Rurre, Let me count the ways

It wasn’t easy to get here, but I’m glad to be in Rurrenebaque. It’s the dry season, but it’d been raining in Rurre for days. The planes to get here are old and driven by vision, so when it’s raining or difficult to see, all flights are canceled. Also, the airstrip on the Rurre side is grassland, so if it’s muddy, the plane can’t take off. Anyway, loads of people basically waited at the tiny military airport for about a day in hopes of catching the next flight. It was bumpy ride in a 20-seater plane, ending with one of the flight crew pulling out a metal pipe, shaped like the beginning strokes of a digital number 5, attaching it to a hole in the roof of the plane and spinning it round and round. The stewardess (ooh so non-p.c. of me) searched frantically for gloves to aid the man in his spinning. I’m not sure what it was. A mini survey tallied two votes for depressurizing the plane, one vote for lowering it’s wheels. But it turned out that every time the airplane was about to land, it caught the wind, which lifted the bugger up so we couldn‘t land (even thought I think we all paid tariffs for having luggage over 15 kilos). Whatever the guy was turning so arduously made it so we wouldn’t catch the wind. We landed suavamente on the grass strip with applause and laughter.

Anyway, I love it in Rurre. Rurrenabaque. In the hostal with the wobbly fan whirring. The night birds yowling. Cicadas and crickets. Dogs barking. Mopeds mowling. Born to Be Wild sounding out from Moskkitos, the cozy discotheque. All just a bug screen away from my ears.

Everything is warmer here, including the people. The general reception I’ve encountered in Bolivia is, well, tentative. A withholding of information and eye contact. Signs everywhere warning: Cuida sus pertenencias. Not warm at all. Could be the cold weather. One chatty hombre in the bus on the way to Pelechuco said as much. He worked as an explorer and said, waving his hand toward the window, “Just look at it (snow, glaciers), so so cold. In the jungle, everybody is warmer and they talk more.” But maybe it’s the dog-eat-dog ambiente in the cities and pueblos of the altura. Everywhere you go, somebody’s telling a lie and ripping someone off. So people are weary and approach it all with caution. And of course perspective. Some might pin down the lack of eye contact as a tendency to lie or some minor disrespect. I met an architect from Belgium who just thinks the vendors in La Paz are just timid. I don’t know, in the end it’s a chicken/egg situation. Por ejemplo, papel higenico. Toilet paper is so rare, you can’t even find it in hotels. Did Bolivians stop giving the luxury of toilet paper because it was always running out (getting stolen)? Or do people steal the toilet paper--when it’s there--because there’s never any toilet paper?

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