By Gregg & Sal Beisly in Bolivia
Early in 2010, we were invited to go to Mariela’s village. After numerous postponements, a day was finally made ‘seguro’ (certain). We were going to go on a flota (bus) but in true Bolivian style, everything’s left to the last minute! Mariela and I were charging around at 8.30am buying bread etc to take and we crammed 4 adults, 2 teenagers, 3 kids and piles of stuff into a tiny taxi. We seemed to negotiate the slowest, most congested streets of Sucre to the bus stop, only to find once we arrived that we were too late. The bus had gone.
After finally arriving at the village we were given moti (a corn kind of stuff which only Annie likes) and were told this is what you eat in the campo. Then we set off to visit Mariela’s rellies. We thought we were just going down the hill but we wandered for hours – across rivers, up hills, until we finally came to another part of the community. We were welcomed with freshly dug potatoes and warm milk from their cow, which we loved.
The next day we were woken at 6.30am so we could start our hike to the thermal pools. We ate brekky (which we’d brought as country people don’t eat breakfast) and then waited. And waited… While those with us decided they needed to cook first so we could take some food with us. Finally we set off. We didn’t go as planned to the thermal pools, but straight up the hill behind us. There was no shade and typical us, our sunscreen had nearly run out so we were worried about getting burnt.
But it wasn’t over. Later in the afternoon we headed off for another walk. When we got back, Aedan was handed a plate of moti in soup and his eyes welled up with tears. He was so hungry but was faced with something he just couldn’t handle! Thankfully Mariela found some pasta and we were able to surreptitiously give it to the kids. The kids really were amazing – they just took everything in their stride, including doing hard physical stuff with hardly any food in their bellies. I was feeling weak enough from hunger on the walk back in the afternoon, but the kids just kept on charging.
We were quite happy when it was decided we would go home a day earlier than planned. To our relief we got an old bus this time. We had the kids on our knees the whole trip and the old guys sitting behind us were in serious need of a good bath, but it was just so much more comfy than the truck! All in all it was a real privilege to experience campesino life in its unchanged form for hundreds of years. It was also humbling to realise how easy we have it in New Zealand. The campesinos of Bolivia eat what they can grow at high altitude and spend every day out in the elements tending their precious animals. But their generosity in sharing what little they had with us was truly inspiring.
The Beisly’s are working with impoverished youth in El Alto, Bolivia.