Palm Sunday arrived hot and clear. I walked just around the corner with Anita to her parish which was the charismatic Catholic church. The youth group was handing out palms but you could also buy elaborately woven ones from the cholitas sitting out by the street. We waited for a while and then the priest with a group of assistants accompanying him came down the stairs and began the ceremony. He commented on the significance of the day and then said some prayers and blessed the palms. A teenage girl on guitar and boy on drums pounded out some forgettable popish religious tunes and the priest had everyone raise their palms and sing along. After the blessing of the palms with holy water a procession formed and wound its way up the steps into the modern hangar-like space of the church.
Blessing the Palms
There was a large bare cross on the far wall next to a blown up reproduction of the Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, embellished with some extra clouds and a cross. Two large video screens flanked the stage which had a simple table near the front. One the near side wall were two more renaissance reproductions with statues posed around them, as a kind of diorama, one of Calvary and the other of the Birth of Venus, strangely enough. Yes, a nude venus reclining in the forest is quite appropriate for a Catholic church, don’t you think? Have these people lost their minds?!
And yet, the priest read the Passion of St. Matthew and then gave an excellent sermon. I was very impressed with his words and reflections on the meaning of Palm Sunday and his exhortations to practice humility.
The “church” had filled up by this point even though when we processed in it was half empty. I would say more than half of the people showed up over an hour after things started. I started to feel a little faint from the heat and lack of air so I went outside for the rest of the service and just waited for Anita. I didn’t want to participate any more in the Novus Ordo “mass” anyway.
Afterwards we were picked up by Javier and Carola and we all went out of La Paz
to the Valley of the Moon, the valley that runs parallel to Zona Sur on the south of La Paz. It was a fine day for a drive and lunch in the countryside at one of the numerous restaurants along the way.
Javier told me about the area as we passed the Zoo, a Cactus park with walking trails, a series of natural arches over the road and many other interesting things. The valley looked dry but there was some vegetation since the rain was abundant all through the summer around La Paz. The variations in the coloration of the valley walls was fascinating to me. So many striking reds and ochres and browns broke up the monotony of the gray hills. I am reminded of Arizona by the rocks and mountains around here. We parked the car and settled on a restaurant that didn’t look too busy but even still there was a wait for a table. Not like in the U.S. where you give your name and are seated in turn as tables open up. Oh no, here there is completely chaos and survival of the fittest.
The “system” is that you edge close to a table that appears to be finished with or finishing lunch and grab the table when the people get up. Sounds quite civilized and comfortable for the people trying to eat their lunch doesn’t it? Then, once we sat down, we had to wait awhile for service with the dirty dishes still on the table. The waiters were woefully overworked and the restaurant was understaffed, so it was some time before the waiter got to us. We ordered drinks but they never came so Javier took the bull by the horns and got up to get the coke and beer himself. He came back with the beverages but no glasses so I got up and went to what looked like the kitchen window to ask for glasses. There was a man in front of me who had the same idea.
But there were no clean glasses to be had, other than a whole shelf of cracked and chipped ones. So he waited while they washed some and dried them, and then I had to do the same.
Our waiter kept coming back and repeating the order incorrectly. The mixed grill I asked for was 86’d so I chose something else. Then later the waiter came back with Javier’s soup and Carol’s roast pork and told me that my second choice was out too. “What DO you have,” I asked. Well, about half the menu wasn’t available so in frustration I chose something that seemed to have a variety of meat on it. I asked for salad instead of the tuntas (freeze-dried potatoes). When Javier and Anita’s grilled trout arrived (with the wrong sauce of course) he set down my plate but there was no salad and the tuntas were still there.
There was a piece of chicken, a piece of beef tongue and some dried shredded beef called charque that I took one taste of and formed an immediate opinion that I wouldn’t ever be eating that again. It was stringy and salty and strange. I picked at the food but it was so not what I had wanted, and after an hour wait I had lost my appetite anyway. I just settled back into the hot sun and drank the cold beer.
In the meantime we had been treated to some very nice folk music and then a quartet of dancers representing different regions of Bolivia. They stepped and twirled and entertained the customers with the music and their colorful costumes and I was able to record a couple short videos before my camera batteries died.
I ran around the corner and bought a couple AA batteries but when I inserted them my camera registered dead batteries. I took them back and explained to the lady in the store that they were worthless and she gave me two more but the same thing. I forgot that the same thing happened to me in Peru. Many shops sell a low end battery that simply doesn’t have enough juice to do anything for your camera. She wouldn’t give me my money back but let me have a coke in trade. So typical of Latin America that transaction.
After we left the restaurant Leo, Javier and Carola’s son, begged them to stop at the miniature golf course. They obliged and Javier, Leo and I played while Carola and Anita sat in the shade. This course was like nothing I had ever seen before.
Maybe it was decent when constructed…like fifty years ago maybe…but it was the most beat up, ratty thing ever. Just playing on it was going to be a challenge. Some of the holes were just red gravel on an uneven slope. There would be no skill here, just whacking the ball in the direction of the hole and getting close enough to chip it in. Somehow I ended up pulling ahead and winning, not that I could take too much pride in that. But we had a lot of fun anyway. I’m sure it was the highest mini golf that I had ever played on, and certainly the only one with cows grazing next to it. The views were terrific though, and the late afternoon sun was perfect. We stopped at the Cactus park and walked, well, Javier and Leo and I walked and talked about literature and politics and Bolivia and such and Leo chimed in from time to time with an observation.
Leo & Javier
He’s a nice boy and I enjoyed spending time with them. We had some gelato at the Italian gelateria near Anita’s apartment and then headed back, tired but happy.