Tag: Lessons

More Adventures in Bolivia

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I found a postcard in La Paz that depicts an Afro-Bolivian girl from the Yungas region dancing the saya who looks a bit like my little sister. Now I know why the cashier in Brazil asked if I was Bolivian.

Besides my incessant ashiness and a couple of nosebleeds (because of the high altitude), I had a good time in Bolivia. Nevermind the fact that I was in the country illegally.

Let me explain.

One of my strategies for saving money while I travel is to use the cheapest form of transportation possible. In South America, that usually means taking a bus. Sure, it takes 3 times as long to get anywhere, but because I have more time than money, I don’t mind. Flashback to a couple of weeks ago when I arrived to the Argentina/Bolivia border by bus. It was a relatively simple process, albeit long. I stood on line for about 30 minutes to exit Argentina. I got my stamp and was ready…to stand on yet another line to enter Bolivia. Here’s where I messed up. While waiting on line with what appeared to be Bolivian citizens, the guard patrolling the line yelled at me to “pase!” At first I thought it was a little unusual but because that was my first time crossing the border into another country by land, I thought maybe that is what’s done. And so, I crossed…without getting an entry stamp.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago when I tried to exit Bolivia from Copacabana with a bus full of people headed to Peru…”Where is your immigration card?” The bus attendant asked. “My what?” All of a sudden, my stomach sank. This is going to be a problem, I thought. Now, you have to understand that I’m a rule follower. Not in a pretentious goody two-shoes kind of way. It’s just that I don’t like getting yelled at or reprimanded so I just choose to follow the rules the first time as not to get in trouble.

So when I realized that I have been in a foreign country without permission for a whole 2 weeks, my mind immediately goes to Brokedown Palace territory (if you haven’t seen that movie, I suggest that you do BEFORE traveling if possible. It’ll be more meaningful). My story is not as dramatic. The Bolivian officials were kind, professional and were all about that paper! They instructed me through the bus attendant what I had to do: pay for the Bolivian visa and an additional fine, which was about $30. I had to wait a day in Copacabana before crossing into Peru because I wasn’t carrying enough cash to pay for both the visa and the fine. So I got some rest and took care of everything the next day. It all worked out.

In the future I’d like to stick to learning lessons that are not so expensive and risky. At least you can learn from my mistakes.

A Vineyard and Life Lesson

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Flaky rock.
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I climbed this and didn’t hurt myself.

The hardest thing about living on the farm in Argentina was how disconnected I was from everything and everyone. So much of the work that I am doing right now is Internet dependent. Also, it was extremely cold, mostly at night (it’s winter in South America). I’ve never been more thankful for hot water and wool. On any given day, I was layering practically half of the clothes that I packed.

One of my favorite tasks on the farm was managing the vineyard, and by managing, I mean cutting a bunch of branches. However, it wasn’t as easy as I initially thought it would be. It was quite rigorous work. Although, it was peaceful. My directions were simple: trim the branches to create a single trunk with two main branches and three smaller branches that grow from the two. I thought, “I can manage that.”

Then the (existential) questions crept in: How do I know which branches to cut? How can I cut the branches that will yield the most (and best) fruit?

The fact is you don’t know. You do your best and keep in mind the vines’ need for balance and nourishment. I approached this task in a similar way that I approach creating sculpture. The only difference is that the vines are living things and even with the most cautious of care taking, the results are not up to me.

I’m still learning how much of life is that way too.

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A little friend stopped by while I was working in the vineyard. Half horse, half mule.
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The family garden where most of the produce is grown.
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These vines will be full of grapes in several months.
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My work space…a large rock. I would sit here on my days off and catch up on reading/writing.
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Prepping the guest house to be repainted, with my most important gear: headphones.
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A painting from a catholic museum in the town square of La Rioja.
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Detail of a painting at the catholic museum in La Rioja.
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I always feel like cactuses are giving me the middle finger.
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Centuries-old stone.