Friday, January 2, 2009

Bolivia. El Alto. Leon



When I first arrived back in La Paz, I was haggling with some cab drivers about the price to take me into the city. One finally offered me a lower price and I took him. As we were talking, I told him I was planning on staying in Senkata, and he told me he was building a house in there and he invited me to come and see it. It is on the outskirts of the city, right at the edge where the city buts up against the countryside. His lot is on a big plaza, but looking over the wall at the back of the lot, the country extends out in front, giving way to magnificent views of Illimani. The wind was strong and whipping through their lot, as there were few other buildings around to shield it.


Leon and his wife, Adriana, bought their lot for $3,400 six month ago. They have one child and another one died three years ago. The three of them were living in one room with Leon’s parents before they were able to find this space. Once they got the land, they built a small one room adobe space that they all moved into. It is 3 x 4 meters. They started building an additional two rooms two months ago. Their son, Limbert, is 14 and it must be a bit difficult to be sleeping right next to his parents every night. It is clear they are poor. Leon is lucky to own a car, which he uses as a taxi service. He is building his addition out of adobe. He says primarily, that it is much warmer than the ceramic brick you see being used everywhere. Plus, it is much cheaper. Leon and his family can build the majority of the house with hardly paying for materials. But they still lack the roof. Once I started asking about the roof, they said it would cost $500 and they didn’t have that. We need a ‘padrino.’ Maybe Lucas could be the ‘padrino.’ Oh, I said I wasn’t a padrino. They were good people, though, I could tell. What to do? I was asking them for something, to share their lives, their homes, and time with me, a complete outsider, a foreigner. And they were asking me a little bit of money. I guess it wasn’t that much different.
Regardless, they described the future plans for the expansion of their home. A garage here, a living room there, an extra bedroom here for visitors such as yourself. “Make you sure you call me the next time you come, and I will pick you up at the airport and you can stay here, okay?” And then eventually a two story building with apartments and stuff, but that is way down the road, they said.
Adriana’s sister was robbed and attacked in La Paz a month ago. She was left out all night before anyone got her to a hospital. She had picked up a pulmonary infection. And while her doctors said she was going to be okay, her family needed to buy a lot of medicine to help her along the way. Adriana had bought 7 boxes of pulmonary medicine at a cost of Bs.160 ($US160). But a few days later, she suddenly died. And they were left with 5 boxes they had no use for. They were asking me if I knew a way to return them and get their money back. It might be the cost of getting that roof on. But, they will find a way. I know they will.

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