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Entre Las Calles

There’s a saying that there is no winded road. We are only walking zigzagged on a straight road. When it rains, it’s not the clouds that are crying, but rather the sun, and the clouds cannot keep the sun’s tears from falling. As we walk up Santa Cruz, we can feel the earth’s curves undulating under our feet; wrappers and plastic bags stick to the concrete, peeling from the sidewalk’s skin. Little ice droplets pepper our heads, and we rush around looking for refuge. We stumble and slip between other passersby, until we come across a restaurant with a traditional good luck charm from China taped to the front door. Upon entering, we are welcomed by an elderly woman who goes by the name of Mei Chu. We ask her, “Como te llamas?” and she cannot not understand us, so Athena starts speaking in Mandarin. Mei Chu opened this restaurant 13 years ago, after following her sister to Bolivia. She is from a southern province in China, and Athena mentioned that she has a few relatives down there as well. There was a sense of familiarity, standing in a restaurant with intricate red embroidery taped onto the walls. However, this was only the first of many people that we encountered today. We pass a woman holding her son’s hand as she looks frantically left and right before crossing the road. She wears a long skirt that drapes over her ankles, her hair braided in two thick tails. There is a girl and a boy sharing headphones and smiling like they have a secret to keep. Another young girl with a bright pink hat is looking into the traffic up ahead. She is alone. As we observe everyone around us, aware of the grand and minute influences of our presence, we are blinded by a striking resolution: La Paz is home to many people with stories born from different tongues. The grounds here are scattered with the footprints of people from far and wide. We are as akin to the Caserita selling chocolate on the side of the road as we are to the Australian couple fumbling for change to pay for an avocado sandwich. We are in this shared space, this intersection of livelihoods, religions, and hopes. We may be separated into Australians, Bolivians, Americans, Englishmen and so forth; however, we all belong to the Pachamama. We are all guests in the hands of Mother Earth, fleeting visitors at the mercy of the nest we’ve come to call home.