Writing about this stuff really helps bring back the memories. Most of the time you try to forget. Shivering naked at night in the closet usually helps. But now that I’m jotting this all down, even more keep flooding back. After a brief stopover in Buenos Aires, which I don’t remember at all, these are my memories of the first couple of days after coming ashore in Bolivia, aged 10.
- We drove into La Paz in 2 identical Red VW Beetles packed full of luggage and had lunch with a family I no longer remember. It could have been the president. Probably was. It was only a pitstop; we arrived in Cochabamba later that night. We would end up spending 4 years there. La Paz is high. Cochabamba is high too, but La Paz is high. 13,300 feet is a long way from sea level. I should know, I looked it up. Not much grows there, including humans. I could hardly even run around the yard without feeling woozy.
- We got to Cochabamba late that night and all I can recall is a lady named Judy giving me helpful tips on how used toilet paper needs to be placed in the bin beside the toilet, instead of getting flushed. Bolivian sewage systems weren’t great and could only handle so much. A shy child, I just kept mine in my pocket.
- Lunch the following day was with an American family at the school my parents would be teaching at and I would be attending. I was overjoyed when the American mother jammed her pudgy thumb in the freshly opened milk bottle to scoop the cream out. I dry-reached just from the excitement. Her son, a similar age to me, was recovering from an appendix removal and was as chatty as a doormat. Things were going swimmingly.
- Every house is Bolivia has high walls to keep people out. I came from a town with a population of 1500 in Australia. We hardly even had fences around our yard. Most walls were made of adobe (mud brick, not design software), and had barbed wire, or broken glass along the top. Sometimes both. Sometimes skulls just to hammer home the message.
- Another reason for the walls I guess was Dogs. Bolivia has about a gazillion dogs. At last check, Cochabamba was home to around 35 stray dogs per square kilometer. By ‘at last check’ I mean ‘statistics I can make up because I was there.’
- Our house had quite possibly the most amazing treehouse i’d ever seen. Not that it was that amazing, just better than the 3 poles my dad had strung up for us back home. We had many adventures in that treehouse which i’m sure i’ll get to later.
- Everything was dusty. Cochabamba is dry. High and Dry. Once it was lush, so i’m told, but now most of the time it’s just dry. This means there’s a fine dust on everything. I had to take a bath just from walking to my room. I guess the build-up of used toilet paper in my pockets didn’t help either.
And they’re the bulk of my first impressions. Bear in mind, by now most of this is pretty fuzzy and what I couldn’t remember has been made up to fill in the gaps.