Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Few Things That Are Different Here

I thought share a few things that are different here in Cochabamba. Again, remember different isn't worse or better, just different. So here are a few of the differences that we are adjusting to:

1. Paying Bills: In Cochabamba a guy comes to your door and knocks and reads the meter (for electric or water) and then he prints it out on a hand held computer and gives you the bill. Then it is your responsibility to go downtown and wait in line (sometimes for hours and hours) and pay the bill in cash. No checks, no sending anything in the mail, no paying on-line, only in person and only in cash. Thankfully for a small fee SIM has someone who will wait in line for us and pay our bills. It's definitely worth it. We pay for everything in cash as a matter of fact. My dad and mom would do just fine here since that's the way they like to do business.

2. Milk: Milk comes in one liter sized plastic bags that you snip the corner and put down into these little plastic pitchers that are made just to hold the bags. Each bags costs about 3.5 Bolivianos (about 28 cents) so that makes a gallon around $1.35. We can also get chocolate milk in the bags, but it's closer to $2 a gallon. You can imagine what it's like carrying all those plastic bags home from the market. They are kinda 'wiggly' in the grocery store bags. Usually we walk to the market and take a taxi home since we have so much stuff to carry. The other day Joe and I decided since we weren't buying too much (eight plastic grocery bags) we'd walk the 10 or so blocks. The milk almost didn't make it. (Joe made me put back my 3 kilos of ice at the store so we wouldn't have to carry it.) Next time we'll only walk if we have less stuff or more people to carry it.

3. Propane: Just in the last year or so some houses have a natural gas line directly to them. Most houses though operate under the old system: propane cylinders like we use in the states for our BBQ grills. You just have to replace them often. One missionary told us this is why we have boys. :) Where do you get more cylinders? From the gas man who comes through the neighborhood on the back of an old pick up truck banging on an empty cylinder with a piece of metal and announcing his presence by the banging and a bull horn. If you need tanks you come out and exchange them with him. Kinda like the old ice cream truck coming through the neighborhood only for propane tanks. The guy selling oranges (narangas) comes by in the morning pushing a wheel barrow full of oranges and announcing his arrival with a bull horn too.

4. Trash pick up: There is no home trash pick up. When we fill up trash bags which is often since the size of our kitchen trash can is about 5 gallons we take them to green dumpsters which are spread throughout the neighborhoods. We always leave our plastic bottles beside the dumpster because many poor people scavenge through the trash for these bottles to recycle. We just make it easier for them.

5. Toilet paper and flushing: (I know this is getting a bit much...just trying to fill you in on some of the things that are different.) The toilet paper rolls here are not double rolls no matter what they say. Actually I suppose they are double rolls because a single roll will not even last until noon at our house. So, we are all the time buying toliet paper. Also here as in many countries all over the world you can not flush the toilet paper. We must put it in a trash can in the rest room that also must be emptied often, but for a different reason than it's size. :) We David first adopted David from Korea when we was 3 years old, we had to train him to throw the paper in the toilet because he always put it in the trash, now 7 years later we're having to train him back.

6. Mail: This is a city of 1,000,000 people and there is one post office and no one delivers mail to houses. This is because not too many people get mail here. Another time I will tell those of you who would like to send us mail/packages how to do it.

7. Water: Of course we can't drink the water or even use it to brush our teeth. We have a pitcher of filtered water in the bathroom to use for that. There are a few options here to get drinking water. One is a water service where they will deliver those big filtered water bottles to your house for your use. One problem is that people often run out and can't get anymore delivered until the delivery man gets around to it (manana). Another option is a filter system for your kitchen sink. This is the option we are going with in the apartment and we'll just keep the pitcher of water in the bathrooms. For water for other uses we can just use water out of the faucets. Of course that is if your house has water. Almost all houses have underground
tanks that hold water because even in the city on city water you can't get water everyday or at least not all day...for most houses in town water just comes through the pipes the mornings and in the evenings. The one house we liked that was up the mountain a ways was at the end of the water line and only got water on Fridays. So, the underground tank stores water. Of course there are times that you use up all the water in your tank (especially during the dry season when we don't get water through the line as often). During these times you can have a water truck deliver water to your tank from local reservoirs. Of course here you run into the same trouble as the bottles of filtered water being delivered whenever the delivery man gets around to it (manana).

8. Laundry: The wealthy people have washing machines; no one has dryers. We will have a washer. Then we just hang our clothes out on the line to dry. Most of the houses have a covered area for hanging out clothes during the rainy season. One of my first purchases here had to be an iron since the clothes come off the line stiff and wrinkled. :0 When we move into our new apartment we have to schedule time to hang our clothes out on the line on the rooftop. I wonder how that's going to work since we'll need a timeslot everyday with as much dirty laundry as we produce.

9. Transportation: We don't have licenses' here (I tell more about the process of getting a driver's license here another time.) so we mostly use public transportation and our feet. We ride on buses or taxi trufis for 1.5 bolivianos each (about 18 cents) to just about any where in the city. Sometimes we might have to change to a different one costing us a total of 36 cents. A taxi trufi is like a bus that runs a route, but it is only a car or microbus (think European minivan). You can flag down a bus or a taxi trufi anywhere along their line. You don't have to catch them up at a bus stop and they will let you off where ever you say. A regular taxi costs a bit more money. From the grocery store nearest our house it's about $1 for two people and lots of groceries. From the grocery store further away it cost us $2 for three people and lots and lots of groceries. Last Sunday we visited a Bolivian church about 5 miles from us. It cost us $4 round trip in two taxis to get our family to and from church. We were stacked up in the taxis. Of course they don't mind packing them in here. In fact if it's a station wagon taxi they can put two more in the back. They will also haul anything you want in a taxi. That's even the way to get our furniture or appliances a taxi. They will even haul live goats. Whatever you want. I don't think I ever seen that in the states.

10. Blockade/Strike Days: In order to protest not getting paid, better working conditions or to show opposition to the present government people organize blockade days. They block important roads and bridges with tree limbs, nails, burning tires, trash and debris. They also stand to throw rocks at cars that try to get through. Sometimes they even have fireworks and dynamite to add to the excitement. These days and where will be blockaded are put in the paper the day before. Then everyone knows just to stay home on those days. The kids at the missionary school here love these days because they don't have to go to school on them. They are built into the calendar like snow days. Our poor kids don't have such luck with homeschooling. We can continue as planned.

11. Animals: It's amusing to see all the different animals in a city of a million people. There are dogs EVERYWHERE on the street. Of course people have dogs for guard dogs too inside their walls, but the ones I'm talking about are just roaming the roads. One game people play is with kids is to count how many dogs you see before you get to your destination. Someone told us they got up to 100 before they stopped counting on about a 15 mile trip. If one of the dogs on the street is intimidating then you just bend over and act like you are picking up a rock. Most of the time they will run since they've had so many rocks thrown at them. The other day on the way to another missionary's house our driver had to stop and wait for a herd of cows to get out of the street...the MIDDLE of the street...not going any too fast. We've also seen other herds of cows, sheep, and goats down by the river in the middle of the city. I'm sure there are pigs and chickens around, but we haven't seen too many of these.

12. Walls: All of the houses are surrounded by walls that are up to 10 feet tall with spikes, broken glass or barbed wire on the top of them to discourage anyone from climbing over. Some houses even have electric wire. I wouldn't want to get popped by that. Remember we are on 220 unregulated volts here. Inside the walls are the yards and the houses so you can't see most of the houses from the street. Most house windows are covered with iron bars to prevent break-ins as well. Our apartment has walls surrounding part of it and iron bars for the other part of the wall. This is sufficient because the apartment employees a full time guard to let in only people who live there or are visiting someone who lives there.

Well these are just a few of the differences there are many more. We are thrilled to be here despite all the differences. Tonight while watching the fireworks from the futbol stadium just a couple of blocks away from the guesthouse where we're staying the 6 younger kids told us it was a good move to move here.

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