Monday, February 27, 2006

Carnival almost over

Four years ago was the last time that I enjoyed carnival in Oruro. In those times I could not imagine spending that period of the year in another place. Admittedly, in carnival I might have consummed one glass of beer too many,or stayed up until unreasonable hours.

You can feel the carnival atmosphere already some days before the parade. This feeling increases when Friday arrives. At the evening you would meet with friends (after the ch'alla at work if you worked) and went for a walk to the Avenida 6 de Agosto, which in those days is called Avenida del Folclore. There and at most other points of the parade, you find the seats installed at both sides of the street. As you walk there, you feel it is going to be a cold night. Fortunately, the big crowds there lessen the effect of the chilly wind. And you didn't go to Avenida del Folclore if you are not going to dance to the tune of the bands and groups that play there, of course. So, cold can be an issue only if you end up at the main square having some drinks with friends while one of them plays the guitar. Usually, I try not to stay too late on Friday, so that I can still wake up on time on Saturday to see the first Diablada.

Playing with water is a big part of carnival. As Eduardo comments on his blog it can get rather aggressive, but from what I have heard and seen, it is more aggressive in Cochabamba than in Oruro. Most of the times pain is not an issue, but rather being completely wet; even your underwear gets soaked. Then there you are, utterly wet, cold and slightly miserable. This only lasts a few minutes because the next carnival group comes dancing, following the tune of a loud carnival band. A combination of willingness to party, love for the music and dances, and beers animates the whole crowd. It is impossible to not join them in the song and the dance. Indeed, very quickly you forget that you were so cold just a few minutes before.

I have been looking at the carnival pictures of some newspapers. I had the hope of recognizing some friends or relatives dancing in the groups. I yet have to find a more extensive gallery from the carnival. I can see that people were mostly having fun instead of taking pictures.

I have a lot of trouble believing La Patria's statement that one million persons watched the Oruro carnival. I find more credible the report from La Razon mentioning half a million spectators, although that is a very high number too!

I thought that I would get terribly nostalgic the next time that I would spend carnival somewhere else than in Oruro. The fact is that I am not. And it is not because I do not enjoy being there. In fact it is one of the most musical and exciting parties around. I have always have had fun there, I bet that my friends and relatives are still telling each other the things that they did. I am not nostalgic about not being there, maybe because I accept that for the time being it is not easy to go there.

The carnival in Oruro is not the only one worth participating in, even if people from Oruro often feel like that :). Yesterday, I was at the Slovene town of Ptuj. I laughed so much at the creativity of the costumes in the parade. You have the traditional costumes such as the Kurent and many others. I would like to show you pictures but I stupidly forgot the battery at home. Showing pictures of the parade would not do justice to the carnival. Practically every group in the parade made a sort of performance or show. This show combined with the costumes had a highly hilarious effect. As I said, I am impressed by the creativity of the people participating there, all the more so because most of them made the decoration and costumes themselves.

Update: One sentence should read: The carnival in Oruro is not the only one worth participating in, even if people from Oruro often feel it is. The wrong sentence above caused a confusion in the Bolivian blogs roundup. Clarifying: I am Orureño and carnavalero, but I don't feel nostalgic due to the lack of Oruro's carnival; what is more, I enjoy seeing other carnivals too (well, it depends, I didn't like the Den Bosch one).

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I am in Ljubljana

I am visiting a very close friend in Ljubljana, the relatively small, charming capital of Slovenia. I must say I didn't choose the best season to come here. It has been rainy and foggy these days, and it will probably snow too.
Slovenija - 28

Slovenija - 27

I spent quite some time walking in the city center looking at the well conserved historic buildings. I still have to enter inside a few of those, like the city library. Right in the center of the city, a castle on the top of a hill guards Ljubljana. I had to follow a rather steep path to get there. It was worth making the effort to get a bird's eye view of the city. In summer it must be even more impressive, when the trees by the river and the gardens all around the city retrieve their full color.
Slovenija - 22

Slovenija - 30

This weekend is the carnival here. Most people dress up in creative ways and then head to a village near Maribor for the celebrations (forgot the name, sorry). It is possible that we skip carnival because our main plan is to rent car to visit places like the coast, Bled and the caves at Postojna or Skojcan. I am very excited about the cave visit. If a worldwide ban on computer science were imposed, I would become a speleologist (or a entomologist, or an archeologist, or maybe I just would put google ads on this blog and live on bread and water).

There is a mystery I have to elucidate before I leave. Since I arrived last Friday, the temperature has been above zero. However, there are huge mounds of frozen snow all over the place. I was intrigued on why they don't melt immediately. Maybe it is because they were frozen at -20 C temperatures?
Slovenija - 06

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Malaysia article

I was glad to find an article about Malaysia in El Deber. I don't often find articles about (in Bolivian terms) unusual countries in Bolivian newspapers. I enjoyed the personal insights that the journalist draws between the Bolivian and the Malaysian situation.

There are some similarities between the two countries. Both countries produced tin and rubber (introduced in Asia by the British). Both were colonies. And both are multiethnical countries.

Unfortunately the two countries did not develop at the same pace. One is an Asian tiger while the other is (still) a tiger cub :).

The three burials of Melquiades Estrada

Two weeks ago, in the International Film Festival of Rotterdam, I saw The three burials of Melquiades Estrada; directed by Tommy Lee Jones and written by Guillermo Arriaga Jordán (who wrote Amores Perros and Traffic, two great films too).

A will talk a bit about it. Don't worry, no spoilers.

In this film, Melquiades Estrada, a Mexican cowboy, crosses the Mexican-US border looking for work. He is hired in a ranch where he later befriends one of the workers (played by Tommy Lee Jones). Some time after his arrival, Melquiades is shot to death and then abandonned in the desert. The authorities do not move a finger to clarify the circumstances of his murder; they merely bury him unceremoniously, given his illegal immigrant status. His friend does the impossible to find the truth and carry out Melquiades' last wish.

I hope that this short description does not make you think of an action film where revenge and shooting scenes are main attraction. No, this film explores the deep feelings and interactions of each of the characters. It has very emotionally powerful moments but it is not a "feel good" movie. Nor it is a moralistic one. I hope you can get a chance to see it.