The Whiskey Chronicles (in Buenos Aires)

The Whiskey Chronicles (in Buenos Aires)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Here's my latest take on Bolivia's turmoil...

Aren't there a few things still left on your life list? How about that one about being in a country during the middle of a coup/presidential resignation/general chaos? Well book your ticket for Bolivia soon and you can check that one off by years end. Hurry, seats (out of here) are filling fast!

(Click on the title above to read today's Miami Herald story)

Monday, March 14, 2005

Every Friday I join a group of about 10 friends on hikes in and around La Paz. On the way to our trail this past Friday we caught a great view of Mt. Illimani, the massif that dominates the horizon here on clear days. Illimani's snow-covered peak reaches more than 21,000 feet high. Posted by Hello

Hiking the Takesi trail, which tops out at 15,100 feet before heading down towards the rainforests.  Posted by Hello

Friday, March 04, 2005

A Day in the Life

An idea blatantly stolen from Christine Bader, whose page you can link to at right.

6:45am Want to sleep in, but the room gets too bright and can’t find an eye mask. Gotta get real curtains installed soon. Think about how great sleep was at sea level.

7:30am Head downstairs and stare hopelessly at the 145 boxes that arrived yesterday from the U.S. This critical shipment includes four bottles of California wine, a giant stuffed Nemo I won Dana in New York last fall, 10 unread issues of Cooking Light, and a dozen miniature wooden elephants we bought on the roadside in Zimbabwe years ago. Rub eyes in frustration and promise to begin simplifying my life.

9:45am Unlock 12-foot security door and walk out on the cobblestone road to the arsenic and sewage laden “river” by our house, which I cross each morning to head into the city. Sunny, clouldless day. Spectacular views all around (except for the river). We live at nearly 12,000 feet, but you still have to look up to see the horizon, which is another 1,000 feet higher.

10:00am While waiting for a cab to come by, pick up a copy of La Razon. Headline story is about a series of strikes and bloqueos (roadblocks) that have isolated La Paz from the rest of the country for the third or fourth time since we arrived in January. Our car, which just arrived in-country via ship from Miami and via truck from Chile, sits in a customs office in El Alto awaiting the end of the strikes.

10:05am After 20 minutes, finally manage to hail a cab which, for 75 cents, will take me a couple miles down the road for a work meeting. Normally I take the “trufis”, communal taxis or vans that charge 18 cents, but their routes are set and I’m not really sure where I’m going.

10:30am Enter the UN headquarters in Bolivia to meet with the former head of the country’s International Press Association. When I ask how many members it has now, he rattles off six names before recalling that the Reuters guy died last month. “Then that’s five. Yes, I think that’s it.” Consider me the new #6.

10:45am Meet the head of the UN in Bolivia, who pitches a few stories to me while chain-smoking in his office. I quietly thank the powers-that-be that this man is speaking English, because I don’t know the Spanish equivalents of UN jargon. Agree to go on a trip to an old mining reservoir the following week.

11:45am Field call from language school friends in the nearby city of Coroico, wondering “what the hell is happening in this country?” because they can’t get a bus back to La Paz. “Bloqueos today and tomorrow, possibly all next week,” I say. It’s hard to stick to set itineraries in Bolivia.

1:30pm While dining on a delicious quesadilla in one of the city’s few coffee shops, a friend sends a text message offering me her ticket to the evening’s soccer game, a heralded match between “The Strongest”, a perennial Bolivian powerhouse, and Sao Paulo, a popular Brazilian team. Debate about whether I should spend my evening unpacking boxes or cheering madly at the stadium ends quickly.

4:00pm Try to assemble our newly-arrived treadmill in advance of Dana’s return from the U.S. Give up after five minutes and decide it’s more important to get the stereo going. After connecting the speakers, I throw in the first CD. With “Rock You Like a Hurricane” blaring throughout the neighborhood, I begin playing some ferocious air guitar.

4:55pm An editor from the Christian Science Monitor emails, asking for a follow-up blurb - "No more than 50 words" - on my last article. We email back and forth about other ideas to help get Bolivia in the news (and help me get paid!).

7:00pm. Halfway through a closely fought match between The Strongest and Sao Paulo, I head off in search of food. While waiting in line to order a cold pork sandwich, I notice that the President of Bolivia is standing 5 feet away with one security guard in sight. He wears a bright yellow tie with the symbol of The Strongest on it. He was at a game here the night before as well. I guess the bloqueos aren’t worrying him too much.

7:03pm. To my horror, a giant handful of shredded lettuce – generally guaranteed to generate intestinal problems – is slapped onto my pork sandwich. Considering my options, I ask for extra “aji”, a super-spicy Bolivian hot sauce that I hope can kill off the parasites.

9:00pm. Despite being up 3-2 in the final minute, The Strongest lets a ball get past their goalie and the game ends in a tie. The crowd is furious, and accusations that the goalie, the referees, and everyone from Sao Paulo are related to “whores” are freely voiced (but not by me, since my mom is actually from Sao Paulo).

10:00pm While downing a burger at a bar near the stadium, an American who imports used tires from the U.S. joins my table and orders us both another round of beer. Promises me that he’s making tens of thousands of dollars a month not only on the used tires, but on buying old cars and shipping them back to the states to sell on Ebay. “This country is pretty f#@!ed up”, he says, “if someone like me can just show up and start making so much money.”

11:15 Taxi home, walk past the boxes to our bedroom and get into bed after futilely looking for my eye mask. Quietly hope that the beers I had at dinner will help me sleep but doze off knowing that even a single glass of alcohol here can ruin your night.