Thursday, October 24, 2013

Some Observations

While I have been here, a variety of things have stood out to me. Due to human nature, I find myself comparing them to things back in San Francisco, but always trying not to judge them - just noticing similarities and differences.

Driving / public transportation:
Well, when it comes to driving, Bolivia is a polar opposite of the US. There is a pecking order and pedestrians are at the BOTTOM. Based on my observations I have deduced that the larger you are, the more damage you can do, the higher up you are on the "pecking order". It essentially goes from large trucks, to micros (which are a little bigger than small school buses), truffis (which are large vans - also used for public transport), private cars are thrown in somewhere in there, then motorcycles, bikes and finally pedestrians. One of the first things I learned was that no matter what, pedestrians do not have the right of way, on a few occasions I have spent almost 5 minutes trying to cross at a roundabout because cars are always going from every direction (and you never know where the cars are going to exit the roundabout). Although I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of people that use blinkers here! (I would say it is about equal to the amount of people who use blinkers in the US.)

Stop lights are a totally different issue. A red light here means it is optional to stop (or at least that is the sense I get). At the some of the largest intersections there are countdown timers next to the lights that tell you how much longer the green, red and yellow light will last. And generally these intersections are too busy with cars to go through the red light, but at smaller intersections, when there is no traffic going at their green light people always go the other direction.

I think taxis are great here, as long as you get a radio taxi you should be fine. They are really cheap. I don't think I have ever paid more than $2USD to get home even in the middle of the night.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT: well I think the system here is pretty great. There are tons of different "lines" that take you all over the city. Every ride no matter how long (or short), costs 1.7 bolivianos, which is about 25 cents. On micros you pay when you get on and on truffis you pay when you get off. Other than that they work the same. You hail the buses like a cab so you can get picked up wherever along the route you would like. And you can also get dropped off wherever you like. There is a constant flashing of highbeams and honking of horns because that is how drivers ask if you want a ride.

Another difference is inside of the cars. They windshields are nearly completely blocked with things. Crosses (and a wide variety of other things) hang down from the rear view mirror. To block the sun, stickers cover up to the top half of the front window. The flat part above the dashboard is almost always covered in so fake fur or other fabric. Also, on the right hand side of the windshield there is a least one sigh which tells you well known places along the route of that particular truffi. In the end, I am truly confused how they even see out of the car, but it works so I just go with it.

Side note: the license plates here say "Bolivia" on them, not a department/state like the do in the US. 

Right now, the city is trying to connect everyone (at least in the north of the city) to a central gas system. That means they are digging up streets and sidewalks and everything else in the way. It reminds me of San Francisco because before they even cover up one block they move onto the next. So there is partially completed projects everywhere. 

Forest Fires:
The first few weeks I was here there were a quite a few forest fires in the hills the surround Cochabamba. Since Cochabamba is in a valley, the smoke from these fires greatly adds to the smog in the city. Also, most of the fires have been in the national park, Parque Tunari. I have heard a variety of reasons why these fires start, but this one seems most believable. Since it is a national park people are not allowed to live in it, but there is a group of people who believe they should and say they would take care of the park. I was told that these people set the park on fire, on purpose, in order to be able to say that if they had been living there and taking care of the park this would not happen. This seems really sad and unfortunate to me. But there is nothing I can do...

There is lots more happening but these are some of the main things I wanted to point out. More coming soon (on other unrelated topics...)!

1 comment:

  1. A photo of one of those crazy looking windshield / dashboard combinations would be fun to see, hint hint...