“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.
(At the local radio station singing “Here Comes the Sun”)
On this particular morning we went to the local radio station where we introduced ourselves and then attempted to sing. Radio is one of the primary ways of communication in Coroico and it was so special that they let us on the air and gave us time to talk about why we are here and our interests in democracy, development and drug policy. Before our singing adventure, we individually introduced ourselves in Spanish giving a brief overview of what we are each studying and any other tidbit. I said that I needed helping learning how to dance. True story. Joey, the only guy on the trip (lucky him….or good luck to him) said “ayudame” meaning help me as he explained that he was surrounded by girls. It got a massive laugh out of everyone at the station and is a fun memory that I love sharing.
(Two of my favorite people and friends walking through town)
On another morning, we went to Tocana which is a small town outside of Coroico and is unique becasue it is an Afro-Bolivian community. We got a tour from the gracious Teadora who is studying tourism. We then had one of the most amazing experiences where the community prepared our food in the earth with hot bricks, removed it and danced the Saya with drums and singing as we all danced around. It was so special. They say that the Saya is within them and can’t be taught as it runs through their blood. Having our food, that consisted of roasted pig and potatoes, come straight from pachamama was so unique and I can still feel the joy from dancing (or at least attempting).
(With Joey and our Professor Carol Conzelman dancing in Tocana)
(Some of the extraordinary people of Tocana sharing their culture of dance and the Saya)
A large part of anthropology is ethnography, participant observation and giving detailed journaling. It can be overwhelming at times trying to process everything while participating in it and being able to recall it well enough to write about it. Often during the day I would make quick notes in a small book and in the evening write a more in-depth thick description of the day, referring to the small notes to refresh my memory.
(This view makes the crazy windy and bumpy rides so worth it. Not to mention that this is what we wake up to everyday!)
One thing that I am researching is the diplomatic relationship between the United States and Bolivia. Contensious would be one way to describe the dynamic of the past and present. Currently, the United States does not have an ambassador as he was kicked out by the Morales administration along with the DEA and USAID. Tocana has a health clinic that was funded by USAID. USAID has a complicated history in Bolivia, particularily the Yungas region and I enjoyed talking with everyone about their thoughts on USAID and politics of the past and present.
(Some of the coffee beans I picked at Don Marcellino’s coffee farm that used to received aid from USAID before it was kicked out of the country)
One morning, we went to a friend of our professors coffee farm and picked coffee. It gives you a massive appreciation for what goes into one cup of coffee. First there is the picking of the coffee, de pulping, drying, processing and more before it evens becomes ready to grind and then brew. There was also evidence of USAID’s presence in the region as there was an old coffee processing infrastructure that now remains empty. My favorite part of learning is talking directly to the people; gathering data through people and not statistics. And it turns out that my Spanish skills are pretty great! Well, there was a massive confusion that was only cleared up the last day over a word..but that’s a story for another time. Let’s just say that it is massively embarassing but absolutely hilarious.