Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Trail of a Lonesome Gringo (X): Reacquainted, Fever, Floating

I am sitting in a park in a city I am unfamiliar with and I am hot and cold and my stomach is cramping, I don’t know where to go or what to do because I have booked a bus that leaves in six hours (foolishly).  There are dozens of pigeons in the tree above me and although I have sat across from them, something tells me that the wind or this sea of brown luck might send some bird shit my way, so I limp off elsewhere, searching my body for the ‘off’ switch; alas.  Being back in the mountains brought back some soul, an intricate influx of feeling.  Even crossing over into Bolivia felt different.  I think often of regarding a mountain.  The tours are a little odd that way; they sort of drive, stop off at certain spots so all of us, the tourists, can get out and grab half an hour of experience before moving on.  Most folk snap as many photos as possible, try to take it in.  It’s a tough one.  But regarding a mountain; what a thing.  Taking for granted the obliteration of the subject-object thing, I tend now to look at it and almost feel like waving; or smiling at it, myself.  Manifestation of life.  Mountains are so alive.  Such powerful beings, so many in number—gods without a doubt.  There is nothing not holy about a mountain.  And so endless lumps of earth, vast flats of salt and sand, rocky escarpments, snow-capped everything.  The thing about everything touristic is that it’s generally material based.  Like most things, it is backed by a material mind-set, which sort of reigns over most humans.  So, when I go on a tour, I tend to tour alongside the actual tour, because I appreciate a lot about the material side of things, but I also like to listen to mountains and rivers, to rocks and empty spaces, because if you kneel down and prick your ears up, everything speaks.  But if you speak back, the tour can get awkward.  Nonetheless, I had some good chats, probably deeper than anything said amongst the tour group, seeing as all four of the others were French and Spanish –speaking.  Another nice aspect actually: I got to partake in one of my favourite pastimes—listening to languages I don’t understand.  French, to me, is a nice sounding language; they have nice rhythms, pitter-patters and what not.  It’s so lovely just to listen to words and tones and to feel emotions, without being involved.  We spend so much time either speaking, thinking, or pensively waiting to speak, that ‘just listening’ seems almost an impossibility to many people, in their mother tongues.  If you haven’t, give it a go sometime.  When it’s another language, you can’t intellectually grasp it, so you are sort of cornered into just listening—but there is so much there to pick up and experience!  Before I left, I remember listening to the fluttering exchanges between two Chinese women at a massage parlour; it was beautiful, like listening to birds sing to one another.  Anyhow, from the poetic back to the realism-ic: I skip the bus because my body is screaming at me not to go on an eight-hour bus trip overnight when I feel this way.  Some dodgy food at the end of the tour, which is weird because the last thing those of us who got sick ate was a plain cake for breakfast.  Who knows, I suppose.  The French girl got it worst: I have a funny graphic of her calling out to the tour guide, asking where a bathroom was, before puking in the middle of a busy car park.  And the other French guy was sitting with his head in his hands for almost an hour.  Mine seems to have saved itself for the night.  Back here at the plaza de armas (the central square they seem to have in most cities in Latin America) I can hear some pretty guitar and I turn to see an ancient man with a younger man playing some sweet latin-sounding tunes; they’re sort of like buskers, I guess.  A story of some kind drifts through my disoriented mind: a street group, in a country like Bolivia, playing every day; they get money from the public but this all goes to the fines they receive for playing in unlawful locations; but they play anyway, because they are not playing for money, but for themselves and the people, and so the cycle continues whereby they are fined and the fine is paid by the public and neither party cares because it’s the music that matters.  The story will perhaps continue in a bad way, with the antagonistic and power-hungry arm of the law shutting down this harmless cycle, or perhaps, in a good way—though I’m not sure exactly what the good way might be.  Anyhow, feeling fairly shit, I ask if I can change my ticket and of course this is Bolivia, so no, but again, because this is Bolivia, I am more than willing to sacrifice six dollars to go lie down in my own misery for eleven hours.  It was worth it, too.  A horrid sleep in which I felt like my kidneys might explode out of my back several times, on a bed of rock, with lots of laughing strangers in the hostel room.  And it’s always as though they’re laughing at me…anyhow, it was still worth it.  I felt it would be, too; generally, a long period of rest/sleep/feverish paroxysms winds up being a good counter to the condition.  I wake up refreshed, but lacking in sustenance.  Stomach is still a bit seedy (and will be all day).  I hit the bus and off we go, one of my favourite parts of traveling: cruising the countryside listening to music.  Especially in landscapes like this.  I can just go album after album, soaking in this wonderful place.  Llamas bolting from the road, not quite heeding to the warning honks of the maniac driver.  At one point, I see an image of immense humour and greatness: a standalone vicuna (like a llama) standing on a little hillock, right on top of it.  The thing looks like it’s just triumphed over something big stands proud and full atop this little hill.  King Vicuna of the Bolivian hills, I name it.  Excellent.  Little pueblos, the bus always stopping to pick up locals; everything is so impromptu.  I love it.  Crazy old Bolivian women with gigantic sacks of items, or cute little kids tied to their backs with blankets of the most beautiful colours.  I always think, wow, back at home someone would probably reproach a woman for carrying a child on her back in a sheet of material.  But man, it’s the most natural thing.  So many simpler, naturalistic aspects of life remain in this part of the world.  It’s sort of a weird mix of residual traits and modern influences.  You see a mud-brick pueblo amidst the mountains in the middle of nowhere, and then an advertisement for a mobile company on the side of one the buildings.  Tis the way she blows, they say.  And so onwards and upwards across and between mountains, the sun falls, the stars appear, the bus grows dark and the music envelops me.  Often, I feel like staying on the bus longer.  Alas, a town has arrived upon my doorstep, and thus I must address it.  Farewell dear friend, fare thee well dear brother.

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