Any scientist that does field work in Bolivia is metal, no questions asked.

Bolivia is a third world country run by military police, full of diseases like yellow fever and Chagas, wherein people will rob your stuff from your moving field truck and the local police who surely witnessed it will not even help you. Bolivia is dangerous. Bolivia is beautiful. Bolivia is totally fucking metal.

When you first fly into one of the big cities, like Santa Cruz, there’s a lot going on. I personally like walking around at night when it’s a bit cooler. And because big churches look especially epic:

Creepy Church!

Driving around the cities is a brutal task not fit for the lighthearted. Stop signs are merely suggestions. The way to “safely” pass through an interaction with stop signs is to honk the horn as you approach the stop sign. This signifies to other drivers that you are coming – whoever is going slowest has to yield. And yet despite the crazy mix of run down cars from the US and quirky Japanese vans that can’t pass emissions tests, there’s still old ladies trying to sell you EVERYTHING amidst all the traffic:

"¡Tres bolivianos!"

But good science rarely takes place in relatively calm places like that. At least for this project, we have to travel through pretty awesome mountain passes….

…that have been blown out of the mountains with dynamite, leaving only a few feet between your vehicle and the edge of a sometimes-abysmal cliff:

I’ve never fallen off a cliff yet, but I have certainly gotten very, very stuck on horrible muddy roads.

I’m not sure if the idle spinning is worse than the local Menninites just watching you, scoffing your failing technology from their horse-drawn buggy.

But let’s say we finally get to the field site. Ready to gather some data?! BEWARE ALL THE POKY THINGS!

If the plants don’t embed themselves into your skin, the ticks surely will:

¿Garrapata para ti?

Or a poisonous caterpillar!

Let’s say you survive the field and manage to make it back to the hotel to catch some much needed shut eye. Sweet dreams:

Who needs a Hilton?

The restroom situation is often less-than-sanitary. There’s a reason our euphemism for a bathroom break is “Necesito un arból (I need a tree).”

"...I think I can hold it."

Feel like washing the stink off you yet? For some reason, any hotel that has the option of hot water has the following kind of set up. Once the water is already running, one must, while standing in the the puddle of electricity-conducting water, flip the switch that heats the water. I have never managed to do this without getting mildly electrocuted.

How badly do you want heated water, really?

Assuming you survive your brush with death-by-shower, and make it around to all the field sites successfully, once you’re back in the city you have to finish processing all the data. Often, this means embarrassing yourself horribly in front of all the other hotel guests. Everyone else will be using the kitchen to cook tasty foods in normal appliances like an oven or microwave. You’ll have set up a ghetto camp stove on a stove burner to maintain a very constant temperature, and a fellow hotel patron will ask what you’re “cooking.”

“Oh,” you’ll say, sheepishly opening the door to stir and re-distribute the samples. “Just uh… cooking my envelopes.”

Not exactly culinary cuisine, but it does pack quite the punch.

Whatever, though. You don’t need the approval of plebeian non-scientists. You’re doing science in Bolivia. You’re more metal than they’ll ever be.

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  1. Charon says:

    “I have never managed to do this without getting mildly electrocuted.”

    Ride the lightning! Classic metal!

  2. Jones says:


  3. […] though being a scientist is also metal, the transitive property doesn’t work here. Though there is an entire genre of rock music […]