My first weeks as an official volunteer have been rough. I just finished a ten day stint out in my site (the village of Maragua) and feel as though I have been put through an agonizing gauntlet. I spent my first two days carrying water from the river up to my house. Ferocious storms come every night, the first of which unleashed over three inches of hail, epic thunder and lighting.
I still do not have a proper shelter. Years ago, a non-profit built a couple big rooms out of mud bricks as a kindergarten for the village, however, it was never finished, and has sat vacant ever since. There are three buildings, two of which share a pleasant little stone courtyard and the third of which has melted back into the mud from whence it came. The roof is made of thatched reeds, is full of huge spiders and leaks severely. There are no windows or doors on the building, so I have set-up my tent in one of the rooms while I try and complete my house.
Without doors, windows or a working roof, my room floods heavily in the rains. I remember being in complete darkness, huddled in my sleeping bag, waiting for the lighting so I could monitor the progression of the flood. Other than that, a violent windstorm ripped the front door off the courtyard so now I have no security at all. I have been sick, and I have had vivid dreams of all I can eat buffets — even during the day.
Work on the house has been slow. For some reason, they have built the doorways of the kindergarten at around five feet tall, so to put a door in we have to pull up the stone floor and dig down a couple feet, so that I will fit in my new home. We are putting plaster on the inside of the mud walls, and sealing the roof as well. I will buy some tools and doors and windows in Sucre and bring them back in on the truck before the rains make the road impassable for the rest of the season.
It is funny now just having written that paragraph and remembering ten days ago, going into my site full of energy and hope. I crossed the mountain pass which separates me from the city of Sucre, and saw the village of Maragua. It was evening time and the sun was setting below the mountain ridges. A delicate drizzle was falling locally in the crater and the evening rays refracted an iridescent mango-cherry spectrum through the droplets. Arriving in my site the drizzle had stopped and I discovered a black and blue butterfly the size of my head in my kitchen and fireflies darted through my courtyard. I live in a storybook, I thought; I cannot wait to share this majestic place with my friends.
So the beauty while overwhelming at times, is how beauty is — fleeting, with its absence ever amplifying its presence.
The next blog in the Bolivian Blaze Series is, Adapting to Having Nothing.