Christiane’s Working Adventure in Bolivia! February: Arrivals and Carnaval Times

Christiane’s Working Adventure in Bolivia! February: Arrivals and Carnaval Times

By: Christiane Palluau
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In the winter of 2013, SFU Geography student Christiane Palluau trekked to La Paz, Bolivia to work with a CED (Community Economic Development) group. She shared her diary entries with us, which you can now find in four-parts as our Christiane’s Working Adventure in Bolivia series.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013: Mañana mañana

It appeared that “Mañana mañana” was my mantra in the days leading up to my departure for La Paz. Soon enough however, it was 3:30am on the day of my flight and my bags were packed. Running on an hour sleep, I made the flight and was en route to La Paz with stops in Los Angeles and Lima first. My fingers were crossed that, once in LA, I would be able to switch to an earlier flight out of Lima, saving me from a 30-hour travel day. Luck was on my side and I was able to catch the earlier flight; the only downside was that my bags did not make it with me and so I had to wait until they did.

As usual, the change in altitude is slowing me down. La Paz sits at 3500m above sea level, and the airport at 4000m. Not five minutes had passed since I had disembarked the plane when I felt my heart beating fast and I was light-headed. To adjust to the altitude (and to shake off a cold I seemed to be nursing), I have been enjoying copious amounts of coca and ginger teas which should get me back on track over the next few days. The plan is to take it easy though I do have to write a midterm tomorrow for a course that I am taking by distance, and then I need to be ready for a the Carnaval festival this weekend in the city of Oruro.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013: Carnaval Times

Sparkling turns, terrifying faces;

Dancers in unison;

Carnaval estas tu.



La Virgen and cars;

Offerings for new year;

Carnaval estas tu.



Charque for sale;

Ponchillos, ponchillos;

Carnaval estas tu.



Where are you from?

How long have you been here?

Carnaval estas tu.



Foam in my hair;

Water guns at my back;

Carnaval estas tu.



These words cannot even begin to convey the experience of Carnaval. The smells and sounds varying from the pleasant to the vulgur are all a part of the wonder of this celebration.

Carnaval in the city of Oruro is a parade with thousands of participants which goes down a main street lined with bleachers where observers purchase their spot for the two-day parade. Costumed people walk, dance and jump down the street, with most groups being accompanied by their own marching band. Side-streets are lined with food stalls as well as vendors selling umbrellas, ponchos, sunglasses, "espume" (cans of foam used to spray foam into each others' faces, especially if one is a foreigner) and more.

The city of La Paz held its own Carnaval parade down one of the main avenues this past Sunday, but Oruro’s was better. La Paz had more school-aged participants and wasn't as organized than the one in Oruro. The one thing that La Paz surpassed Oruro in was both the amount of foam sprayed and water attacks! Paceños (those who live in La Paz) attack people from their cars–as was my experience Sunday morning on my way home from breakfast. From a passing car, a little girl of maybe 4 years of age foamed me in the face. She had wicked aim for a wee one her age.
In any case, Carnaval, you are a 4-day festival that I will not soon forget. I still don't understand all of the symbolism. Perhaps one day…

Beyond the Article

Posted on March 24, 2014