CONTINUES HERE (great photos, too)I have loved being in Bolivia. It has challenged and confused me, it has asked me to revise my opinion of the world, and for this I am grateful. In a world that is swiftly becoming homogeneous, Bolivia is unmistakably unique - in the streets the ladies wear their traditional dress, the morning drink is a fiercely sweet api made from purple corn, and the day to day food, full of hominy and crisply fried fish is different from anything else I have ever eaten. We have been treated with a gentle warmth wherever we go - the eyes of our new friends are friendly and secure - everyone we speak to is kind and interested - but there is no excessive curiosity or glee. We have been told to be careful with our belongings in Bolivia, but the one day when, frazzled from our twelve hour bus ride, we leave our debit card in the ATM, it is returned to us. As we spend time in Bolivia, we feel the magic of the country overtake us. We too grow gentler, more compassionate, less needy. When we buy things, we do not bargain - the country is more obviously poor than any where we have ever been, and we find it impossible to haggle over a few cents here and there. When there is no hot water, or internet, or even electricity - as seems to be the case for us in remote areas of the country - I find it hard to get upset. More than 60% of the country lives below the poverty line, yet everyone we meet has found the time to chat with us, ask us about ourselves, offered help. In the place like this, it's difficult to be demanding.
It took a travel writer to do it, but this report by Pia Chatterjee in the San Francisco Chronicle is as close to my own (somewhat extensive, I have to say without trying to pull rank) experiences in Bolivia. The whole thing is full of smart insights and well worth reading, but the thing Pia does the best is capture the essence of Bolivia's people. Kudos to you, ma'am. Far better than the crud doled out by the wirepeople and those that pontificate with no basis on superficial observation of politics. Here's an excerpt: