Thursday, July 29, 2010

The randomness of Bolivia and Peru

While Jeff discusses the news of our last week or so, I´ll fill you in on some of the more random stuff from our trip. We take a lot of pictures of things that make us go hmm, but when we go to write up a blog post, we generally overlook most of the more random things - so here´s a blog post dedicated to just them. At least, just those since La Paz, since the pictures from before La Paz are on memory cards that are no longer in our cameras since they are full. We take a lot of pictures...

A quick note - the pictures of the very weird are often taken through car windows, from far away, or on the sly. The quality of the photos is not quite to the standards of what we normally put on our blog, but it´s more about the subject than the picture when you´re trying to hold the camera still while laughing.

One of the major subjects of randomness are signs and company names. For example, the bus in front of ours in this picture is named "Aroma." I´m sure it had one - that of deisel exhaust - but do they need to call that much attention to it?


A trend I noticed in Tanzania (and really, there, how could you not) was that of custom stickers on rear windows. The trend is continued in Bolivia and Peru. Although not as common, it is often just as random:

Apparently, this guy really likes his Toyota, but mostly because of its sound system. Which is not surprising - many of the cars around here have sound systems that are worth two or three times as much as the vehicle. Reminds me of high school.

Some of the more touristy places don´t seem to hire very good translators before spending a lot on a fancy sign:

Are they making soup from the bones they discover, then? ...and...

They even have weird signs advertising companies that make signs. Why, exactly, does this sign need a chick in a bikini? It´s for a sign-making company, not a bikini-making company. This is one of the more, um, modest of the "gigantografias" (big-sign-making company) signs we saw.

Then there are the signs that I wish more people would pay attention to. The drivers here love their horns, so much so that a couple different taxi drivers have mentioned it to us on their own. It´s insane how much they honk - as bad as Chicago, actually. They don´t really have traffic laws here, per se, so the general agreement is apparently that whoever honks first gets right-of-way in an intersection. Really. I guess whoever lives/works at this intersection got tired of it:

Of course, there are -things- that are just weird, not just signage. For example, a recent trend in regional entertainment around La Paz, Bolivia, is a twist on the WWE-style wrestling that has been around for some time. Now Cholitas, women in traditional dress (skirts with petticoats and double braids), are entering pro-wrestling, with all the campy showmanship and fake characters and storylines to go with it. And tourists can go see!

The food here is mostly carbs and mostly fried, but they do like to fry chicken, as well. The most common name for fried chicken is pollo broaster, which one place translated to - you guessed it - Kentucky Fried Chicken.

That actually didn´t surprise me much, since whenever people ask us which state we´re from and we say Kentucky, they say fried chicken. (Of course, whenever we say Washington, they say DC or Obama, and are -very- confused when we say no, the state... Not that that´s any different than most of the US).

Another cultural oddity is the proliferation of saints. They have saints everywhere - restaurants (in the little shrine next to Jeff - also note the weird sofa he´s sitting on - it was supposed to be a model of a woven reed boat, since it was in Copacabana on Lake Titicaca):

... wineries (the statue of the saint is inside the giant wine barrel):

...on the top of pretty much every hill, in most pay-parking lots, etc, etc, etc. Some of the more important, public shrines have little plaques thanking the saint in question for "favors received." Well, then.

Then, there are the brand names. They have their own soft drinks down here, including a copy of Coca Cola that´s called Coca Quina.

This one´s for my Battlestar Galactica obsessed friends - you know who you are (Janet!). Just fyi - Frac cookies are actually very good.

On the you-know-who-you-are track, this one´s for Gina:

And this one´s for the lunch crew in Huntington. I almost wanted to go in and order the pollo ranchero, but I´m not sure they had it:

We´ve mentioned a couple times our obsession with taking pictures of the dogs down here. We keep saying we´ll spare you the pictures, and then put one or two in because they´re hilarious - just like now:

Dogs aren´t the only funny animal here. Check out the fancy hotel´s lawn service in Copacabana:

There were a lot of donkeys on Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca, and so there were a lot of donkey herders. This guy was chilling while on guard, and must have been playing some game on his cell phone for how long he was on it:

I don´t know why I find the mix of traditional and technoligical so funny, but that one struck me as a little funny. I guess I was tired that day or something.

We have previously included a few of the weird pictures, like the llama fetuses for sale. Here´s a new take on the llama fetus:

Sorry for the crappy photo quality - hope you can see what´s going on. If you can´t, it´s mariachi llama fetus. Very nice. I guess it brings good luck to that particular market stall...

Speaking of market stalls, we often wander town for hours trying to find some particular thing. Today, we looked for bread for some time, and never did manage to find the cheese. I´m sure at some point, we´ll find a street totally covered in cheese venders - but as it turns out, we managed to find a street completely covered in alcohol venders:

I still haven´t totally figured out how the supply and demand system works here, since each stall has a different vendor, but they all sell the same thing for the same price.

Vendors are, of course, everywhere. Including right outside the most impressive ruins we´ve seen, Tiwinaku. Pre-Incan monolith with a hoard of vendors not 20 feet away...

The graffiti here is also very interesting. Most of it is political, but occasionally you get one that´s not as easy to figure out:

That particular graffiti got a round of earworm songs stuck in my head.

This one is for Aaron Walters, if he ever sees it:

Speaking of Che, we saw a strange sculpture of him through a bus window in La Paz:

I have lots of pictures of statues from here, but most are to show the sheer number of pigeons. Coming from an area with not many pigeons, it´s pretty amazing:

A few last pictures. Last Saturday, we were wandering Arequipa, and notice that there were an awful lot of weddings going on. Every church (and there are a lot of churches here, all very grand) had fancy-decorated cars outside and crowds of people. Occasionally, we´d get a glimpse of the bride and groom, but generally, flower-bedecked cars were enough to know what was happening. In this case, though, they were a bit skimpy with the car decorations compared to the others:

That boquet is slapped on there with packing tape. Awesome.

Oh, and on Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca, I was noticing how much stuff was made of the reeds that make up the famed reed boats and floating islands of the lake. Well, we got a new idea for their use when we got to our hotel:

One other random thing I´d like to rant about a bit - I thought Tanzanians had interesting taste in movies and music for buses. I mean, Celiene Dion´s live video for hours? Yuck! Anaconda wasn´t too great, either. But they´ve got nothing on Peruvians. Our first day in Peru, we were treated to one guy who apparently thought that his horrible taste in music (crappy Peruvian rap) was worth sharing with the rest of the bus passengers via Ipod integrated speakers (I´d really like to have a talk with the Mac engineers on making it so easy to play Ipods out loud, rather than on earphones. Not such a great idea, guys), but that wasn´t all that unusual. When the bus finally filled up, we got treated to a movie. Child´s Play. Yeah, the 80s horror flick with the psychotic doll, Chuckie. Anyone who knows my taste in movies knows that´s about the worst choice possible. I don´t do violence, I don´t do blood, I don´t do any of it. When the movie finally ended and I was able to take out my headphones that I had up loud enough to drown out the screaming from the movie, we got treated to ... the same movie over again! When it ended the second time, guess what? They started it a -third time-! Fortunately, someone had enough sense to turn it off about a half hour into the third round. Welcome to Peru, Kate and Jeff! Then, last night on our ride back to Arequipa from Ica and Huacachina, we got to see a Denzel Washington (okay, could be worse, I´ll admit) bloody thriller as a bedtime story, and were awoken to the fundamentalist Christian movie, Fireproof. (If you don´t know about it, look it up.) Never figured I´d actually see that one. Of course, I´d spent quite a lot of my life not having seen Chuckie, so you never know what new experiences you´ll have when you travel in Peru.

And finally, here´s the picture that got deleted from the Lake Titicaca post of the path we followed:

So it doesn´t fit well into this post. At least it´s pretty.

Hope you all are doing well! We´re having a great time, when not having to watch really bad movies on long bus rides...

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