Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Soccer players and taxi drivers

This photo was shot from the train and is a typical country scene, with kids playing soccer and a horse grazing behind the opposite goal. Kids are always kicking a ball around on the street. On cable TV it seems as if there are at least three or four soccer games on at all hours of the day and night. The president, Evo Morales, regularly gets into pickup games. A few weeks ago, he put together a team with four ringers who once played for the national team for a match with the press corps. The president's team whomped the journalists, 11-1, which must have been sweet, since Morales has called the press his No. 1 enemy.
Venezuela seems to be the only South American country that has baseball. You have to get up to Central America, specifically Panama, before you see much.

The cab that didn't make it.

Cabs in Santa Cruz range from comfortable to rattletraps. Today was the first time that one actually conked out, although a dozen or so have seemed as though they wouldn't make it to their next stop. This driver was using a pair of pliers to adjust some of the electronic connections and stalled out twice before he admitted defeat and radioed his dispatcher for a relief driver. Clearly almost no one uses seatbelts in this city because they're always covered with dust and show other signs of neglect and disuse. Cabs are cheap. You can ride five or six miles, from one end of town to the other, for about $1.75. Most rides are less than $1. People use them to move all kinds of stuff, such as what seems to be a radio antenna in the photo below.

I spend a lot of time in cabs and get lots of language practice with the drivers, whose Spanish ranges from eloquent to impenetrable to these ears. One driver launched into an eloquent critique of TV stations that he said were guilty of "tergiversacion," a lovely word for manipulation. Given his mastery of the spoken word, he seemed a good person to ask about the local newspapers. He confessed that he doesn't read them. Turns out he's illiterate. Then there is a driver named Richard, who has picked me up twice, an unlikely occurrence given the number of cabs and the disparate locations where we hooked up. Today an older driver gave a dissertation on the meaning of the Day of the Dead, which is celebrated Nov. 2. Other drivers have provided background on news events that to a foreigner seemed strange.
You can always tell when a news reporter or sportswriter is desperate for material. The story starts with a quote from a cab driver. Guilty. More times than I would like to admit. Still, some of them are really poets at heart.

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