Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 7: Necessito llavar mi mochilla, pronto!

This morning started out slow (shocker!).  We left the Hacienda Cayara around 8:00am, and met Olivo at his office around 8:35am.  We were all supposed to meet at 8:30am and hit the road, but Rosa wasn’t there yet.  She ended up coming in around 9:05am, so we all piled into Cesar’s car shortly after that and then we hit the ground running, ready to sample the last 14 houses.

Rosa knows pretty much everyone.  She’s an organizer and leader in the community, so people know and trust her.  She wouldn’t bring a bunch of gringos to their houses if she didn’t trust them.  So we started working around 9:30am.  House after house after house, Rosa found people to let us in and take samples.  The past two days, people have been very suspicious and very concerned about our intentions.  I’m told that this is the Bolivian way.  But Rosa, she’s Bolivian, so she can get the job done.

One house in particular I will never, ever, for the rest of my entire life, forget.  We were standing outside while Rosa was talking to the residents and Nick pointed out that the house had been “blessed” with llama blood.  Basically, a llama is sacrificed, its blood is drained and collected, and then (sorry to gross everyone out) literally splattered across the front of the house and the doorways inside the house to ward off evil spirits.  The residents told us that they had done the “blessing” about two weeks ago.  I thought this was really cool, given that it was an old Incan practice that still lived on today.  So, we went into the house and began sampling.

Nick and Cesar went into a maybe eight feet by six feet room to collect adobe samples.  There were two mattresses (which in most communities are big plastic sacks stuffed with what I can only guess is straw or something along those lines), a chair, a stool piled high with clothes, and two big metal pans that were used for cooking, one on top of the other.  Once Nick and Cesar were done, I went in and plugged in the Jerome and got my measurements.  Susan came in, and I packed up my backpack.  I picked it up and OH MY GOOD LORD I almost threw up.  Unbeknownst to me, I had put my backpack onto what I can only imagine used to be a leg of the llama.  It was a freaking carcass.  And in those two pans that were used for cooking – more bits of llama carcass, including what, from my angle and in the dark, looked like the jaw with the teeth still intact.  The carcass, along with what I think was feces, were in the center of this woman’s mattress!  Susan about vomited and I tried to stop shaking but my goodness it was the worst of the worst I have seen anywhere in the world.

By about 1:30pm, we had finished up 12 houses and only had two left to go.  We had to wait until one of the girls could meet us at 3:00pm to go to three households that were waiting for us.  We took Rosa home, and along the way, she agreed to let us sample her house.  Woohoo!  Only one more house to go!  Rosa and her daughter, Angela, made us lunch.  It was really good and was what we all needed to refuel and kill some time before the next house.

We finally made it to the last three houses.  At the first house, the residents changed their minds and no longer wanted to participate.  The second two houses allowed us to sample, so we actually ended up with 51 houses overall.  Not bad in three days.  The last three houses were also in a neighborhood pretty far downstream the Ribera and in an area with the jackpot of adobe houses, so hopefully we have a future opportunity to sample in that community some more.  We definitely had more interest than we were able to accommodate on this trip.

After sampling was finally completed, we headed back to Cayara.  Susan and I worked on packaging up all of the samples, then we ate another amazing dinner prepared by Coca, sat by the fire with Arturo, and finished packing up the samples.  Tomorrow we’re going to go do some exploring, to a waterfall not far from the Hacienda (hopefully, if we can get up early enough to hike before breakfast), to the mills along the Tarapaya river, to an old mill in Potosí, and to Casa de la Moneda.  As a thank you to our Bolivian team, Nick, Susan, and I decided we would take them out to lunch tomorrow as well.  Then it’s back to Hostal de su Merced in Sucre for a few days.

Just to fill you all in…I have decided not to do the mine tour.  I look at the Cerro Rico and the miners that work there, and I just do not think I am emotionally capable of handling being in the mine right now, especially being so invested in this project.  I also am not sure if I am physically able to handle the demands of the tour, with the altitude and temperatures.  I have spent the last three days feeling the effects at 14,000 feet, and cannot imagine going higher, and then descending into what most miners describe (from what I’ve read) as the closest place to Hell.  If I am lucky enough to come back to Potosí in the future, which I hope I will be, I will take the tour then.  I do not think I can do it now, and I know that I do not want to do it alone.

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