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A young arriero leads a mule across fresh snow in the Peruvian Andes. Photo by Benjamin Swift (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest Finalist), South America Semester.

SUPERmercado

Scattered through the dimly lit warehouse are the things we seek: carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, and onions. Bags in hand, we know what must be done. Two girls. Two bags. Two hundred Bolivianos. One mission. Jillian and I scan up and down the ramps of the multi-tiered market in La Paz. There are hundreds of stands, but we have to find the best deal. After bothering some vendors with our “¿cuanto cuesta?” question, we finally find THE STAND.

A woman and a young man sit among the surprisingly large vegetables, eagerly waiting for our requests. We give them our order. We know we are going to be over-budget because buying vegetables for 17 people for a six day trek is not cheap.

As Jillian and I begin adding up the cost of our vegetables, we know we have to do something to cut costs. We agree to get ten less zucchinis, but what more can we do? Should we barter? Neither of us really want to ask to pay less, but we were given instructions to stay within the budget.

The final verdict of our shopping venture is given: 297.5 Bolivianos. Woah!

“How about 290 Bolivianos?” The female vendor stares at us for a second.

“You can take some vegetables out to make it 290 Bolivianos.”

We don’t want to argue, so we begin taking some carrots out. We sadly hand over five carrots and begin closing our blue and red checkered shopping bag.

“Wait,” she says, ” I want you all to have enough food.” She hands the carrots back with a smile on her face.

YES! SUCCESS! We may have gone a little over budget (okay…a lot), but we saved 7.5 Bolivianos. Jillian and I both agreed that bartering was not for us but the small success of the day was worthwhile. When in Bolivia, yaknow!