Wednesday, March 26, 2008
On March 15 I went with Rotary Club San Pedro to a small village near Lake Titicaca to distribute donations of more than 300 pairs of shoes, school supplies, and clothing. We got up early on Saturday morning and traveled with three Rotarians and two contacts we had with the village who had worked there as nurses. The drive took about 4 hours and included a brief ferry ride over a portion of the lake. A stunning, sunny, 60 something degree day surrounded us the entire time. We spoke with some of the leaders of the town ( some of the few who spoke Spanish) and they gave us a brief tour including a semi-finished plaza the local authorities had promised to finish. They also explained that the new expressway ( or Bolivian equivalent) would cross through or near their town a major boost to their local economy of artesanal weavings and agriculture.
We ate a communal meal of potatoes, corn, a garlic-salt cheese, ispi, and habas- delish. After chatting with the leaders some more we distibuted all the items we had and were presented with many thanks from an assorted group of leaders. A wonderdful experience and an even more wonderful Saturday evening when we got back to La Paz.....
Well I got my first taste of tear gas a couple weeks ago. I finished up a day at Gregoria Apaza visiting high schools to recruit for my English course I’ll be teaching at a resource center en El Alto ( they’re paying for my transportation which means about 3-4 buckaroos a week) I got back to La Paz late in the afternoon, taught an English class from 5:30-7:00 and headed to a café to grab some food before going to Rotary meeting around 8:00.
When I got closer to the café I heard the chants and shouting of the protest rally of “the pacifists”who were anti- Evo Morales. Through chants of “dictatorship NO, democracia, YES” I casually made my way through the line of police to the café a block away ( The issues are quite complicated and I’m careful to note that those chants might or might not be true).
Coffee Alexander is a trendy but nice shop next to my house and they have a killer Quinoa wrap. Around 7:50 I decided to head off to the meeting. Content with my excellent timing I neared the front of the store. It seemed to me that while everyone smokes everywhere whenever they can here, it seemed a bit much this time around. I also noticed a large group of people at the door with Bolivian flags, clearly members of the rally. Finally I noticed a man with bulging red eyes and snot running from his nose. Soon I was smacked in the face with a thin, burning, irritating feeling in my eyes and I quickly headed to the back of the store. Indeed, it was tear gas.
Turns out the police decided to break up the rally which eventually turned semi-violent when supporters of Morales (Masistas) showed up. A few car windows, and windows of a nearby university were broken, and a couple people got hit with rocks being thrown.
This I found out the next day. Of course, no worries mom, I waited in the café till all was clear, went to my apartment and made a delightful cup of tea…….