Sunday, February 26, 2006


Not all the students can afford to go home for the Carnaval break. So last night we showed "Motorcycle Diaries" (en español, naturalmente) and today we organized a soccer match that was supposed to pit the upper campus against the lower campus. Except there weren't enough people from both places who wanted to play, so the rivalry was scrapped and we shifted from the big grass field to the basketball court. Which sounds odd, unless you've seen futsal played. Some call it 'salon soccer' but it's fast and a little rough and high-energy regardless. There something about the goalie's job being different, but the smaller concrete court and the smaller ball (filled with sand, rags and/or water, I'm told) are the main differences.

Here are a few of my favorite shots, desaturated to just black & white. It was dusk, but with my much-doted-upon telephoto lens and a little piece of magic Canon calls Image Stabilizer, I got some great, if grainy (ISO 1600) photos.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Preparing for the Inaugural Mass

Tomorrow is the official inaugural Mass of the academic year. Which means that today was plumb full of last-minute preparations in the campus' brand new church, some of which I captured here: doubling the number of hand-made pews, installing a St Francis statue made from the trunk of a tree (complete with puppy dog!), rehanging a larger-than-life-sized crucifix after the artisan who crafted it came in from La Paz for some final adjustments (apparently Jesus was a little too gordo), and making sure the Virgin of Miracles was comfortable in her grotto nook beneath St Francis.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Alasitas Market

The version of the story that I like goes like this:
Before a solider had to leave for war, he carved a tiny doll to stay with his wife and their young child. He placed the doll on an important shelf in the kitchen and asked the doll to keep the family safe, and to keep them company as well. Within a few days of the soldier's leaving, the entire city was under siege -- there was very little food and everyone was afraid.

But the mother sang songs about happier times to both her child and the doll, and the child told the doll wonderful stories about the foods that used to be found in the now empty markets. Sometimes, before bed, the mother would pour out her grief to the doll, worrying about her husband, their child, and their whole city. And other times, when the mother was busy in the other room, the child would ask the doll if everything was going to be all right.

Somehow, each morning there was a bundle of food outside this family's door. In fact, there was enough to feed both mother and child, plus many neighbors as well. No one knew where the food came from, or how it got there until the child decided to pretend to sleep just inside the front door and watch. Just after midnight, the child was amazed to see the tiny doll come to life and scurry out under the front door. And just before dawn, the child was equally amazed to see the tiny doll return with a tiny bundle of food on its back. Crouched in the shadows, the child watched as the tiny doll dropped the sack in front of the house, slide under the door and climb back up to its shelf exhausted. When the child opened the front door, the tiny bundle of food became full-size and real.

And to this day, in the first months of the year, people buy tiny little versions of what they hope will become real this year: a car, a wedding cake, a diploma, a pantry full of food, tools and supplies for building a house, an airplane ticket, even a DVD player or a suitcase of money. They ask for a blessing on it, then place it on an important shelf in their home.

I love the little remote controls for the DVD players. (I bought the black Macintosh, of course.)

Euros, dollars, and just about every South American currency I could imagine.

These were all about the size of a fingernail.

The little pliers work! Likewise the tiny bags of Ace laundry detergent. Thankfully the teensy-weensy propane torches don't.

I'm not sure who wants the coming year to bring them 2 purply dancers.

Tiny scaffolding, bricks, wheelbarrows with cement mix, and Bosch brand drills.

I think the spotted ones are tiny little quail eggs.

The market also does brisk business with toys and toy accessories in general. This juxtaposition merited a photograph, it was decided.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Baptism and Rutucha

[text to come . . . more photos as well]

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Una Noche en La Paz

A Peña is a traditional evening of song and dance and music and food (and wine). These dancers put on a fine show with almost half a dozen costume changes, despite there only being two occupied tables -- us and a cute Canadian couple.

Yup, audience participation was obligatory.

I think they picked Hannah for these dancers' attention because they could tell she was fighting some altitude sickness.

After the Peña, we busted out to the World's Highest Microbrewery, Ramjam -- makers of Saya beer. The place totally captivated me until seeing one too many ads for the same cigarette gave away that the place is 100% sponsored. And therefore suspect. But still pretty dang cool.

From left to right: Hannah (who lives 5 blocks from me in Saint Paul), Maria (who is my food twin, Vata Dosha and all), Hugh (our Julie McCoy and Ph D agronomy professor), and me.

But the coolest place in all of La Paz (OK, the tiny fragment of La Paz that I know) was Diesel Nacional. It was literally like a scene out of one of my dreams: rusted metal everywhere, excellent lighting, acid jazz, and just oozing a happy PoMo ennui.

Hannah, Maria and Hugh were remarkably tolerant of my need to photograph this place from endless angles.