May 20, 2006 GMT
(4) Bolivia: Reflections in a Mud Puddle

....Reflections in a mud puddle....

I wish I had time in my life to understand all that I see...the mysteries, the passions, the motivations behind the work. Those things, those memories that lodge in my mind but remain unanswered, unexplained and not understood. So much has happened before me; so much will happen after me; so much will remain a mystery in my life and the next...

I wish I could help these people. I wish I could buy all of their handiwork. The haunting eyes penetrate beyond the sale, for behind them lurks the hunger and desperation of daily life, the struggle to survive, to exist in this hand to mouth world. I wish, I wish, I wish...


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Nobody has change in these countries...not the big hotels, not the mercados, not the taxis...only the gas stations. I pay for dinner with a 100 Bolivano note ($14) and they cannot make change. I pay for my moto taxi with a 5 Bolivano coin (70 cents) and he cannot make change for a 37 cent ride. You are expected to have the exact change, but if you can't get change, how can you give exact change? It's a CATCH-A-22 of mega proportions.

There is not much to do in these little towns. You can make love, eat or go to Church...make Church, have love or go to eat...make eat, have Church or go to love. It is an endless cycle.

In this little town, everyone with a computer thinks the other guy has an internet connection. "Go see Fred on the corner." OK, I went to see Fred. Fred has 6 machines but no internet connection, only games. Fred says to see Mike 2 blocks away. Mike has no internet, but he is sure Fred has because Fred has 6 machines. I give up my quest and go to Church. I have already eaten and even though sex is appealing, Church is better for you.

I come out of Church after the 7:30 PM mass. There is a power outage and I cannot see my hand in front of my face. People at the shops sit behind lighted candles. A panic moves through my body. I cannot find my way home from here in total blackness. Even the traffic of moto taxis is almost non-existent in this absolute darkness. Finally, I tackle one and get a ride home.


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Here in Conception, the little moto taxis (125cc Hondas) whisk you around town for 30 cents. Careening down the dirt streets littered with potholes, dodging pedestrians, dogs, moto taxis and the odd car, we move along in a state of near-out-of-control. My bulk on the rear seat, almost double that of the conductor puts me in control even though he holds the handlebars. By shifting my weight I can re-direct him at will, putting him in a state of confused panic as he struggles to regain control. Finally arriving at our destination he is more than happy to see me disembark and once again regain control of his craft.

Word must have passed around town about the gringo with the blue shirt. Soon no one would stop to pick me up. I go back to my room and change into a white T-shirt. Back on the street, I am soon picking up taxis with random abandon. The games continue.

Some of these little bikes have over 50,000 km on them and I am sure they have never been more than 10 km from the edge of town.

The asparagus is wonderful. The thick, meaty stalks offer no resistance to the bite and provide a flavour sensation without equal, never before experienced.

My girlfriend came by to greet me during supper. I met her yesterday. She is such a sweetheart...an absolute doll. She is ten, with all of the grace and dignity of a lady. She is the self-appointed hostess and stopped by to wish me "buen provecho." She saunters through the dining room, into the next room, out of sight. I pause to reflect on her passing. I wish I were ten...but only for an instant.

There is an Orchidaria in town at the Hotel Chiquitos. I go to visit. It was not the season, but enough of these delicate beauties were in evidence to arouse the senses...their frail and delicate beauty exceeded only by the nectar of the sweet aroma eminating from within. The visual memory of the beauty lingers, but it is the delicate and delicious, sensory memory of the scent that remains forever. The Nectar of the Gods...for it cannot be captured...it cannot be duplicated...it cannot be confined. It is nature's gift to the world. A world bent on a course of chaos and destruction, in man's quest for "The Cancer of the Moneda" so profoundly spoken by Carmen those many months before, in Santiago, at the beginning of the journey.


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Posted by Robert Bielesch at May 20, 2006 02:43 AM GMT
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