WEEK #82 The ending of a year, the beginning of a new one.

After being on the bicycle for about 11 hours at 4000 meters elevation with a viral infection in my airways and a nose full of snot I felt cold, tired, hungry and had no energy left for a simple smile. The easiest and effective weapon ever, a smile. I just couldn’t get myself to do it. Tonight I wasn’t going to camp in the cold, the rain and hail. A cheap hostel was going to do the trick; sometimes I just need a bit more rest than usual. And a shower.

Walking between chickens, dogs and other small animals I put my bicycle against the wall of the cheap establishment I was to spend the night. A dirty used mattress, dried spit on the walls and a filthy shared toilet was going to be the place to rest my sick body for the night. It still beat sleeping in a wet tent on the Altiplano at 4000 meters with a rain/hailstorm above my head. With the easy-going rate of $4 I wasn’t going to complain.
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Hungry and weak I skipped the shower, wise decision as I learned that there wasn’t any water anyway. Walking through the streets with potholes and mud I found a place that served food, “Restaurant Americano”. Hoping for a simple hamburger I walked in and sat myself at one of the many tables. Greeting the waitress I looked left and right. Left was what seemed to be a local drunk, half asleep at the table, head in his arms, and feet towards each other. To the right of me sat an older woman, a small smile and eyes wide open and staring at the tall “gringo” that just walked in. I asked the waitress if there was a menu. No. Did they make hamburgers? No. Did they have a simple piece of bread with cheese? Yes, of course. A drink? Yes, a hot chocolate please.
5 minutes later the friendly waitress served a bowl of soup in front of me. I looked at her with large question marks in my eyes. She was the one asking questions, though. Cena? Sopa? Pasta con pollo y mate coca?
I didn’t have a choice. Bring on dinner; soup, spaghetti with chicken and coca tea. No other choices, get what you can.
Dinner was good, cheap and I was hoping not to use my diarrhoea pills for the next couple of hours. This had only occurred about three times in the past 15 months. Was it time to buy a lottery ticket? Was I that lucky?

Back at the hospedaje I went to bed and, and as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was away. A few hours later I woke up, rain clattered against the window. Time to get dressed, push down breakfast, which today was (dry) bread, peanut butter and some juice.
Without knowing (or caring) what time it was I packed my bags, filtered the tap water and filled my drinking bottles for the first half of the day. I loaded up my trusty tour bicycle and slowly made my way out of the village that hosted me the last 12 hours. During this process I thought about the town I was to leave behind, its inhabitants, their lives and how daily life goes on around here.
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There are so many differences with life in Latin America. The above-mentioned occurrences are just a small glimpse of how things go on sometimes. They may not seem optimistic, but there are some major positive differences that lie beneath it all.

There is little to no stress. Why rush things when tomorrow there is another day? Be happy with what you have and with what you can receive. Take the situation as it is and deal with it, most of the time you cannot change it anyway. Many of the people I meet along the way have so little, yet they are the ones that are sharing. Whether it is dinner or a place to set-up my tent, they are sharing even when they have so little.

The general pace of life is different here, as is the way of life. The most essential thing I have learned, seen and felt while cycling through the Latin American countries, is that overall, people are happier here.
This doesn’t need to be in the larger, more “western” cities. It is also in the smaller communities I come across, where people are, in western terms, poor. Yet they are not. They have food, a family, and a roof over their heads. But what still surprises me the most, is that they have the ability to share with others like I have never seen before. I think we can all learn something from that.
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It really feels like the less they have they more they want to give. Shouldn’t this be the other way around, though? Shouldn’t we, the people in the west with all our luxury, be sharing with them? Helping their children receive and education, giving them a childhood and the life they deserve? It takes so little…

If you don’t have any resolutions yet for next year I can give you some free advice:

Share. Even if it is just a little. And make a difference in your life and that of others.

I wish everyone a very happy, safe and fun changing of the years. May 2015 bring lots of happiness, good health and prosperity. Don’t forget to share…

From La Paz, Bolivia,

Dirk Spits

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2 Thoughts on “WEEK #82 The ending of a year, the beginning of a new one.

  1. Robin Justis on January 2, 2015 at 3:45 AM said:

    I have seen & felt a little bit what you are talking about in your above entry. It’s so very true that with so little they give so much. Safe travels

    • Dirk Spits on January 9, 2015 at 10:53 PM said:

      Thanks for reading, following & supporting, Robin! I was great meeting you in Granada, good times there, and yes, also very visible poverty that which can be fought in a very positive way!
      Hope you had a great changing of years!

      Warm regards,
      Dirk

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