Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Going mobile!

As I blather and dither and blabla about this and that here in Chile, plans are afoot. I suddenly find myself with a despejado (clear) social calendar for the fiestas (Christmas and New Year's). These are highly family-oriented holidays here in Chile, with interlopers eyed with curiousity. I could easily invite myself to a friend's house for one or the other, but attending a Christmas celebration with people I don't know reminds me a lot of when I was invited to a friend's father's day celebration. Ain't got no Christmas, and no father either. I'm the (mostly) vegetarian that comes to your barbecue.

So off I go. Exploring, like I do, the thises and thats of this world. I hatched a plan not long ago (it's still stretching its wings as we speak) to go to Salta, Argentina. I got so much happy happy from putting out feelers that I know it's a go. But you know, looking at the map, I can easily make out the border of Bolivia, which lays just a couple of centimeters away. And I've always wanted to check out the Salar de Uyuni in southern Bolivia, the world's largest salt flat. It's the stuff of legend. I remember when a Bolivian student of mine showed pictures on the web of the salar to his Sudanese classmate, and the Sudanese guy was saying, beach? beach? you swim? And the Bolivian said, "no beach, no ocean, no swim!". Upon seeing the hotsprings, the Sudanese said, "you fish?" and the Bolivian said, "no fish, fish dead, dead!" And the Sudanese shook his head, as if to say, what a shame, these Bolivians don't know anything! And the Bolivian shook his head thinking, these Sudanese are so silly, thinking we have an ocean!

At any rate, it's looking like I'm headed to Bolivia (and Argentina). This is exciting. It makes my toes tingle and my brain wander and visions of my down parka dance in my head. Argentina presents few problems, US passport holders require nothing other than a smile and a passport (smile optional) to make the leap. And so I call the Consulate of Bolivia. The Bolivian government instituted a visa requirement sometime in 2007, and though I have been known to accidentally cross a border without a visa before (should I be telling this story here?), it's something I prefer not to repeat.

The people on the phone were outrageously nice, and I found out the following, if you hold a US Passport and need to go to Bolivia. You will need the following:

To fill out a form there at the consulate, or download from their website www.rree.gov.bo
-a 3X2 (cm) color photo of yourself
-your passport (current, of course)
-a letter of invitation or proof of a reserved hotel in Bolivia
-flight itinerary or a written plan of your comings and goings in Bolivia
-proof of economic solvency, either an international credit card or bank statement printout
-your international certificate of vaccination against yellow fever
-to deposit $100 into the account for the Consulate of Bolivia at BICE (acct no.11055367)

And don't forget the patience! The gentleman on the phone assures me that they see the public from 8:30 to 1:30, and grant the visa right then and there. Ah, tramites (paperwork, bureaucracy), gotta love 'em.

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