Visit to La Paz (2004-08-12 to 2004-08-17)
I'm staying in the house of the free software supporter who arranged my speech here. It is on the southern and lower side of the city, in the neighborhood called "Amor de Dios". As an Atheist, I do not like the name very much, but the beauty is amazing. The neighborhood is situated in a valley perhaps 1000 feet across, between a small river and a fairly steep ridge. The ridge runs up from the wall of this house. Three long streets run parallel to the river. On the other side of the river there is a narrow park and a craggy red cliff. The river was panned for gold hundreds of years ago, and the ridge is said to have some too, but apparently not worth mining.
Today we took a walk up a stairway to a path that goes along the ridge for the length of the neighborhood. The views along the path are marvelous. We also climbed another stairway to a peak on the ridge, perhaps 50 feet further up, which led to a wood-and-rope bridge that I would not have wanted to cross even if it were in good condition. That stairway was not in good condition either, and about 10 feet of it was so sloping that I was scared to climb down it, scared of falling and once again breaking an elbow or something else. My friends used a large stick to hollow out horizontal places to step, and then with help I was able to climb down. Then they joked that the city ought to pay them for the maintenance work.
The audience for my speech yesterday was disappointingly small; I am told that the students who were supposed to put up posters had a dispute with the director of the computer science department, and went on strike by not putting up the posters. How self-defeating. The other main speaker had been called away on work just a few days before, but he wrote down his speech and it was read for him.
Bolivia is land-locked, so when I said that piracy consists of attacking ships, not of sharing with your neighbor, I said that piracy isn't a problem in Bolivia. Then I remembered that Bolivians still feel strongly about the outlet to the sea that Chile conquered in 1878. So I added, "at present".
Despite the low turnout, the speech has had some good results already. People from the Ministry of Education attended, and have invited me to speak at the ministry on Monday. They are already starting projects to use free software in the schools, and I hope to introduce them to people in Argentina, Brazil and Spain that can give help and advice.