First Impressions of La Paz

I had my first “legal” beer at my hostel! (It was free with my stay… How could I say no?)  I made friends with a group of Canadians (their nationality is pertinent because Sloane has an obsession with Canada and will be very excited to hear this.)  I learned about pronunciations, and the linguist in me totally came out when I heard them pronounce words like “tomorrow” or “sorry” or “pasta” like “pahsta”. I also met a group of drunk Australians.  Australians already have the best accents, now add a slur, and you have the perfect recipe for a stand-up comedian. 

I went into town to figure out why the Bolivian sim card I bought the other day wasn’t working and go to the bank to exchange dollars for bolivianos.  When I got to TIGO, the phone company, they told me I couldn’t use the sim card because the phone itself was an AT&T phone, therefore not compatible. So, I’m stuck to using Wi-Fi for the month. 

At the bank, I was able to exchange most of my cash for bolivianos.  However, almost a hundred dollars’ worth of bills was denied because of the most miniscule rip.  I tried to argue… “Pero… Es MUY pequeño!”  They wouldn’t have it. I went to the ATM to take out some fresher bills.  The machine told me my card was not readable, so I tried to put it in again.

The whole damn system restarted.  

But a spark of hope left me to wait for it to reboot.  After the reboot, it read the message “Insert card.”  Hope gone.  I almost broke down right there in the booth when I turned to see a gentleman patiently waiting to use the ATM.  I opened the door and told him my situation.  “La máquina robó a mi tarjeta…”  

His eyes widened in sympathy.  He told me to call the number of the bank and handed me his cell phone.  The man on the phone told me that it would be possible to retrieve the card, but it would not be returned until Monday through Friday of next week, and that I could pick it up from the bank.  I said thank you, hung up, and explained the situation to my new friend.  He said, “We can get it back faster than that,” and walked me to the bank that was associated with the ATM.  We parted ways after he explained the situation to the representatives there, and gave me his number, saying to call if I needed anything.

His name was Salvo, which means “safe.” Apparently, this is a very uncommon name.  I am so thankful that God sent me another guardian angel.  

The bankers told me to come back tomorrow and ask for Linda.  Sounds like there’s a 50/50 chance that I will get my card back before next week.  Which will discourage me from living lavishly, as I’ve already been so tempted to do.  

My friend Grace will be here tonight though so it will be nice to have her around as I am already pretty homesick.

On a side note, Bolivian children are just about the most precious children I’ve ever seen in my life.  Also, the dogs are adorable and EVERYWHERE.  It is taking everything in me not to rescue every single one of them.  

There is a lot of poverty here, and my heart breaks for this city.  There are men and women who are SEVERELY disabled, children between the ages of three and ten begging for change, and shoe shiners that are cover their faces to protect their identity while they make even the smallest amount of money for their family.  If I could help every one of them, I would in a heartbeat.  I have already realized how privileged I am, and what I take for granted: warm showers (or even showers at all), privacy, clean air, security, and quiet mornings.

I am thankful for today because through it I have learned how to lean on God in a much larger sense, and I have learned to be thankful for the quality of my life.  I cannot wait for whatever is thrown at me next.  Let’s go.

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