BOLIVIA

Peru’s okay, and Bolivia one of my favorite countries of all time, always a poor man’s Nepal, and now a smart one’s also, what with the Marxist insurrection in the Kingdom, not so different from Peru itself circa 1990.  You’ve got to be pretty pathetic to be ‘going Marxist’ in the 21st century, socialist maybe, but not Bolshevik.  Tourists notwithstanding, Nepal is so poor that Nepalese go to India to work.  I was in Kathmandu a week and didn’t see the mountains till the plane took off.  I thought for sure that I’d be going back; maybe I will.  La Paz is already there amongst the peaks.  The plane lets you off at 13,000 feet in El Alto where Teodora lives; then you go down 1500 feet to La Paz, skyscrapers rising up toward you from below.  It can be quite an effort just to breathe sometimes, especially after climbing the steep sidewalks.  But Bolivia’s another world, almost.  There is not a paved road crossing any border into Bolivia, at least not the last time I crossed.  Yet, they have buses more modern than any in North America.  There’s logic there somewhere.  You cruise across the lunar landscape as though there’s nothing more normal than riding a bus at an altitude higher than some airplanes fly.  The local Indians look like leathery-skinned Martians with pointy caps serving as secret transmitters to the mother ship.