05 April 2011

tarija, bolivia


Back to our travels!  After crossing from Argentina into Bolivia, Tarija was our first destination.  It's known for its grapes and wines and for its "southern" accent.  (The Spanish here really was the equivalent of American English in the south-- with more of a drawl and harder for me as a beginner to understand.)

From the border, we passed through a few small towns and lots of open landscape.



random donkey
We arrived during their annual harvest festival, and we got to see the tail end of the girls' parade and part of the boys' parade through town.



There were girls and boys on llamas, donkeys and horses going by, but I thought the boy carrying the (live) sheep on his shoulders was an interesting addition I'd never seen before.





Long green grasses were everywhere, symbolizing the harvest, as well as colorful little balloons.  Everything was decked out, including strollers and remote-control cars.


Music was also different than your usual parade fare.  Men played actual animal horns and drums.



And I guess the older kids got bored with the cowboy/rancher costumes and decided to do their own thing.



After the parade, there was a little beauty pageant for the girls.


And the boys (and some girls) had all-out water-gun and water-balloon wars.  


Apparently, the water fights are a very crucial part of the Bolivian Carnival experience, and my partner told me that when he was growing up, his dad would drive him and his siblings around town in their truck while they threw water balloons at other people.  The rule was that you only attacked those playing, but attractive girls would often get pelted, too, just to get their attention.

As for the adults, the post-parade experience was comprised of barbecues/food stands, music and lots of drinking.







These baskets were everywhere, full of fruits, vegetables, cookies and pastries, and decorated with colorful streamers, flags and balloons, and it looked like everyone was giving them to everyone.


Accordingly, the gift basket business was thriving in Tarija.











I loved Tarija's markets, in general.













I often find fruit displays really beautiful, even a simple one of just apples and grapes.


Tarija is also known for these giant flat, round loaves of bread.  They're sort of like a denser pita bread.



My favorite thing to eat in all of Bolivia: salteñas.  They're like giant dumplings but with a baked, almost cakey crust and a chicken or beef stew inside.  Usually eaten for breakfast, I'd be happy to eat them anytime of day.  Yum!


And we found Tarija to be a lovely little city to walk around, too.  




As always when we travel, we enjoyed seeing slices of local life.  Kids were playing in the fountain in the main park, the rows of red shoeshine stands were always full, and there were lots of neat old cars.














It's funny-- just like in Africa, the buses had the most unexpected names.


And I don't think I've ever been anywhere in the world where there wasn't at least one Chinese shop or restaurant.  Though a churrasqueria named Jackie Chan may be a first.




It was nice for me to see my birthday celebrated as a main street and the name of a pharmacy, too.






Here's something you probably wouldn't want to get there, though:


On a heavier note, we got to see where my partner's grandmother was buried.  Surrounding what I'm used to seeing as a cemetery (tombs on the ground), there were walls of tombs, too.



You could either have the smaller ones:


Or the larger ones with doors:


It's funny.  When I'm traveling, I find even the sky looks different from home sometimes.


It's also funny to see which places end up on the international clocks.  I think this may be the only place in the world you'd see Tokyo, London, Tarija, Madrid and Miami.


The pope came to Tarija a while back, so you get to see a giant pope welcoming you when you fly in or waving you off as you fly out.