Bolivia forces me to be present on the land, within the air, and with the people. Each time I pass a clear expanse I am reminded of the mountains’ powerful presence dividing the sky from the ground. Hiking high into these ranges, we pull the thin wind of the Condoriri mountains into our lungs and the lack of fullness reminds me where I am. Each time a person on the street speaks to me and I need to use all my splintered Spanish to understand their inquiry I am reminded how far I am from home. It is almost as though Bolivia, or possibly the Pachamama, is screaming, “I am here.” One could assume that this would be alienating but they would be very far from the truth.
The land, the air and the people are welcoming. The mountains, which form a crown around us, hold our group in safety. After climbing Pico Austria, she provided us a view of tens of Bolivia’s lakes, deep snow topping off her sister mountains, and our tiny base camp. The air, though skinny with oxygen, always flowed through our bodies with enough molecules to get us up the next rise. The children of Enequella would laugh with us about our Spanish, our music tastes, and our soccer playing while always inviting us for more conversations, dances, and matches. In a way, the land, air, and people seem to be making an effort to wind us into their intricate history. I know that soon we will get past the stages of guests and feel Bolivia within our own histories as well.