“Anthropology demands the open-mindedness with which one must look and listen, record in astonishment and wonder that which one would not have been able to guess.”
One aspect of drug policy that I can reiterate enough is that coca leaf is not cocaine and because of the history of drug policy and the social rhetoric, many people think that the coca leaf is cocaine. The process of making cocaine involves dozens of chemicals that extend far beyond the coca leaf. The coca leaf has been long used to flavor Coco-cola and it is the only company that is allowed to important the plant. Because of the Single Convention in 1961, the coca leaf is classified as a schedule one drug, in the same category as opiods and hallucigenins. Chewing coca is a deep cultural practice of the Bolivian culture and is something that I was able to take part in through chewing the coca leaf and drinking coca tea almost daily. Farmers who grow coca leaf are not drug dealers, which I find to be a very unfortunate common misconception. While in Bolivia, I was able to visit a coca farm and picked coca. It is difficult, needing to keep the leaf perfectly in tact while moving fast through the fields, bent over in the blazing sun. It gave me a deeper appreciation for what it takes and the labor that goes into the process. I hope if anything, that people understand that without demand, there is no supply.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
We have a morning routine that starts with a breakfast meeting at 8:15 where someone has a message and then another person reads from their field journal. This is one of the many quotes that were shared over the last two weeks and always helped set the tone for the day. This quote by Margaret Mead is one of my favorites given the way she paved the way for female anthropologists and because in times like these, it’s an amazing reminder to have. The days go by so fast here in Coroico that I have to remember to savor the small moments, the moments of uncontrollable laughter and times when it’s hard to believe how wonderful life truly is. Everyday is packed with meetings, day trips, field journaling and more and we always manage to find time to sit in a hammock or have a beer with a friend and process the day.
“It gets better, just keep going and don’t give up.”
When Jenna and I first met almost three years ago in a drug anthropology class, we could have never anticipated how things would unfold. These past few weeks have brought the past full circle and I couldn’t be more grateful that this human is part of my life. Jenna is a gentle pixie with the heart of a lion and soul of someone who has lived far more than twenty-one years. I was so fortunate to spend these past three weeks in Bolivia with her on a course about democracy and development with an extraordinary professor. It is this professor that started our friendship three years ago in her classroom. One class and one person transformed both of our lives on levels that have impacted us both forever.
“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
The next morning, we set off from La Paz to Coroico, first stopping at the legal coca market on the way out. Coca leaf, often referred to as la hoja de coca, is a plant that is an integral part of the Andean and overall Bolivian culture. For those who do not know what coca leaf is, I will use Evo Morales famous quote that “coca no es cocaine.” Most people assume that the coca leaf is cocaine when in fact it is not.
I dare you not to love Ron and want to be him when you grow up. It’s not possible because he is one of the greatest humans ever. I met Ron while in Bolivia as he is a dear friend of my professor and has been living in Bolivia since the 70’s. When you meet Ron, you may think he is soft spoken but but his mind anything but. He is one of those people who has truly lived; in every essence of the world and is still going. His style is something to aspire too, always with a hat on top and smile hiding underneath. He is forever a student, fascinated with the happenings of every day, from the mundane to the complex questions he continues to inquire about. If there is one thing I can say about him it’s that he is one of kind.
“Traveling, it leaves you speechless then turns you into a storyteller.”
Every since school got out a few weeks ago, I have been crazy busy between starting a new job, continuing my current job and planning for my upcoming trip (in T-minus 2 days) to Bolivia with a 24 layover in Bogota. I will be heading to Bolivia for three weeks for a research project through school about drug policy, focusing on studying the coca leaf, coffee and the many misconceptions people have. I was one of those people, until I took a class a few years ago and it changed my life forever. The world has a long history of drugs and it is complicated beyond belief, yet in every way it is intertwined and connected to the big and little things. Everywhere I look it is in the news and related to foreign, domestic and current events.