This was the question posed to me by the leader of the Babywashing ministry. Even though he asked me in English I still had no idea what he was talking about! Finally he said ¨The water ballons... are you faster then them?¨ Now that made more sense! You see, Bolivia is coming up on their Carnival celebration which is the first weekend in February (its actually 4 days long). One of the biggest reminders that Carnival is almost here is the constant barrage of water balloons being thrown at you! Its all in good fun but sometimes these water balloons HURT! So far I have been safe from any direct hits (they apparently have pretty bad aim) but I have been told that sometimes they actually freeze the water ballons. So it hurts when you are hit and often leaves a bruise. Others have told me that the water balloon may contian more then just water, for example, ice, urine, and/or oil. I recieved my first (attempted)hit about a week ago with someone yelling in English ¨Its Carnival!¨
The main street I live off of (America Ave, go figure) is a war zone as the day goes on. You can see broken balloons everywhere. Students are still out of school and well, water balloons are cheap. I went down to the market with my sister only to find a HUGE water balloon fight in progress right in front of the store. We ran as fast as we could! I have never seen such a funny thing in all my life.
I have been trying to get an accurate history of Carnival which is hard to do. Originally, I´m told, it was an Inca tradition. It was the peoples way of telling the god´s that they had enough water, by throwing water around. Thus Carnival would signal the end of rainy season (summer to them). Other people say that its a Catholic holiday (nothing religious about it though). They said something about it being a certian number of days before Easter. Others say its the same as Marti Gras in the the States. Its a conflicting story because when the Spanish people came in with their Catholic religion they super-emposed the ¨church¨ holidays over the existing pagan holidays. So really, it just depends on who you ask.
Whatever the actual history is... its a big long party here in Bolivia. It includes a parade, fairs, dancers, music, ect, ect. And it lasts 4 days. It is also a high time for theft as there are so many people on the streets. These thieves are profesionals and you have to be very careful with your belongings. During this time transportation may not run normally and many non-fiesta related stores will be closed. Its a big long holiday!
There is a good chance that I will miss most of the festivities as a friend has invited me to go on a church retreat over that weekend. I hope to still be able to go to the parade but we will wait and see. The retreat would be good for me as I´ll be developing new friendships, using my spanish more, taking time to really focus on God and worship him with other believers. I have 2 weeks to make a final decision... party hard or spend time with God? Hmmmmm... this is really not a hard decision for me. But I do want to experience all the customs of this culture, Carnival is definetely one of them.
Until then, I will be dodging water balloons and working on my Spanish lessons!
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