Friday, September 29, 2006

What the???....

I just read off that Ted Morton believes that, "the evidence is absolutely overwhelming that same-sex marriage is not a basic human right, but rather it's a social experiment"....what the hell is that supposed to mean???

Although I am in favour of same-sex marriage I can see how the man is entitled to his own opinion... but how the heck do you have evidence of any basic human right?!? Is the term not a fluid and abstract concept?

¡No comprendo!

Some Random observations about the streets of Santa Cruz

1. Roads, especially intersections, are crazy...
I think the streets of Santa cruz de la sierra are proof that anarchy works... at least sometimes...
In the downtown areas where traffic is quite busy, the intersections are generally completely unregulated.. no yields, no stopsigns, no lights... nothing. The rule seems to be that whoever gets to the intersection first gets through first... but with narrow streets it is not easy to tell if someone is coming. So, people just honk their horn as they approach the intersection in the hopes that other vehicles have the time to and are willing to stop. Needless to say I have seen several near accidents where people have slammed on the breaks, or, more often, swerved around a vehicle to get through the intersection. However, amazingly, I haven´t seen anyone actually crash yet, and traffic flows much better than it would with lights or stops... so there you go... the lack of system works. On top of everything else... in the few, randomly dispersed, intersections where traffic lights are present, they are often ignored...
crossing the street as a pedestrian is always a challenge and best done in pairs so that there are two opinions about whether or not the next oncoming car will hit us.

2. In the downtown areas it is normal to see women walking unaccompanied at night... this gives the impression that the streets are quite safe, and is not something i remember seeing often in downtown calgary.

3. the graffiti against morales and leftists in general seems to get harsher further from downtown (in quasi-residential areas) e.g. - ´death to the communists´

in other news:
It looks like we will be in this fair city for about another 10 days before we leave to the village... much of that time will be spent preparing ourselves for the task at hand.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Last night we had the pleasure of going back to the Expo Cruz...frankly, I think we were both feeling a little uneasy about it given some of the things we´d seen the first time around. To recap, here´s some highlights of the disturbing things the event had to offer over the two days:

- A young Mestizo man wearing a clean, nice-looking shirt with a big swastika on the shoulder (possibly one person seen on two seperate occasions, or even more disturbing is that this is becoming a trend...weird)

- Potential genetically modified can´t get over that easily. Maybe it´s the hindu in me, but their eyes just looked so sad..

- This fair might has well have been called ¨autonomists rejoice¨cause everywhere we looked there were signs, stickers, even people signing a wall in a makeshift bar in support of independence from La Paz. It´s sometimes a little hard to postpone judgement since most of the same arguments (mostly economic) have been used by Albertans in favour of seperation...although we did find that it is in fact autonomy and not seperation that most people here are after

- True, sex sells, but its excessive use at the fair made us uncomfortable. For example, does the Santa Cruz Zoo really need women wearing pleather bikinis in order to draw in interest?? Don´t the llamas and capybaras speak for themselves???

Despite all the negative criticsms, there were definitely some positives. Most of all it was great to spend some time chatting (well, i did my best...) with German and Elva. They truly are very genuine people and have been so hospitable and wonderful to us! Although, it was a little awkward when we discovered that they fall into the autonomist camp and aren´t Evo Morales´biggest fan....we´ll have to see how this unfolds.
This is from our second day here... so two days ago now. It is a part of an email to my parents but i wanted to share it with more than just them... it is a bit long, but hopefully not too boring.

The trip was ok in the plane... we couldn´t sleep much from miami to la paz.... it was amazing seeing the andes from the air as the sun was rising. it was hard finding vegetarian food in miami airport. Seeing the Andes from the air as the sun was rising was amazing and probably not something I will ever forget. I just thought ´wow I am really in (or at least over) south America!!!!´

So.... soo much to tell you it seems... Patricia´s parents (Elva and Germán) are great... they have been really nice to us and they took us to expo cruz ( a bolivian and hypercommercionalized version of the stampede, but minus the rides as far as i could tell). There were these highly disturbing humpbacked cows there with very short hair that were about the size of a hippopotamus ( some weighed 1250 kg or more!!) There were all tied up on display and we thought they looked sad. i don´t know if they were genetically modified or just their feed was, but there was lots of agribusiness advertising around them and the word ´genetico´ was very prominent....

Santa cruz is a very nice city with, for the most part from what we´ve seen, clean streets and a very safe feel overall. It reminds me a lot of Playa del Carmen, mexico except much less touristy (very, very few people speak english) oh, and it is far from the caribean... although, it should be noted, we mostly have been downtown.

We had a positive experience with a street vendor from the highlands yesterday when we (eventually) bought a small wallet from him while we were chillin´ in the central plaza. He then took a break on the bench beside us and played an andean flute for a while before starting a conversation with us about where we are from, where he is from, and how we like Bolivia etc... we shared some bread that Janaki and I had just purchased from a bakery (2 croissants and a HUGE loaf of whole wheat bread for about 1 cdn dollar), and then he was off to continue his work.

Another note about Santa Cruz is that there is no secret that Evo Morales is not liked here..... there are many examples of grafiti saying Evo: Dictator or Evo: hijo de pierra (son of a bitch). There are also lots of ´Autonomia Si´ banners and a party called Podemos that appears to be seperatist. It is like alberta on steroids in that way: lots of mineral wealth, no tolerance for a national government who dares to ask them to share with the rest of the country. However, i have only been here for a few days and will eventually make an effort to get the opinions of some of the people from santa cruz on the situation. maybe it isn´t quite so simple??

I think the reality of Bolivia set in when we rounded a corner to be confronted with a young woman in beautiful hand-woven indigenous clothing and a baby on her back politely asking for our spare change. We gave $1 US to a little girl with her (her daughter? i think this woman was younger than me). Within a couple of blocks the story repeated itself only a more middle-aged woman with even younger children, and then a second group only a few meters away... they appear to be indigenous folks from the highlands here to try to find a better life in the richest city in the country... instead they get stepped over in the streets by the Cruceños (citizens of Santa Cruz) as they go about their daily affairs...

What is really bugging me is the contrast between the poverty stricken indigenas (indigenous people) in the streets, and the arrogant ´our wealth we don´t have to share it´ attitude of the Santa Cruz autonomy movement.

Janaki and I have decided that we will give change to people here because they really seem to be on the brink... we are going to budget for a few dollars a day... and when we see young families on the street we are going to give the mothers $1 USD or 10 bolivianos becuase it is at least something, enough to get a reasonable amount of food here if nothing else. I know we can´t help everyone but I want to do something... at least to let people know we acknowledge them as human and have empathy for their situation even though they are indigenous.

anyway, i don´t think that anything could have prepared me for that experience, even though it is to be expected in a developing country, of course.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bloggin in Bolivia, baby!

So, the peer pressure was too it is, our blog. Hopefully we can try to keep it updated with progress on the water project as well as our insights from the streets of Santa Cruz and from wherever else circumstance takes us...