After 23 years, I finally had my first Christmas away from home and family. I must say that it was pretty difficult. I did have a good Christmas with Couchsurfers and friends, but it just wasn´t the same as being home with my parents, brothers, and grandparents, eating tons of Mom´s food, watching Christmas movies, and just hanging out with everyone.
My friend from Ollanta came to La Paz to spend Christmas here, so I spent the last 3 days with her. This was her first time in Bolivia, so it was fun showing her around and was interesting for her to see. On Christmas Eve, a Couchsurfer from Belgium had a party at her house for any Couchsurfer traveling and not at home. It ended up being a great mix with 10 of us in total and consisting of 3 Belgians, a Brazilian, a Columbian, a Portuguese, an Australian, a guy from England, and us. The amount of food we ate was ridiculous. We started out with appetizers at about 8pm with tons of chips, guacamole, drinks, cheese, llama sausage, and other things. I was already stuffed after the appetizers. Then we hung out until dinner was ready (the oven was extremely slow) at 12:30 am. We then crowded around a small table and ate the chicken with stuffing, potatoes, vegetables, and salad. Afterwards was apple pie and bailey´s with coffee. After we finished at 2am or so, we were playing different games and just hanging out. The rain was coming down pretty hard from around midnight, so nobody left anytime soon. We ended up going back to the hotel at 4:30am on Christmas morning. Overall, was a fantastic night again with Couchsurfers. Definitely the most different Christmas Eve that I have ever had!
On Christmas Day, we ended up waking up around 1pm and hung around the hotel until 4pm. We then went to the Zona Sur, the extremely nice part of La Paz. We stopped to take a look in the very modern church there (probably built within the last 10 years), and we saw that a Christmas service was about to start. We then took a seat in the back row of the packed church. The music in the church is played by a young band with drums, guitars, and other instruments sounding like rock. I had actually wanted to go to the Christmas service, I decided a few weeks ago. It´s the closest to home I can get on Christmas. Although the lyrics are different, the melodies of the songs are the same. Hearing Gloria, Holy Night, and other songs reminds me of going to church with my family at Grandma and Grandpa´s, so it was the best thing I could do on Christmas. It definitely made me miss Christmas at home a lot, but I am really glad I went.
After the church service, we took a walk around the Zona Sur. The place is amazing. I am pretty sure the prices to live here are close to prices in the US. The district is tucked up against foothills and gives it a Colorado feel. When the sun goes down, the lights of the houses on the surround hills and mountains is absolutely beautiful. It seems like there are christmas lights strung up along the hill. There are beautiful houses and many large condo buildings and apartments. If you are walking around here, you wouldn´t think you are in Bolivia. It´s a great place to spend an evening!
We searched around for restaurants but didn´t find much open except for a pizza place serving New York style pizza. Although nothing special, it was better than our lunch. Let´s just say the lunch was worse than the Christmas dinner in A Christmas Story. We walked into a local restaurant and asked for lunch. The worker then told us to go downstairs to sit (there were seats upstairs so we thought we´d be sitting there, and it looked alright). In the basement, we found an extremely dirty place with several people eating their lunch. On the way to our table, we passed what seemed to be a homeless guy sleeping leaning on the table. We sat down and had a look around. Both of us knew it wasn´t the best place, but we already paid so we gave it chance. The soup was pretty cold and pretty horrible, so we ended up just leaving. Not the same Christmas lunch as I am used to, but no harm done.
So that was my Christmas. I really missed everyone at home and wish I could´ve been home for Christmas. Missing events with family is definitely the biggest sacrifice of traveling. But being away made me realize how important this time of year is for me, so I will do my best to be home next year!
So that is the end of my time in La Paz since I will be taking a bus to Potosi tonight. Now, a 9 hour bus ride seems like nothing compared to the 20 hour marathons full of urine and vomit that I had to the jungle. I ended up staying 10 full days in La Paz, and I have really enjoyed my time here. It´s a unique city, very beautiful, and has everything here that you could want in a city. It is definitely on towards the top of my favorite cities in the world, and I could deifnitely live here some day. However, now it´s time to continue on towards the south of Bolivia before entering Argentina!