20.08.2009 - 23.08.2009 30 °C
While my clothes are drying on the laundry line after having washed my dusty pants about 5 times, it is definitely time to sit down and write about my visit to Pueblos Unidos. This is a community up in the north of the Santa Cruz department, on the border of the Guarayos and Obispo Santistevan province. José and I left on Thursday afternoon and arrived in a town called san Pedro a couple of hours before sundown, so we decided to stay the night there and then continue up to Peta Grande the next day. The next morning however, the bus to Canandoa (from where we would take another bus to Peta Grande) arrived an hour early and though Jose and I did hear a bus honking, we didn’t really connect the dots at that point and therefore missed our bus… The next bus would leave late in the afternoon and we wanted to arrive in Pueblos Unidos while the sun was still up so we decided to hitchhike… After a couple of hours a guy, with a big van and his wife, daughter and granddaughter in the back, said he would take us to Canandoa, but that he had to fix a couple of things really quick there in San Pedro… “just a couple of minutes….”
We had already found out before that Bolivians have a very own perception of time and distance but for some reason we keep thinking that when they mean five minutes it actually is going to be five minutes, maybe 10 to 15… but five minutes sometimes actually means hours and after having taken care of his business, the guy concluded that it was past noon and that it would be smart to have lunch first… So Jose and I said goodbye and took a moto-taxi. The driver of the moto-taxi had already offered us a good deal earlier and in the end we decided to accept it. After a couple of hours of bumpy, dusty motorcycle ride, our legs and behinds were sore and we decided not to go all the way up to Peta Grande in one go, so we stayed the night in Canandoa. Finding a place to stay there was interesting, since it was quite a small town with no hostels or anything of the kind. We ended up staying at the local medical post, where two beds were ready for us, surrounded by IVs and syringes. The beds were obviously clean and we were especially happy that it was insect free. All of this was more than we actually expected to be sleeping on that night and we would have been content with a lot less, so it was a pleasant surprise. The local school teacher gave us the authorization to be able to stay there and he asked if we would like to address the school children about what we were doing there and where we were from. We managed to change that plan a little bit luckily, since neither of us is good at public speaking at all, although it would have been cool to be able to say that we did it, wouldn’t it…? chickens, I know...
The next morning at dawn, two moto taxi drivers we had met the evening before, picked us up for the last stretch to Pueblos Unidos (PU). Peta Grande was the last reasonably sized town before PU, so we stopped there for breakfast and repeated the usual conversation we have had a million times in the past months, a couple of times more. We arrived in PU around 10 AM. The motorcycles left us on the shore of the Rio Grande, which is the natural border between Guarayos and Obispo Santistevan. An incredibly shy and giggly girl crossed us over to PU, where we were greeted by a couple of kids. We asked the first man we ran into if he knew if and where we would be able to stay the night and if we could ask a couple of people some questions. Since the community has had quite a turbulent history and has had to deal with violent attacks a couple of times, we weren’t surprised the reception was a bit cold and that we weren’t trusted at first. The head of the community was out in the field when we arrived, and the man that was left in charge was clearly uncomfortable with that task. He showed us where we could possibly stay the night and asked us to stay there until the real director was back so he could give his final authorization. We sat on our porch and greeted people passing by, a couple of who came to introduce themselves.
Before our meeting with the community’s dirigentes, Jose and I played a game of football/soccer with about 30 kids. It was absolute chaos and Jose and I were exhausted afterwards, but it was great fun. A couple of kids followed us around everywhere and a few really won me over. In the evenings the community sat around the only tv in the village, watching a telenovela and a movie until about 22:00. All kids would sit on the floor up front, mesmerized by the TV and the grownups on chairs behind them. Now and then a boy would punch the one next to him (and gees, did they hit each other hard sometimes) but it was really quite a heartwarming scene.
Our neighbors became our best friends and I was actually quite sad we had to leave after 2 days. This is definitely a kind of project I would like to repeat. The village was more developed than I had expected it to be and although they had some problems that needed solutions, there is definitely hope for these people. I’d love to go back in a couple of years to see what they made of their plans.
The ride back was just as humpybumpy, though we took a bus from Canandoa to Montero, which was a little more comfortable than the motorcycle-option (but less fun obviously).
While I am writing this it is starting to sink in that it may possibly be my last blog from Bolivia, since I will be flying back in a couple of days…… Time really does fly, but this time I am not as sad, since I am sure I will be back.