Friday, May 11, 2012

Day 8 - The Family

Last night I travelled again to upper Potosi so that I could officially meet the entire mining family, which will mostly likely be the characters to this documentary. With a whole chicken and two litres of beer in hand,  the initial met was very formal. Any preconceived ideas that I had on how an indigenous Bolivian family would behave with a new stranger was confirmed the minute I walked through the door. Before anyone would drink their beer, which was tasted after the chicken, everyone would pour a little onto the earth for prosperity and the Pachamama. We would then acknowledge everyone in the room, looking them in the eye and saying "cheers," with some other quit verbal token of appreciation as we drank from our glasses. I thought that was pretty normal, considering the fact that most westerns say "cheers" before they have a drink. But what was different in this case is I could not take another drink until someone initiated the "cheers" with another out pouring of appreciation for what we had at that moment; food, drinks and each other's company. In some cases everyone would directly thank me for bringing the food and beer. Giving thanks to every single person in the room for every sip of drink or food being served, was a custom that had me a bit nervous. I'm usually the kind of person to just dig in which intensified my nervousness because I wanted to make a good impression. This custom continued with conversation and some laughter for the next hour and half. During the dinner I was also invited to stay permanently by the family and members of the rooming house at their home throughout my stay. I, of course thanked them profusely and bowed my head in endless remarks of appreciation. I privately and politely declined to Wilson when the night was over. My decision to stay at the hostel is mostly based on my own sanity. Being in this city is challenging for me and having the comfort of a room with a heater and working internet, so I can follow and contact the world I mostly understand, seems almost essential.
At the end of this late supper, Wilson my contact and probably future fixer for the film, walked me towards a main road at about 10:45pm to catch a bus or cab. It was almost pitch black and we entered a part of his neighbourhood which although looked a bit run down, I didn't sense any danger. As we entered the principal dirt road, which seemed to have large piles of rocks instead of sidewalks, Wilson suddenly stopped and bent over to look at some large stones. I asked him quickly, "What are you doing?" Hunched over, carefully selecting his stones, he said "You never know." I exclaimed quietly and quite naively.  "What do you mean, you never know?! Are they for throwing?" Wilson didn't look up. "Well, you see those dogs over there? They're angry dogs. They have a lot of rage and you never know when they're going to act on that rage." I stayed silent. "Also... you never know what could happen." I just left that last bit of ambiguous information alone. We continued down the road with our hands full of defence. By the time we reached the main road, the dogs had stopped barking. As we settled on a flat side walk, cars would randomly pass us, at speeds which were clearly illegal. While waiting for a ride, we watched the cars race down these impossibly narrow roads. I was amazed that they these vehicles weren't scratching up against each other. Strangely enough, it was at this point that I started safe again. 

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