Eric Petitjean’s Testimonial

n576296490_2459168_4101100 THANKS TO BOLIVIA FOR REMINDING ME…

The first contact did not occur in Bolivia but in Madrid, where during seven hours the numbers of  Bolivian people at the boarding gate are increasing and long lines are gradually formed.
Discussions are engaged easily, the people are nice, smiley and authentic. I can already sense the strong, different and profound relationship between the parents and the children. The journey starts well…
Thanks to Saul and his family for their hospitality into their humble but lively home. I finally arrived in Bolivia in a lovely village on the road to Cochabamba. I met lots of wonderful and smiling children full of life and I gathered sea food by hand, with a net, which was memorable! The small market, la coca, la Pachamama. Here we are… I arrived at Laetitia’s house in Cochabamba where we took a few days to adapt to the 2500 meters of altitude, with beautiful visits: traditional villages, the market and el “Cristo” that we had to walk up.

Then, it was time to go to Salar d’Uyuni (salt lake), no use going on about the beauty of the place, it is known worldwide! I would like to share a few memories.
The train leaving from Oruro going to Uyuni seems to transform itself into a boat when on both sides of the railway there is water on which the stars  reflect…magical.

In the salt hotel, in the middle of the “Salar” (salt lake) after a good “sopa” ( soup) to warm up, everybody went outside to admire the stars. For the first time, I saw the Great Bear upside down; it was so low in the sky and so close. Then we watched to moon rise, it was huge, it looked just like the sun. These are unforgettable and magical moments shared with tourists from all over the world, our drivers and also locals. Mother nature in Bolivia is so powerful that it pushes itself upon you. You realize that you are nothing in front of her and that she could crush you in an instant.  This inevitably leads you into a spiritual dimension, one in which Bolivians convert into constant smiles, sharing, honor and pride. They share a secret with the sun and the Pachamama, that is for sure.

The journey follows its course in La Paz and to Lake Titicaca. In La Paz, every evening, on a large beach, different groups gather to talk about politics, culture or improvise funny shows to which I, by chance, participated. Everybody has the right to speak, which is both surprising and very enriching!

In Copacabana I met a “chaman” living in front of the 5th station of  Calvary. It was an unforgettable experience with Heikky who translated. The encounter with Don Pepe, an old man who has lived through different Bolivian revolutions and during one of which he fought and members of his family lost their lives. He always has the same smile despite his material poverty. But what a culture, what a memory and what an aura!

I will finish with the memory of the Island of the Sun on Lake Titicaca and a swim that looked like a “baptism” in this mythical lake. The water was at 12° degrees and stung a little but when I got out I warmed up again on the warm rocks below the Inca ruins, which stays in my memory like a dream. This journey to Bolivia pushed me to distance myself but also to bring me back on earth because in Bolivia life is brutal but concrete. The family cell is THE fundamental anchor out there.
Most of the people do not pretend, their smiles are real. They fight to defend their political ideas and simply to live. I learnt a very good lesson of courage and of realism.
In the so-called developed countries we have unfortunately lost our relationship with nature, and with simple and authentic things like our smiles.

THANK YOU BOLIVIA FOR REMINDING ME.
Eric

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