Bolivia: Same Schedule, Different Day

It’s 3 am and I’m awake. Again. But rather than navigating a bustling airport, I’m now lying in a small room with little protection from the rooster crowing. Exhaustion to the rescue; I’m not awake for long.

Our first full day in Llapallapani sets the stage for our stay. The stories vary each day, though we follow the same schedule:

During the dry season, this pedestrian bridge is used to cross the deepest flowing section of the river. The community fords the river for vehicles and farms the sections of riverbed where the water has receded.

During the dry season, this pedestrian bridge is used to cross the deepest flowing section of the river. The community fords the river for vehicles and farms the sections of riverbed where the water has receded.

Each day, Dog (yes, that's his name) hung out at the site waiting for his person to return from school across the river.

Each day, Dog (yes, that’s his name) hung out at the site waiting for his person to return from school across the river.

Ishmael's house, which sat across from

Ishmael’s house, which sat across from “the office.” Most of the homes in the village had metal doors, which we were told lent a feeling of security to the occupants. Behind Ishmael’s door sat cerveza and singani for sale.

3:00 am Rooster awakes. Cock-a-doodling commences and repeats every 30 minutes.
6:30 am Alarm beeps. I hit snooze and lay in my sleeping bag another 5 minutes before facing the day.
7:00 am Team assembles in the office and boils water for pour-over coffee (+ coca leaves).
7:30 am Pan delivered for breakfast, which we supplement with food we picked up at the grocer in La Paz. The community member then chooses ingredients from our stores to feed us throughout the day (if Adam and Neil are out, this exchange involves much pointing and gesturing). We go over the day’s work plan as we eat.
8:00 am Walk down to site. Right at the little pigs, right at the big cactus, through the abandoned chapel’s courtyard, right at the large pile of soil (fertilizer?), past the big pig. Get to work.
11:00 am Break for eggs sandwiches delivered to site. Supplement with coca leaves when needed. Back to work.
1:00 pm Break for lunch delivered to site (though one day we eat at a community member’s home). Soup, potatoes, rice and/or pasta. One day we got a rooster heart in the soup—not “our” rooster, though, as he happily reminds us the next morning—Kenny confirms it tastes like chicken. More coca. Back to work.
7:00 pm Sun sets. Wrap-up work for the day (a couple times we work through dark using vehicle headlights), clean-up work site, and store tools in the bodega to prevent theft. As our stay progresses, this lapses into leaving tools in the truck bed.
7:30 pm Dinner delivered to the office. Soup, potatoes, rice and/or pasta (twice we convince the community members to take the lentils from our stores. Yum).
8:00 pm Recap day. Plan for next day. Cerveza and singani (Ishmael’s homebrew). Stories from Neil. Laughter.
10:00 pm Bed. I contort myself up the stairs and pass out.

Different days, same schedule. There’s never a dull moment and always something needing to be done. The task and companions are fulfilling.

Sometimes I’m engrossed in the moment and forget where I am. Wait, Kirsten, look where you are. What’s around you. The impact of your actions. This reality that feels so unreal.

Deep breath (at least as deep of a breath as the altitude allows). Notice the mountains and their colors bleeding bright. Notice the varied vegetation—cultivated and wild—that’s evolved in this climate. Notice the way an engineered vision is coming to life right before your eyes. From your hands. Notice how alive you are in this moment.

If I only learn one thing being here in Llapallapani, let it be the ability to just be. Here. Now. No nagging feeling that I have to do something else. This is my task at this instant. No emails, texts, phone calls needing response. I couldn’t even reply if I wanted to. Remember to enjoy this. It will draw to a close sooner than you realize. This is how content feels.

Note: More photos of the journey can be found here.

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