|the journey evolves
||[Sep. 25th, 2008|09:29 am]
September 25th, lazy afternoon in la paz.|
The thing about bolivia is that it is super tranquilo. Even in the capital, La Paz, people are not in a hurry. So, it is 3 in the afternoon and everything that we try to accmplish gets shutdown. It is thursday. We seek tourist info and the office is closed, out for lunch... At 3 pm, out for lunch??? Ok, I get the idea, just relax and forget about accomplishing tasks american style. That brings us to the internet, a good way to waste a lot of time...
This is my first post-peace corps blog. If I had to sum up my peace corps experience in two words I would say, ¨masochistic altruism.¨ If you are the self-denial or deprivation type, you would do well in peace corps. Also, if you like to work with the poor and uneducated, if seeing children smile and laugh, if seeing your work change the life of someone economically destitute, seeing them smile and thank you deeply for your work... if these things warm your heart, you would do well in peace corps. So masochistic altruism sums up the combination of these emotions and attitudes. I guess most of peace corps volunteers feel OK with putting themselves through highly uncomfortable situations, ridiculous living conditions (by american standards), egregious stomach issues, and the pain of being removed from family for extended periods of time. Some of us maybe even enjoy it in a weird sort of self-denial type of manner, putting yourself to the test type of thing, seeing how much you can endure and taken care of yourself, going inside yourself and testing the limits. Observing how you react in volatile and utterly abnormal situations. We-I also love to travel, speak new languages, carry out work that matters to me, that I see as useful and worthy, while laughing, partaking in new cultural rituals, breaking the cultural barrier and sharing joy with other members of this bizarre race on a level that transcends color, language, understanding... To be cheesy, doing good and sharing myself and country with others... that would be the altruistic part, that comes at the cost of a little suffering, yet immense amounts fo tranquility as well! Whew!
So, that entire experience feels like some removed, hazy surreal dream, accopmpanied by a warm and smiling sentiment every time I think back to tembiapora, the red dirt, the torrid sun, the loving and selfless neighbors, and the herbs and terere.
And I often reflect on the time there, and continue to realize what a special and unbelievable experience it was.
To make a connection,. I have now moved from masochistic altruism to a sort of masochistic astonishing joy, that of traveling, being free on the road, without an agenda or schedule to dictate my day. The journey is what it is all about, you continue to beat yourself up, go through highly uncomfortable experiences, yet immensely enjoy doing it. For example, Matt (my traveling companion) and I left Uyuni, Bolivia the other day. We were headed to Cochabamba, Bolivia, en route to La pAz, the capital. We decided to take the cheapest bus possible from uyuni. It was a ten hour overnight bus through the high altiplano desert all the way to the desert plateau city of cochabamba. We get on the bus around 8 pm, make our way to our seats and realize that we are quite out of place. The ONLY gringoes on the bus, this is local transport in its rawest form, it is a bus full of indigenous families, mothers, kids, crying babies, and drunks. There are 40 seats on the bus and 60 people in the thing. The bus has no bathroom, no heat, and there are holes the size of footballs in the floorboards. Ok, tranquilo, it will be a long night... So, we light out under a full moon bumping across the high desert of the bolivian altiplano, there seems to be no road, the driver is just mashing through rocky, washboard, dusty desert floor. The bus walls are rattling so hard that Matt and I cant even hear each other speak, we are screaming in our ears, wondering if the walls are gonna fall off and how we would make evasive movements to prevent disaster. At this point still enjoying the ride... digging the moon like desert scenery out the window, the moon shining off the white sand of the desert floor. I try to relax, kick my boots off, knees smashed agressively against the seat in front of me and lay back to rest. The bus is bumping so hard over the rocky ground that my back feels like its about to give out after ten minutes, as the night draws on, the temps drop, significantly... As ridiculous gringoes, we neglected to plan for this... As the feet get cold I decide to throw my boots back on, I search under my seat, no boots..... OK.. dude, Matt says, there is a kid crawling around on the floor, what if he swiped your boots??? Uhhhh, dude, there are holes in the floor, maybe your boots fell through and out of the bus...?? Not good possibilities... I dont panic, but I am not calm either... luckily after a few minutes of searching I find that my boots had rattled their way a few seats behind me, under the seat of a sleeping bolivian campesina. perdon, disculpa... Ok, got the boots, I look around the bus and notice that all the bolivians are wrapped up in five layers of llama wool blankets, the warmest substance known to man. Matt and I have nothing. as the night winds on, Matt and I go into serious freezing mode, without blankets, we can see our breath and arctic air continues to blow through the holes in the floorboards. HUGE mistake not bringing blankets. To make a long story short, it was a grueling and sleepless night, two grown men huddling and holding each other to keep from going into hypothermia, a ridiculous experience that we choose not to discuss in length. But, it is nights like those that will be remembered forever and are just another notch in this wild journey northward.
After THE BUS RIDE, we spent a few days in Cochabamba, gettin gour bearings, planning some treks and tapping into the culture. We witnessed a military display of incredible magnitude. The entire bolivian military was mrached through the streets, making a statement in the government´s stronghold to warn the separatists in the east. Bolivia is in a time of political turmoil at the moment, but now is not the time to go into it. After Cocha, we bussed over the mountains into the tropical region of the country and hiked through rainforest for a couple days, coming face to face with various different primates, all of which freaked me out, they are so humanlike it is ridiculous.
We then arrived here in La paz, the highest capital city in the world at over 10,000 feet, it is tough to walk up stairs without catching your breath. La Paz is also known as the indigenous cultural capital of the world. Walking around the city, you see a homogenous looking people of indigenous (quechua or aymara descent) celebrating their colorful culture. The streets are also speckled with alien looking gringo backpackers like ourselves... This is a dynamic city, with a proud people who genuinely have power in their own country. Evo Morales Ayma is the president elect in Bolivia, democratically approved with close to 70% of the popular support, a thriving democracy almost unheard of in todays world. I didn´t understand the significance of this until we attended an indigenous film festival here in La PAz a few days ago. Evo was portrayed as a savior, sent to the indigenous after hundreds of years of struggle against the conquistadors and spanish oppression, exploitation, and violence. This is such a momentous event in bolivia and in the world at large, an indigneous majority taking control and governing their country. It is exciting to see this type devotion to a cause, a people´s liberation movement. We will see what happens, there are many powers that do not wish this revolution to succeed.
Alright, many more stories follow, but they will wait for another day, we are preparing to make our second trek up into the majestic andes, over an old Inca roadway and into a Yungas rainforest. Be well my stateside companions, til next time, thanks for reading and looking forward to seeing yall soon!
Peace from Bolivia