Not even two weeks in La Paz, and I’m already starting to feel like a native. OK, so that’s a slight lie. There are many things that I don’t and never will understand here, and the fact that most of the time I and my fellow interns are the only non-Bolivians in a place can be a little bit disconcerting (that said, when I went a-wandering round the stalls full of ‘typical Bolivian stuff’ (read jumpers with llamas on, hats with earflaps and little model people) I kept getting miffed when I head other English voices… Still, being blatantly stared at by a small boy on a bus for about half an hour (as in, him turning round in his seat to watch me) was a slightly odd experience. Anyone would think I had two heads…
Anyway… this has been a pretty jam-packed week: bus strikes (with occasional moments of potential excitement, such as the burning of a poster or the odd letting off of firecrackers, but mostly just people sat chatting and buying popcorn-like-stuff or ice cream from street vendors), construction sites (watching cables be hooked up for the new cable car system and wondering why the design for the cars appears to be identical to the big wheel in Manchester…), cycle races up a closed-but-not-for-long dual carriageway (riding in the organiser’s car and leaning out of the window to take photos, then bumping into some of the DNF-ers hours later on their way home…), a textile museum where I had to ring the bell to be let in, lots of photos of different coloured old style Beetles, two thunderstorms, a photography assignment and a reasonable amount of speaking Spanish.
Oh, and a cake. Heading home from an afternoon out watching ‘trufis’ (this bizarre public transport system unique to La Paz: basically an ordinary car that travels a particular route, you flag it down and then just yell when you want to get out, paying your 3 Bs or whatever it is. The quirk is that it has five passengers: two in the front, so one is basically sat on the gearstick. And this is considered normal) and the textile museum where I had to search for somebody to sell me a bracelet and a bag in the shop (a bag with llamas on, that is, and a bracelet that is red and black and very nice, despite the fact that I’m sure I picked the green and blue one…) I decided it was time for a drink. And some cake. So, on the first day here, I ended up in a German café because it was the only one that didn’t seem intimidatingly full. Guess what happened this time. Back to the same café.
So I sit myself down by the window and am given a menu, which I peruse to my heart’s content. And choose some chocolate-y cake concoction, which I order. No, they’re out of that. Second choice: out of that too. And the third. At this point I give in and ask what they do have, and am waved towards the counter. But even there I find hidden traps: one rather yummy-looking multi-layered cake thingy has a big sign on it declaring it ‘reserved’. Who reserves a cake?! (Read on to find out…) So with a sigh, I opt for the cheesecake. And then battle my way through the drinks choice, with the waitress returning twice to tell me that they’re out of my chosen juice. There’s a supermarket next door, I feel like saying, so go and buy some papaya to juice. But I don’t, I just agree to mango instead. British passive-aggressiveness, that is…
Anyway, the cheesecake finally arrives:
To my surprise (I don’t really know why it surprises me, given that the place has a German name and serves things like apple strudel), rather than being weirdly wibbly ‘New York style’ cheesecake with a funny crumbly biscuit base, this is a big solid slab of the kind of baked cheesy thing you find in Eastern European delis back home (I’ve never been to Germany, so I can’t comment on its authenticity). I could take or leave the kind of jammy-jellyish stuff on the top, of an indiscriminate ‘red fruit’ flavour, but the cheesy bit itself is delicious, especially the slightly darker, slightly chewy crust bit… Mmm… (The mango juice was OK, but not the coldest, perhaps because I was so thirsty that I drank most of it before the ice cubes had a chance to work their magic. But that’s pretty standard for here: they’re not big on cold drinks actually being cold…) I fear the Bolivian-not-German waitresses of this café may begin to recognise me, as I become a regular. But the cheesecake is so good that I don’t care. Who needs a menu anyway?
PS. I am very proud of a couple of photos that I took for our assignment this week: from Zona Sur (the posh bit of La Paz at the bottom of the valley, where the streets have numbers, not names) at rush hour. For my first time on a DSLR camera, I think they’re OK. So here they are: