Sunday, March 20, 2011
3/20 Not feeling the love in La Paz
I like to think we are pretty laid back visitors and tend to find the good in most people and places but somehow we are just not connecting with the town of La Paz. The marina we are staying at is just a few blocks from the towns’ “malacon” which is the main road that runs along the waterfront area. Every malacon seems to be full of restaurants, hotels, dive shops, trinket sellers, street venders and hoards of sunburned tourists yet here in La Paz there seems to be very few tourists. The marinas are full but there seems to be few cruisers out and about either. Or maybe we are just not looking in the right places yet?
The non touristy parts of town seem seldom visited by gringos. Yesterday we wanting to find a decent local taco stand for dinner so we set off to explore. The first restaurant we stopped at brought us menus and the usual platter of salsa and accompaniments and then left us in limbo land. No waiter returned and no one even noticed when we finally stood up and walked away. We then walked a few blocks this way and a few blocks that way with no luck finding an open restaurant.
Off we went a few blocks this way and a few blocks that way, looking for someplace interesting to eat. Ahead of us we could see a family sitting in chairs on the sidewalk in front of their home. This is one of the striking habits of the local Mexicans, when the day warms up they move outside. Late afternoon or evening comes and out come the chairs, a table, the radio, maybe a charcoal grill and soon the whole family is sitting happily across the sidewalk or in the street. So, do we step off and go around or walk through? Either seems to be OK though it always feels sort of like your walking through their living room. We try to be courteous and generally make our decision based on a combination of how crowded the sidewalk is, how busy the street is and whether or not there are smiles on faces or wide eyed looks. This time we chose to walk on through.
Then we saw the dog. A big boxer spread out on the cool pavement but there was lots of room and the people smiled as we came closer. Then the suddenly Fido barked, jumped up and lunged at Bill. !!&%$#! Now growing up I was always taught that if a dog comes at you aggressively you can usually stop them in their tracks by getting big and loud yourself: raise your arms, yell and move towards them. So without thinking I yelled in my biggest, meanest, get away from me, big, bad dog voice. My reaction was actually rather superfluous to the whole encounter but the dog did pause and a family member kicked him quickly into the house. Looking back the dog was likely an adolescent and he didn’t have much bite to his bluff but there was no look of concern or word of apology, no show of being concerned at all.
Now I have to say that we have already learned to treat the dogs and cats here differently than the average pet back home simply because they do treat their pets here differently. Most seem to be, well, little more than street dogs with mangy coats and flea bitten skin. They are almost never leashed and are usually unsupervised. We have often seen them roaming in packs with no human around and they have proven to be rather untrustworthy. Most seem friendly enough but in just these few months here my friend Barbara was bitten during her visit with us, I had a dog snap at me close enough to feel the air woosh by and I met another cruiser who had to undergo the whole shebang of rabies shots. The cats too are tattered and torn and look pretty ragged. So, as much as I love animals I am keeping a safe distance from the local dogs and cats.
As our adrenalin leveled off we continued on our quest for dinner. Just a few minutes later we wandered on to a little taco stand. We approached politely and asked if they were open. "Abierto?" "Si." So we took a table. There was soon an air of unwelcome that came wafting over the table. A woman came to take our drink order but at each question we kept getting no's. Agua fresca? No. Horchata? "No. Coca light? No. Ice? No…… you get the idea. So we ordered a single coke and three tacos.
Our Spanish is not great but we could tell the waitress was talking about us and not in a nice way and then laughing and ignoring us. The vibe was beginning to feel rather hostile. Soon another patron came in and I heard him ask for a Coca light. Walla’ no problem. She simply walked four feet into a building and came back with a Coca light and a big glass of ice. Now by this time we were finished with our three small tacos and didn’t think we were too welcomed so tried to pay the bill. The three tacos cost us at least double the going rate. That part was our fault, we should have gotten the price before we ordered and ate. So, we paid the bill left the change and walked away just not feeling the love in La Paz.
I know it takes time to get to know a place and we are not giving up on La Paz as of yet but it was odd. There have been so very few times we have not felt welcomed. This wasn't a bad part of town, we were not being disrespectful and our ability to communicate is pretty good at least for the rudimentary stuff. We left with our adrenalin level jacked back up and feeling sort of sad at the way we were treated but we calmed down as we neared the marina district. This one incident will not slow us down or deter us the next time we head out into the local neighborhoods and we really do prefer to shop and eat away from the touristy areas but it sure put a damper on the evening. Right now we are headed out again to see what we can find.