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La Paz: The Bad03:45 AM -- Wed April 6, 2005

(Got lots done today, but didn't finish readying the add-ons, keep waiting! I think I have 5, maybe 6)

The Bad
Don't read this if you're the type who doesn't want to look at peoples' vacation slides (i.e. normal) - it's not anything interesting
I'm just sharing it because this was my first time ever outside the U.S.! It was all news to me.

Here's all the bad stuff that happened on my trip to La Paz. The obvious one when you go to Mexico is... well, you know. Don't drink the water! Well, I only had a very brief issue of that sort on one day, and all I have to say about it is that if that's Montezuma's Revenge, Montezuma is a wuss. Didn't even dent our plans, and there was none of that "rushing off to the bathroom" business at all. Speaking of not drinking the water, that's a generally bad thing - brushing your teeth with bottled water, worrying about what's ending up in your mouth when you shower (what, you don't just stand under the faucet with your mouth open?) or wash your face... just kind of annoying to have such a basic routine part of your life requiring special steps.

I don't know if this qualifies as bad, but there was a language barrier for sure! La Paz is a tourist town, but most of the tourists are Mexican. So we actually didn't encounter a lot of English speakers. Our hotel people were hardcore about English - we even ordered our breakfast there entirely in Spanish, but they just kept replying in English. Gave us both practice, I suppose. And we met a snorkel guide who spoke perfect English (and claimed to speak Italian too). Outside of that, maybe one waiter we had spoke a lot of English. Everybody else was either speaking Spanish only, or at least worse at English than I am at Spanish, which is saying a lot (not that they should speak English, I'm just explaining how it was!). Anyway, I don't call that bad. First of all, our whole goal was to speak Spanish as much as possible. Secondly, we learned so much. There's no question that by the end of the trip, I was significantly more capable (in more ways than just language) than I was when we started. So the language barrier was both expected and appreciated, but it was indeed a challenge to be overcome.

Legitimately bad: My theory on this will be covered in detail another day, but in short, the first time we tried riding the bus to the beach, we got off at the wrong stop and ended up having to walk around a semi-industrial area (with semis, no less!), lost, for quite a while. That was really unpleasant, and truly the low point of the whole trip. Very dumb of us to have turned down the taxis that drove by us asking if we wanted a ride! It turned out to only be an emotional low point though. Once we finished panicking, we just walked the quarter mile to the beach that we could clearly see from where we were (a little scary since it was along a shoulder-less cliffside road...), and hung out for a little while! There was another disappointment there, in that the only restaurant on that beach was not open yet, and we had skipped breakfast. We had to eat our snack-pack cheese & crackers to survive the horror. Then we walked back to where the bus had dropped us, grabbed a cab, and rode to the way way nicer beach (Tecolote, highly recommended), for a very much improved ending, along with real lunch.

So, what else was bad... I got some mosquito bites. It's very easy for me to count how many I got, since on me, a mosquito bite swells into a huge red welt. I got 4. Being a mosquito magnet, I'm rather impressed with that result, considering the super tropical place we were. I also got a mysterious rash type thing on the backs of my hands that disturbed me. Happened real early in the trip, and kind of gradually went away from there. It may have been some kind of sun reaction (but just on my hands?), because as Sol was fond of saying "the sun is hotter down here", and boy nelly, was it. Just little red dots. Gone now, so I guess everything is good! Oh hey, and on the sun/medical angle, Sol got seriously sunburned feet, but we are otherwise just browner than usual (usual for me=as brown as a snowflake that's been washed with bleach).

Also bad, but not so much for us specifically: we saw a guy running down the street with a purse clutched under his arm. I don't think he was just a slightly effeminate jogger.

Along the same criminal lines, we did in fact get "ripped off" at one place! Well, I mean besides the exorbitant prices which we paid at a lot of places (I told you, it's a tourist town!). We went to pay for some t-shirts we bought (we're tourists, get over it), and the cashier swapped some money around between his wallet and the register before giving us change. I thought that was weird, but he gave us the amount of money we were owed, so no big deal. We got to the next shop and tried to buy something to discover that he had given us a slightly ripped 200 peso bill - it was intact, but one corner was ripped off. Doesn't seem like a big deal, but apparently, shops don't take ripped money as the lady there emphatically explained over and over. She said all we had to do was take it to the bank to trade in for a clean bill. So in the end, this guy stole from us... but all he stole was convenience. He didn't want to have to go change it himself (heaven knows a shopkeeper never has cause to go the bank, right?), or maybe he just wanted some payback against the loud obnoxious tourist types that always bug him. Well, he messed with the wrong people this time, buddy!! No seriously, he did, because we're really quiet, friendly, and make every effort to be helpful and kind and speak the language. We don't even drink. These are not the Ugly Americans you're looking for. Of course, on the other hand, we pawned it off by using it to pay the bill at a restaurant later, so looks like we're just as rude as he is. Maybe we deserved the abuse after all?

Oh, man, how could I forget? The real bad was driving in LA traffic to get to and from the airport! That was the worst part by far.

Oh, and the Churro Lady. I really didn't like her one bit. Okay, she never did anything bad to me... and she was efficient and helpful... but does she have to be so surly?? I actually skipped getting a churro once to avoid dealing with her! Let me repeat that slowly: *I* skipped a CHURRO opportunity! A cheap one, no less.

Okay, one more obvious bad thing - we're vegetarians. It was really tricky finding stuff we could eat. There was something for us at every restaurant, but you can only eat so many quesadillas before you go on a cheesy tortilla tossing rampage and get deported. I only tried one time to get something custom ordered ("Tacos con pollo... pero sin pollo por favor?"), and while it was an amusing challenge that resulted in a lot of laughter on both sides, it worked out really well, for probably the best dish I had on the trip. The notion of tacos without any meat in them completely threw the guy for a loop. He ended up deciding I needed Tacos Con Queso. Which technically is a quesadilla, sadly enough. But there was so much side stuff to put with it - rice, beans, salsa, cream, lettuce, and maybe more - that I was able to make my own burritoey things that were great. I think I should've tried custom orders more, because it both got me real food, and broke a lot of ice with the waiter for one of the most fun dining experiences of the trip. I don't actually know the cultural rules on that stuff in Mexico - was I being obnoxious with my special order, or does everybody tweak everything to be just what they want? Given the attentiveness of wait staff everywhere we went, I wager the latter is closer to true. Our waiter certainly had fun with it.

Okay, I guess that's just about enough words for tonight! Gee whiz. You'd think the trip was a nightmare. Well hold on for future installments... because I haven't yet decided whether this trip was the best I've ever been on or not (it has to compete with the Kauai honeymoon...)!
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