Primeras Impresiones

Ah, first impressions. They must, by their very nature, be captured first. If delayed, they’ll be tainted with the lens of hindsight.

So many first impressions. Where do I begin?

But before I do begin, here’s a little shout out to our PCS (Permanent Change of Station) experience. It is never simple, easy, or cheap to fly internationally with a pet, and each experience has challenges of its own. (You may remember this fiasco.) And we had heard horror stories about this particular routing–people being stuck in Miami for days accused of having the wrong paperwork, and American Airlines’ complete unreasonableness. I entered the fray ready to fight–diplomatically, of course. 🙂

And things couldn’t have gone more smoothly! Thanks to colleagues’ advice on Trailing Houses, our Foreign Service Facebook hive-mind (thanks, guys!), we booked two overnight flights to avoid the heat of the day when airlines won’t fly animals. We spent the day in Miami,

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boarded and deplaned both flights without drama, and voila! We landed at El Alto, the highest international airport in the world, with all our luggage and Quandary intact and were greeted by an embassy expeditor holding a placard with my name on it. Boom!

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Nuestra Senora de La Paz, our home for the next two years! And here are just a few of my many first impressions:

  • La Paz is beautiful!—Randy says it looks like southern Utah; I think it looks like the moon—not that I’ve been to the moon, but you know, what you’d expect the moon to look like.

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  • And it’s charming. Here’s a quick peek at a cholita, the ubiquitous indigenous female dressed in traditional garb:

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  • And it’s walkable. Here’s a view of our house (we hope to move in Tuesday), and I’m sitting in a coffee shop just a few blocks away, enjoying free Wi-Fi. San Miguel, our new neighborhood, is full of restaurants, shops, and grocery stores. We may not even need our car in the city!

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  • The air is dry. This means things dry quickly, hair doesn’t frizz, and there’s less fear of mold. Of course, that also means you get those awful little painful angular cracks at the corners of your toenails…and buy stock in hand lotion and vaseline.
  • The embassy is organized. Our check-in process was amazingly professional, efficient, and smooth. And the timing is not like Africa or what I’ve experienced in Central America. Meetings start and end on time. The shuttle arrives and leaves on the minute. No being late here. This is a tight ship. Incredible.
  • I love the shuttle. Who knew? I never would’ve guessed. It picks me up at my house at exactly the same minute every day and leaves the embassy exactly ten minutes after closing time. Need to stay a few minutes late and finish a project? No worries; you can just hail a taxi for about three bucks. No driving hassles. No parking hassles. I never would’ve guessed I’d like the shuttle, but so far, it’s been great!
  • The Health Unit is really well run. I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am with admin staff. Admin staff! You have no idea. And the nurses are awesome too! I’ve been blessed beyond measure. And I’ve only been here a week!
  • Dr. Broyles is my soulmate. Dr. Broyles is an American-trained, American physician who works at the embassy one day a week. He also shares call. He is actually the only reason I bid on La Paz-I promised myself I would never be as isolated as I was in Buj. During our first day together, I shadowed him during patient visits so I could get a feel for his demeanor and style. I left the room for a minute and when I returned, I said a few words to the patient. Dr. Broyles looked at me with big, wide eyes, and said, “You’re scary.” Then he and the patient burst out laughing–he had just said the exact same words to the patient. Exact same words. Great minds think (and speak) alike! So very blessed.
  • NO ALTITUDE PROBLEMS!!! We had high hopes (pun intended) that the altitude wouldn’t kick our butts, and our expectations have been met! No headache, no insomnia, no fatigue. In fact…
  • I accidentally went hiking on Day Two. Because you know I have FOMO*, when someone invited me to go on a 1-2 hour hike the Saturday after we arrived, of course, I couldn’t decline. What’s a 1-2 hour hike? Five hours later, and several slopes we had to scoot down on our backsides, we made it home. And it was worth every minute of it!!

Here we are with Illimani in the background. You may remember this view from my contest announcement–it’s the eternally snow-covered peak viewable from most of La Paz.

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And the views from the top were, as always, worth the hike:

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We were looking for another route down. Peering over the cliff, we decided not to chose this one:

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And here we are scooting down this little slope, where one of our group wished we’d had ropes. And yeah, maybe we should’ve….

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The walk in and out through the dry river bed was amazing, but I sure wouldn’t want to be caught there in a flash flood!

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  • And the Public Affairs Section is super active. Of course, I jumped right in and worked the Public Affairs Section book fair on the second weekend. The theme was protecting the environment, including Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and the booth was made entirely from the crates US employees’ belongings arrive in. I thought my fellow FS folks would like that creative use of those ubiquitous crates!

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  • There are lots of stray dogs. Lots. Not all can be chocolate and roses, so there you have my one negative first impression. So far, we mostly ignore them, but I guess I’ll have to start walking and running with a stick. Yuck.

And there you have it! La Paz, my new home, my first impressions, mis primeras impresiones. Or at least a few of them!

We can’t wait for all of you to visit! So much to see! So much to do! Start planning your trip!

 

*FOMO = Fear Of Missing Out