Pages of Euphoria
Saturday, October 13, 2007
  That Silver Spoon
El Espino. It means the spine or the thorn in English. Deep in the Bolivian Chaco or frontier wilderness. I have experienced some extreme living situations when considering things like lack of electricity, showering in waterfalls on a daily basis, and being surrounded by Amazonian monkeys. However El Espino, or the Speen as James (Peace Corp Volunteer to the stars), Todd and I came to affectionately call it, pushed extreme living to all new levels.

So we arrive in the dusty pueblito that James has been calling home for 14 months. Its around the beginning of October. There is currently one school, maybe 30 families, two soccer fields, one water tank and one doctor. There is most likely an equal number of donkeys, pigs, and cows in comparison to the human population. Arriving at James´ housing compound we quickly discover there are about 4 Bolivians currently crashing in his kitchen...his building belongs to the town, and is free to roaming Bs. Setting about preparing the first meal, I gathered the sparse amount of dishes from a counter so covered in dirt I could write J.Peso in it. Dishes in hand, I took them for cleaning to the water source not far from the house. The water source consisted of a pipe extending 2ft out of the ground with a nozzle at the end. While the water was clear, James said it wasnt chlorinated and no doubt host to intestinal terrors. It was a first in my life of using a kitchen without running water equipped, and we had to simply swallow fears of using untreated water to clean utensils. It was an easy task after 8 months of travel, and a bottle of Purel hand sanatizer brings about childish giggles of glee. However had the Speen been in the beginning of my travels, my nerves and digestive track would have been wrought with anxiety. Thankfully, for toilet papers sake, it wasnt and my stomach in this moment is tougher than Chuck Norris.

Fears aside, the meal was a satisfying combo of lentil and garlic bean soup salted to a power of infinty and my own special papas fritas. It was as romantic a meal between three hardcore dudes could get, broke back mountain cowboys everywhere ate their hearts out. Adding to our merry company were a handful of roaming pigs, dogs, and donkeys, all looking longingly at our freshly prepared gruel. The donkeys of which, as a side note, could be heard EEOOR-ING in excitement at all times of the day and night, in happy pursuit of their mate. It was apparently mating season in the Speen, and whenever one of those horny gutteral noises was heard, we dropped everything (beer, guitar, bag of coca leaves) and came running to see the gruesome yet awe inspiring site. We basically had alot of time to fill.

As our meals came to an end and our stomachs approached a satisfying level of satiation, the last rays of the sun retreated behind an unknown mountain range. The Speen was momentarily painted in magenta and orange hues, reminiscent of island sunsets in Thailand. As the fiery light made its exit, we put our plates down, picked our beverages up, and spent the remainder of the night hammock lounging and guitar jamming. Todd is actually a very talented musician and the sweet sounds of his guitar playing drifted to a boarding house full of students, of course attracting them. At one point our porch was surrounded by dark, silent and ominous little shapes all taking joy in the listen. It wasnt until the 2am hour that we climbed into our respective mosquito/TICK nets in James´ room, and sank into dark sleeps.

The above account was roughly 12 hours, and we ended up staying about 2 days. Of the rest of my time in that pueblito perdido, I could go on in description and stories for paragraphs on end. I want to instead get into the substance of this entry. The people of the Speen are made strong; Much hardier folk than you and me, having adjusted to the coarse and at times candidly beautiful 3rd world way of life. They live sometimes without water, almost consistently without electricity, having to support families and livestock. They have games of soccer to look forward to, played on an unlevel sloped and cracking concrete surface which claimed James´ MCL on his first day. School teachers are a wealth of years too young, and stand to gain a wealth of knowledge still before imparting knowledge on others. I feel myself focusing on the negatives, viewing the Pimp Challis of Life as being half empty as opposed to half full. The reality is that the Speen is an up and coming extremely 3rd world place, one of many across the globe. And every time I see one in its stripped to bare bones nature of beautiful brutality, it makes me consistently think one thing: Why am I so lucky to be born with a first world silver fucking spoon in my mouth?

This not so new realization put James´volunteering effort into a clearer perspective. At the end of his service he will have donated 27 months of his life to this charming shithole of dust and donkeys, where apparently "buenos dias" issued from toothless smiles is enough to keep spirits alfoat. Besides donating those 27 months to the Speen, he will also have helped to construct water tanks for the pueblito and something like 5 surrounding communities. He will bring them and their parched livestock water in a regular supply. Water folks. Quite an accomplishment if you ask me, something you can rest your hat on a peg at the end of the day with a quiet sigh of contentment. Atta kid James, I cannot commend your use of that silver spoon enough. Get it wet in the Speen.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

I come from a small town north of Seattle, WA, where I learned that rain is a magical thing because it turns things green. I have had the chance to go a few places and see a few things of which all I have are pictures, memories and stories. I am currently living and learning about Los Angeles, California, and what it means to be an Angelino.

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