La Paz is a large, vibrant city, with people and traffic moving noisily, often very noisily, about the streets well into the early hours of every day.
But not today.
Today is almost completely silent, largely devoid of cars or persons. Today is the national census day, held every ten years. In Bolivia that means there is an enforced midnight-to-midnight curfew. The curfew, my first, is rather interesting. I try to imagine one in place at home, but fail miserably. I do recall my parents getting caught on the streets during a war time curfew by a sympathetic policeman, who walked the other way whilst they knocked on a strangers door to claim sanctuary. Must have been fun.
Here in Bolivia, wisely, there is a ban on alcohol sales the evening before the curfew starts; imagine trying to enforce such a thing on a population who had gone partying before a days holiday? Luckily we had bought in our supplies the day before.
Looking out from our first floor balcony I do spy some of the census takers walking around. They go door to door recording information, their numbers bolstered by high-school kids. I have been told that it is voluntary, but if you do not assist your grades could go down; but that is untested information. I also see the occasional policia vehicle or motorbike scuttle by. The overall effect I would liken to the aftermath in a disaster movie.Unnaturally eerie.
Even the pigeons seem a little bewildered, as there is no one on a bench to peck around, no street stall to gather crumbs from under. The traffic lights continue their slow repetitious existence. but with no traffic it is like a reincarnated Indian deity on an endless eternal cycle. Ultimately pointless.
Now it has reached evening the novelty has worn off and I cannot wait to get outside. It is tempting to sneak out, but being new in this foreign land I am aware I do not know the rules of the game yet. But what is the worst that could happen........?
(Editor; actually he knows. In the city center is the infamous city San Pedro prison, renowned for its violent prison culture and not taking kindly to gringos. So he won't be sneaking out after all, inspite of the rhetoric).