Wednesday, February 23, 2011

AU! RO! RA!

They are serious about strikes around here. Well, kind of serious. The transport strike lasted 4 days last week. Then all the drivers worked for the weekend, because, come on, people have stuff to do. Then they worked Monday too. But by Tuesday, they seemed to remember that they had a really important cause to fight for and better get back to it.

So, here I am in Cochabamba: Transport Strike Week 2. I haven't been able to get out to the job site to work on the school, except for Monday (a.k.a. The Day the Strike Forgot), and then it was raining too hard to pour cement. I couldn't leave the city last weekend to go hiking because of blockades set up by the strikers. While this is all an interesting insight into the political and economic functions of Bolivia, it's pretty boring if you can't go anywhere, most stuff is closed, and you don't really like TV.

Luckily, the city soccer game fell on one of the days when the strike was on break. With a friend and her dad, I went to the stadium to root for Cochabamba's Aurora when they played Santa Cruz on Sunday.  I love going to sporting events in other countries. I enjoy sporting events in the US, and I love seeing the differences. There are always many.

For example: There is a big pet market outside the football stadium here in the morning before the game. People buy puppies out of crates stuffed full of puppies. While you are waiting to meet your friends for the game, men walk up to you, shove a cute puppy in your face, and offer to sell it to you for 100Bs. What do people do with the dogs they buy out on the pavement? They bring them into the game, of course! The stands are full of not only cheering fans, but also very small dogs, sleeping, chasing up and down the stairs, or just looking confused (I think, if I were a market dog, I would be in the latter group).

Another marked difference to American sporting events is that there is no alcohol allowed in the stadium. They don't sell any, and you can't bring it with you. The only drink available is pop, and it is sold out of two-liter bottles from which the vendors pour you a cup. The gap left by the prohibition on alcohol is filled with a free-for-all on fireworks. I was building a pretty strong argument for banning alcohol on the grounds of safety until I saw the fireworks. They should give you a free fire extinguisher with your pre-game puppy purchase. 


One of the fans near us had a bull horn. I'm not sure if this is not-allowed in the States, or you just couldn't get away with it. The guy screamed profanities at the refs, advice to the coaches, or just chanted "AU-RO-RA!" louder than anyone else. The people in the seats directly in front of him probably had a very entertaining game, but still can't hear anything.

I've heard how excited some countries get about soccer, but I was still surprised to see that the refs had to be escorted on and off the field by police outfitted in full riot gear.

There was one similarity to American sports that I picked out. You know those guys that bring their radios to baseball games so they can listen to the game while they are watching it and make sure they don't miss anything? Well, they are at Bolivian football games too. We were surrounded by guys listening to the game on the radio, though I'm not sure they could hear anything over the bull horn.

I'm sure there's a great "bread and circuses" lesson in the fact that the city was cheering a Cochabamba win at a soccer game in the middle of an economy-crippling protest, but in the midst of the shouting, firecrackers, and puppies, who can be sure?

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