My last days in La Paz were spent with the sweetest people. There was this lovely Haitian girl who worked at my hostel. She took me to buy a simcard which turned out to be a very long process in an office with long queues that resembled the queues in Government offices in Nairobi (though with no one trying to jump the queue.) When we finally got to the counter, the whole process had to be done in Spanish and I realized I would have been completely lost on my own. Who knows how to ask in Spanish how to top up data bundles on the line? Not me. After buying a sim card we took a "matatu" to another part of the town to eat pork. The matatus in La Paz are like matatus back home - Nissans actually. I was quite amused. We got to the pork place, but they were closed for the day. We went back to my usual eating place called "Alaya" on Murillo street. They had the largest food portions of traditional Bolivian food. I only needed one main meal a day when I was in La Paz. That food would keep me full all day.
In the evening I was picked up by a wonderful Lebanese/Palestinian friend of a friend and her fiance. We went to the newest and largest mall in town and had huge pork chops for dinner. They were such great company. Both had been born and (mostly) raised in Bolivia and they tried to explain the interesting religious elements I had noticed in Bolivia. They told me stories of people making 300km pilgrimages on foot to religious sites and going up hills on their knees to pray. I spent the next day with the same friend at La Paz's first mall that her grandfather had built in his youth. Her family was really warm and we ate a huge lunch with her family at her aunt's restaurant at the mall. She took the day off to help me plan the rest of my South America trip. I was really touched by her kindness. We spent hours looking up train tickets, printing maps, buying warm clothes to prepare me for the Siloli desert and the Uyuni salt flats (http://www.thekenyanexplorer.com/blog/2014/4/27/traversing-the-bolivian-salt-flats-and-desert-day-1, http://www.thekenyanexplorer.com/blog/2014/4/28/traversing-the-bolivian-desert-and-salt-flats-day-2 .)
During the process I realized that my sense of direction was even worse than I had ever known. While in Kenya, I had booked hostels in Argentina in the following order - Buenos Aires, Bariloche then Mendoza but when I looked at the map well, I realized that entering Argentina from Chile by road I would first get to Mendoza long before getting to Buenos Aires. Yes, yes. I know! Dumb plan:-)
I noticed a few oddities before I left La Paz -
1. You could withdraw dollars from the ATM (which I was quite happy to do given that in Argentina dollars were in very high demand and there is the "official rate" and the "blue dollar rate" which differ by 30% i.e. if you change your dollars on the streets in Argentina (which of course has its risks) you can get up to 30% more Argentinian pesos than if you change them at an official place. I withdrew as many dollars as I thought I would need in Argentina so as to never have to use the bad exchange rate given at the ATMs.
2. Strikes were almost a daily occurence in La Paz. I had heard of a few, but only witnessed my first the day before I left La Paz. It was peaceful but made me realize that Africa and South America have lots in common when it comes to taking to the streets to express discontent with the Government.
3. Bolivian internet was an all time low. I initially thought the horrible speed was hostel specific, but my Bolivian friend assured me that this was the norm countrywide. I will never complain again about internet in Nairobi. Ours is operating at the speed of light compared to what I experienced in Bolivia.
4. Safety belts are not common in Bolivia. My first time to belt up in the country was when my friend and her fiance picked me up. Prior to that I had gotten used to saying a silent prayer every time I got into a taxi in La Paz as none had safety belts. I did love how cheap cabs were though in La Paz. I used to pay between USD 0.50 to USD 2 for most rides.