19 February 2012 (email)
This is my first update since arriving here. I hope you will find time to sit down and have a read, I also hope I am able to paint clear images of what life here has been like.
We arrived in Cochabamba, Bolivia after nearly 48 hours of travel, from a little ecovillage in Jarna, hitch hike to the city of Stockholm with a cool guy in a cool old ride, conversating about the history of his family and where they have settled in his life so far, train ride from one of the outer suburbs of Stockholm into the central station, a nervous bus ride to the airport, a good and relaxed dagens lunch to help settle the nerves, a flight from Stockholm to Madrid, Spain, a quick train dash into the city to grab a bite and some beer at a local tapas bar in the small town of Barajas while we watched the local teams play against Real Madrid – a priceless treat, a flight from Mardid to Sao Paulo, arriving to the sticky heat of Brazil with layers against the Swedish winter hindering my enjoyment of the heat I so deeply craved for so long, a quick change into a skimpy dress and sandals brought much
happiness, passport control where a friend would not be let into the country, a frustrated hour of figuring out how to get her and her bags on the flight, a short barefoot walk
on the soild of Brazil, sitting under a palm tree and taking in the sights and the heat for 2 hours while we waited to check-in, a surprisingly smooth check-in, a flight from Sao Paulo to Santa Cruz (a city I feel strongly drawn to and am sincerly hoping I get an opportunity to visit for a couple of days to work with the Guaranies people of the area), a sneaky tree climb in a
hot sticky mosquito-ridden parking lot laiden with trees and greenery, a short but powerful connection with the soil and then off again on our final flight into Cochabamba.
Landing in Cochabamba was surreal, the city is lit by houses and huts all over the mountains surrounding the
valley where we would rest our heads. The ride into Quillacollo was unreal, we were all really tired but very keen to take it all in, which was hard, but became easier and easier when Maria´s Dad (Francisco) put on some Bolivian tunes. A fitting soundtrack to what our eyes where absorbing.
Maria used to study at the international youth initiative program last year and she is our host for the entire stay. She is the only one in her family who speaks English. This was a wake-up call. This is probably going to be the trend for our entire stay here. Very few (if any) English-speaking people in a land where Espanol is the predominant language of choice.
We rest our bodies, minds and hearts in Quillacolla which is what is referred to as ¨Cuidad de la luna¨ – City of the moon. We lay down, excited and anxious to see what tommorrow held.
Following a well deserved rest, I awoke around 8am local time and forced myself to take in at least another hour. We all kind of rose at 9am and began our day.
We went to a local market in Quillacollo, the market had a healthy variety of fruits, vegetables, spices and all the kinds of starches you could imagine, from corn meal to pasta and rice. We were amazed at the good quality and incredibly low price of the goods on offer. We ate with our eyes and cnsequently paid with our pockets. 2 and a half bags full later – we were ready to head home to transofrm our supplies into edible delicacies. Maria´s mom happily cooked for us, she, like Francisco spoke no English. She speaks an indigenous language called Quecha and Spanish which is actually referred to in these parts as Castanho. She reminds me a lot of my own mom, a busy body who enjoys feeding the family and anyone that passes through her home. She cooks well at that!
The next day was our first real day at the organisation that we will be working with during our stay here. The organisation is called KAWSAY which works with indeginous people and works towards restoring, preserving and improving the livelihood, culture and way of life of the indigenous people in Boliva. They have a very wholesome and holistic view and approach. They believe in what is called ¨cosmovision¨ which basically means looking at the entire picture as opposed to a whole. Incorporating all aspects of human life and taking them all into account in a practical sense in order to bring balance and a more holistic way of life.
They work in the areas of agriculture & ecological production, arts & culture as well as pedagogy.
Our first day was quite tough, nobody in the office speaks any English and therefore we rely on our very broken Spanish and very heavily on Maria, our host and friend.She has been a gem so far and has shown the patience of a saint to us and our questions.
We are currently in a town called Oruro which hosts the biggest and most popular carnival in Bolivia. There are many layers to this town and it´s people as well as their religous and cultural beliefs. I am in the process of attempting to understand the peopel and the history and will be interviewing Maria´s Aunt and uncle who graciously cookced us lunch yesterday before we headed to the carnival and have also invited us to dinner at their home tonight.
Maria´s uncle works in the mines in Chile and travels between Oruro and Santiago. One week at work and one week at home. He seems healthy and is very well versed in the history and politics of the area. It was a treat spending time with him yesterday afternoon as well as enjoying a delicous meal of vegetables, rice, a home-made chilli sauce, fried egg and some traditional Bolivian soup with mutton meant. My first real taste of meat since arriving here.
I have a slight migraine threatening to ruin my day. So I´m about to head out to a ¨Farmacia¨ to find something to help this lingering headache.
I don´t know when I will write again but please do write me! A slice of familiarity is always welcome.
I have been writing daily, my notebook is filled with thoughts, comments and detailed colourful experience we have been having so far. I am considering turning my scribblings into a short story. I sometimes find myself reading my own writings and chuckling to myself. Let´s see how good I will be at keeping track of how this unfolds.
My plans for the next week are as follows – Today we will explore the town further and go to a church, we will go to <maria´s aunt and uncle´s place again for dinner and perhaps sleep there ( we have been staying at Maria´s cousin´s place in the centre of Oruro – a place I need about 30 mins to describe!), we will then travel early tomorrow morning 2 hours out of Oruro to Maria´s mother´s place, her mom´s family only speaks Quecha and I´m looking forward to being part of the Coa ritual on Tuesday, we then take a 4-6 hour bus back to Cochabamba to a school we spent our morning at on Friday. It is in a place called Tiquipaya which rests at the foot of one of the many mountians, it is an alternative school which I tell about more in my daily writings. It is beautiful and we have been invited to help with weeding the school, building a playground and being a part of a project where they will conduct an exchange between them (Kusikuna eco school) and another school in a neighbouring community, separated by a river but very different from each other. We will be working at the school from Wednesday until Friday. We will also have a gathering on Saturday at the KAWSAY offices on Saturday to do a presentation of what YIP is and where we come from, we will have baked goodies and coffee and cake and then on Sunday we will go back to Kusikuna school to have a coa ritual with the parents and teachers and children of the school. During all of this we will be working on translating the KAWSAY website into English.
Big Big week ahead.
With love from a surprisingly relatively well-equiped internet cafe in Oruro, Bolivia.