Saturday, May 03, 2008


Trip To La Paz, Bolivia

Bishop Moses, Cynthia his wife, and I hopped onto the plane to La Paz, Bolivia’s capital after our brief one-day stopover in Lima, Peru.

La Paz, a city situated in the Andean mountain range, is not only home to Lake Titicaca but also cradle to Tiwanaku, a mysterious ancient civilization that predates the Incas. The intricate irrigation canals; when seen from an aerial view, speak of an advanced culture ahead of its time. Titicaca is the highest and largest lake in South America.

Those with heart ailments are discouraged from going to La Paz because of the high altitude and thin air, commonly called Sorochi. Some of the symptoms are shortness of breath, nausea, fever, loss of strength, and drowsiness. Sorochi coupled with the biting cold weather takes a heavy toll on its visitors, especially if they’re unprepared and traveling to La Paz for the first time.

Rev Greg Blaxland together with Judy, his wife received us warmly at the airport. Greg and Judy gave us a warm Bolivian hug. Greg and I were formally introduced to each other by Bishop Moses. I never met the man personally although I had heard him speak at the Tuesday clergy meeting where he shared with us a wide array of needs in Bolivia, the most pressing being trained clergyman.

Judy, on seeing Cynthia shiver incessantly from an unexpected blast of cold wind blowing through the airport, immediately wrapped a winter coat around her. Cynthia, although by nature tough, succumbed to the full fury of Sorochi and was confined to rest during our stay in La Paz. I was beginning to feel the effects of the altitude and was told to walk slowly but survived the experience.

The drive to the Blaxland’s apartment was a fascinating exposure to the sights and sounds of La Paz – undulating rollercoaster-like roads, endless alleys, poor beggars, men and women in elegant suits, old and new cars, modern buildings, ancient monuments, cobble-stone roads, riot police with helmets and gas canisters; chaotic traffic, freshly baked bread; women with bowler hats and thick bright skirts; sounds from drums and flutes; bright exotic food stalls in pavements, graffiti on walls, revolutionary slogans, banners, beautiful flowers, broken down trucks and men in blue overalls. La Paz, the nation’s capital reflects the charm of Latin American idealism as well as the scars of Bolivia’s history.

The Blaxlands were staying on the 7th floor of an unfinished apartment block. Apparently, this was not uncommon in La Paz. The staircase railings were yet to be fixed; there were no lifts and parts of the external walls had not been built yet! Apparently, this did not discourage owners of the apartments from moving in. Losing one’s balance while climbing parts of the staircase was risky, to say the least! So we learned the art of walking carefully and slowly up the stairs. After a while, we grew accustomed to our habitat.

Nothing prepared us, especially me, for La Paz. It was all very overwhelming: the sights, smells, sounds, new language, high altitude, and people.

But what was worrying, for me anyway, was a slow but growing sense of spiritual discomfort; I just didn’t seem to connect spiritually with La Paz….

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

interesting story