I´ll be filling in some of the previous days' activities and stories later, but right now I find myself at an Internet connection without my notebook. Í'll also add photos later...
La Paz - and interesting city. We arrived last night at about 11pm, and went straight to Rafys' aunt's apartment. The airport is located at 12,000+ feet, and just walking to the baggage claim and loading the bags onto a cart seemed like an effort. Luckily, the city of La Paz is about 1000 feet lower than the airport, and Rafys' aunt's house is lower still. However, walking around this afternoon at just a moderate pace gave me just a little tinge of a headache. Luckily, I'm not trying to do any vigorous things. I had trained intensively in aikido for 1.5 years in Denver, and I thought that 5280 feet (the "mile high" city) was hard enough on the lungs. I don't want to have to push myself at double that altitude. But I am getting ahead of myself.
We were greeted boistrously in the stairwell of the apartment last night by Rafys' cousins. They took our large backpacks (thankfully, because I would likely have been a wreck after walking up 4 flights) and then we all sat down for some drinks and sharing of gifts. The Kilwin's fudge that I had brought with me from Ann Arbor didn't withstand too well the multiple aborted attempts at leaving Santa Cruz that had been made earlier that day (more on this later). Still, though, they seemed receptive to trying a strange type of candy that is (at least to my taste) a little too sweet. Rafys had brought a whole slew of presents, too, both from her and her mother, and these went down with much fanfare. Similarly, the two bottles of red Chilean wine were consumed on the spot, and I started to feel the fingers of fatigue creep into me.
I tried to make it, I really did. The evening in the parlor started off so well, with me listening as much as I could to the Spanish, and responding as best as I could when propted by a question. However, as the night wore on, it became more and more difficult to pay attention and focus to understand what was being said by the cousins and aunt. Eventually - although it was not my intent - my nodding off intiated a call around to many different taxi companies as the evening came to a close (and I hit the hay, dead to the world).
We ended up coming to La Paz a few days earlier than originally planned, because the TAM airline (one of the national Bolivian airlines, run cooperatively with the military) cancelled their flights to Sucre, suddenly, and after 4 hrs of waiting. Since it was a Sunday, their staff at the ViruViru airport was limited to only check-in personnel, and so if we wanted any change to our tickets, we would have to go to the old airport (El Trampillo, shared with the military). This meant a cross-town trip to the old airport, finagaling with a bunch of people who had little interest (or incentive) to negotiate, and pay what was basically a full price ticket to get to La Paz. Then we had to go back across town to the ViruViru airport (no TAM flights out of El Trompillo to La Paz). It was a very stressful day, and we both were not very happy with the type of service offered by the airline.
However, the airplane did leave on time for La Paz, and it does mean that we now have extra time here in La Paz to make trips out to Lake Titicaca and other surrounding areas.
Rafys is still trying to get in touch with her family and friends in various places in Chile, and has managed some success in contacting friends outside the city of Concepcion, but not much ability to reach people directly in Conce. We continue to try. (Fingers crossed.)