Urine tests, cold showers and staggering views

I am off to get the results for my urine test tomorrow, which I then need to take to the immmigration office. Isn’t that where you would take your urine results? I am half-wondering whether I will get kicked out of the country if it has too much salt in it.

Urine isn’t the only thing that I have had tested. To try and get my residency for a year, I have had blood tests and x-rays, stuck endless fingerprints on cards in various police stations, photocopied reams of documents, and got bank statements sent from the UK.

The process is not yet over. I am likely to need a statement by a government department later this week confirming a letter by the British embassy which verifies that the letter by my bank confirming my solvency is a copy of the original. Got that?

The bureaucracy is at times fustrating but I guess I can get a visa unlike most Bolivians who try to do the same in the UK. At least the most nerve-wracking moment is over.  I had to go to Interpol today to get the results of the international police checks. Thanks to Tony Blair’s love of war, I actually have a police record for blocking a military base in January 2003, but to my relief it didn’t show up.

Meanwhile at work I have been testing my spanish trying to digest reams of documents on international trade negotiations, and presenting my first proposals at a team meeting earlier today.

Fundación Solón collates huge amounts of information on different themes, in particular the impact of free trade agreements and privatisation of water in Bolivia. I, not surprisingly given my last job, have been helping them think through possibilities for using the web better to communicate their work. 

I have spent the weekends wandering quiet neighbourhoods looking for somewhere to stay. Wandering here invariably involves steep climbs up oxygen-starved streets, a wierd mix of feeling yourself burning in the sun and having to put on a jumper in the shade and sidling past pavement stalls selling everything you could possibly want. Occasionally I would stop off for salteñas (a kind of tasty Bolivian cornish pastie) and amazing views of the city that fills the canyon of La Paz.

Unfortunately there isn’t much of a culture of sharing flats here. Most people my age either have their own children or are still living at home with their parents. So Bolivia’s equivalent of the London flatshare listings "Loot" involves lots of adverts for unfurnished flats or small rooms usually without kitchens for the sad single people out there whose families are miles away. Luckily one of my colleagues is in a similar predicament as she has just started at Fundación Solón having moved from Cochabamba, so we are likely to get somewhere together which means I won’t be too much of Norman No-Mates.

Strategic flatmate alliances isn’t my only tactic for making friends here. La Paz is a bit harder than Cochabamba for getting to know people. It seems everyone has their own lives. So at the moment I am going for the "joining clubs" approach for meeting people.

Last week, I headed to a yoga class. I had decided to go for the all-black look thanks to a new tracksuit I had picked up for a bargain from a street stall of course.  All seemed to be going well until half way through when everyone disappeared for a cold shower. Given that it was freezing outside, I was glad to be able to use the excuse that I didn’t have a towel.

Everyone then came back completely in white from socks to Tshirts. The teacher explained that the washing and the white was to help you be in a better spiritual state for the second more meditative session of yoga. As I sweatily moved about in black, I felt like a yogic antibody. When the class finished, I crept out quickly so that my negative kharma wouldn’t infect the others anymore. I am sure I can find more clubs.


One Comment

  1. Miguel June 29, 2005 at 9:54 am - Reply

    Is it really that complicated? Whenever my mom visited Bolivia (US citizen) and stayed for more than six months, she just had to pay the monthly foreigners fee with no problem. Not much bureaucracy.
    As for a place to stay, checked the newspapers already? Often there are families offering a room in a house. That is also a good way to get to know people.
    Enjoy La Paz. It’s a fun city to live (when there are no protests).
    Best of luck.

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