We have now arrived safely in Bolivia but it was an adventure to get here that is for sure. We left Ju-Juy in the morning and took a bus to the border where we crossed over into Bolivia without any problems. In fact it always amazes me how little they check at the borders here. Certainly not like home. Entering Bolivia the difference is pretty immediate. I am much, much more aware of the poverty here and much, much more aware of the indigenous culture. I guess that is like home and perhaps the rest of the world where it always seems to be the indigenous culture suffering most.
It is hard to know exactly how to respond. Before I came I was listening to the CD of Robyn Hemmes who spoke at the TEAR conference a couple of years ago. I have listened to it before but I wanted to engage with some of the stuff that she talks about before I came. In one of her talks she describes our tendency to look away when we come in contact with the poor. To ignore them and pretend they don´t exist. I was challenged on this trip not to do that but it sure is hard. On almost every street there is someone selling something or asking for money and when I look it seems to give them the impression I am going to buy something and they just keep at me until I look away. I can´t buy from everyone, I can´t give to everyone that asks and I am not sure that, that exchange empowers either of us so how do I have exchanges that empower people and make them feel valuable and lovable?
There have been some moments though which have felt good. I hope the other person would say the same. We decided to catch the train from the border to Oruro where we are now (about three hours from La Paz) in popular (third class). It was a fifteen hour trip over night and it may have been the most uncomfortable and cold night of my life but I would do it again for the exchanges we had with people. The guy who sat opposite us was named Andres. He talked with us a lot of the trip about Bolivia, the political, economic and social situstion and it was fascinating to hear it from him. In the middle of the night when it was so cold I had gone numb he put the only blanket he had over me and Martin so we could share it with him. It was very moving. There was also a woman who sat in the aisle across from us. She was dressed traditionally and I smiled at her and she smiled back. We didn´t say a word to each other but continued to smile through out the trip. Martin and I bought a bag of mandarines which we shared around and people took gratefully. I was worried people would look at me the whole way and wonder what the hell I was doing there but they didn´t seem to.
When we arrived we took a taxi to the hearest hotle and had a hot shower and a rest in a comfy bed. It was amzing and I was very grateful but I guess the others won´t be doing that.