One year on

By Published On: March 5, 2006Categories: Living in Bolivia1 Comment on One year on

One year ago, I crossed the border into Bolivia. I found myself in a small heat-struck dusty town, my pores open to a new country and new experiences. Nervous, excited, alone, curious, wondering.

In the deserted hotel lobby, I watched flickering TV footage of protests that were paralysing the country for nationalisation of gas and for a new constitutional assembly.

Yesterday on the other side of Bolivia, I headed in a breezy-cold taxi across La Paz with its nightly backdrop of magical dotted lights scattered across the hills. I was on my way to a friend Ana’s house for a fancy-dress party. I was dressed like Evo Morales, the new President, in my Evo-fashion jumper and mask. Earlier that day, Evo had delivered his first major legislative victory, a new law that will bring about elections for a new Constituent Assembly in July.

My new flatmate, Juliette and I had spent the day in intense, all sense-pervading, sprawling markets buying second-hand furniture for our new flat. We were three hours later than the invitation but still the first ones there. As her friends arrived, we joked around in the Evo mask, chatted about living in Bolivia and gossiped about work.

Within an hour we had pushed the sofas back and started dancing – a series of different styles of Bolivian and Latin American dances that I would hardly pretend I can do properly but at least now have tried enough to perform a sort-of-alternative take without looking a complete fool.

Anna, like all good Bolivian hosts, repeatedly filled my glass with Singani, a kind of grape-alcoholic grapa. As I woozily looked around at the small gang of partying friends joyfully filling the dance-floor, I felt incredibly lucky to be here, to have met new friends far from home, to have accompanied a beautiful country Bolivia in a year of profound change and history.

In an almost ying-yang reflection of last night, I went this afternoon to my first funeral, marking the tragic death in an accident of one of my colleague’s brothers. It was the third formal ceremony I have attended in a church this past year – a chaotic baptism, a drunken wedding, a grief-laden funeral.

The circle or cycle of life in a year of circles. Loneliness to friendship. Transience to making home. Protest to proposals. Life to death.

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  1. triciaschultz@hotmail.com March 7, 2006 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    Hey there,
    I stumbled upon your blog while searching for a Bolivian saying about Bolivia’s poverty in the midst of its wealth of natural resources… something about a beggar sitting on a king’s throne? Do you know it — the spanish and/or the english translation?
    thanks, tricia

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