These days, life in our pueblo is grand. The population of our village doubled with vacationers just before Christmas, many who will stay through Carnaval in February. All those people mean there is lot’s going on. The town’s social scene is hopping. It’s the peak of summer: shorts, sandals, hats, and sunscreen. It’s hot and humid in January.
Hot and Humid in January
How hot is it? It gets into the 80s or 90s most days this time of year. But, it’s not the temperature that beats you down or even the increased humidity. It’s the intense tropical sun. And the high altitude (~7,500 ft) makes the sun even stronger. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to fry your skin in the sun, come to Southern Bolivia in January.
The good news is that at night things always cool off here, which means you don’t need air-conditioning. We have frequent thunderstorms that help too. But, the heat and the sun can be intense in the middle of the day. And that means you’ve got to do something to beat the heat.
Beating The Heat
January is hot and humid in Southern Bolivia, and the best relief is to just get in the water. That can be tough in a desert. The good news is that we got a kiddie pool for Christmas. Like it’s name says, it’s for the kiddies:
It takes us a couple of days to fill that thing, using a gravity fed hose with irrigation water for the farm.
Or, if you’re willing to walk about a mile out of town in the blazing sun, there are natural pools in the river. This time of year, those pools get really crowded:
By the time you make it to these pools, a cool swim is the just what the doctor ordered. I’m always a little hesitant to swim in water so murky that I can’t see two inches, but that doesn’t stop folks here.
Party Like It’s Summer
So, the town’s population is probably up to around 3,000 people now. Our village is really a beautiful place with awesome weather. And people return from all over the world to visit friends and family. I met several folks who had migrated away from our village to Europe, the U.S., Brazil, Argentina, as well as all parts of Bolivia. Everyone who has some family ties to our village comes home for the holidays, if they can.
With all those bodies, things really get rocking, as you can imagine. There are parties and events virtually every night. Lots of meat, music, and wine. Here’s what I’m talking about – a typical summer party:
The parties often go on until the wee hours of the morning – even until sunrise. They can be fun, but they are also a bit too much for me. I’ve always been a homebody. And while I do like to drink moderately, I really can’t keep up with fishes here. They take their festivities very seriously.
These nearly daily parties often are outdoors in the farmlands or old haciendas. People eat and drink all day long, while the kids run around playing games.
The food at a party like this is always very traditional – meat, corn, and potatoes. And it’s cooked traditionally too. That means cooking over an open fire, straight on the ground in pots and grills:
Or your food can be cooked in an earthen wood-fired oven, if there’s one nearby. This one has seen it’s share of meals:
For drinks, there are only two (adult) choices: homemade wines or homemade singani (kinda like vodka, but made from grapes). And the drinks don’t stop flowing.
This was a “family” party at an old hacienda. The 70-odd invitees were all family. That includes uncles, aunts, first-cousins, second-cousins, third-cousins, fourth-cousins (probably), in-laws, in-laws of in-laws, and even more people who just might as well be family too.
A Sports Festival
My favorite part about the summer holidays so far has been the games. I’m a big soccer fan, and I’ve played soccer in California adult leagues for several years. But, here in our little Southern Bolivian pueblo, there’s never enough players around to get a team together, much less two. So, I haven’t played soccer all year, and it’s something I really miss.
Well, with all the vacationers in town, we were able to organize a mini tournament with four teams. I had a blast, even though most of the players are half my age, the sun fries your skin, the “field” is made completely of sand and rather large rocks, and the altitude sears your lungs like a hot red cattle prong. Yup, it was awesome!
We played three games in three days, and my team came in second! There were similar tournaments for men’s futsal (soccer on a basketball court) and men’s and womens’ basketball. It was a veritable sports festival. Too bad it’s just once a year.
Now all we need is some good beer down here.
This has been one of my Village Life posts. See more like it here.