Most anthropologists (at least young ones) know this. This is the price we pay for the “glamour” of grants to take us to far away places(1) where we are adopted(2) by the natives(3) and given(4) special things to eat(5). We eventually write books that make our lives seem so out of the ordinary(6) and interesting(7). But the truth is, we are lonely like everyone else. We doubt ourselves, and cry at night, and miss loved ones and wonder why we didn’t just become comparative literature majors back when we had the chance.
Most days I look around La Paz and wonder how I'll spend a year here. Not to say that its awful: I actually quite like the weather. There's always something going on. I really like my neighborhood. I could sit in plazas and talk to people for hours. Life is cheap and good food is easy to come by. But its not home. Its a lonely place. And part of it is the language, but I always feel disconnected. Alien. I mean, I should feel out of place. I do not belong here. I am not a resident and not a tourist. I have no place.
But on friday nights, the city seems to open up. Granted, these are among the few nights I've places to go, people to see, things to do. But there's a glow to the city en viernes. A warm, yellow, homey glow. And people laugh, and the music is soothing, and the pisco sours taste like they should.
And tonight, in particular, I discovered some things. I was a little early for my dinner date (I was the 3rd wheel on the date), so i walked arounId sopacachi, and suddenly, unexpectedly, the sky was alight with fireworks. I've never been overly taken by fireworks. Even as a fairly young child I remember being bored with them. As I've grown older, I think this has disappointed a number of my friends. But fireworks at the right time can be magical. Not every night at 10 pm at Disney. Not at sundown on the 4th of july. But when fireworks pop up unexpectedly during otherwise magical moments, everything falls into place.
So eventually, the fireworks faded and I made my way to the Alianza Francesa for dinner. I still arrived ahead of my dates, but got a table and looked over the menu. For some reason I've never really liked french onion soup (on the menu of course, as sopa de cebolla con queso). But after a hearty french-oniony dinner party this winter, I thought I'd give it a go. and it was marvelous. I gobbled it up as I slurped Peru's signature beverage (I had to have one in honor of 28 de julio!).
I walked home content with good friends, food, beverages, and a city that, at this moment at least, felt like it could become home someday.
(1) or our own back yards
(2) or tolerated
(3) or the local residents & institutions
(4) in exchange for money
(5) usually just the bland local cuisine
(6) or alienating
(7) or trying