Monday, June 16, 2014

La despedida

Colombia has been a place in my mind I have run to many times. It was where I stored all of my fantasies of belonging and being blown away. It was where everything would be fixed or at least no longer matter. A wonderland of a country I would talk about with a glint in my eye when my skin was wrinkled and my mind muddled. A place of pure expectation.

It's unfair to have on one side all experience, to have lived through all that was Bolivia for me and to now be crossing over into a world that I had preplanned being in love with. Before I jump into the next affair I have, I must, say a proper goodbye to the place I've called home for the last year.

Bolivia I will not miss your daily manifestaciones about trufi prices or coca cola in schools... but I will miss that certainty people have that the actions they take have the capacity to affect outcomes. 

Bolivia I will not miss having to haggle for everything with the unparalleled suspicion that comes with being a gringo... but I will miss the notion that most things are negotiable, that nothing is fixed, that with a bit of luck and a lot of cheek you can get something you weren't expecting.

Bolivia I will not miss the piles of rubbish that fill the street, every man woman and child contributing to its unfathomable rise... but I will miss the notion of pachamama, the donation and acknowledgment she gets before a beer is drank, at the k'oa every month.

Bolivia I will not miss the choking dust that flies in through the windows, the broken cracked pavements, the packs of street dogs that walk the night that taught me to keep a rock in my clenched fist just in case. I will not miss the generic cholita pop pumping from the trufi speakers with the same casio keyboard sounds behind each souless 'Eso! Esoooo!'

But I will miss the stretched words and endearing endings of all the words in their diminutive, that particular way Cochabambinos have of making castellano their own. I'll miss the sound of quechanhol spoken en la cancha. I will miss the sturdiness of the women here who redefine the word feminine, women who are the pillars of Bolivian society, raising children on their backs, building streets and working farms, running businesses, leading demonstrations and being generally formidable human beings.

I will take with me the lessons of complexity this country has taught me, through conversations with Bolivians where my image of their president, history, culture and society have been challenged and rebuilt. It has been refreshing to be shown how far Bolivia has come and how far it still has to go. That having the first indigenous president has meant indigenous people have not only been acknowledged but valued. TO learn that this has come at the price of alienating other sectors of society, devaluing other peoples. That the continued insular politics and rhetoric of the current government isolates tourists and other types of foreign exchange be that NGOs or businesses. I leave with Bolivia close to my heart, watching for its rise and cautions of another fall. By no stretch of the imagination have I become an authority on Bolivia, simply somebody who was lucky enough to watch and see and talk to a Bolivia that is and has created a strong image of itself to the world, however far or close that is to reality.

Like any imagined community, as Benedict Anderson coined, it is exactly or exactly not what you think it to be.