Visit to La Paz, Part II (2004-08-12 to 2004-08-17)
However, I was glad to have that lunch, because I got to eat a soup with quinoa. Quinoa is a grain that was originally domesticated in the Andes, and I love it, and I had been surprised and a little disappointed not to find any. The reason turns out to be snobbishness: quinoa is considered "what the Indians eat", so hispanics generally won't serve it. (How ironic that in the US you only encounter quinoa in fancy restaurants where the chefs invent new dishes all the time.) My hosts, who are great cooks, reject this snobbishness and often prepare and eat quinoa themselves, but they felt that it wouldn't be right to make quinoa for a guest like me. So they made rice instead, which isn't nearly as much fun. However, after I showed them how much I like quinoa, they decided to start. What they made that night, I loved so much that I couldn't bear to stop eating it.
We reached Lake Titicaca just before nightfall. On the way back, we were at 4000 meters in a thinly populated area, and the stars were so beautiful that I looked at them for many minutes before pulling out my computer to start to answer mail.
On Monday, my last day in La Paz, I gave a brief speech at a university, where hundreds of students had come (no publicity foul-up like the previous time), then a meeting with the Ministry of Education, where the people said they needed to use free software more in the schools, but they could not find people from whom to obtain technical support. Apparently they have no awareness of the hundreds of enthusiastic students who had come to my talks in various cities, showing a vigorous community.
After La Paz, I went to Peru. In Lima I gave three speeches at three universities on three consecutive days, which was rather exhausting since each made a big event of it. Then I went to Arequipa, an inland city to the south of Peru. After I gave a speech for the GNU/Linux User Group there, they took me to a bullfight.
This was not a Spanish-style bullfight where humans kill a bull. Instead, two bulls fight each other until one of them runs away. Neither the humans nor the bulls get hurt, at least not usually. Although I could see how one can find it exciting, contests don't continue to fascinate me--and the delays between the matches are long. So after 4 matches I said "let's go". (We had to go home to get my things before we could head for the airport.)
Just before leaving Lima I learned that the free software organization APESOL has set up a web site for people to record that they offer free software support services. If I can put the right people together, maybe something similar can be set up for Bolivia, and this might show the ministry what it needs to see.
I have been home now for almost two weeks, which is a long time for me. During this time I've set up two sets of 8-foot book-cases, where the front set rotates out to provide access to the back set. This seems to be a solution for the tall space in my new office. On Thursday I am heading for Geneva where consumer organizations are having a meeting about how to deal with WIPO.