Semi-bilingual birthday bash

This year Jadzia has enjoyed one of the longest periods of birthday celebration enjoyed by anyone outside of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. She had her first birthday party on Aug. 12, in conjunction with Yoli’s and my dad’s birthdays. Her actual birthday was Aug. 24, which we spent traveling to Bolivia. We had a party for her on Tuesday to which all her cousins and a few friends were invited.

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Year of the car

In the time since we last visited Bolivia, several of Yoli’s family members have bought cars and started driving. This is of course a big deal for them. In fact, they offered to let me drive if I wanted, but I continue to be dead-set against driving here. Our friend Corina has been struck in two different accidents in just the past couple months, and the first one got her into trouble because she had no friendly witnesses who could back her up against the accusations of the driver who truly caused the accident. And in Bolivia, you essentially start out guilty until proven innocent.

Santa Cruz is not unlike other parts of the developing world such as India or China, which are seeing huge growth in personal automobile ownership. This is one reason the price of gas is going up everywhere.

That is, everywhere the price of gas is not subsidized by the government. Bolivia is such a place.

I am not an economist and don’t have a full grasp of the situation. But for whatever reason, there are shortages of gasoline in Santa Cruz. Some blame it on the federal government under Evo Morales, who nationalized some of the petroleum companies. Others cite different reasons. Regardless, it’s often hard to get gas when you need it, and there can be long lines at the stations. This, despite the fact that almost all of Bolivia’s petroleum is extracted and refined in Santa Cruz.

It affected us somewhat today. My brother-in-law Boris was supposed to pick us up in his car and take us to the house of Yoli’s sister, Noemi, for Jadzia’s birthday party. At first he couldn’t find gas, and called to tell us we would need to make other arrangements. But later in the afternoon, just as we were trying to make those arrangements, he showed up. He had been able to find some gas somewhere.

Later in the evening, my father-in-law arrived. When an opportunity arose (we needed to buy hot dogs and buns), he asked me to come with him and my two brothers-in-law in his car for the errand. He was obviously very proud of it, and showed off its fancy CD player. He boasted of the selection of music he had, and insisted that my brother-in-law Juan play it very loud. Juan was driving, because though my father-in-law recently bought this car, he still hasn’t obtained a driver’s license.


I have mentioned before how Jadzia is seeing Bolivia with new eyes. She is old enough now to appreciate some things about it. Though she may have been here and seen it all before, she doesn’t really remember it.

One such thing is the market. Santa Cruz has many markets. There is one within walking distance of El Jordán called Mutualista.

Bolivia has a world of smells. As you walk the streets, you might be inundated by the odor of sparks and metal as you pass a block of small welding shops. Walking in an alley you might smell garbage in the elevated trash baskets at each house, or sometimes just from litter on the street.

But the markets, to me anyway, have even stronger smells. Undoubtedly this is because of all the foodstuffs available, as well as the trash produced. There are vendors selling tons of produce, butchers with chicken carcasses split open so you can see the insides and decide which one you want.

And, of course, right around the corner are all the folks selling party favors and candy. And that’s why we went to the market. We needed a few cookies and trinkets to fill out the goody bags we planned to give out Tuesday evening at Jadzia’s birthday party.

To me, the market is a labyrinth. The central part of it is essentially a grid, but once you are inside, it can become claustrophobic. Many stalls’ inventory overflows out into the aisle or hangs out across the ceiling, whether it’s underwear or bright multicolored boxes of cereal.

Since we were at the market anyway and we had no supplies to speak of back at El Jordán, we decided to buy some spaghetti, tomato sauce, ground beef, and broccoli. They ground the beef for us right there, which was interesting to see.

Jadzia doesn’t have much to say about all this (yet anyway), but I can tell she is taking it all in as if it were a brand new experience.

Dust in the eyes? Must be winter

Technically it is wintertime here in Santa Cruz, though the season is winding down much the way summer is winding down in St. Louis.

It’s a bit dusty with temperatures in the mid-80s. The breeze keeps it fairly cool. This is the first time I’ve been here at this time of year, and it certainly feels very comfortable outside. Not the sweltering humidity and occasional torrential rains like you get around January.

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19 hours of non-stop delight

Jadzia awoke at 4:15 a.m. and she wasn’t bothered to be awake. She was very excited. “Today we’re going to Bolivia!”

I tried to get her to scarf down a pancake before my dad showed up to take us to the airport. (Thanks, Dad!) Yoli and I were awake and surprisingly functional considering we had been awake until about 2 a.m.

We were anticipating a difficult day ahead, what with a long layover and a long flight. What would the girls do? Would they lose their minds?

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