Coca Leaf and Cascadas in Coroico

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“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.”

-Margaret Mead

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.

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My friend Christel in the coca fields taking a break. You fashion a square piece of cloth into a bag through tying it around your waist to easily collect the leaves as you go along.

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“Coca es vida”

Coca is Life.

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THis is one of my favorite photos from the trip. Walking through the coca fields, that are all terraced on hills and take an extraordinary amount of labor to create, maintain and grow. The coca leaf can only be harvested by hand which I think is a beautfiul thing and one of the main reasons why the culture of coca has stayed all the years later.

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Having lunch at a friends house that included delicious quinoa soup, fresh mandarin juice and rice and plantains.

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Sometimes when you travel, pure exhaustion hits and all you want to do is lay down. However, you have to balance the spontaneous once-in-a-life experiences! I was absolutely exhausted one afternoon, but we had the opportunity to hike to a waterfall and I last minute changed my mind and was waterfall bound! And I am so glad I did. I didn’t even bring a bathing suit and jumping in the freezing cold water in all my clothes.

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Friends just chilling in a freezing cold waterfall. What a life! My mom commented that from the photos it didn’t look life I was doing much work and instead just having adventures all over Bolivia. Partially true, however when we weren’t taking spontaneous adventures we were constantly doing research! No complaints from me.

It’s a beautiful life!

-Kaila

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