Something special happened in December last year: I returned to Bolivia after 19 years. It was unfortunately only for a few days. But I knew the conditions and enjoyed every single moment. Even the altitude (3 700 meters above sea level in the capital, La Paz) didn’t feel that bad.
I have always thought that each country had its special thing, either culturewise, in terms of nature, politics, or people. There is nothing as an uninteresting country. Some places you like for the food, the nature, the social system, or the human rights. Others you like…
Bolivia has always meant magic to me. And I hope I am not sounding romantic. But the combination of very harsh climate – especially on the Altiplano – and the people´s means of survival. I can´t but just be totally impressed. At the same time – sorry to put it this way and I hope that I will not be misunderstood – many people are quite reserved. Not a good country for taking pictures, for instance. People often don´t allow you that kind of intimacy. Perhaps another means of survival – please tell me you anthropologists/photographers- Bolivians!!!
When I lived there I got to know a Dutch couple. They missed no opportunity of comparing Bolivia with Nicaragua, where they used to live. And it was not to the advantage of Bolivia and its people. At that point I didn´t know Nicaragua and had no opinion. Now I understand their viewpoint better. But I wouldn’t express it in terms of “better” or “worse”. Just very different. And I cannot but return to nature and the ways people get adjusted. Well I come from Finland myself and my people got adjusted to extreme conditions. Perhaps a reason why I appreciate it so much.
And I wrote my Master´s thesis on the country. A good piece of academic work which was appreciated in academic circles in a reality far away from Bolivia. Reality in Bolivia…? Probably quite far from it. But I learnt some things. About survival, adaption. Big words.
What did I experience in Bolivia this time?
I saw some political and economic progress – I assume. An example which other countries with a big indigenous population could follow. Through a friend, I learnt something about the women´s fight for better conditions.
I got to know something about the interesting and innovative experience, restaurant El Gustu, an eye-opener for anyone who is into food, sovereignty, business and development (not necessarily in this order).
I had a re-encounter with Yungas and “the world’s most dangerous road”.
I experienced the “Teleférico”, the “metro in the air”. I promise: you can´t ask for better views. The most impressing thing was, nevertheless, perhaps seeing the young girl in the “Teleférico” leaving “El Alto”, the more marginalized people´s suburb, for perhaps the first time in her life.
I got to know the quite impressing animal-reserve Senda Verde. And I visited the café “Ciudad” which I frequented so many times during my stays in La Paz. It looks as if these gentlemen didn´t leave the conversation they had there 19 years ago.
I cannot but say that they were few and fantastic days. And I lament the high prices on air-plane tickets to Bolivia.