Tag Archive: Santa Cruz de la Sierra


Those annoying stringy banana bits

Those annoying stringy banana bits – image: AV

Did you know that the stringy bits of a banana had a name?

Yes, they do.


It’s not just bananas, but present in most plants; it’s just that in bananas they are so damned annoying.

Just another interesting fact of life bought to you by a blogger with nothing better to do than take phloem photos on a Friday morning. BTW, the banana was delicious after I had removed the stringy bits. Don’t you just hate them?

This morning at 3:something a.m. I was browsing blogs that I follow. One blog had a post with three BBC headlines, the first two terrible news, the third, however may seem terrible to you, but to me wasn’t.

Bolivia lowers working age to ten

Now the world is trying to stamp out child labour, and this headline is the exact opposite. To those of us in the ‘developed’ world, that seems terrible, but having travelled throughout, worked as a tour guide and lived and loved on and off in Bolivia, it’s sensible.

Meet Feliciano, he was seven at the time,  and the head of the family.

Head of the family, aged seven

Head of the family, aged seven

Sorry, the photos are terrible, they were scanned off negatives that have been abused up and down the Andes, in the heat of the jungles and bounced along dusty roads around South America.

Feliciano and his cousins Sandro, 10 and Juan Carlos, 8 all worked as shoe shine boys in the main plaza in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. You could get your shoes shone brilliantly for B$1 (boliviano or peso) which at the time was about 30 cents US.

Feliciano at work, the flourish of the brush in the air, he was quite a craftsman and a bit of a comedian

Feliciano at work, the flourish of the brush in the air, he was quite a craftsman and a bit of a comedian

You could find him and cousins in the plaza as early as 6am they worked through the day playing cat & mouse with the municipal wardens to avoid having their tools confiscated and evicted from the plaza. The day often ended at midnight.

Sometimes, when in the plaza for my early morning coffee, I would find them.

Too tired to go home

Too tired to go home

When they woke, I would buy them a salteña (like a pie) and they would start the long day all over again and maybe go home the next night, maybe not. He worked seven days, sometimes he took a day off and spent it playing at the nearby Rio Piray, but he would have his kit and ply his trade around the many cabañas as well.

What he took home was the family wage.

This is the reality in Bolivia and the new law provides some protection.

The last time I saw Feliciano was in 2000, he was 10 and still working.

An ethnic Aymara girl begging in the plaza

An ethnic Aymara girl begging in the plaza

Not only Feli, but beggars, windscreen washers, food sellers as well.

In Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, everybody has to pitch in.

It’s a matter of survival and they don’t have the luxury of not working.

They lead a hard and difficult life, quite unimaginable to us in the western world where we are insulated from these harsh realities and condemn them without knowing the real story.

I can relate similar stories from Peru where I lived in five places.

This is why I have always said, that it wasn’t until I began to travel, that I learned to appreciate the world, both just and unjust.

Sunny day, I have class at 5:30, there is lunch in the fridge today and as it’s after noon, I should be cooking along;



A Vague Feeling

I decided coffee first...

I decided coffee first…

Yes, I woke this morning… several times actually, but when I finally woke, I had a vague feeling it was Friday. I couldn’t be certain, but it was just a niggling feeling. Quite annoying actually. I didn’t really know what to do first; put my pants on, make coffee, read my emails or pee. Ah, priorities…

I was told once that you determine old age when a fellow stands in front of the urinal, unbuttons his shirt and pees…

Personally, I believe it is when you forget how to ride the bike…

today-is-international-beer-day-284x284This morning I discovered it was International Beer Day. Then I saw the date on the post, 2nd August… I missed it.

Then it occurred to me, why do we need a day to celebrate something we do every day?

We do have some ridiculous celebrations.

I see the world is a better place… Westboro Church founder has gone to his reward, I just hope it’s full of little gay devils.

IEdownloadsI got invited by Yahoo to upgrade to IE11. How ridiculous! If Yahoo was so bloody smart it would know that I am using FireFox, and therefore couldn’t give a constipated about IE which is a load of crap.

I can’t believe people actually use this crap. But then I used it to downlaod FireFox… LOL

I have begun sorting out and filing photos that I took years ago, then lost them on a bad hard drive, then recovered.

One of them bought back fond memories of food and girls.


This quaint cabaña is one of many by the Rio Piray near Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia. I used to frequent these cabañas on the weekend, they served cold beer and local food. An added attraction was that I had two girlfriends (not at the same time) who lived there.

This is not the photo that inspired me but another, you’ll have to visit Things that Fizz & Stuff for the rest of the story.

Another photo that I discovered was taken in Cabanaconde in the Colca Canyon Valley, Peru. I took it on a frosty early morning stroll.


Just a calf looking over the fence at me.

Now it’s time for a nap.


Picking Peppers

One of my modest chili pepper bushes

I grow chili and cayenne peppers in my small modest garden. I love to watch them grow, first green, then orange and then finally fire red.

Today, I had crops from both bushes ready for harvesting.

There is one important fact that one must bear in mind picking peppers; wash your hands before having a pee.

I learned this the hard way.

In NZ we don’t have chili nor cayenne peppers, at least I have never seen them there. We have the capsicum (bell pepper), but not the hot varieties.

It wasn’t until I came to Brazil that I met ‘real’ peppers.

Brazilians have a jar or bottle of pimenta malageta (chili peppers) in olive oil on the table at every meal (breakfast excluded) much as we westerners have a pepper shaker with white pepper.

Our smoker

Our smoker

But it was in Bolivia, c1999, that I learned my lesson. I was a cook in an American BBQ restaurant called Cowboys  in a small plaza in Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

We served great smoked ribs and various other dishes; one of which was hot beans. We smoked our own meat and cooked our own beans. The beans called for a bag of dried peppers in a 30 litre pot. I’m not sure what kind of peppers, but they were about 8cm (4″) long and they were added to the pot during the cooking.

Soon after adding the peppers to the pot I needed relief. No problem, the beans were on a simmer, so off to the bathroom.

It was soon after my return to the kitchen, that I began to get a strange sensation in the lower region. This strange feeling began to intensify gradually until it was evident that my manhood was on fire.

I soon realised what I had done.

I tried washing the affected parts, I tried cold water, I tried ice cubes in my underpants while dancing in a demented frenzy around the kitchen all the while trying to keep a steady supply of dishes for the dining room. Believe me, that’s no easy task when you are more worried about your manhood than food; and whether it will ever function again.

My boss, who doubled as barman and waiter, caught me dancing a fire maddened fling around the kitchen. I explained the reason for my antics, and he left the kitchen with the ready dish laughing his head off.

I, however, didn’t think it was funny, not in the least.

The kitchen closed at midnight, I had spent an agonising six hours, and then I limped home, a twenty minute walk, a much wiser man, with a still warm, tingling sensation in the nether regions.

My advice to any man who handles raw peppers, WASH YOUR HANDS BEFORE GOING FOR A PEE!

Must blog along.


Sunday Travel Tales

The main plaza, Santa Cruz de la Sierra – image credit on the photo

Going to have a break this week. I’ll leave the continuation of the Peru story for next week.

A few weeks ago I saw a great story on Lottie Nevin, This Little Piggy Went to Market about an Indonesian market. It got me to thinking of some of the South American markets that I have been to, and used to frequent.

Most notably was Los Pozos in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia, but also Abastos in the same city and San Juan in Lima, Peru.

Sloths live in the trees in the plaza – image via: about.com Ron Miller

Some of Lottie’s photos (she a great photographer) could have been taken in any of these markets, they are so similar. The thing they have in common would give a sanitary inspector nightmares. Let’s just say you will not find anything like it in the First World. If you haven’t already, hop across to Lottie’s blog and have a look.


Los Pozos at the lower middle, close to Arenal Park on the left. This is just a few blocks from the central plaza – image: Google

Los Pozos today is not at all like it used to be when I lived there.

The old market was demolished and a new one built, but that didn’t mean that the level of hygiene was up graded, it just meant that the market was in a new building.

The building looks new, as you can see by the frontage.


The new Los Pozos

But the surrounding streets are still an impromptu jumble of stalls and colour.

One of the things about these markets is that despite the lack of hygiene, there aren’t hoards of people getting sick. I certainly never suffered any illness by buying my food there.

This also got me to thinking that we in the First World are babied, mollycoddled… “I guess the big attraction for me, apart from the hustle and bustle, is that they show what wimps the western world have become, a point that I was blind to before travelling all over South America. I found that in the 3rd World I could live with half the baggage and double the fun.” – quote from a comment I made on Lottie’s blog.

The colour and hustle and bustle of the surrounding streets

The colour and hustle and bustle of the surrounding streets


The meat market

These aren’t my photos, they are ones that I found on Google, I can’t remember who to credit, but if they are yours, let me know and I will. Can’t figure out why the market photo is out of alignment.

The western world is over-regulated. There are too many rules and laws, that we don’t need half of them. But we have become so used to everything being ‘squeaky clean’ we have forgotten how to live.

Next week, back to Peru

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