It was a long travel day to Copacabana. First re-crossing the Yungas, then re-negotiating La Paz and later watching our bus loaded onto a barge to cross the lake to the Copacabana peninsula. We gave ourselves four days here due to my continued battle with altitude sickness and a suspected parasite infection (it turned out to be Giardia).
Dr Tallon rose to the challenge and got me onto some antibiotics, sold to us over the counter for about 12p per tablet. I wonder what hassle we would have to endure to get this drug back home. As a result we did very little here, enjoying the sleepy town and its beautiful setting on Lake Titicaca.
On our second night here we wandered into town for some dinner, but were stopped in our tracks by a stunning sunset so we took a pew and settled down for the show.
Despite its reputation as a holiday destination for Westerners and Bolivians alike, we found Copacabana to be consistent with many other Bolivian cities on account of there being acute poverty in plain sight. We met Debbie and Geoff who run a Pizzeria in the main square who moved here from Chicago some years ago with aspirations to help the community. They donate all the profits from the pizzeria to local projects and hearing their stories of success, trial and error were fascinating. The lack of robust education and healthcare systems in Bolivia make their task seem insurmountable, but the advice given to us by Debbie was to 'listen'. Listen to what the community wants, don't assert upon them what you think they need. Then be willing to give away control and let the people take ownership.
Another clever trick Debbie shared was the 'magic wand trick'. When faced with the need for reform, people are easily bogged down by the detailed steps required to achieve it. What Debbie does now is ask people what they would do if they had a magic wand and that is the point upon which they focus, a principle to which all cultures should subscribe.
A popular ritual in Bolivia is the blessing of new cars. Priests come out of the Cathedral and for a fee, bless the new motors inside and out with holy water. The locals decorate their cars with flowers and get photos with the Padre after the event. I can't imagine people pulling up outside Blackburn Cathedral for the same service.
I'll be honest, much of the time spent in Copacabana I was pretty ill but the beautiful view from our hostel and the friendly atmosphere made it an enjoyable visit.