My first day in La Paz I took a double decker bus city tour that took us up to a mountain w/ a beautiful view of the city.They told us that there had been about 175 presidents in 175 years - one only lasted 6 hours!There was also 1 president in jail.After the tour we went to the grocery store and I finally found and bought peanut butter for almost $6!!! ?I had some great Mexican food for dinner which I had been craving and then saw a Miss Cholita pageant!!It was so funny!The cholitas were answering questions about their favorite book, historical questions about the city and also asked to speak in Quetchua or Aymara.
The next day we did a tour of the San Francisco church run by Franciscan monks who still served food to the poor every Saturday.We saw the Heroe's crypt there (containing the remains of the heroes of their revolution & different battles).It was funny to find out that the insurgents had all been excommunicated by the church but in the next few months, finally after 200 years, they were going to be pardoned.After the church we headed up Sagarnaga St. & the witches market where they have all sorts of weird stuff for good luck including little trinkets & llama fetuses - yuck!We then spent a good hour in the Coca museum.It was fascinating to learn about the different kinds of coca produced in the jungle vs the altiplano.Also how sad it was that the white man ruined it by making cocaine.It showed that the indigenous peoples had been chewing it for thousands of years.It also restated how important it was to the miners.The exhibit ended w/ the medicines and use of cocaine in Coke in the past & what coca was legal for now.(Coke still uses the coca leaves for flavor.)We went to the restaurant Sol & Luna for dinner and there I had a delicious singani (Bolivian strong alcohol) and maracuya drink.After dinner we saw an amazing Pena at Marka Tambo including some traditional dance & music & the famous charango playing Pepe Murillo.
Day 3 in La Paz we saw a little bit of the parade practice for the next Saturday's Gran Poder fiesta then took the bus Valle de la Luna tour.They gave a lot of info. on the bus again like that the cholita hats were originally brought from England for the men but they didn't like them so the seller was very smart and told the upper class women that they were very popular in Europe.They believed him and bought them and then the lower class bought them to imitate the upper and they still wear them today w/ the long pleated skirts.Valley de la Luna was pretty, although we didn't have much time there.After the tour we went to Plaza Murillo and the black market then we all got a haircut!It is the shortest I have ever had it but I like it - only $3USD including a nice tip!
Day 4 in La Paz I was in pain after my Huayana Potosi climb so I got a late start.I went down to the MUSEF museum which had the same mask exhibit as in Sucre.There was a numismatic part very similar to the Potosi money house along w/ educational videos about the coins.They also had a ton of different tapestries along w/ a video of different people weaving them.It really was so amazingly difficult and complicated!They also had a ceramic pottery exhibit along w/ a video showing them not only make the pottery and paint it but scrape out the adobe from a cave then sift it from other dirt!There was also an interesting feather exhibit w/ headdresses & skirts etc.Afterwards I went to the musical instrument museum and it was very interesting.I got to see a bunch of different kinds of Andean pipes or sicos as well as many different kinds of charangos (small guitars).There was also a room dedicated to instruments invented by Bolivians with some that you could try. Next, I tried a rice empanada (not great) for dinner before watching Shrek, the ballet at the municipal theater.It was so cute including little kids & great dancers from a local ballet school.
Saturday, June 6, 2009 I got to see the famous Gran Poder parade.I am still a little confused as to exactly what it represents but it is basically a religious spectacle in honor of the Christo del Gran Poder.It started almost 100 years ago and has grown so big that it now includes over 25,000 people which meant that we saw constant groups of people from before 9am until midnight!It was the longest, most beautiful parade I have ever seen!The costumes were just spectacular!Sunday, I got my second massage (still in pain since Thursday) and saw the outside of the San Pedro jail - a very unique place where the prisoners actually have to buy their own cell!I also got to see some dancers practicing in the park for the folkloric ballet in September.