The Witches’ Market in La Paz, Bolivia

The Witches’ Market in La Paz, Bolivia

I got my credit card back from the bank! My friend Grace arrived the other night, and all is well in the world.

After we ran Grace’s errands, we went to the Witches Market to see the infamous llama fetuses. Bolivians bury them under their houses so that Pachamama (Mother Earth) will bless their homes. Grace really wanted to see shrunken heads, but there weren’t any. She said it wasn’t “witchy” enough for her. However, there were love potions, figurines that resembled voodoo dolls, and ingredients for spells. I was more impressed by the alpaca sweaters. So soft!

A group of female travelers from France were sitting down on the street with two local guys about our age who I will refer to as homie and dude. The local guys were making woven and metal trinkets. We stopped to look at the art on the ground and got roped into a conversation with this eccentric group. While I was very excited to be speaking Spanish with the locals, and turn around to speak French with the travelers, there was something off about the situation. I asked homie if he could speak any other languages besides Spanish. He said he could speak Inca and proceeded to say something in the language. I was stoked, to say the least, and asked if I could record him.

“20 dollars.” He said.

I declined.

Homie then started a conversation about how unintelligent Americans are, and I was getting really irritated with his attitude. It had already been half an hour of conversing, and just when I was about to suggest we leave, Grace decided she wanted homie to put a woven dread in her hair. I had no problem with this, but I also didn’t realize this would take another hour. While Grace did this, I walked around the market some more and booked our trip to the Amazon. It was dark when I went back outside.

I walked back to see if Grace was done, and homie was still working on her hair.

After another 30 minutes, I was visibly irritated and mostly because homie was not giving me good vibes. He kept telling me to “calm myself.”

I really thought telling a woman to calm down was a universally bad idea, but I guess there was some kind of cultural or language barrier here.

He finally finished and Grace handed him 20 bolivianos.

He said that he wanted 20 in American dollars which was not discussed beforehand. I argued and said this was a lot, but Grace handed it over to him.

As we were leaving, Grace started looking around, “Where’s my phone?” My eyes widened.

We looked everywhere, but this phone was not to be found. We asked the French travelers if they had seen it anywhere. They only shrugged and walked away. Not their problem.

Dude finally spoke up after about five minutes of us frantically searching.

“Oh, my friend that came by earlier had something in his hand that I think was your phone.” He accused.

“Your friend?” I asked. “Where’s your friend?”

“Oh, actually he’s not my friend.”

“But you know him?”

“Yeah, I see him around these streets a lot. He sells drugs.”

Grace and I exchanged a mutual glance. We knew that the guy putting the braid in Grace’s hair had stolen it in cahoots with his friend. While Grace was distracted, someone had swiped her phone right out of her lap.

Of course, we couldn’t be sure, but we did ask to search their pockets and bags.

All hope was pretty much lost.

“Where did you have the phone?” Homie asked.

“On the sidewalk next to me.” Grace shrugged, knowingly accepting her mistake.

Homie began to lecture her anyway on how she should be more careful and be aware of “the people of the street.”

Dude then asked us a question that basically proved his guilt.

“How much was the phone worth?”

“Um… mucho.” Grace answered him.

“Pero… How much?”

“Why does that matter?” I was getting pissed. “It’s a lot of money.”

“Listen, I’ll give you my Facebook, and if we see the guy who took it, we will message you.”

*scoffs*

“You can stay here a bit longer to see if he comes back?” Homie suggested, but it was getting dark, and people were starting to close their shops. We played it safe and went back to the hostel.

Grace was bummed out, of course, but I am very proud of how well she took it.

“Maybe I just wasn’t supposed to be focusing on the things back home on this trip. I need to focus on the beauty of this night. We’re in a different country, and I’m worried about the loss of a material object.” Her positive outlook was stunning.

We got back to the hostel in dire need of our cerveza gratis, and the rest of the night was spent dancing at the discoteca.

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