these are the tales of a dancing diplomat!! sometimes this mission keeps me and my dance company - life, rhythm, move project - at home in washington, dc. at other times, we find ourselves kick ball changing across the country and globe. enjoy these pictures and updates of recent adventures.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Welcome to the Clouds!
Well the adventures of Aysha and Juli, The Dancing Diplomats, continues, this time in Bolivia. After a really strange 4-hour plane maintenance delay in Miami, we arrived in La Paz. During our briefing before this trip, they let us know that the altitude would most likely affect us for a few days, but not to worry because there would be oxygen tanks on standby. WHAT??!! That freaked me out and I had convinced myself that I would be hospitalized because of the altitude. (Don't ask why I took it this far, but I did.) Well, the altitude in La Paz is NO JOKE!! As soon as I stepped off the plane and into the airport, my head began to hurt and started feeling like two huge elephants were sitting on top of me and the Energizer bunny was thumping his drum inside of my ears. This sensation only got worse as the day went on.
Anywho, we were wisked through customs and security (perks of working for State Dept, I suppose.) The airport is actually located in the city of El Alto. It's appropriately named because it surely is high...13325 feet (4061.5 m) above sea level. Denver ain't got nothin on this place! On the drive down from the clouds to La Paz, I am suprised by two things: 1. the indigenous culture here is very pronounced and intermixed into more contemporary culture and 2. golly-gee-willakers these streets are steep!! I've not been to San Francisco yet, but I cannot imagine anything more steep except a perfect 90 degree incline/decline.
The trip down from El Alto, one we took quite a few times, was like riding a rollercoaster. Not only because of the angle of the streets, but because there are no lanes and rarely stop signs or traffic signals. (My journeying mercies prayer became a daily occurence.) We finally arrive at our hotel, the Ritz Apartment Hotel, and get settled and head out on our first journey to a farmacia (pharmacy, yeah I'm trying to teach you some Spanish). We're told it's only about a media cuadra (1/2 block) from the hotel, so we set out to find it. This would be our first altitude-humbling experience. It truly was only 1/2 block away...but uphill. Can you imagine two pretty inshape dancers stumbling into the pharmacy completely out of breath to ask for vitamins??? My lungs and my head (and my pride) were so confused how I could be panting like I just performed a 20-minute piece after only minimal to nil exertion. Maybe we will be using those oxygen tanks after all.
Over the course of the next few hours, we met our Embassy superheroes (trip coordinators) - Fabiola "Fabi" Ibarnegary and Benjamin Hess. They take us on a little tour of the city and see one of the dance schools. I am SO excited to be on another Envoy journey, but I'm starting to feel like re-fried poop b/c of the altitude. There are now 6 elephants and 2 Sumo wrestlers sitting on top of my head and my ears hurt!! My breathing is not normal...anyone who really knows me knows I DESPISE panting. But there both of us were sounding like we just finished a marathon as non-marathon runners. Not cute.
We push on and decide to buy groceries for our apartment style hotel suite. This took the last bit of our energy and oxygen. Carrying those bags in that air for 4 blocks was like telling yourself you can get through the last 4-eight counts of a 10-30 minute piece. (Sorry if you're not a dancer & don't understand the analogy.) You're expending as much energy to cheerlead yourself to the last move as you are actually moving...so you're triple exhausted when it's all over. We collapsed in our hotel rooms and got ready for our full day of interviews and workshops ahead of us the following day.
My prayer: Dios quitame de este dolor y mar de altura (God take this altitude sickness away) and please don't let me be the first one to have to use the oxygen tank!!