You may have been wondering why I haven’t published anything for a whole month. (Actually, far fewer of you wondered than I had hoped would wonder. Only two people of my tens of thousands of readers contacted me, asking if everything was OK. A very depressing outcome of this little experiment.)
Well, first I was offline because I didn’t have internet at home – which is now in wonderfully cozy Cochabamba in Bolivia -, then I had to catch up with work, and lastly, I spent a lot of time outside and away from the computer because the climate here is perfect. Really perfect.
Fellow travelers may know the feeling: Sometimes you come to a country where you have never been before, yet you realize right away “This country and me fit together.” This is what happened to me in Bolivia. The beautiful and diverse nature, the extremely interesting history with everything from Incas to Mennonites, from revolutions to water wars, the colorful indigenous cultures, and most importantly the Bolivians themselves. Maybe I am extremely lucky, but I have mostly met very friendly, humorous, polite, educated, warm, welcoming, interesting and helpful people. Already on the first day, I felt at home. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality of Bolivians who invited me, showed me their town, introduced me to their friends and offered all kinds of help.
It also seems to become a regular feature of my traveling that I cherish and appreciate countries which are over-looked by most travelers and dismissed by everyone else. It hurts me when Europeans coming to South America ask “Is it worth to go to Bolivia?” You only need to look at a map to see that Bolivia spans all climate, geological and vegetation zones from the Andes to the Amazon, from salt flats to savannas, from the low-lying Pantanal to Mt Sajama with 6,520 m. Even other South Americans too often dismiss Bolivia as “the poorest country of the continent,” ignorant of any other fact and not in the least interested to learn more or to discover it for themselves. Admittedly, flights to Bolivia are rather expensive, even from the neighboring countries, which may dissuade some interested visitors. But there is always a bus or a romantic train connection.
Well, you already know that I prefer to live in and write about countries that don’t receive 100 million tourists a year. So I decided to stay in Bolivia for a bit longer, explore the country, its culture, its history and the contemporary social, economic and political issues more in-depth. Let’s see if I can convince some of you to visit.
Luckily, I discovered that in Bolivia I can even find work with my otherwise useless talents: Last weekend, I was in Quillacollo when I saw this crowd of people listening to a speaker in the park. Because there is currently a heated debate going on in Bolivia about a constitutional referendum on 21 February 2016, because of Simón Bolívar in the background, and due to wishful thinking, I assumed that a political discussion was raging. Impressed by the number of people interested in such an event, I walked up to the congregation – and noticed that this was actually a storyteller.
Yes, in Bolivia it’s a legitimate profession to stand in the park and tell jokes or stories. My Spanish was still too limited to understand anything, but the performance of the guy was strong and the audience was visibly captivated. More and more people joined. When the storyteller finished, a hat went around and got filled with gold and silver coins.
This is the solution to my constant financial destitution! There is no doubt that I have many stories to tell. I like to talk. As anyone who has ever met me in person can attest, I can talk for hours. And I have a fancy hat to be filled with coins of appreciation. – Now I only need to speed up my Spanish studies, and soon you can find me in a park in your town. Hasta luego!