Saturday, July 31, 2010


I went to La Paz for the day yesterday, to speak at a conference on racism in Bolivia, and on my way back to Cochabamba I had a TIB moment. The students coined this acronym (TIB = This Is Bolivia) to refer to a range of circumstances that are best explained by the fact that, well, this is Bolivia, and anything that can happen, will happen.

The event I was attending ended much earlier than I had anticipated, so I called my travel agent in Cochabamba to try to book an earlier departure than my scheduled 8:50 PM flight on BOA airlines. She was able to get me a flight leaving at 7:30 on TAM airlines, for only $40 (airfares being relatively cheap in Bolivia). Being a savvy Bolivian traveler, I asked the travel agent to leave my original BOA ticket open: If something were to go wrong with the TAM flight (TIB), I wanted to have the backup option of my original 8:50 flight. So I headed to the airport a good two hours in advance, as the traffic is really bad out of La Paz to the airport in suburban El Alto, got my ticket, paid the airport departure tax at a separate window, and went to the boarding gate.

At about 7:15, the gate attendant announced the boarding of a flight, but it was not my flight - for some reason (TIB), another TAM flight was slated to leave at 7:45 from the same gate as my 7:30 flight. There then began a great chaos, as Bolivians on two different flights clashed and intermingled, one group (the 7:45 flight) clamoring to board (Bolivians are always extremely anxious to board flights, buses, you name it, reserved seats be damned) and the other group (my 7:30 flight) trying to find out what the hell was going on. Of course (TIB), no explanation was given, though the TAM gate attendant had an extremely annoying smirk on her face that seemed to imply some secret knowledge. This was revealed at about 7:40, when the 7:45 flight was entirely boarded, at which time the gate attendant announced that our plane had not yet arrived, and that our 7:30 flight would be leaving about 45 minutes late. People in the boarding gate actually hooted and whistled, like at a villain in an old-time silent movie. I approached the still smirking gate attendant and asked her if the flight was actually en route, and she ensured me that it was and would certainly arrive by 8:15.

This is when my own Bolivia craziness kicked in (TIB can also describe one's own state of mind when contending with these kinds of situations). Deciding that the gate attendant was lying about the plane being en route, and noting that my original 8:50 BOA flight was scheduled to depart from an adjoining gate, I opted to check in to the BOA flight, so that I would have two options ready to go. So, I headed back out to the terminal (I had to persuade the security attendant to let me go back in the wrong direction through the checkpoint, there being no other exit back to the terminal, which for some reason he allowed me to do, TIB) and checked in to the 8:50 flight. (BOA, it turns out, also had an 8:10 departure to Cochabamba, and one woman waiting to check in to the 8:50 flight was getting ugly in line, trying to pressure the counter people to allow her to board the earlier flight. I tried the same thing, but to no avail.) I paid my airport tax for the second time, passed through security again (no need to remove your shoes, TIB), and again stood at the departure gate.

Now armed with two tickets on two separate flights, I determined to leave on the first one that seemed likely to depart. This, it turned out, was the TAM flight: The gate attendant was not lying, the plane arrived at 8:15, and by 8:40 we were winging to Cochabamba. So for $40 and a whole lot of hassle, I managed to leave La Paz ten minutes earlier than I would have if I had simply waited for my original 8:50 BOA flight.

Sigh. TIB.


amyet said...

This is really funny because when I first came to China, I kept hearing expats say, "TIC." Oh, a child is peeing by your front door? TIC. What, your work visa is actually being provided by an HR company you've never heard of and you need to sign a fake certificate? TIC. Your landlord insists that the beetles you hear chewing through your bed post at night are actually your imagination because you're not used to the "Beijing Winds"? TIC.

I soon learned, "TIC" like TIB stood for "This is China" (the C is sometimes substituted for Crazy). I was explaining the concept to a visiting friend as we were walking down the street and as soon as the words, "In China, anything and everything can happen," left my mouth, we happened to walk upon, of all things, a kitchen sink that had fallen off the back of someone's bicycle. TIC.

locojhon said...

Yeah Dan,,,
It's tough-living within your westernized world for most of the year and then having to live in 'Bolivian time' again, but this not being your first time at the rodeo (Bolivia), you knew that already, no?
Compare to my trip from San Fran to Chicago to Rochester NY this past weekend. First leg, my departure gate was only changed three times with one flight cancellation. Second leg, two flight cancellations and six gate changes. And that's flying with United, with a supposedly upgraded ticket to boot.
TIUSA as it is today.
At least in Bolivia it is now expected, and there is usually a pretty good excuse--no air scoops for the jet engines to get enough air to take off, rockslides, floods, protests, parades etc.
You're in Bolivia, Dan--biiwii.
Go with the flow....
What I'd like to know are:
How're the projects coming along? What unforseen problems have you encountered and solved? Other unique experiences the group is experiencing in Bolivia that they otherwise would not?
You know,,,a whole blog or five...

Daniel Goldstein said...

Blogging, I find, is an extremely difficult task. I get bored just reporting on activities. So I usually write about something that interests me, which is usually some odd occurrence or other, as in this post. My apologies if it is not all that deep or comprehensive - just snapshots, as I can provide.

locojhon said...

You need apologize for nothing--at least to the likes of me. I enjoy your blogging--that's why I signed up to receive it. Blog away--it is a gift to people such as myself.
I laud your unique educative efforts and those of your students--and I have no doubt that you are providing an incredible and potentially life-changing experience.
You have whetted my curioslty, and I'll bet I'm not alone.

Daniel Goldstein said...

Thanks for that. I appreciate the feedback.

Cindy said...


I came across your blog by chance today and I found it fascinating for three reasons:

1. I am an alumna of Rutgers University ('98) and I graduated with degrees in Spanish and Latin American Studies.

2. I studied abroad in Sucre, Bolivia as a high schooler.

3. After graduation, I worked for a non-profit with a field office in La Paz and traveled there a few times.

I completely identify with "TIB" and feel like I can replicate your travel story with some of my own.

Congratulations to you and your students for the work you are doing in Cochabamba. I hope it leaves them with as many good memories and experiences as I have of my time in Bolivia.

Cindy Jones

Daniel Goldstein said...

Hi Cindy, thanks for writing. You must be one of first ever LAS majors at Rutgers!