Today’s guest post is by Jim in Clark’s Grove.
A few years ago I was given an agricultural volunteer assignment in the Yungus region of Bolivia by a non-profit organization, ACDI/VOCA. Yungus is a region of Bolivia located in the mountains East of La Paz. I was asked to help a small export company control bean weevils that were attacking black beans which this company was introducing as a crop. Many Yungus farmers grow coca as their main crop and were interested in growing black beans.
Coca is a legal crop in Bolivia. Illegal production of cocaine from coca is discouraged. I passed through several control points where checking was done for chemicals that could be used to manufacture cocaine. Dried coca leaves, which are chewed by some Bolivians, are sold locally. Coca tea is given to people to help them with altitude sickness. I drank some coca tea and didn’t experience any change in mood that you might expect from cocaine.
My trips to visit bean fields involved traveling on very narrow mountain roads and walking up long steep trails. Part of the time we traveled in taxi cabs that went very fast on the winding roads. I was extremely frightened by the taxi rides until I got use to traveling in those cabs. On the trails I was barely able to keep up with my party and then only if they slowed down. It was my good luck to have a bright young translator and a good natured representative of the export company as my traveling companions. They maintained their good humor throughout the trip.
I visited a wide selection of the farms that were growing black beans. These farms were located near small villages that had facilities for travelers which were not always in great shape. There was usually a nice small park or town square in the middle of these villages. Citrus grew along the edges of roads and trails. The fruit on these trees was freely available to eat by all who passed by. Chicken was the main dish served locally and it was often served with quinoa soup, rice, and cooked plantains. In some places we used a translator who could speak a language used before the arrival of Europeans. Some woman wore the traditional colorful skirts seen in many pictures from this part of the world.
This trip was a great adventure. I have many fond memories associated with my visit to Bolivia. I was highly impressed by the political climate. The President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, is a former coca farmer who had been involved in political organizing in rural areas. Some people were creating a problem for Morales by demanding a change in the location of the government. During my stay a rally of more than a million people was held to provide support for Morales. The head of the export company that I was helping said that Morales was the best hope the country had for solving its many problems.
I very much enjoyed my trip to Bolivia in spite of the difficult traveling conditions.
Do you remember having a lot of difficulty on a trip that turned out well in the end?