In Bolivia no bad thing can last a hundred years

by Charis
(Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia)

Español I'm all for finding the positive in everything. Literally. Except for 50 degrees below zero for any length of time, or the noxious smell of someone polishing their toenails aboard a flight, I'm good. Living in various developing countries can help you become a glass-half-full kind of person. There's always the probability that someone else is having a much harder time than you are, on any given day.

When people ask me why I choose to live in Bolivia, I don't really find it very hard to come up with 101 reasons to love it. But that doesn't mean there aren't negatives to contemplate. Some issues are deserving of very serious analysis before making the decision to move here. In Bolivia these would be politics, the economy, poverty levels, drug trafficking, crime rates, human rights issues, and car alarms.

There. I said it. The complete inability of Bolivians to regulate their car alarms correctly may very well drive me out of this country! For reasons you will only comprehend after you live here for a while, car alarms are viewed as a sort of proof of social status. The louder and longer your car alarm is left blaring, the higher your social status.

Because, of course, if you have a car alarm, and it's blaring to the point of making it impossible for anyone to enjoy their dinner dates, and you've completely destroyed your neighbors' abilities to put their children to sleep, and your car alarm has out-blared the other three car alarms that are blaring simultaneously, then you have fulfilled your mission: everyone within a 14-block radius will know you are the proud owner and master of a car. And not just any car, oh no! A car with an alarm.

The problem has become so severe I am seriously this close to Googling "houses for rent near Himalayan monasteries".

Take right now for instance. It's currently 3:00 a.m. and for the past few hours (yes, hours) a single car alarm has been honking, beeping and blaring non-stop on the corner of my house.

I reached such a point of desperation, I took to Facebook to vent where I posted someone PLEASE bash in the engine of the car with the alarm that has been going non-stop for the past 3 hourzzzzz!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, to which my friend Jacobo responded that he was on his way with some TNT and by the way did I know how to make molotov coctails...

Jacobo, you see, understands. He just moved to Bolivia from Paraguay. His welcome was a breakfast at a sidewalk café during which time our conversation was interrupted at least 5 times by...wait for it... screeching car alarms.

I reached out to cousin Mike, a former Marine, who responded that he is now a child of peace, but willing to come out of retirement if need be, to which I responded that I was at the point of yanking all my hair out, to which he responded that I would look funny bald and that he could get here in a day. Mike, you see, was once stationed in La Paz.

No hay mal que dure cien años

Meanwhile, Roland from D.C. was busy calling on higher powers to silence the offensive, sleep-cheating, baldness-inducing car alarm.

What great friends to have at a time like this. Their compassion, humor, and willingness to blow things up for me, had me laughing aloud and put things back into perspective.

And so, I've decided to stay in Bolivia a little longer - inconsiderate, uppity car alarm owners and all.

You see, I've learned to love two sayings Bolivians have about life: "no hay mal que por bien no venga" ("there is no bad thing that doesn't happen for a good reason") and "no hay mal que dure cien años" ("no bad thing can last a hundred years").

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Apr 16, 2012

All you can do is hope that somewhere, something is getting through to someone. I'm the sort of person who can't keep her mouth shut. I get pissed off and that motivates me to act.

I take action through our site by supporting all the environmental education initiatives I can to raise awareness (noise is a pollution too). For example:

We support Earth Hour every year.

We teamed up with the Santa Cruz State Government's environmental division for this very purpose and created a voluntary alliance between the Santa Cruz government and to educate the public.

We sponsor other organizations that work for the environment such as the Green Hearts Project and build them free pages on the site to help get their voice heard.

We take action every year for Earth Day. This year we're sponsoring a Bolivia photo contest in which we are asking people to post photos of flora, fauna or natural landscapes they want to see prioritized for conservation. Participate if you want to!

All we can do is keep talking and talking until somebody listens. The current situation is not sustainable. Eventually, it will become impossible for people to ignore. There will eventually be a cure for car-alarmitis too ;)

Apr 15, 2012
I totally agree

@Philipp, I totally agree with you. It's tiring to hear people complain but not see them do anything about it, or to see people always expecting others to work for change.

Yesterday I was in a taxi and the driver threw a candy wrapper out the window. This happened prior to reading your message. I made him park the car, get out and pick it up in the middle of traffic. So I get a little defensive when people tell me to act, rather than complain, because I do - almost to an extreme.

Initially he was mad. But I told him, "if you have no pride in your city, no respect for your city, how can you expect others to do so?" After he picked up the wrapper and got back in the car we spent the next 15 minutes discussing why it's so important and I told him all the things I love about this city and how sad it makes me to see it so dirty - I have never seen Santa Cruz so dirty until I returned in 2008. It has never been a cruceño custom to throw trash on the street.

When I was about to leave he had tears in his eyes. He told me he lived in England for many years but got deported back to Bolivia 5 years ago. And he has spent the last 5 years missing England and being unhappy here. He told me it's the first time anyone spoke to him that way and made him feel proud to be a cruceño.

Don't get discouraged. You never know how your words or actions may affect someone - even if they never let you see that it did.

Apr 15, 2012
by: Philipp

yeah, thats true of course, and after writing the comment it occured to me that a situation like that would have held myself inside as well , and i admire your willingness (and ability) to find a bright side to a lot of things here.

Aside from your special case, a situation like the one you encounter with things that bother one however i do see the tendency of poeple just thinking " its going to pass , its going to pass" and seeing and hearing that all the time sometimes enfuriates me a little , thats why my comment sounds a little harsher than what i was originally meant to sound . anyways, keep up the good work then and dont let your self be discouraged, as i do sometimes...

Apr 14, 2012
Smile a little

Thank you Philipp for your comments. At the time I wrote this it was between 2 and 3 a.m. on a Friday/Saturday. I live in an area PACKED with nightlife. There was absolutely no way to know who the owner was at the time amongst the hundreds of people on the street or in the many cafes near where I live. Not exactly a safe time of night for a woman to leave her tiny child alone at home, or wander the streets. Barring that, I would immediately have searched for the owner.

As to people throwing their trash on the streets, I am an environmentalist. I absolutely do call people on it. Every single time. And I wish everyone would. In return, I have been grumbled at, spit on, and yelled at for doing so. On one occasion the person threw something back at me. Hasn't stopped me.

My favorite thing to do is simply pick up what the person has thrown, tap them on the shoulder and say, "I noticed you dropped this. The trash can is over there..." and give it back to them.

This article was my attempt, as I am prone to do, to put a humorous spin on something dreadfully annoying. I think the over 3000 personally written pages on this site are probably sufficient to attest to the fact that I am person who has absolutely no problem speaking her mind. :-D

Apr 14, 2012
by: Philipp

here you have the prime example of why this society will never advance. instead of logging into facebook, complaining to your friends etc, just go up to the person and ask the owner to take care of it, neither insulting nor putting the slightest doubt about the rightenousness of your actions.

did that a couple of times, works pretty well because bolivians are generally not used to being confronted with their imperfections. have you ever asked somebody trowing trash to the ground to pick it up again and put it into a trash can? no? 99,99999 % of the people in this city havent done that despite being very aware of it if somebody does that next to them. bad things will indeed last forever unless somebody takes the courage and changes it. p.s. ringing cars always have an owner, of its inside a condominium, the guard will know, if its on the street , the useless people lounging around there "taking care" of the car will for once in their life have a purpose and indicate you the owner, especially if you threaten to otherwise decorate the car with a nice bump in the chassis.

Apr 08, 2012
Bogus Car Alarms
by: Steve Baker

Believe me, I feel your pain! In my ears! Often!

Unfortunately, there are only three simple cures for this problem. Take your pick:

1. Laws must actually be enforced. Police must actually come out of the police stations and into the community to write tickets. They must learn not to be afraid or too lazy to do this. The public peace must be seen as something valuable and worth prserving.

2. When a bogus car alarms is irritating you, take a key and scrape it hard along the entire side of the car (and back down the other side in particulary obnoxious cases). Once El Deber articles start appearing about how many cars are being destroyed and why, the problem should ease.

3. Instead of "keying" ALL the offenders, take ONE prime example, tar-and-feather both him and his car, call Davinia the Carnaval queen, hire a Mariachi band, put lots of fireworks, and hold a little impromptu parade, with the tarred-and-feathered miscreant leading all the way to Cotoca, where he can plead to the Virgin for help with his need to impress others by annoying them.

Next, let's get rid of all these damned invading, pooping pigeons! "Keying" won't work, but maybe we could tar-and-feather a few example birdies?

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