It’s time to see where it takes me
Any traveller will tell you, one of the most important things to remember is to just go with the flow. This is good life advice in general, but it is a necessity when travelling. Things change. You cannot prepare yourself for everything. You can be smart, yes, but there will always be a pit stop, a fork in the road or maybe even all of it at once. Trying to fight the inevitable unpredictability of travelling will just make you miserable and you will miss the reason why things had to change in the first place.
I am reminding myself of this every day. Things are not at all what I had planned or expected here. I knew to expect the unexpected, but that doesn’t really matter if it’s unexpected, does it? Instead of living and teaching in Tupiza, I now find myself in Tarija – a small city about six hours by bus in the South of Bolivia.
Tarija is a beautiful little city. If La Paz is the Ottawa of Bolivia, then Tarija is the Victoria. It feels safe somehow. The people here are relaxed, and in the scheme of Bolivia, fairly open-minded. Just like most other places I visit in the world (including where I live), I think I confuse people with my dark hair and light eyes. They know I’m not from Bolivia, but they’re not really sure where I come from or if I should be able to speak Spanish.
I have found a room staying with a family near the downtown core of Tarija. They have been welcoming and warm, and the husband even speaks some English! We have talked a lot about Bolivia – the politics, way of life and a lot about the split between people wanting to move quickly into the globalized future and the people who want to keep in tact Bolivia’s rich traditions. He explained that many people deny their roots, and it could be a mix of innocence and ignorance that makes up the Bolivian people.
There is something beautiful in this mix, and I wonder if Bolivia will ever change. Most of the Western world just plops Bolivia into the “Latino” mix, but there is something unique that sets them apart from the rest of South America. It is the only land locked country in South America. The Andes and the Amazon meet and create a lush and diverse country, with the people to match. It is truly rare.
I am getting more and more comfortable here, getting to know the city and the way things are done here. My Spanish is bad, but I’m using it and I’ve gotten by so far. I’m eating like the Bolivian’s, but I still can’t manage to eat a full Almuerzo. When Bolivian people eat Almuerzo, a specific type of lunch, they don’t mess around. It is common to eat a four-course lunch (salad, soup, main and dessert) in the middle of the day. This is, of course, followed by a three-hour siesta when all the shops close and the town becomes quiet. Good luck accomplishing anything during this time.
Essentially, I’m giving into the Tarija flow and seeing where it takes me. I may be far off from where I thought I would be, but that’s the thing about the flow – it’s unpredictable.