July 16, 2014
We’re leaving Bolivia in four days—tearfully.
Friday we take a bus to Candelaria with Carlos for one final visit to Santusa and Damien. There are, of course, new puppies to fondle—just two weeks old—and a new lamb wandering the courtyard, baaing. On Saturday morning the cows come in for water—they walk the two hours from their field every morning, drink, and walk back, alone. We walk about an hour to a newly dammed reservoir hidden deep in the cleft between two hills. The road and path take us to an overlook; Carlos, Jacky, and I clamber down the steep slope and see a fox in the woods near the water. It’s the first Andean fox we’ve seen—a female the size of a coyote, but with pointed ears and snout—a potential model for Santusa’s series of fairy-tale weavings, in which the fox always comes to a violent end. At the bottom the concrete dam perches at the edge of a sickening hundred-foot drop into a canyon, without a rail or even a small wall: I can’t stay there more than a few minutes without trembling. In the afternoon we walk the opposite direction to where the goats and sheep usually go up to the series of cliffs; the only plants there have spikes. Carlos and the kids look for fossils in the rocks—there are plenty—while I walk farther, following the trail the cows take. A lot of Carlos’s family visit in the afternoon and evening, including one of Carlos’s cousins, who needs Santusa’s help choosing and arranging colors for a weaving; they sit at opposite ends of the little hand loom tossing balls of yarns and arranging the threads under and over the cross sticks. Another relative comes from a village an hour-and-a-half walk over the mountain; she suffers from a debilitating ailment in which her limbs swell for periods, and in addition, her oldest son fell down concrete steps and lost his three front teeth (we contribute some money to help pay for their medical expenses). By nightfall there are seventeen of us staying in the house.
Sunday, back in Sucre, after the World Cup final game we host a despedida, a going-away party, to which about thirty people come. Our best friends are all there, including Carla, who has never visited us here before; Paola, who just moved to Incahuasi, twelve hours away, but is back for the weekend; Edgar, Carlos’s brother, and his beautiful girlfriend—also their first time in our house; and so many others we’ll miss.
And now we’re packing. Saturday morning we fly to Santa Cruz; Sunday to Miami; Monday to Chicago. Our adventure is almost over.
Bolivia now seems like a different world from the United States. It’s a place with few traces of capitalism, where nobody has a gun, where the poor don’t take drugs or join gangs, where nobody works overtime in an office, where it never gets too hot or too cold, where the deepest sorrows and joys are openly expressed, where so many people really care deeply for us, even though we’ve only been here a year.
Carlos has a week’s vacation, so he’s spending as much time as he can with the kids. It’s so nice to see them all together all day, working on getting everything in order and having fun in the process. He’s a brother to them, a son to us, and his parents are the warmest people we know. Santusa even made us two small weavings depicting our family, with Carlos, and hers. They’re painstakingly done and lovely.