Just when you start getting comfortable and thinking, you know this place is alright, I could live here, you get reminded: This is Bolivia.
To all family and friends, please do not send us any packages in the mail until further notice. We do really appreciate receiving mail but lately we have not been receiving it. The Hogar receives lots of Christmas presents for the girls via mail during the Holidays and since the beginning of December EVERY package has arrived opened and generally missing at least one item. For example one box contained 50 donated toothbrushes and arrived with ~25. Among the other things stolen have been baby clothes, earrings, watches and possibly things we don’t even know about. I’m hoping this is just a temporary problem because they know nicer things come through around Christmas but we don’t know for sure. Between the other volunteers and us there are probably 10 packages that should have arrived and are unaccounted for. Yes this is very frustrating and when confronted, the post office in Montero swears the problem is in Santa Cruz. When you think to yourself, how can this go unpunished or unnoticed? They are stealing toothbrushes from orphans. You just take a deep breath and remember, this is Bolivia.
If you follow world news you may have heard about the recent gas price hike in Bolivia. We received the following message from the Embassy on Monday: On Sunday, December 26, and without prior notice, the Bolivian government announced an increase in the price of gasoline and diesel fuel by 73% nationwide, effective immediately. The news of the price hike prompted a widespread negative reaction across many sectors of society given its expected multiplier effect on prices throughout the economy.
They announced on Sunday the day after Christmas that gas prices were practically going to double. As you can imagine this led to wide spread panic, hoarding of gasoline and other commodities. Now people are just bracing for the upcoming increase in everything from flour and sugar to clothing and electronics. And though Morales has given reasons, saying that the price subsidy needed to end because it was unfairly helping the rich as well as the poor and that people were smuggling gas out of Bolivia because of its low prices, in reality, the poor and those on the edge of poverty will feel this blow most strongly. Why the extreme change and odd timing? A price hike at a time when many people are mid-travels and so now don’t know how much it will cost them to get home? Tom and I had gone to a nearby city for a few days off but decided we couldn’t afford to do the tourist activities we wanted to do because we were worried there would be price-gouging for the taxi ride home. Granted their surprise tactic did prevent many of the roadblocks that probably would have happened to protest the increase but could there have been another way to do it? What about 5% increases over a few years time? Apparently the military dispersed the roadblocks attempted on Tuesday and so Tom and I got home alright. We’ll see what the ripple effects of this are in the coming months. For now, the only answer to our questions of “why?” is: TIB, This is Bolivia.