Well, I’ve achieved what very few have managed before me, and reached the grand age of 21. 21! Only a few months ago I was 12 (etc…), doesn’t time fly (etc.,..). My birthday celebrations started a full month ago on my fake birthday (August 24th), when Jake took me on a surprise birthday trip to my home city, Birmingham; and when we went out for dinner with my surrogate – brother Zachary & the Adamsons; and had another peak yesterday, when Lottie messaged me a Happy Birthday from Perth. Those Australian Eastern Standard Time guys know how to party, 12 hours ahead.

As an early birthday present this morning, I gifted myself a minor Existential Crisis, around 6am. It’s a little ritual I like to carry out every year – holding the motion ‘This House Believes The Subject Has Not Achieved Enough For Her Own Stringently High Standards Yet’ in my brain. The vintage debate of 2006, for example, ended with my conclusion that all was well because I had memorised the landlines and home addresses of my 26 classmates, and although I had not yet managed to swindle a kitten or guinea pig off my (cruel) parents, I had successfully started a campaign (largely based around 6 Flavian Grove, York) against ending sexist stereotypes used in advertising children’s toys, and I had used the sentence ‘I’ll meet you in the rudiments of the foyer’ when organising a social arrangement with my Dad at the University.

I’m 21 !

So far, so sickening, so predictable. Now I’m in La Paz, I’m at my 3rd year at Cambridge, and I’m in the kind of romantic relationship where I’d consider counting the individual eyelashes of my boyfriend a fascinating pastime, so hideously in love am I. I’m lucky enough to have lots of friends and also the best parents ever. If I were an Ancient Roman / Victorian / Mormon, I’d probably have been up since 5am doing the mangling with 17 children and a prolapsed rectum, so women’s lib has worked out pretty well for me as well.

Anyway, enough self-indulgent chat. La Paz has been chaotic and exciting these past two weeks, and I’m still having a fantastic time here in spite of the intense pollution, and the general illness produced in my weak Western constitution. On the 20th September we turned up to the La Paz Climate Strike Protest:

Tense confrontations between protestors and micro-drivers in town

Bolivia finds itself in an increasingly difficult position regarding the climate crisis. As a poor country, it has fewer resources to defend its population, economy, and environment against the impacts of the crisis. It is likely that the highest regions (La Paz, the altiplano, Potosi etc.) may lose access to water in the next few decades, as glaciers melt; and the agricultural sector, which provides a livelihood to a great proportion of Bolivians, will face great challenges.

Meat for China, Destruction for Bolivia

The Bolivian Amazon is still burning : millions of hectares. It is entirely devastating. At the march the intensity and energy burned throughout the centre of La Paz, shutting down the streets, with a near-constant stream of shots in the background.

On a more superficial evening, we ventured out into the La Paz night on the 22nd. A new acquaintance, a biology PhD student here, had invited us to a club/ bar called La Sede downtown: so jacked up on singani and sushi, we headed down for a boogie:

It was less a ‘club’ and more a ‘small wooden room with a sound system’, but a good time was had by all nonetheless. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Bolivian guys there much less inclined to sexual pursuit / harassment than in the U.K – or perhaps that was more due to the Biology PhD vibe? A few hours and a cramped 7-person taxi ride marked this first Bolivian night out, and we were tucked up in bed by 4am.

I’m sure Prof Bowen is currently paying 10x the price for Chilean wine in M&S this very weekend

Exploration of La Paz. Finally, I find myself capable of navigating this street-signless city, and have discovered its wonderful teleférico system. (According to ever-reliable historian and knower of facts Thomas Griffiths, La Paz was the pioneer of the cable – car system in an urban environment). The teleferico is swish and stylish and magical, lifting you far above the cheerful anarchy of the streets high into the sky, where you can enjoy the lofty voyeurism of a bird.

I have now visited two museums, both excellent: the Museo de Instrumentos Musicales, (15 rooms of highly creative and unique Andean instruments – boy can those guys find versatility in a piece of wood); and the Museo Etnógrafico, which displays the costumes, masks, currencies, handicrafts, and ceremonial decorations of the many indigenous groups of Bolivia. These artefacts were entirely wonderful, and will remain being so undocumented in the museum, as I was apparently too cheap to fork out 20bs for photo privileges.

Feminist street art in San Jorge

Feliz Cumpleaños to me, and thank you to everyone who has made my life so fantastic so far. And thank you very much to my mother for birthing me.

Published by floracbowen

Languages student at the University of Cambridge, aspiring professional blatherer, from Yorkshire.

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