Last Friday I received this email message from the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia:
This warden message is being issued to advise U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Bolivia that for the duration of the month during Bolivia’s “carnaval” season, it is common to encounter groups of people throwing water balloons at both pedestrians and vehicles (sometimes frozen which can cause injuries). It is advisable to remain aware of your surroundings while walking and to avoid areas where people are congregating with water balloons, squirt guns, and other liquid projectiles. If you are in a vehicle, keep your windows rolled up while you drive around the city.
I got a firsthand taste of this in January 2005, when Yoli and I were traveling around the country just as Carnaval was beginning.
As we arrived in Sucre, kids began pelting the bus with water balloons. You might imagine that it’s no problem to just keep your car or bus windows rolled up. But in Bolivia, January is the heart of summertime. It can be hot depending on which city you are in — and bus/taxi rides are never air-conditioned.
Our windows were cracked just a little bit, but still I recall my leg being soaked. Some people on the other side of the bus got a lot more wet.
While we were in Sucre, we took pains to avoid kids (or young adult males) while we were in public. They were everywhere with their waterguns and water balloons. We were even blackmailed by a little kid who wanted 50 centavos or he was going to soak us. We pretended not to understand him.
Over on the weblog Barrio Flores, Eduardo tells a great story about an angry taxi driver who has to deal with the mobs of water-wielding teens.