Bolivian Story: Felipe Ballon

Posted on 3 April 2014 | 2 responses

I have known Felipe Ballon since very soon after our arrival in La Paz but most of my time was spent with him in his car! Felipe is the taxi-driver hired by the NGO I used to work with, so we would frequently spend the hour long trip to/from the airport discussing Bolivia and its intriguing contradictions.  As a taxi-driver I particularly enjoyed his punctuality – even when he had to pick me up from the airport at 3 am – and as a friend I enjoyed learning from him as he shared his perspectives on Bolivian society. So, Carly and I were really happy when he accepted to spend a couple of hours with a good coffee to do this interview. Pacena/os, you will learn lots about the intricacies and politics of public transport in La Paz! :-)


Can you please tell us who you are?

I was born in Cota-Cota, La Paz. I’m married with two daughters. I have been working as a radiotaxi driver for 18 years. Before this I was working as a truck driver but it was pretty difficult as it involved carrying very heavy work load under the hot sun… It was easy to change to become a radiotaxi driver as I only had to buy a car and start working! It took me four years to pay back the loan I took for buying the car. Today there are lots of traffic jams in La Paz as lots of cars flooded the city. This stresses me and prevents me to stay calm. The many demonstrations like the one that happened today are also very stressful. Working at night can be better as there are much fewer cars, but there are more risks, due to insecurity – so I don’t take random passengers on the street, only those who first call the central office. Apart from my normal working hours during the week, I also work on Friday and Saturday throughout the night. It is really worth it as the salary is double or triple what I earn during a normal day, even though sometimes I am so tired that when I leave my house I immediately want to go back home!

How good are you at driving, have you ever had an accident?

I always drive carefully and with much reflection and patience. I did have a big crash many years ago when driving a truck – it fell into a ravine. Of course I have had lighter accidents too. I also drove over someone once – the person was drunk and ran in front of my car when leaving a bar. Just after it happened all of his friends wanted to lynch me, but I suggested bringing him to the hospital instead! He had a fractured arm but his family did not want him to be operated because they did not believe in modern medicine. Doing so would have cost me 10,000 Bolivianos [approx. 1430 USD] so I was relieved. Instead they asked me to bring the person (four times) to a “curandero”, a natural medicine healer and its cost me 1200 Bs [approx. 170 USD]. The reason I had to pay for the cost directly instead of my insurance doing it is because the accident happened on the 3rd of January and drivers are always late a buying their new annual insurance, doing so only after around the 10th of January… but now I always buy it in December!

You worked for 5 years as the Colombian ambassador’s driver – how did you get this job?

In contrary to other taxi drivers I always have my car tidy and I am friendly with clients. The ambassador once hailed me while in the street and because he liked seeing a clean car, he asked me to drive his daughter to school. He then proposed that I could work with the embassy and I continued to work there for nearly three years after he left but the embassy had to cut several positions when their budget was reduced. I was supposed to return working as the embassy driver once their budget would return to normal but when this happened they offered the job to my nephew instead, whom I had previously helped to get a job in the embassy as a courier!

Anyway, thanks to this job, I got known among staff from other embassies and I now have had a job as the Uruguay’s ambassador official driver for two years. But I work only at specific hours, and I use their official car. I am paid almost twice what I was paid before so even though I always have to be on call, I have got used to it.

And you are also working with the radio taxi company Servisur, right?

Yes. I work independently, but I have to pay 100 Bs [approx. 14 USD] weekly, which is a lot because I have to pay this amount even when I’m on holidays. But it would be harder to find customers without them, especially on Fridays and Saturdays.

All these radiotaxi companies work the same way but Servisur has more customers because people trust it more. The reason is that my company checks the drivers’ previous experience and to get a job there you need a reference from a driver already employed by the company.

In saying this, as taxi drivers, we work the way we want. We do not have to report to the central office each time. We register with them whenever we are looking for clients because there are times where you drive around without meeting any client.

There are also fully independent taxis but they aren’t accountable to anyone. In contrast, we can be penalised if the customer complains. In the Zona Sur [the posh area of La Paz], there are no such independent taxis because people living there are more reserved and suspicious.

I get about 40 customers per day, from anywhere and going anywhere. Of these around 10 are directed through from the radio taxi.

Sometimes taxi drivers do not want to pick up clients for different reasons. There are times that the driver does not know the price to your destination and he is too far from his central office to ask for it. There are also drivers who will not go from the city centre to the Zona Sur because they will have a hard time finding clients when driving back.


Is it better to be a taxi driver, a trufi (a car used to transport passengers on a (theoretically) fixed route) driver, or minibus driver?

It’s better to be a taxi driver because it’s easier to keep the car clean, and also because the car is better conserved as there are less people using it. In addition, you get paid 18 Bs [2.6 USD] to drive downtown, as opposed to 15 Bs [2.1 USD] if you drive a minibus. I know some taxi drivers who switched to become minibus drivers but they didn’t stay long because they had more fights with passengers, have to go through fixed routes even when there are traffic jams, etc.

You introduced me to the concept of the ‘Bolivian hour’, can you please tell me again what it is all about?

It’s basically being one hour late to any meeting. It is accepted as part of our custom. In contrast, my dad taught me of the importance of always being on time. When I talk to my colleagues about it they understand the relevancy of being on time to meetings, and they manage to get on time once or twice but then they get tired of it. When you call a driver because he’s late and the answer is “I’m right across the corner” it really means that he is actually still far away…

Do you notice a difference when working with foreigners as opposed to Bolivians?

Yes, there are differences, especially in the tone used. Non-Bolivian Latin Americans speak differently. And foreigners are always better than Bolivians, who discriminate more, or treat me badly. There are Bolivians who get in the car and don’t even say hello because they look down on taxi drivers. Foreigners are usually nicer.

Sometimes taxi drivers charge foreigners more though. In particular at night because there is a large demand for taxis or because passengers want to go back home rapidly, or because they are drunk! So they should better understand how things work here, especially if they are new in La Paz, as probably 50% of the taxi drivers aren’t honest.


Can you tell me more about the ‘devil’s curve’?

In Bolivia, money is linked to the devil. There is a place, located on the highway going down from El Alto to La Paz, where a rock was looking like the devil so people come there to do pagans parties. They drink a lot and pray the devil for money. They literally sell their soul to the devil. Some people adore the Virgin, other the Lord of Gran Poder [Great Power]… and some also adore the devil. Because of it I am afraid to stop at this location. Three or four years ago the municipality of La Paz moved the rock to an undisclosed place as there were so many people coming there at night that the highway would be blocked. There is a joke that says that the rock has been relocated to the Presidential palace, and this is why the President gets so much money!

How are taxi unions working?

You can’t be an independent trufi or minibus driver in La Paz. To use any route you need to pay a union and then join one of their 10 groups. They control minibuses or trufis to ensure a regular flow on a given route. There are many taxi drivers’ unions in La Paz. Before, there used to be only one, the Litoral. Slowly, they became more numerous and unions for minibuses, trufi, etc were created in every part of the city. The unions are self-administered including the routes, the hours, etc. You have to pay 500 USD to enter a union but then you can sell your share when you leave the union. You don’t receive anything from the union, but you are authorised to use their routes.

What do you think of the recent and much publicised introduction of modern buses in La Paz (the famous Puma Katari)?

Unions were convinced that they would lose clients due to the introduction of these new buses and that’s why they demonstrated against them, but it didn’t happen. I don’t think it will affect them much. Well, it did affect them in the early days of their introduction but only because the buses were free!

And how much will the introduction of the cable car network (“teleferico”) affect public transport in La Paz?

This will indeed affect public transports as the cable cars will transport lots of people from El Alto to the city, but at the same time it is said that it will be quite expensive to use on a daily basis. On another note, people will still need taxis and minibuses to move to/from the cable car stations.

I see the introduction of the Puma Katari and of the teleferico as signs of progress. People will learn how to queue to get in a public transport, how to get off only at pre-authorised bus stops, etc.

What are your dreams for the future?

I hope my two girls find a good way in life. One is now studying at university. Also, I hope to save some more money for my retirement. What I’m afraid of most is sickness. I do have a health insurance, but I’m afraid of hospitals. Lastly, because I am now 40 years old, I hope to live for another 20!



Bolivian Story: Maria Calzadilla

Posted on 26 March 2014 | 1 response

One sunny day I went to a Mercadito Pop [a fair] and discovered an amazing electric blue felted hat I just had to have to protect me from the harsh sun we get here at the high altitude of La Paz. The lady designing and selling these unique hats was Maria. I noticed straight away she was a woman caring about design. You know those sort of people, right? They look effortless. They always have something ever so slightly different hanging from their ears or neck, but never too over-the-top or in-your-face. This is Maria – comfortable, unique, creative and warm. She’s the sort of person who wears what she likes and relishes in sorting through second hand clothes in El Alto to find a bargain. She follows international fashion trends but never through complete imitation like I have seen of so many people during my time living in London. She adapts a colour that’s in season to her style or a shape that’s popular but never everything all at once. Whenever I meet people like Maria I always wish I had their style!

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When you visit Maria’s shop, called Unique, you can see she has created a business that reflects her style and personality beautifully – alpaca jumpers and dresses in simple, minimalist shapes accessorised by aguayo [Bolivian, colourful, striped, traditional textile] clutches, felted hats with pompoms hanging from their brims and chic jewellery that combines contemporary silver shapes with traditional fibers. Everything is presented in gorgeous antique suitcases and objects.

As we became friends I was always surprised by her energy, generosity and warmth… and how many people she knows here!! But, as you get to know her it’s hardly surprising at all. Maria is down to earth, friendly and supportive. She has many years of experience behind her from living a full, creative and entrepreneurial life… as you will read in this interview…

How and why did you start your clothing store, Unique?

Seven years ago I decided to give myself an opportunity to do something else in my working life. I had already enjoyed a career in gastronomy that had been very important to me but I felt like I had to do something else that I enjoyed as well. I enjoy the creative life, working with the hands to have a more handcrafted world. I thought that in Bolivia there are many people who are very skilled in things like knitting but perhaps I could direct them in areas of quality and contemporary style. That was why I started Unique. I wanted to have somewhere to sell products that I thought were different from the usual things in the other stores.

When I decided to do this I started taking some courses because I needed to know more about design. There aren’t so many courses in La Paz on these topics so I went to Buenos Aires and Lima to take some short courses they offered. They gave me an idea of what to look for and use. From this I realised I had to use alpaca, the felt for the hats and some cotton. I realised that what was being made and sold in the main tourist area had too many patterns. Through my store and having contact with people I learnt that people actually prefer plain things – they go more for quality of the natural fibers that they can wear for years and years rather than having a beautiful pattern that they will get sick of or go out of style quickly. I think it was much easier to find some knitters who would follow my ideas of simplicity in design.

I feel familiar with what I am designing to sell because that’s the way I dress and style myself. I am not just making clothes for other people, I’m also doing it for myself. If I feel comfortable I can imagine other people feeling comfortable too.

At a point in my entrepreneurship I realised I could also start making a bit of jewellery. At first I was making textile jewellery from the scraps of the bags I was making. After making fabric necklaces I realised they needed some earrings to match. That is when I got in touch with a jewellery maker and he does the earrings for Unique. He doesn’t only work with silver, but also with other metals. This means there are some cheaper items because not everyone wants to spend a lot on silver… also, these are accessories you can wear every day.

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Who mostly buys your pieces? I know selling around the tourist area has been tough in recent years…

The first years were really encouraging because I was selling a lot. In fact I had no time to restock the store! Now I feel like tourism has gone down. But there are other stores that have more designed pieces now as well. The good thing is that I have many clients who come to my store who are not tourists – they are either Bolivians or people who live in La Paz, like you, expats. At the moment these are my loyal clients. I have also had good relationships with people who like my things and want to sell abroad.  So, I sell to Italy, Denmark, and to the United States. I sell mostly alpaca accessories to them because they are easy to resell. They order before the winter time in their countries which keep the artisans busy. This is a socially minded shop, where artisans can work out of their homes, using domestic machines by hand.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I mostly use the internet to see what’s on trend. I always look for the colours that are in season but my inspiration also comes from my culture. Sometimes I mix colours that Europeans wouldn’t use but they are found in the textiles here, in the aguayos, like red and orange. It’s only recently that you see these sorts of clashing colours in main stream fashion but before it wasn’t seen as very stylish or classic – it seemed crazy. My eyes are very fixed on the textiles of my culture. I really feel Bolivian! The music, the colours, everything fills me. I love going to the markets to pick my vegetables, to smell them. I think it’s also because of my age. When I was young my values were more European, perhaps because I lived there for so many years and I thought they were the ‘real’ values but as I got older I understood the values here. When people talk about quality of life they are really talking about infrastructure but this isn’t the real quality of life for me.

So I realised that we don’t have to copy anybody because we have our own culture and values. In saying that I learnt a lot when I lived in Europe and I always keep an eye on what is happening in the design world and tendencies set there but nowadays fashion comes from around the world and people look for comfort as well.

I also use earthy colours though, especially in the shawls and throws. I prefer to keep them like this so that they can be combined easily with people’s current dresses and clothes. The neutral colours bring out the bright colours of their pieces. However, if someone wants something in a new colour I am open to doing that too!

I use the kantuta flowers in different textures – in felt on my bags, in a pin/brooch, in alpaca. I like using pom poms and the accessories of the cholita [indigenous woman] hats I use on my bags too.

What I like to do is to add a bit of ethnicity into my designs but it doesn’t have to be ‘ethnic’… just a bit!

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Speaking of your culture, I know you are passionate about dancing which is very strong in Bolivian culture… can you tell me about this…

Years before I started dancing I was passionate about the mountains and when I realised that trekking wasn’t enough, I started doing mountaineering. That’s when I really deeply understood what it means to be close to Pachamama. I started climbing mountains that were up to 4500m with friends and then, when I wanted to do harder ones, I realised the only way to do it was to get a trainer and a guide. So now I have climbed a few mountains all the way to the top! I love this but it’s not something you can do all the time – it takes a lot of preparation, then you hike and at some point you realise you can’t get to a higher level. But you realise how much importance patience gives to your life and that’s when I thought that something else that could fill my heart is dancing.

So, in my early 50s I looked for a dance group to join. I did this by looking for the groups who did the dances I enjoyed, like the kullawada, morenada and the tinku. I joined a morenada group (there are tons of them actually) but they said after 5 practices that I danced like a gringa [Westerner]! They said I couldn’t go to an entrada [dance procession] and I felt so stupid. I felt that it wasn’t important to them that you liked to dance, but it was more of a competition. When I went to a class of the tinku dance I realised there was so much jumping that I wasn’t fit enough! Then, a friend of mine brought me to one of the kullawada groups in La Paz and on the very first evening they added me to their list for the next entrada at the Oruro Carnival. For them it wasn’t important how you danced but it was important I wanted to belong with them, so they took my measurements for the costumes. I felt so much empathy with this group and now I am friends with most of them. It doesn’t matter that we are all from different activities or professions in life – dancing is something you enjoy in life!

I take part in two entradas each year. We start practicing twice a week for 2 months beforehand to get fit. We dance for 4 to 5 hours at each entrada – the distance isn’t so long but we stop and start often. When people are really enjoying our dancing we stop and dance for them in that place. The crowd takes part, singing, clapping and sometimes they join us… so that’s why it takes so long.

What I like, that I didn’t know before, is that when you are dancing in the entrada it is like a catharsis – you get into dancing, you don’t think about anything else and the movement brings you somewhere else. It’s almost spiritual for me.

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Something I have gotten to know about because of the dancing is about the prestes. The preste is the person who is responsible for the costs of all the drinks, music, food and hiring the venue for the party after an entrada. Everyone in the community wants to be a preste at some point to be considered a person of high prestige and respect. Each year they compete to outdo their predecessor and they can easily spend the savings of a year or several years, circulating their capital within the community. Challa is also important – in gratitude to Pachamama [Mother Earth] for all her fruits they make offerings and spill alcohol on the floor for her.

The preste is chosen by the dance group. Actually, prestar means to borrow. When you go to the fiesta, you give the preste money or you buy a box of beer to pay him back and he resells the beer. So he gets the money back and the party doesn’t turn out costing him as much as he spent beforehand! Mostly they end up even but sometimes they even make some money! These parties look like another world. It’s a world I didn’t know before. They don’t just invite the dance group but everyone they know!

What’s interesting is that most of these parties are made in the saloons of buildings in El Alto that are designed with new architectural tendencies in a style called nueva architectura Andina. These buildings are huge. The saloons have very colourful frescos painted inside with forms and animals from the Tiwanaku culture, like the Andean cross. Of course the culture didn’t use colours back then. They also have huge chandeliers which are sometimes brought from Czechoslovakia. These places are in El Alto – it’s unbelievable!!! Actually, a book about this has just been released by an architectural historian, in Spanish and English. The buildings with the saloons are between 5 and 8 levels, with the saloon downstairs. The other levels are filled with commercial galleries, meeting rooms, apartments or shops and at the very top, situated on the roof, is a full house for the owner. Some have glass, some are unusual facades. Their economic growth can be seen inside the buildings or houses with the painted frescos and glass. The facades have bright colours, with an interesting kitsch. It’s interesting culturally and it’s their own identity. It’s another world there, even for me as a Bolivian. This trend is recent, starting around 2005.


The costumes for the dances are pretty crazy and based upon ‘cholita fashion’… how is this viewed in society and also since you aren’t a cholita?

I think the cholita outfit is very elegant because they really appreciate colours and pay attention to everything from their shoes to their hat. When they put everything together, everything goes! They even think about what kind of jewellery goes with the outfit – gold or silver. Even if they don’t have the money to wear gold, they’ll wear something gold plated to ensure it fits with their colours. They are so conscious about fashion that every year they change something in their outfits. For instance, a few years ago, the fashion for their bowler hat was to have them very high but now they are very short. If they have money right now they won’t wear high hats. It’s also to maintain status.

In their skirts they have bastas/tablas [layers] – this year fashionable cholitas are wearing skirts with narrower layers and they have 8 of these instead of 4 wide ones. Some business women travel to China to order the fabric by the roll to ensure they match the latest colours from Paris catwalks.

I really admire the cholitas wearing these outfits daily because they are so heavy on the hips. I wonder if they don’t have problems when they are older. The skirts have 2 layers underneath! Maybe they are used to it from childhood.

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In recent years there are more and more women wearing the cholita outfits in everyday life. Before, they were wearing more and more western clothing but now it’s going the other way – more people are wearing cholita clothes. What you didn’t see before that you often see now is some even wear makeup! I think the change of government has made them proud of their identity and so they are more willing to express it than before.

The costumes for the dances are made by each group. They are modelled on the idea of the cholita outfits but because they are made as a costume they are more elaborate, more exaggerated, always with more glitter, etc. The costumes change every year which is also a status symbol, since you don’t want to be seen dancing in the same outfit every year.

I think it’s already normal that I wear this outfit for dancing even though I’m not a cholita – they know I’m just doing it for the dance so they don’t pay much attention to me wearing it.maria redsI know that you used to own a very successful restaurant and separately, you are a bit unusual here as a vegetarian and kombucha lover… can you tell us about this part of your life?

When I came back after I had lived in Europe and Canada with my family we wanted to have a restaurant with a different cuisine and with a different ambience. So, we opened a restaurant that made homemade pasta. At the time, when I opened in 1988, there were no Italian restaurants here. We had to bring almost everything from abroad because at the time you couldn’t get good plates, tiles, cutlery or anything here… and I laugh because now you are buying these things here to take to Australia!! Things have changed a lot!

At the very beginning my husband and I designed and made the food. There were no cooking schools then! We were also training Bolivians to make Italian food. I was lucky also that my sister in law, married to my brother, was living here. She was a very good dessert maker and she did the desserts.

What we realised is that the restaurant could also be more than a restaurant. It was very modern and so we also used it to show art. I had Bolivian artists always changing and showing there – that’s why I have so much art at home. I have always been interested in all things creative – there are things in life you don’t learn, it’s just how you are as a human being, and creativity is like that for me!

Working with food meant I naturally realised what is good for you and not. I have manipulated it with my hands and this allowed me to see what is healthy – eating healthy is important to me. I think it’s not from the outside that you do something for yourself, it’s from the inside and what you give your body.

I think you always need to feel in touch with something. When you physically touch food, or an object, it gives you strength. It’s about connection. Connection is something magical that you feel is around you. In all aspects of life it’s about becoming more in tune with what’s around me. I have my own garden in my head and I try not to keep what I don’t want there because otherwise it takes all my soul, my energy and it depletes me as a person…

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What are your dreams for the future?

I would love to see parts of the world that I cannot feel in pictures. I would love to be there, to feel how different they are. I want to be in nature, where it’s different.  I’ve travelled a lot but there are many places I haven’t felt, or seen, even in Bolivia. To be in touch with nature – nothing gives you more than that – listening to the birds, the ocean, watching a water fall, seeing a sunset… These mean more than anything else and I’d like to spend more time like this. I’d also love to visit you on your farm in Australia one day.

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Bolivian Story: Sandra

Posted on 10 March 2014 | 2 responses

Just two weeks after I arrived in Bolivia I began daily Spanish classes with Sandra. She didn’t want to be interviewed or have photos taken, which is also why I haven’t included her surname. This Bolivian Story is to tell you about why she has been such a big part of my life here.

My first year in La Paz was difficult for me. Jean was frequently travelling for work, I didn’t know anyone and most days the only other person I spoke to was Sandra, for 1 or maybe 2 hours… in Spanish.  It was exhausting. Some days I [...] Continue Reading…

Bolivian Story: Daniela Lorini

Posted on 8 March 2014 | No responses

One day we visited the Christmas fair at the American school and discovered some unique, beautiful mirrors, paintings and coat hooks being sold by Daniela Lorini. She was there with her partner, Arnaud, selling her art works which stood out among the collection of crafts there. We started talking and before we left Dani asked for our contact details. At the time I thought she was just being polite but they were different. They remembered us and invited us over for dinner in the new year. We instantly connected.

I started hanging out at Dani’s place one day a week [...] Continue Reading…

Bolivian Story: Diane Bellomy, Artesania Sorata

Posted on 6 March 2014 | No responses

Soon after we arrived in Bolivia we met Diane Bellomy. Diane’s work was very interesting to me since she owns a Fair Trade business called Artesania Sorata, producing and selling hand dyed and handmade alpaca clothing, accessories and home wares that are generally made by women. Here in La Paz there are very few places that sell genuinely handmade, genuinely Bolivian or genuinely Fair Trade alpaca wear, despite the numerous shops in the tourist street Calle Sagarnaga claiming some of these. So, before long I started volunteering unofficially around 3-4 days a week, for around a year. During this [...] Continue Reading…

How to vermicompost: composting with worms

Posted on 4 March 2014 | No responses

We are packing. We are moving to Australia, starting all again. I find myself a little teary occasionally as I say goodbye to all our babies – our plants, bacterias and yeasts I’ve nurtured carefully over the years here in Bolivia. Kombucha SCOBYs, kefir grains, sourdough starter, worms and apple cider vinegar mothers all to be distributed to caring souls wanting to improve their health. I think about the future, starting them all again. I’ve had so much pleasure with my weekly routines – feeding the worms, watering the plants, kneading the sourdough, bottling the kombucha…

Anyway, I’m a sentimental [...] Continue Reading…

Bolivian Story: Enrique MacLean and Paola Recacoechea

Posted on 28 February 2014 | No responses

Our first trip out of La Paz after we arrived in Bolivia was to Lake Titicaca for a long weekend away. We spent a couple of nights on Isla del Sol in an eco-lodge, which is where we met Enrique and Paola. They became our very first friends here. During that weekend on Isla del Sol we enjoyed dinner together each evening, laughing and talking about everything from heavy metal to politics. Back in La Paz our friendship grew, including pot lucks at our home and sometimes Enrique and Jean would ‘jam’ together – Enrique on guitar and Jean [...] Continue Reading…

Bolivian Story: Crisil

Posted on 27 February 2014 | 1 response

We decided to visit Bolivia’s largest glass factory that uses only recycled glass to produce some of their wonderfully organically shaped round glasses like the ones shown in the below photos.

We were in for a very warm welcome and tour thanks to Marcelo who, along with his father and brother, run the factory in Cochabamba. Actually, it was his father who founded the Fair Trade business in 1993. After having a small workshop transforming plastic, someone suggested he could easily do glass instead and at the time the Dutch government was offering funding… and so it was born! Now [...] Continue Reading…

How to make water kefir

Posted on 26 February 2014 | No responses

Do you make water kefir? Our grains are multiplying beautifully lately!

Sorry… I’ve got ahead of myself… do you know what water kefir is? Well, like our milk kefir, water kefir is a beneficial probiotic beverage that tastes delicious. It’s so simple to make. The flavour is like a ‘dry, slightly fizzy lemonade’. Like kombucha it is first cultured by introducing a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts) into sugar water – the SCOBY in this case are called grains. The beneficial bacteria and yeasts present in the water kefir grains metabolize the sugar, turning it into an array of beneficial [...] Continue Reading…

Bolivian Story: Luis Alberto Quispe Ochoa

Posted on 24 February 2014 | No responses

One day we visited the Museum of Contemporary Art here in La Paz, Bolivia, and became captivated by the works of Luis Alberto Quispe Ochoa (check out his website here). After much deliberation we finally purchased two works that spoke to us. Both were meticulously created with coca leaves and aguayo, which is the traditionally woven textile here. One depicts an indigenous woman’s face while the other is the face of an indigenous man who is wearing a chullo, the traditional knitted woollen hat with flaps to cover the ears. We regularly admire these pieces that now grace our lounge [...] Continue Reading…

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