Bolivia, Week Five

Maya Lapp

A few very different runs.

Run number one: We turn right as we exit the gate and start down the road. I’ve only been here a few weeks, and I’m already tired of running the same road over, and over again. Flat all around. The road seems to stretch out forever in front of us. No bends, no hills, no nothing to block the view. It’s disorientating. As we run along, it seems we don’t get anywhere, and the landmarks that seems less than a few hundred yards away have not gotten any closer. That’s the kind of flat we’re talking about, here. Vast, straight, forever-and-ever Flat. The only nice thing about it is we can see the trucks (and cars, and motorcycles) coming for miles off. I follow Zena as she weaves back and forth across the road, trying to stay on whichever side doesn’t have a car bearing down. Uh-oh. Now there are two trucks coming, one from each direction. We run off into the long grass beside the road (beware of snakes) and try to get as far from the trucks as possible as we continue to jog. As it passes us, one of the trucks lets out a huge blast on its horn, and I jump about a foot. I can just hear the driver laughing at me. But the trucks pass, and we’re safely back on the road, again. A few dogs bark as we pass, but luckily none of them come running after us. As we near a few houses, a voice calls out from somewhere inside, “Buen dia, tia Zena!” Zena replies in kind. Apparently the woman has seen my sister run past so many times they’ve become something like friends. Or as much like friends as you can be when the only time you see someone is as they run by. We continue on.

Run number two: As we make our way down the path, there’s a mango grove on our right and about a hundred cows all staring at us on our left. Most of them just stare until we pass and then go back to eating grass, but one of them spooks and runs off, causing his brethren close by to follow his lead. Running down a dirt path, with fields and trees around. For the first time in weeks we don’t have to avoid cars, and we don’t have to breathe in fumes. I close my eyes a moment to enjoy the clean air… and trip on a rut in the road and almost fall flat on my face. As we near the turn around spot, the path actually goes up for a few yards! It’s practically a hill! We run the path twice, and then head back. We pass the mangos and cows, again. (I wish they were in season. The mangos, I mean, not the cows.) We jog on home.

Run number three: The first half-mile (and, consequently, the last half-mile, as well) would be more accurately called wading through mud, than running. I try to keep my shoes moderately clean, but to no avail. I was doing really well until that part over there, beside where the tractor is parked. I thought there was firm ground by the grass, over there, and it turned out to be more like mush. A bit of a soaker, that was. When we get out the other side, my feet feel like I’ve attached bricks to the bottom. I try to stomp off some of the mud, but it doesn’t help much at all. We start to run. And hit another patch of mud. This happens a few times more before we finally make it on to solid(ish) ground. A half hour or so of actual running, and then we have to turn back and face the mud pits, again. I’m not even sure it was worth the trek.

The clinic was pretty boring this week. Some good soccer, homework, pinochle and pill counting, but other than that, not much going on. Oh, and a few hours of coffee bean de-shelling. They make their own coffee at the clinic, and I’ve grown to appreciate the process. Talk about time consuming!

Saturday morning we hitchhiked our way back to the clinic. A guy dressed in cowboy gear came down the road at a trot. It was like a scene from a movie, complete with background music straight from an old western coming from a radio he had in hand. Yep, that’s right. Old fashion clothes, trotting on an old horse, and then his radio blaring out “Home on the Range”, or somesuch. Hitchhiking can be dangerous, for sure, but it’s also kind of fun when you’re in a group, looking for a ride. The problem is, the more people, the harder it is to find a ride. We ended up piling into the front seat of a huge truck. It was a pretty comfortable ride, considering.

Saturday was the 10th anniversary of NPH Bolivia, so when we arrived the celebrations were in full swing. (Unfortunately, we missed the preliminary rounds of the soccer tournament, which were in the morning, but we got to watch the finals. A pretty exciting game. One of the maintenance men scored a goal from past mid-field. Then number four… Well, I suppose you probably don’t want a play-by-play. Basically, it came down to PKs and blue won.)

We got to see some traditional dances done by the pequeños. Each of them was really funny for different reasons. The first one was a bunch of older boys, and two of the boys were really into it, and having fun, especially Andres, who, as my mom says, “Has character.” Then there was the third guy who obviously did NOT want to be there. He was barely moving, and when the song ended, he exited the stage asap. (When I say stage, I mean the cleared part of the room, of course. Having a stage would be, well, extravagante.) The second dance was also older boys, and then there was one younger boy who was at least a foot shorter than the others and completely lost as to what to do. The third dance was a bunch of 6-9 year old girls and boys and they had these adorable costumes. They also had no idea what to do and their tia was trying to direct them as the song went along, but it was a bit of a mess. I also got to hold a two-month-old baby. What more could you want in life?

Sunday our entire family went out at six o’clock in the morning and ran six miles. I can’t remember the last time I ran that far. And then, after that, my dad and I went to play some pickup soccer. It was an exceptionally fun game, but afterward, I was exhausted. And that was just the morning. Fifteen minutes after my dad and I left the soccer field (they continued playing, and I had a hard time pulling myself away from the game) we were on our way to Montero. All the volunteers and my family (ten of us, plus the driver), in a truffi, on an hour drive to get some fish for lunch. (Don’t worry, my dad and I had a quick shower before cramming into the car. The others didn’t have to endure our stench.)

Curiosity about driving in Bolivia. By law, everyone has to exit the car in order to put in gas, because there is a danger of blowing up. Of course, since we are in Bolivia, there is no rule about how far away from the car you have to be, so everyone stands around the car so close they’ll probably get blown up with the car, anyway, if it happens to go. I stay at a distance. Scaredy-cat-ism or wisdom, I’m not sure. Maybe both. Anyway, I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Monday our family hit the road again, this time driving all the way to Santa Cruz. We were on a mission to get: wood for my mom to make a beanbag toss, books for the pequeños, and a keyboard (piano). Much to our surprise, we were successful on all accounts. That must be a first. I was whipped by the end of the day and had a nice nap on the two plus hour ride home.

Today was a calmer day (than the lord, I needed a bit of a break). I almost got blown up trying to light the stove, and my mom tried to drill through her hand while making the beanbag toss, but other than that… Not much happened! I could do with another nap.