Visiting Bolivian Villages

Anthony Cooksey

Anthony Cooksey

Lots could be said for my trip so far, but the scenery, my god the scenery. I am not a spiritual man; I hold no faith in organized religion, but moments where the landscape seems so perfect and fragile, like porcelain, I become spiritual. I’ve felt this way before, camping on the Appalachian Trail when 14 inches of snow blanketed a forest, and I feel it now, in this rusted old bus, rising into the clouds. I landed in Bolivia days ago.  Its Friday (Jan. 3), breakfast was at 5am and now were on the road for a 6-hour 5,000-foot ascent from Chilimarca to a village tucked deep in the Andes Mountains.

My destination is Morochata, a remote village in the mountains far removed from indoor plumbing. Homes this remote are nothing more than a mud box with a front door that barely closes, one electrical outlet and one light bulb hanging, naked, in the center of the room. Fleas, a common house pet, pepper a little girl with red sores. Some students build her a bed while others participate with her infants monthly check up. The baby has grown 0.5 inches and weighs 12 pounds, by all accounts, healthy. Sida and Ada, local nurses, natives, and our guides, talk to mom in Ketchwan,  a language more than 1,200 years old. Staring into the mouth of a child with more cavities than she is years old it occurs to me, my life will never be as difficult as some of those in Bolivia. If you want clean clothes Tuesday, wash them Monday. If you want clean clothes that are dry by Tuesday, wash them Saturday. Bolivia is an underdeveloped country that works so very hard to stay in the same place and they do it all by hand.

The day closed with a hot meal and talk of tomorrows prospects, pediatric care in Piusilla. I leave the hostel to stroll through this remote village alone.  Children run up and down the street as men and women alike great me with warm apprehension. I acknowledge that I am right in the middle of one of the most exciting moments in my life. This thought makes me smile and I turn around and head back. I’m exhausted and this trip isn’t without hard work. A dog barks in the distance as it begins to rain and it occurs to me, never have such familiar noises sounded so foreign. I am high up in the Andes Mountains in South America, its dark and I’m falling asleep.

By Anthony Cooksey, senior biology major at RutgersCamden

Rutgers students from various academic disciplines are blogging from a service learning trip to Bolivia this winter. They are sharing their experiences with RutgersCamden NewsNow.

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