Thursday, December 4, 2014

Being 6ft”2 in La Paz

Website picture: http://www.la-razon.com/ciudades/Pequenos-pasajero-aborda-carry-Yanacocha_LRZIMA20130117_0021_11.jpg

I have always known I was taller than average but nothing prepared me for being this tall in La Paz.
Let’s start with the public transport. The public transport is so chaotic yet so organised. The mini buses are tiny and clambering on to a full mini bus is definitely a chore for me. I always end up nearly sitting on some unaware civilian or hitting a random person in the head with my bag. And getting off is just as bad, always resulting in me smacking my head off the door whilst thanking the driver. Sitting on the mini buses is uncomfortable and very painful. I am super aware of my knees being in the back of someone who has just finished work and could do without the pain in their back,. Often the drivers will call me to the front seat and tell me to sit there, as I am so tall. I appreciate them doing this until someone else wants to sit in the front too. Yes, they sit 2 people in the front. They squeeze as many as possible on the minis. So I am all-comfortable in the front then another person gets in... back to the awkward-knees-under-my chin moments.
Trufis. Another mode of transport in La Paz. They are like buses only they are cars. Car journeys with strangers is awkward for anyone I think but when you are my height and have to climb in the back of a car with people you don’t know, it could only mean disaster. Again I sit on someone’s knee or have my shoulders half-way across some guys body making the journey more awkward than it would be for someone of shorter height. I often end up elbowing people in the face and spend the whole journey apologising. I generally now avoid using trufis, not only because of my height but because I find them overly personal.
When I first arrived in La Paz I found walking round on my own a very uncomfortable experience. People would often stop, stare and take photos, but this is something I have grown used to. Instead of feeling embarrassed, I now embrace the moment and have a laugh with people about how tall I am. Muy alta (very tall) is a phrase I often here when out and about in La Paz and this has become the main focus of my Spanish.
On the first Action Friday, we visited a school in El Alto. The children were playing with us and taking photographs of us all. I was asked many, many times if it was ok for them to have their photos taken with me. Every child mentioned my height in awe! Even a girl who wasn't a student came and had her photo taken. To begin with it was awkward but I quickly began laughing and joking with them and by the end of it I was all ‘photo’d out’.
I pretty much get the same reaction wherever I go in La Paz and my children centre was no different. When I walked in to the classroom for the very first time, everyone, including the educator, looked and gasped! I giggled nervously and approached the educator to introduce myself. She stood from behind her desk and I understood why she was shocked, she was no taller than 5ft 4 (if that). The children stared intensely.  To break the ice I went and sat with them on chairs that were so obviously made for very small children. I looked like Alice in Wonderland when she drinks the potion and grows gigantic. After a few weeks the children had grown accustomed to my height as they realised they can use this to their advantage- a 6ft 2 climbing frame who can spin them around!!
Now, this is one place where I don’t feel my height is a hindrance! 

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