reported bus muggings, etc etc.. Which wasn’t helpful seeing it was prior to our ride. On the bus I stuffed my phones into my money belt and tried to picture how it’d be if a mass robbery was carried out. Maybe I’ll hand over my camera, but take out my sd card. Damn, the pictures in my laptop…
The bus ride (Uyuni – La Paz) was bumpy, it wasn’t as comfy as the ones in Brazil, Chile and Argentina for sure. I didn’t sleep as well as I did for the rest – in fact I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep for half the ride. When the doors opened for another passenger there was a part of me that wondered if it was a robbery attempt (zzz, hate these paranoid thoughts) and finally we reached Lima at about 5.30am.
Pretty early! 8pm – 530am, I thought we were scheduled to reach at about 6. Am honestly surprised that it’s early, considering it’s Latin America. I would like to think that these stories are but stories, and I would not like to further reinforce notions of ‘danger’ in travelling South America, but I guess it wasn’t a comfy ride because of these conceptions that I had. Also, the bus was pretty bumpy and we swayed from side to side at some points at the start; for several brief moments I did wonder if the bus might topple. There was a loud hiss and some smell of burning, I exchanged glances with Natalie and looked around at the locals, but they were unalarmed; it turned out to be the radiator. This hissing and mild burning smell.

 

It is at these points that I am reminded once again of the vulnerability of my life, and how a single second, a single moment can make a life-changing impact. I could be alive in this minute, and not in the next. So I guess I do feel (as I did before the trip, during the trip and hopefully after the trip) that I do love life, I want to be alive!

 

la paz and its steeply sloping streets

in fact, it’s so steep i saw a driver take out a piece of brick, placing it at the back of his wheel, much like a door-stopper, to prevent the car from rolling back

and in this altitude, with the ladies carrying the large pink bags that they do behind their backs, they must be pretty fit indeed

La paz grows on you. Amidst the chaos there is beauty. Allow yourself to get lost in the maze of the streets. At night, the city glitters in the distance on the hills. On my first day I was paranoid and wary (carrying conceptions shaped by online stories and lonely planet), but by now I comfortably stroll through the (slanted) streets. Is it just me, or are Bolivian drivers especially giggly?

 

 

Sometimes I ask locals if it’s dangerous to walk home now at x time (usually 7pm or so). Most say no, no es tranquilo, but sometimes one out of 3 or 4 may say yes, es peligroso with a somber / sheepish look. It makes me feel a little wtf as I nervously run home.

Spotted: a Bolivian wedding!

mi amigo de israel

 

look at that clustered cityscape

witches’ market

we had fun gaping at llama bones

 

:O :O

 

 

cutie bolivian boy

i asked for photography permission – that’s him posing! muy adorableeee

and yet!!! there’s something pretty Chinese about him, no??? there’s some historical connection in our descent, is it???

 

 

they look like spells in a bottle

the night and the glittering city

 

 

 

 

 

Look at that adorable baby peeking out from the ‘sack’. It’s not an uncommon sight, I wanted so badly to buy that cloth (i got a small version) imagine carrying things everywhere with that! sigh. I would stand out in Singapore.

wow so korean fashion is keen over here as well?

After a day in La Paz… i think it’s quite a crazy city, especially when driving towards the airport, and reinforced when we flew over the city. All these buildings squeezed together that emerged from the mountainous regions. Damn, humans are amazing in that sense. You know, popping up whenever possible. Adapting accordingly I suppose. I drew an odd allusion to the tenacity of grass; at night and in the day, there’s these favela-looking housing stretched across the entire cityscape. On the flight I thought, we are SO small and insignificant when you fly over these thousands of housings like this. There’s just so many people in this world.
Even in Rurrenabaque, a town i thought insignificant, has 2.2 million inhabitants. In the millions. Yes, these are obvious facts but I can’t help musing about them…
We didn’t land on a ‘grass patch’, like i saw some descriptions on other blogs. It was a concrete pathway surrounded by grass by the side, but it was okay, expected i suppose.
Last night with Natalie and Israeli guy – we sat talking, somehow the conversation turned to politics and i was listening / nodding (partially because i do not know enough about Israeli politics / army, the issue / history with Jerusalem and the whole Gaza strip thing
Ugh!! really annoyed at my ignorance, really really really because i feel like i missed the chance to ask more about their opinions and points of view and negotiate my stand which i did not have. SIGH I guess i will read up after this)
and then a British guy made some strange noise, and Israeli guy asks what’s up, and British guy says ‘I don’t agree, actually,’ and then he says something about what Israel should do and Israeli guy says some other thing and there’s this discussion / debate and while I emerged from it (awkward bystander) a little more knowledgeable about the whole issue, i do not know enough to form an OPINION 😦 to analyze the arguments of both parties (which is important to me!!!)
in any case, the ‘discussion’ ended with UK guy saying ‘we could go on about this all day, but i have to go for dinner’ and he left
and the atmosphere was a little weird
and at one point Israeli guy said ‘they look at me like i’m a murderer, you know’ and it made me think about nationality – how you carry that with you even when you’re abroad, you become a ‘representative’ of your country, including their policies and decisions
in some ways it’s a difficult position
because you might not agree with your government, but to have other nationalities lambast your country isn’t a good feeling – because you agree, but then there’s that element of national pride? i think? and also because it’s a fine line, them having to serve the army (compulsory), it’s like they have to defend their own (state-dictated) actions
i don’t know, i don’t know
i’m just thinking if i were of this nationality, i would be annoyed that i, the traveler, receive questions regarding my nation
like i cant escape it, i have to carry that part with me
(depends of course on the people you meet etc but from what i gather, it seems like questions about it emerge and if i were them, i would be tired (but as a traveller i would too, ask)
==

 

Today –
Meant to go for walking tour but was suddenly hit with an immense wave of nausea. Why? Is it the altitude sickness? Or stomach issues? I’m really not too sure. I had to sit down for awhile. I had waited for the walking tour for quite awhile; you gathered at about 2 (I arrived 10 minutes earlier), had to wait about 15 more minutes for more to gather, and another 5-10 hearing this guy talk about his walking tour tomorrowregarding the jail. Note to self: read the book. It was pretty interesting. Then when we were to finally set off, I felt so terrible I had to sit down. Tried walking one street with the group but I just couldn’t, I had to sit down more than anything else. Why? Is it because of the altitude difference between rurrenabaque and here? I don’t know. Sigh. I wish I could say something substantial came out of that time – I suppose I for my fake north face jacket (for Machu Picchu) at a pretty decent price (130 bolivianos ~ 19usd; other shops along the touristy streets were pricing them at 200 at least on) but more walking, the tour and bus and that was all. I decided to skip the teleferico because I’ve done far too many cable cars across cities. I suppose la paz was different but it just wasn’t different enough. At this point I also regret death road, because I should really have used the money for paragliding instead. Sigh!!!
Well when I was walking around this morning I chanced upon a fruit place which was lovely. The fruit salad was only 7 bolivianos (1usd) and the queue was long, with locals. I stood around eating from the bowl. The lady started talking to me, askin me where I’m from and upon knowing I’m heading to Copacabana, told me her son was a tour guide there. She wanted to give me his name and number, and tapped another girl to ask for bibliographia. The girl obliged. I realise she spoke English, so I chatted with her for awhile, asking her my questions surrounding Bolivia. Turns out she had a Singaprean (ex)boyfriend(????) whom she met through Facebook, because of their common interest that is Kpop. Really???? Wooow. How connected the world is. Who is this 19 year old boy, I’m truly curious!

This morning I also headed to the optician, wondering if I should make my spectacles here. Could be cheaper after all. But I didn’t know my degree – I realised these shops did not have the machines like we did in Singapore, you had to consult a ‘doctor’ at another shop (and pay) to get a transcription for your eyes, before going to the spectacles shop. I take too much for granted the convenience of Singapore
Estoy cansada!! Mas importante aspects are done! Todo bien, todo bien. Buenas noches!!


bus in Bolivia!

Bolivia – Uyuni salt flats

80,000 chilean pesos for uyuni tour – with Andean Salt Flats
15,000 for astronomy tour

mi favourito

this is the sort of picture that needs to be admired time and time again

The last day of my 3d 2n tour from San Pedro to Uyuni – the latter being the highlight!!!!
We woke up early in the morning to climb up this hill(?) of sorts. At that altitude, it was quite a walk.

Spamming pictures of cactuses because it’s so weird but cool

 

 

 

 

THIS!!! THIS!! WAS BASICALLY ONE OF MY KEY ANTICIPATION OF MY TRIP

THE ELUSIVE SALT FLATS I HAD SEEN IN PICTURES AND BLOGS

THISSSS

 

wowoooowwowooww

seriously, this bolivia

 

 

SO HAPPYYYY

Some souvenirs they were selling

 

 

food

i remember that pasta

played taki, the israeli version of uno

 

OTW to Uyuni Day 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

look at that layer of snow gently peppered at the tops of the mountains like sugar flakes

INTERNATIONAL JEEP TEAM

wow

 

scooping food from the back of our magical jeep

fixing flat tyre in the middle of nowhere

 

bolivian fashion

 

watch out for wild foxes

Vicuñas! Adorableeeee


Yes, people live here

 

sigh, freezing in those nights (coldest nights EVER!!!!!!!) but the food, the food always perked us up

fries and more fries in bolivia
So, so incredibly happy
so incredibly free and far away
i loved it, detached from responsibilities, soaking in my unfamiliar surroundings, physical and cultural
the language, the people, the food, the weather
loved, loved, loved it
AAAAHHH I MISS THISSSSS