Changing lives

By Published On: September 5, 2008Categories: Blog4 Comments on Changing lives

A boy weaves down a road bordered with neat gardens and pitches a newspaper onto the front lawn of a house. There is a sound of a click and the automated sprinkler system starts up, soaking the newspaper. A middle-aged man pulls out of his driveway. “Bye daddy,” chirrup some girls cutely. Nope, it’s not a scene from a movie. It’s a scene from my new life.

And yes, for those forlorn ten loyal blog readers who have faced months of silence from this blog, it is a bit of a jump from my former existence in Bolivia. I did warn you a few blogs ago, but never had a chance to properly explain myself.

I blame it all on Goethe and a Venezuelan brothel.

Goethe because he captured the truth: "That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.”

And the Venezuelan brothel because that is where I ended up inviting a Californian lass called Juliette to stay with me whilst traveling to the World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela in January 2007. How the cheap hotel ended up to be a brothel is another story, but the inauspicious start led to a friendship that blossomed into romance, and which led me to head out to live with Juliette in the countryside outside Cochabamba in 2007.

Where Goethe and the brothel finally came together was in January this year, when I proposed to Juliette and she replied Ari puni ("of course" in Quechua). You know at that moment that your life will never be the same, but I never realized how much it could change so much.

Goethe got it right. Any doubts I had before proposing disappeared as my love for Juliette deepened. And suddenly a whole string of events started unraveling from that first decision. Just as a starter, soon after the decision to marry, Juliette instantly became pregnant. I always knew the Cochabamba valleys were fertile.

And strangely, as my commitment to Juliette bound together, our certainty about being in Bolivia started to unravel. Whilst we treasured much of our time out in the countryside, we had missed some close friends and felt unsettled by our inability to put down roots in terms of a place to live. With the pregnancy, Juliette started to miss her family too, and wondered about our ability to cope with raising our first child in difficult living conditions without the support of family.

Gradually, the unraveling thread led us to decide to give birth to the baby in California and to get married beforehand in Britain.

When we finally voiced the decision in our hearts, we have been on almost a constant transition ever since. Packing and unpacking, farewells and flights, ceremonies and rituals, a lurching between tears and laughter.  It was very painful saying goodbye in Bolivia, only softened by the fact that we both hope to return to live at some point with our family in the future.

The power of public ritual helped too: with an amazing Andean blessing by Lake Titicaca that both celebrated our time, friendships and love of Bolivia, and then in the UK, where a wedding accompanied by drums, piñatas, African singing  and Bolivian weavings and coca leaves connected our new joint lives with the friendships and family that have nurtured us over more than 30 years.

So here we are, one day after arriving from Britain, living a scene from the Truman Show, in a small leafy University town called Davis in California. Except of course there is no dome or TV show that we plan to stay in.  Instead I hope we continue listening to Goethe who after talking about the unforeseen events that happen because of decisions, ended with the famous rallying cry of living life to the full: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."



  1. John September 6, 2008 at 6:25 pm - Reply

    Thanks. What a 3 years in Bolivia!

  2. Earl M. September 6, 2008 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    Well, it was about time for you two to fess up and tell us what was going on behind the scenes!
    And to top it off, your’e now living just one state away from me!
    I will try to say something about this too, in the by and by, but right now, I’m still quite interested in the Bolivian experiment, which seems to be one of “how do we shake off the yoke of the ultra right wing radicals.” I don’t think anybody really brings out the point of explaining who or what they are, where they came from, and what they brought with them. It may be unfair to apply a blanket condemnation on these people who are opposed to MAS, and Evo, but it is necessary to mention the fact that while Germany itself lost to the Allied forces, considerable numbers of SS oficers, Scientists and other types did manage to excape from the ashes and reconstitute and re insinuate themselves in places where they could quietly carry on with their plans. Thanks to Project Paperclip, you are now living in another one of the host countries, but so was Brasil, Argentina, Paraguay,Chile, oh and Bolivia!
    From just one source, Noam Chomski, in “Secrets, Lies and Democracy” We see that Klaus Barbie was initially brought here from France, where he was known as the “Butcher of Lyons”. He was put back to work by U.S. intelligence.He was an expert in attacking left wing resistance fighters, and was hired to do the same thing for us. Eventually this became a source of political embarasment, and it became impossible to shield or cover up this problem, so Barbie was escorted back to be secreted over to the Vatican run “Ratline” where Croation Nazi Priests and others, whisked him to Bolivia, where he became a big drug lord and narco-trafficer, and was involved in a military coup, all with U.S. support. You could say he was small potatoes by comparison with some of them.
    So all i’m saying is that there is a dark legacy and a deep shadow hanging over a whole lot of history, and like the “Buffalo Springfield” song points out, “Nobody’s right, if everybody’s wrong”.
    I came across “Forum Sociale Mundial” when this came out of Rio, but then all of a sudden, it came out of Caracas, and Pakistan. It was taken over and some of it’s original principles were wipped out of the program. And, well, as the Bush administration hangs on with the potential threat of impeachment and possible war crimes trials, he(Bush) decides Crawford, TX isn’t big enough for him, He buys a nearly 100,000 acre “Farm” in northern Paraguay, which may very well have been owned by German “Immigrants”.
    I just don’t think you went into Bolivia with your eyes wide open. It could have been very dangerous for you had you begun to make noise down there! It’s all sad, real sad!………….E.

  3. Sarah September 7, 2008 at 11:56 am - Reply

    A moving post Nick – and thanks particularly for posting those two Goethe quotes, which I am now going to copy into my notebook to carry with me as a constant reminder to trust that the right things will happen.

  4. meg robinson September 21, 2008 at 9:33 am - Reply

    Well ,guess I’m faithful reader number 11 and after so long without a word from you I’m delighted to see the pics and read your personal news. Was very concerned something had happened to you both.

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