It was no surprise to me to wake up Wednesday morning with my throat aching badly and feeling woozy and hot. After thinking about eating breakfast and then rejecting the thought, I wandered around the hogar for a bit and then went back to bed. When I awoke the girls had all gone to the pool. I knew they were there from the boom boom sounds of the reggaeton that Ciro was playing. The pool was just up the hill and the sounds carried easily. So much for the peace and quiet of the isolated mountain village. Ciro carted that huge speaker everywhere and we heard reggaeton morning, noon and night (and in this case it´s not a cliche but really true). I have come to hate that reggaeton with an unholy passion. Anyway, I woke up and realized that I was truly sick and probably needed medical attention.
The bathroom with leaky and caved in ceiling
Dona Celia in the kitchen was concerned and insisted on accompanying me to the local hospital/clinic that was a project of USAID. The walk in the hot sun seemed so long and my head was aching too when we arrived. I had the chills and felt more comfortable waiting in the sun until the doctor arrived back from his lunch. He examined me and pronounced me with a tonsil infection. More antibiotics and a shot to help me faster on the road to recovery. I made it back and went back to bed, sleeping for most of the afternoon. In the evening I had to put in my earplugs (one of the best things I brought on my travels. They have saved my life on uncountable occasions) because Ciro once again put on the hateful music and this time it was right outside my door.
Yanacachi from above the plaza
The girls played and danced for hours until finally well after eleven the music was turned off and I could sleep the rest of the night in peace.
I felt a bit better the next day and had resolved to go back to La Paz
. I spent the morning trying to find out if there was a bus back to La Paz and it turned out that another group that was vacationing in town had chartered two buses and apparently there was room on the bus for me. I was also supposed to go back with two of the girls who had wandered off without notice for several hours the night before and were found talking to boys in the plaza much later. Actually, they were excited to go back and I wondered at the efficacy of the punishment.
The one plaza in Yanacachi
They were regarding it as a relief and they told me they were bored to tears. I could see their point of view but I didn´t want to undermine the authority of Sister Mary (actually "Meri" as it´s spelled here...). We had some early lunch and got our things ready and climbed the hill to the main road where we were supposed to be picked up. We waited almost an hour and then I walked down to the plaza to find out that the buses had left. They must have left early because we were waiting at 2 pm, the appointed time. Either there was a miscommunication with the driver or the buses were filled up and they didn´t bother to stop and explain to us. I was really upset about it, but there was nothing to be done. That was the last transportation out for the day.
We´d have to wait until 6 am the next morning or 2 pm the next afternoon.
Professor Justo arrived that afternoon and he wanted to go back to La Paz too. His daughter was leaving for Cobija to work for a year and he wanted to be there on Saturday for her sendoff. Friday morning we all set off to walk to the town of Chojlla where there is a mining operation. This walk was a lot shorter. The previous afternoon a busload of boys from another project in La Paz arrived and they came with us. There was not much mingling between the boys and girls except for some more outgoing ones. The boys walked much more quickly ahead and when they got there they started playing soccer in the big field. The rest of the hogar went much more slowly since this time the little girls came too.
The walk was pleasant, and not that difficult, except for the huge pots that the girls had to carry. Sensibly, lunch was roasted chicken and potatoes that weighed a ton, even split between a few huge pots. Ummm...anyone hear of chicken sandwiches and chips and fruit? No, no common sense in the meal planning department. So the girls, even little ones, took turns lugging the huge pots on an hour and a half walk to the town. In spite of the mining and gaping holes in the mountainsides, the situation of the town was picturesque, nestled in the lee of a mountain with even higher mountains as a backdrop. Justo pointed out where a landslide the year before had caused several deaths. There were larger operations going on as well as much smaller ones.
Near the hogar where we were staying
I took a picture of a father and son panning through dirt, mining for I know not what. It didn´t seem like they would find much to improve their lot. The town was shabby, with many tin or scrap metal shacks that looked to be hastily erected. Whatever they were gleaning from the mountain couldn´t be much. The life of a miner is hard, weather above or below the earth.
Justo and I asked about the bus back to La Paz and found out that it was full and that there wasn´t another until Monday. After much discussion they agreed to let us buy tickets to stand in the aisle on the three hour ride back. We had to go back to Yanacachi
to collect our things and then wait for the bus.
The walk back was much faster and we stopped to have lunch before going back to pack up our things at the hogar. A television was broadcasting the news and it was July 4th. In La Paz, all was quiet at the American embassy where they were planning a lunch outdoors, but in Plaza Murillo a crowd had gathered and they were hanging and burning an effigy of Uncle Sam and shouting "down with the USA". That made me feel really comfortable. I had wanted to be back in La Paz already, to participate in something American. I was feeling homesick on this day. It didn´t look like we were going to have enough time for a sit down lunch so we just ordered some egg sandwiches at a little tienda on the plaza and got back to the hogar to grab our suitcases and walk up the hill to the place where the bus would pass by.
There were a lot of people jostling and filling the aisles and it was a rather uncomfortable ride for the first hour or so. I had my iPod on and playing upbeat Latin music and my mood was good. The sun was shining and we were heading back to La Paz. As we rounded a curve about an hour into the ride, we saw a huge tow truck trying to pull a bashed in combi van up from lower down the hillside. When I was at the clinic a guy waiting there was telling us about an accident in which a van had gone off the side of the hill, killing the driver and another young boy, and injuring the remaining 18 passengers. When I saw the van all smashed up I realized it was a miracle that more weren´t killed. And also, they had tremendous luck in going off the road where the incline was less.
The van had stopped about halfway down. Had the incline been more steep, it´s sure that most would not have made it out alive. I started saying prayers for the dead and injured and felt so bad about it. It seems that the van was crammed beyond capacity and that it was very early dawn. When the driver rounded the curve, evidently the sun struck him full in the face and he misjudged the curve and didn´t turn in time. That was the cause of the accident.
We got back to La Paz without any incidents and I even made it a point to thank the driver and his assistant for their extremely careful and professional driving. Unfortunately that is the exception rather than the rule here and that is why I told them that I appreciated their solicitude in going slowly.
Walking to Mina Chojlla
It felt great to be back and as much as it was nice to spend those days with the girls, I really was yearning for some real peace and quiet, at least for a day until they arrived on Saturday. All in all, it was a great experience though.