August 19, 2009
The last few grains of sand were falling to the bottom of the hourglass; my time in South America was coming to an end. Santa Cruz de la Sierra proved to be a good place to transition back into the “modern” world. It’s a plain and ordinary city that makes you feel like you could be almost anywhere in the world.
People don’t typically go there to stay in the city. Santa Cruz is a great jumping off point for many activities such as exploring the Amazon Basin, Pantanal, and Jesuit Missions. But I had just one night left and those activities required at least a few days. So I spent my last two days roaming the streets of Santa Cruz, poking around shops to spend my last Bolivianos, and enjoying wonderful juices and desserts made with the abundance of tropical fruits available.
On my second to last day, I returned to my hostel in the late afternoon. The only thing left to do was to visit some museums. I decided I’d rather take advantage of the hammocks in my hostel’s courtyard and read a book. It was there that I found my final amazing group of travelers. I made plans to meet up with woman from Brazil and a guy from England later for dinner and dancing. I cannot even begin to describe the hilarity that ensued. From his stories to his dance moves, the English guy was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. My stomach hurt from laughing so hard that night, sit ups be damned.
Almost as soon as we got back to the hostel, the sky unleashed thunder and lightning and heavy tropical rain. We decided to watch the storm in the courtyard and chat for a bit before heading off to bed. A girl came out of the dorm room I was staying in and sat down beside us without saying a word. After a few minutes of observing us, in French accent, she hostilely asked us to be quiet.
The next morning I had a conversation with her. I sensed that there was something beyond what many Americans would consider a typical French attitude. I asked her what she was doing in Bolivia. Her crankiness disappeared and her face lit up as she told me she was in Bolivia to do research for a Ph.D. in linguistics. She was spending an undetermined amount of time there and seemed excited to be venturing into little known parts of Bolivia.
One by one, the people I met at the hostel headed off in different directions. The English guy was taking the “Death Train” to Brazil. I went to lunch with the Brazilian woman before she hopped on a Samaipata bound taxi. I had several hours to spend before my late night flight. I sat down in the square to people watch. Main squares can really give you a sense of what a culture is all about. This one was relatively plain, but colored with lovers and loving families.
After dinner, I went back to the hostel to get my backpack and call a taxi. In some ways I was ready to return to the comforts of home, but I really wanted to flip the travel hourglass timer and stay in the country I’d grown to love. But all good-bad things must come to an end, and my time in Bolivia was up.