Post Cards from La Paz – Max Lipset Checks in From Bolivia
Regular IMS readers will know that Max Lipset has been a contributor to the website in the past. Max is a very good writer and an even better soccer player. This past year Max played for the Kitsap Pumas and told us about life in Seattle, his experiences with the Pumas and the burgeoning soccer culture in the Pacific Northwest.
Recently Max and two of his Pumas teammates moved to La Paz, Bolivia to work on their Spanish and their South American futbol skills. The three have been playing for La Paz FC at an elevation of 10,000 ft. Max says beside the altitude, the style of play is very different from the US and is very technical.
Max does not have internet access so he’s been keeping a diary and hand writing it out. Then he transcribes it when he gets to an internet cafe.
Here is Max’s first letter to IMS from La Paz:
Hola de La Paz
So far I’ve been here for three weeks. It’s been a great experience. The quality of the futbol is awesome in a myriad ways. I’m thrilled to be here and hoping to stay to play during the AeroSur tournament during January.
I’m here with a couple of my teammates from the Pumas, Leon Abravanel (Lake Tahoe, CA) and Taylor Hyde (Salt Lake City, UT). It’s been very interesting seeing how we fit in and how we stand out with the Bolivian/South American professionals. There are not too many guys down here with a lot of size or physicality, so it’s a good environment for me to work on really imposing my presence in the back as well as playing to the technical standard. We train everyday, sometimes twice: the quality of the trainings is first-class. The owner/president of the club is using our presence here to inspire a change in the work habits of the players–his impression is that coming from the US we have a more of a blue-collar work ethic that he’d like to make a trademark of his club. He calls it cross-fertilization.
The city itself is wild. The roads are ruled by a whole different paradigm of right-of-way.
The exchange rate is in my our best interest, about 7 to 1. A cab across the city costs 15bvs.,or about 2$. A good meal at a restaurant is between 3-6$.
The urban landscape is splayed across a series of canyons in the Andes mountains, beneath a series of peaks called the Cordillera Real. La Paz sits at 3300m, or about 10,000ft, and the peaks around tower at up to 6500m. At this altitude there isn’t much vegetation, other than the fields that we play on and some eucalyptus trees that were imported from Australia a while back from what I understand. The weather is warm, 60-80F, and it usually rains once a day for a half hour or so. Today, that happened to be during the first half of a friendly we were playing against a second division side, El Tigre, which we ended up winning 4-2.
Everybody assumes that we like fast food and have lots of money–we’ve been the target of several scams, nothing too serious–and in general the city is safe, the people are friendly, and it’d be an interesting place to be even if we weren’t playing great soccer everyday. That being said there’s no doubt about the fact that we’re here to play, and we’ve settled into a routine of training, working out, eating, sleeping, and…using the internet.
That routine is definitely more colorful than it sounds as it involves walking through the suburb of the city where we stay to train at least once a day, searching for food that’s good to play on, and spending lots of time with the team. We mix things up by venturing into various corners of the city: the Futsal courts (Las Canchitas circa El Centro)–where played some locals in 5-a-side (we won 20-18) for the small fee of 5bvs/hr–and El Calle de Las Brujas o La Hechicheria (Witch Market) are favorite spots. One night we watched the new Michael Jackson flick, in English with Spanish subtitles, at the resfreshing cost of 30 bolivianos, about 4 bucks US.
My time is up at the internet cafe. All the best.