2006 Journal Archive

March, 2006: Woodland, California

On February 14, we flew to La Paz, Bolivia to take part in a research project sponsored by the University of California. Our project involved documenting the costumes and dances of the annual carnival in the city of Oruro, Bolivia. Our research group was lead by Cynthia LeCount Samake.

We spent the first few days in La Paz, gasping for air in the thin atmosphere at an elevation of just under 13,000 feet (about 4,000 meters). The city is built in a narrow canyon that has been eroded into a high plain, the altiplano. The preferred neighborhoods tend to be in the lower portions of the city, where the air is a bit thicker. All the Embassies and fancy homes seem to be at the lower elevations.

We visited many of the artisans who produce costumes and masks for the carnival dancers. Their workshops are scattered through several districts of the City, and in El Alto, named for its location on the altiplano above La Paz. We stayed at the Residencial Rosario, a lovely old-fashioned hotel where the staff called us the Grupo de Cynthia. Cynthia had made many visits to Bolivia to study their costumes and dances, and the hotel staff knew her very well.

On the 18th, we and another couple from the group took a bus tour to Tiwanaku and Lake Titicaca for a little sight-seeing, then on to Oruro on the 21st. We visited more costume and mask makers in Oruro until the street dancing began on the 23rd. The first event was the Anata Andina, in which the indigenous people of the area perform their traditional dances. Each group carried a banner which identified their village or district, wore their finest clothes, and danced to the music of their local bands. Jim took video of the dancing while Jamie took still photos.

These street dancers were impressive. Their dance route was fairly long, winding its way through the streets and up the hillside to the Santuario del Socavón. Once they reached the top, each group would continue dancing in front of a reviewing stand. Many of the dancers looked fairly elderly, but they seemed to have no trouble in spite of the thin air at that altitude. Both of us (Jim, especially) had a difficult time getting around with so little oxygen. It was humbling to watch the locals dancing for such a long time with no apparant difficulty.

The big event, the Entrada, began on Saturday, the 25th. This is when the more organized urban groups perform their dances. This event has been going on for two centuries now, and the costumes and dances have evolved over time to become very elaborate and fanciful. The dancers represent different groups called Morenadas, Caporales, Diabladas, etc. The Diabladas (devils) are probably the group most identified with the Oruro carnival.

Unfortunately, Jim was unable to attend the Entrada, as he had a heart attack on the morning of the 24th. There was only limited medical service available in Oruro, so we decided to return to the US as quickly as possible to seek more advanced care. We were able to arrange a taxi to drive us to La Paz on the afternoon of the 25th, so Jamie was able to see the street dancing in the morning.

It took 5 days for us to get back to Calfornia. Jim's doctor took one look at his EKG and called 9-1-1. Jim went to the emergency room in an ambulance. An angiogram showed that he had a total blockage at the beginning of his left anterior coronary artery, a particularly lethal place to have a heart attack. The doctors opened up the artery with angioplasty and a stent. Jim was discharged from the hospital on Thursday and went back to work on Monday. He has been making steady progress, exercising and losing weight since then.

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November, 2006: Woodland, California

It has been eight months since Jim had a heart attack during our trip to Bolivia, and he continues to improve. You would not know by looking at him that anything had happened. He is walking two miles in about a half-hour every morning and has lost 45 pounds. His heart is functioning nearly normally again. All of which is pretty amazing, given the severity of his heart attack.

This month's update contains a number of changes to the construction of the website. Jim is continuing to bring us into the 21st century with more modern coding and the use of cascading style sheets. He has also added a page about our Scamp trailer, and provided a great deal of additional detail about our travels to Death Valley in 2005. He has also added a few more pictures to the photo gallery. We hope you enjoy the additions.

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December, 2006: Woodland, California, USA

Nothing really new to report this month. Jim has been working to finish his reports on our trip to Bolivia. He has added new pages on the archaeological site at Tiwanaku and a description of our visit to Lake Titicaca. You can read about the rest of our Bolivia trip in the March, 2006 journal entry.

Jim hopes to add several more pages of information and photos from our trip in the next month or two. He has been slow lately, but keeps plugging along. He hopes to have everything caught up soon.

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