The Garbage I Found in Bolivia: Part Two

Continued from Part One.....

Working at the clinic of District 3, I learned something more about sizes: the grande consumption of Coca-Cola!

Coca leaf production is actually a intriguing and controversial subject. Coca leaves are an agricultural commodity leading to products such as tea, coca-cola and cocaine. The current Bolivian president Evo Morales, a former coca grower, is working hard to increase production and legalize sale of coca leaves. Morales sees coca farming as a traditional and profitable activity with many health and social benefits to poor Bolivian peasants. Because the leaves are used to make cocaine (a trend that began in Bolivia about twenty years ago), the US desires to stop production of coca leaves. Clash of the Coca!

Meanwhile, Bolivia supplies the Coca-Cola Bottling Company with thousands of pounds of coca leaves for the soft drink. In return, there must be an unwritten pledge by Bolivians to drink Coca-Cola at least six times per day. I've never been offered so much Coke.

Haley and Charlie share a refreshing drink of Coke after doing a puppet show outside the clinic at District 3

This brings me to another comparison in size. Yes, the lakes, spiders and Coke consumption are big. And so are el coraz√≥ns de la gente (the hearts of the people). Not as in cardiomyopathy big. But big as in humble, generous, kind and accepting.

How I loved the gentle gratitude of the people. Women waited in line in the sweltering heat with never a complaint.... always so appreciative of whatever help they were given. Try visiting our local ER and see if you get the same feeling!

People worked hard. And smiled.

And they welcomed us with respect and warmth.

In the health clinic, the nurses and workers connected with us and were patient even though
our Spanish was terribly limited.

One final comparison about size. In the city of Montero, Bolivia, a town of 96,000 people located 50 km outside of Santa Cruz, there is also something bigger than in America: the piles of rubbish. Garbage litters the landscape in every direction.

photo courtesy of travelpod.com

One night as we took a walk to the downtown plaza, we watched a shop owner bring out a small trashbag and empty the contents into the gutter.
This was as natural an act as if she had dressed for the day.
All around the town, there is the look and feel of grunge.

photo from numphe9@webshots

garbage can just outside our hotel

Why doesn’t this bother people, I kept wondering? Don’t they take pride in their land? Don’t they care about the environment? Garbage pick-up is infrequent and irregular. Why don’t they put the infrastructure in place to collect trash?

Here is one reason: Bolivia is the poorest South American country. For example, an educated physician only makes $600 / month and often takes several jobs to sustain a decent living. So the don’t have the money to pay for garbage collection. The Bolivians are not taxed, taxed, taxed like we are in America. But is money the whole story?

These thoughts swirled around in my head like my mother’s contact lens when it was flushed down the toilet by my 3 year-old brother.

Continued in Part Three....


jeremy said...

I hope the US has NO say in what the Bolivian Government wants to do. Who do we think we are anyway? No wonder the world hates us.

bath mateus said...

So well and nice posting , I like it.

Nick Matyas said...

very good posting,i liked it.
thank you for this post.



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