Well, we finally made it to Bolivia, after a 20 hour bus ride and being accosted by a bunch of peddlers at the border. That, and some problems actually getting through the border started our time here with a punch.
It turns out that Chileans need a passport to get through the border of Bolivia. This was contrary to the information that we had been given before leaving our home in Corrientes. Fortunately the guards at the border were helpful, and with our whole team adding more pressure to get everyone through, we were able to come to an agreement that apparently did not completely break the laws. This was a good thing, for both us and our only Chileana.
The town of Jacuiba appears, for all intents and purposes, very much like any other town in Argentina. It has shops and cars and people everywhere, and of course there are the compulsory plazas where everyone gathers. The differences are not very obvious at first, but after staying here for a while, they start to stand out.
One of the noticeable factors of this town, is that some of the basics that we often take for granted such as water and electricity, are not always available. In fact, water is cut off every day to different parts of the city. Our section loses water in the morning often, and sometimes at night. Many of the schools only receive water during the morning hours. Electricity too is also cut off at times, although this has not been a daily occurance while we have been here.
Our main goal here has been to visit many of the local schools and colleges and share with the students there. As a group, we have a large range of theatrical pieces that we perform in front of large crowds of children, teaching them moral values and the consequences of poor choices in life. These pieces normally are followed by a brief chat about the values involved in each one, and the children are given an opportunity to respond to what they have seen. Many take this chance, and others come and talk with us afterwards.
We have also performed in the main city plaza, drawing large crowds of people. The following day we found ourselves in a local street in the outlying suburbs, in front of dozens of children and many of the locals from the surrounding houses. They too were treated to our performances, as well as a time of sharing and discussions.
Lower Living Standards
This street and the area around it was a much lower level of living standard than in the main town of Yacuiba. All of the roads here are dust, and the wind whipped it up into our faces that were lined with sweat from the heat of the day. The houses, barren of anything resembling luxury, sport only the necessities of life. Pots and pans, a wooden chair against a rickety wooden table, and perhaps a television to provide a means of escape. The overall feeling in the place was quite heavy.
With our time in Yacuiba coming to a close, we are now working side by side with a team of people to help run a camp for children over this weekend. Although we considered ourselves to be very busy before, this weekend is scheduled so tight that we only get 15 minutes to ourselves each day. The morning after the camp, on Monday, we all head out to the next location in Bolivia… Entre Rios.
Entre Rios is said to be much greener than the area around us here which is bascially dirt and dust. The whole area of Entre Rios, which means “between rivers”, is very green, very humid and very hot, with a lot of surrounding jungle. Although we are going to Entre Rios, our work is amongst the people living in communities around this small town.
There are few roads here, and at best there are some walking tracks through the bush and jungle. Some of the tracks are expected to take three hours or more to walk. We have been warned to carry water with us as all water outside the town is bitter and bad to drink. Not only that, but we also will need to carry all of our gear with us too. For me, that means a very full and heavy backpack. For others, it is a heavy suitcase with wheels. I hope they will be able to roll along the tracks.
So as our time comes to a close here we prepare for the worst. Spiders and snakes and bugs and nasties are all reported to be in Entre Rios, even by those who have been there. It sounds like a very pretty but dangerous place. On Monday I will be finding out for myself just what it is like.
Until we talk again, Rob.