Select Page

This is the question that Bolivians will ask you. Not cuántos (how many), as we know it in formal Spanish, nor cuántoh as it sounds in Chilean Spanish. Chileans swallow every dental consonant and most of the esses (s’s?), I now know where all the esses went. They’re here in Bolivia, being overpronounced at every turn. And where have all the vowels gone?

Being a certified language geek (seriously, I have certificates), I’ve been enoying hearing Bolivian Spanish, with its hypersibilant esses and the overuse of the present perfect (and consequent loss of the simple past tense). It means that even when nothing at all is happening, something is happening. I assume at least the esses and vowel issue stem from Quechua, which is the indigenous language most spoken in Bolivia (there is some Aymara as well, and I’m sure more that I don’t know about). The tense situation I’m still developing a theory about.

As it happens, I will have a boatload (no pun intended) of time to ponder the tense situation, here in Copacabana (the most touristy place I’ve seen in a way long time), on the shores of Lake Titicaca, as it is raining a blue streak here. Or maybe a grey streak. Back in La Paz we had a day of rain followed by two of sunshiney goodness, so I’m hoping that holds true here, too. Tomorrow I’m off to Isla de Sol, where I’ve just gotten a confirmation for what promises to be a small but adequate room near the village of Yumami. Or something like that. I heart the internets.

And before I despedirme (say goodbye), I have a terrible confession to make. While I was not tempted by the llama fetuses nor the various potions and powders for sale in the witchcraft market, all of which promised to bring me states of awareness and abundance I am not really sure I would want anyway, I did buy a hat yesterday. Not just a hat. A cute formed hat with a colorful hatband which makes me look very much like a female Indiana Jones.

But I’m still not eating any scorpions.