Finding an Affinity

 

I am beginning to understand how one is infected with an overwhelming affinity for Cochabamba. Walking through the streets reminds me of being in Nepal. There are stray dogs everywhere, and the merchandise from the shops spill out onto the street with people calling to you as you walk by. The sidewalks are cracked and uneven, sporadically changing from cobble stone to smooth pavement. The air is thick with diesel pollution but smells sweet and smokey from the frying chorizos and baking pan. The traffic is heavy and brakes for no one.

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Animals do not roam the streets in this city as they do in Kathmandu, but are sold every Saturday at the animal market. Indigenous women carry armfuls of 3 week old puppies and kittens for sale. Gerbils, chickens, calves, baby goats and llamas are available for purchase as well. Every few blocks of merchandise mania there is a park filled with benches where you can escape the thick flow of people and cars and sit down to enjoy an afternoon ice-cream. Eventually, you’ll stumble into a market, where fruits, vegetables, grains, fried foods, pastries and more are displayed on wooden crates or in tall, colorful rice sacks.

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There is no boundary between modern and traditional; the two lifestyles are perfectly intertwined. There are black leather knee high stilettos and colorfully hand-woven ponchos in the same shop. We sell Lipton and freshly picked coca leaves. The music playing is either Justin Bieber or Los Kjarkas. For lunch, would you like burger king or chicken-feet and noodle soup? The markets are filled with everything imaginable from alpaca to to zampona. All of the houses and shops are kept locked up behind thick, metal gates, which makes the place look like one giant storage unit during almeurzo when everyone’s home with their family.

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The cars are tiny (relative only to the US) and motorcycles seem to me the most common mode of transportation apart from the trufi. The smog that settles in the valley can been seen from a far and felt from within. We come home eyes and throat burning, smelling of exhaust.

It’s a beautiful life here. People emphasize family and food. Work is last. They look out for each other and are generous to those less fortunate. Their love for music and dance runs deep within their souls. The colors they bring to life through clothing, cooking and decor are brilliant and shine through every interaction. We are becoming fond of this place very quickly.

Nos gusta Cochabamba mucho.

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