3 months in Bolivia

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Everybody is writing a travel blog nowadays and everybody has all these amazing stories to tell. And, yes, it is true that traveling is like living on steroids. You are exposed to many more things much faster. Therefore, there is more to But sometimes, 3 months go by and not that much has happened.

I am still trying to figure out the personality of people in Bolivia. I was already told, before I came that Bolivia is not like other places. You need more time to understand Bolivia. I understand that. But, after 3 months, I still do not have an opinion on Bolivia, which means, that I still do not have an opinion on the people of Bolivia.

I love meeting people and that has been the hard part in Bolivia. I really have not met that many people. The people that I have met are so opposed to each other, from extremely shy to the total opposite, that I cannot pinpoint them.

I understand that this is the country with the most indigenous people and that nothing good has came to them from the white people. Therefore, they are not going to open themselves to the white tourist. I also know that if I had worked with a NGO, I would have been able to interact more with people from Bolivia. But, I also know that meeting people is usually very easy for me and that I have interacted with indigenous people and they criticize white people in front of me and I am fine with it because I agree with them. I know that the White race has not brought anything else but suffering, pain, slavery and even nowadays, they treat them as second class.

I do not understand the concept of feeling superior to another race. It is just plain dumb. It does not make any sense and it is of a very low I.Q. to buy into that idea. We can neither say that people from this race, this country, this ethnicity are this way or that way. But you do get a feeling from people from one area or another one. I have been to several áreas in Brazil and I can tell the differences among them and while they are nota ll th same, they have some qualities or some levels of a quality in common.

On one hand, it seems that people in Bolivia are very honest, truthful and loyal, but on the other hand there are big problems with corruption, steeling…

Quechua and Aymara speakers seem very reserve and shy, but in some areas, maybe due to the carnaval, they seem obcese with sex. There are posters of women in bikinis all over the place. In places where they do not make any sense, in stores run by women. This is the only picture that you see about women, they are only a sexual object. This is a concept that I also do not understand. Why do men have the need to reduce women to sexual objetcs non stop? Are they so scared of them? What are they really scared of? Why women do not do something about it? Why do still work posing for those kind of machista posters? Why do not they realice that women´s brains are much more powerful tan their bodies? Why give that pleasure to men? Do they deserve it? Do they ever look sexy for us?

But on the other hand, you see women hired by the city hall to do Jobs that non even in the USA women do. Women working in government positions. You see women fighting for their rights and talking in meeting as much  or even more than men. Still it is the second country when it comes to domestique violence in South America.

Do they keep their word? I have seen both. When I asked my quechua teacher, she told me that it depended on the person. Again, another characteristic that I cannot describe about Bolivians.

After talking about what I do not know, let´s move to what has happened in Bolivia.

I arrived in Santa Cruz and I spent 3 days there. It is an extremely hot place and it seems that the beauty of Santa Cruz, is what is outside of it. Not much is in the city, but 3h away, there must be beautiful nature. I was not impressed with the people in this city but I did not meet anyone really.

Then I went to an ashram in Quillacollo, close to Cochabamba. There I met several volunteers from Brazil, France, Denmark, Uruguay, England, Spain, Basque Country, Colombia… It was fun to meet them and we had very good conversations. We share some knowledge and we did a couple of things together. My job consisted mainly in translating stories about witches from Spanish to Basque. It was a very interesting challenge. I also cleaned rooms and helped in the kitchen for the guests. This place is very beautiful, surrounded by nature and peaceful. We had some meetings with the head of the ashram and he shared his philosophy with us. It took 10 days or more for me to meet him, but it was an interesting experience. I wish I had done any meditation, but it was so early in the morning, that I would have been too tired to do translation all day after that.

During the 3 weeks that I spent there, I got to visit the city of Cochabamba few times, where in the year 2,000, the rain water was privatized and therefore many demostrations broke up. The Bolivians fought hard enough to revoke this law and restore their rights to the rain water. Of course, this idea of privatizing the wáter of Cochabamba, a place where it does not rain much, came from the International Monetary Bank. There is a movie that touches this topic called Even the Rain with the main actors, Gael García Bernal from México and Juan Tosar from Spain. The director is Iciar Bollain.

On the last days of the ashram, I met the NGO Mano a Mano. They showed me the entire place and explained me all the work they do, but it did not seem that there was much for me to do until, I saw a postcard of Coeur D’alane, Idaho, the state where I have lived for 13 years. We started talking about it and how I do translations now for medical issues and they asked me to translate medical presentations for their upcoming conference.

After the ashram, I went to Sucre for 5 weeks. Sucre is the white city of Bolivia. You get a beautiful feeling in this city. It is peaceful but not boring. There is movement on the streets but it is quiet at the same time. There I took Quechua classes for 3 weeks. For one week I was sick and I had to cancel all the classes. Quechua is a very beautiful language. Its sounds beautiful and it has a more or less complicated grammar. Basque has many things in common with Quechua and that makes it easier to learn. At least, you know what kind of beast you are facing.

Like Basque, it is an aglutinative language, which means that you do not have prepositions, you have postpositions that come after the Word and they are connected to it. It also means that you create new words by adding two of them, which creates very longs words.

Now, the hard part comes. The pronunciation, OMG. Q, Qh, Qh’… those I will master in my next life because in this one it is not going to happen. This saddens me because I do not feel like really practicing with anybody because they will not be able to understand me. Now, when it comes to writing, I am very proud of my progress and nothing else like speaking Basque helps that much to learn this language.

Quechua, like Basque is a SOV language. This means that the verb goes at the end of the sentence. For example, if you want to say: “I go to the market” you would say “I market-to go”  It has 2 ways of saying sister and 2 more to say brother, depending on who is talking, a woman or a man.

In Sucre there is this big coffee place called METRO. The best place to work and use Internet. Apart from taking Quechua classes, I also took an online translation course of subtitles. I have not had so many problems with technology in my entire life and this make this experience painful and frustrating. Translating subtitles by itself is a beautiful challenge and I hope to get some work doing this kind of translation. It would be a beautiful job to do for a NGO too. I would love to translate documentaries more than anything else.

Sucre was not all fun. It takes time to get used to a city, to find the post office, the closest supermarket, the best fruit at the market. Which means that the first three weeks went by and I felt that I had not achieved anything. I am super mega ultra effective and time is not gold for me, it is a diamond. On those weeks I worked for hours and hours on the medical translations for the NGO Mano a Mano. But I had a hard time feeling that I was wasting my time and that I was not making friends. I met this French young couple, who were officially our landlords. What a sweet couple: Arthur and Collin. We had few dinners with them and we went to the Tarabuco market with them to buy some traditional textiles as presents. I met some Couchsurfers but really none that I saw twice. I have lived in the USA for 13 years and it has been really long ago since I had to start making friends from scratch. Last time I was in that situation it was in Boise in 2014. The first 2 weeks were so hard, I felt so lonely, but after that, I met at the Basques and I had much more fun that what I would have imagined.

I was lucky to see the demonstrations in favor and against the president Evo Morales and I learned how disappointed people are at him.

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During my stay in Sucre, I hardly had the time to really see the city because there was not much time between translationg medical presentations and the translating subtitle class. Once I started with the subtitle class, I did nothing else but work on it for 10h a day.

Right before this class, I went to the Salar of Uyuni, the only place in Bolivia that I really had to see. And it did not dissapoint me at all. It really is a magical place. Mostly because we saw it after the rain when the sky reflects on the salar. Just magical.

We spent 3 days in a jeep with 2 Brazilians and a Chinese. After the salar we saw the desert  and Eduardo Avaroa park with the red lagoon, the green lagoon.

We were at 4,900 meters, the highest I have ever been. We slept at 4,300 meters, the highest I have ever slept, and let me tell you. There is no sleeping at that altitude. You feel like a 95 year old catching her last breath. It is even scary.

Right after the Salar we went to Potosi, one of the highest cities in the world and there again, you even feel anxiety because breathing is so hard. I always had sinusitis problems, but this is another level.

La Paz is a crazy city. I love it and I have no idea why. The altitude sickness in La Paz killed me but I was able to survive thank to the pills.  La Paz is difficult to describe. It is alive, it is all movement and craziness.

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After La Paz, I took a bioconstruction class in an ashram close to Apolo. The 12 hour ride on the bus was the hardest in my life. The bus drivers in Bolivia do not let you use the bathroom neither live the bus for 6h. I was having my period and I am not going to describe the details but I ended up changing my clothes underneath a bridge when we arrived at 4am. I will always remember this crazy ride going over waterfalls and cliffs.

The course was amazing but the mosquitoes were just too much. I also got sick twice during that week. But it was totally worth it.  We worked on a green roof, we built a wall with bamboo and another one made if adobe and the final layer with horse poop. Yes!!! And you need to touch it for hours. But if it is dry, it does not stink. We learned about different natural materials and measurement. The teacher was just amazing.

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The end of the trip was pure pleasure in the ruins of Tiwanaku and Lake Titikaka, visiting the island of the moon and the island of the sun where the first Inka people were born.

Tiwanaku is an old pre Inka culture that taught a lot to the Inkas. Their sun temple has lots of secrets. For example, the rock in the middle changes the north-south direction when you put a compass next to it. There is a ¨vocinera¨ rock which through you can talk quietly and they would hear you from far away clearly.

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Lake Titikaka is the highest lake where people live. The sun island is quiet, relaxing and full of ruins. However since the people in the north of the island and the ones in the center have their disagreements, we were not allowed to go to the north because they would burn your boat. Extreme!!!

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