Saturday, September 11, 2010


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Nothing caps off a night of vomiting in the bushes quite like high-stepping it up a sloppy mountain slope for the better part of an hour; I did have a schedule to keep, after all.

At 7 AM I politely refused breakfast and followed a quirky farmer with a bushy, full beard (rare in Bolivia) and bright orange pants toward the cumbre. Any residual quivering in my knees and dizziness in my head was soon forgotten as I lost myself in the view from the top of the mountain. The fog has held strong in San Ignacio, and all around, tufts of fluffy white and drops of moisture give the mountains a mysterious allure that captivates my attention. Early morning dew hung on the tips of ferns and leaves, it strung itself ornately along a thousand perfect spider webs, and it slowly dripped to the soggy, slippery forest floor below. I huffed and puffed, slipped and slid my way up, up, up, always chasing after the orange pants.

After two days here I've come to the conclusion that the Bolivian ankle is not mere flesh and bone but actually at least three-quarters steel. My observation is based less on the fact that these individuals can deftly navigate slopes that would render any run-of-the-mill mountain goat quite envious, and more on the fact that the majority of them do so in flimsy plastic flip flops. I spent my childhood doing flips and spins on a balance beam; I passed through my teens flying over hurdles and hovering, twisting, and twirling over the deep end of the pool; more recently I have come to live for the exhilaration of speedily threading my way through city traffic on two tiny tires. In short, over the course of my life I have rarely felt out of place or clumsy in undertaking athletic endeavors, yet here in Bolivia my big American feet in their big American shoes just can't seem to get the hang of things. I spend a good portion of each day picking myself up off the ground and/or frantically grabbing for anything within reach to stop myself as my size-eights involuntarily ride waves of leaves and branches down the mountainside. The farmers laugh at me.

After a long, happy day of working I returned to my warehouse lair to discover that there is no longer running water in the bathroom; whatever boost to the streams our week-long rain storm provided has now passed, leaving the taps dry as a bone with no hope of recovery. It's okay; I can use my neighbor's spigot to wash my hands and fill up my water bottle. Showering might be trickier though...

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