When we made our way to Cuevas we stopped a truck by the street that would take us with him to the nature reserve a few kilometers down the road. (Yep, it is like hitchhiking, but they will usually expect some money!) He was really interested in us and asked questions about where we were from, how much money we need for our travels, how much things cost in Europe, what the weather was like, and so on.
He also told us a lot about himself – he drove a truck from Potosí to Santa Cruz and back. It would take him a few days. His wife was back home in Potosí and had a small kiosk, she had to take care of. He said it was not possible for them to live off just of his salary, so she had to find something to do for her. He said people in Bolivia wouldn’t earn a lot of money, only those that went to school and would now sit in an office.
It was a really different world for him to see us travelers, spending a fortune every day – a fortune at least for him, doing fun things. And a much more different world when I told him that for a normal dish in a regular restaurant in Europe you pay up to € 10. The things that most surprised him, though, were regarding the weather differences that I tried to explain to him. That we had winter when they had summer and vice versa and that there was no such thing as rainy season for us. It could rain/snow any day of the year. ”So it rains every day where you are from?” – No, but it could. It was really hard for him to understand that in winter it was cold day and night and in summer it was warm day and night. (In the altiplano it gets really cold at night but days, especially when the sun is out, are extremely hot.) But the hardest hit the fact that in the Northern parts as well as in the Southern parts of the world there is no night in summer and no day in winter, at least in the far North/South and otherwise there would only be really short days or nights. He agreed that in Bolivia the length of the day would change a little indeed depending on the season, but he wouldn’t have thought that it could change that dramatically anywhere else. Living so close to the Equator you only notice small changes.
Despite having this eye-opening conversation, I knew this man had a good life. He had a job, enough food to eat and a family that loved him. He probably even had a nice phone and a big TV screen at home. He didn’t have a lot of education, though – probably like most of his fellow countrymen – and didn’t know a lot about the world, but he was interested and took the chance to find out about new things he didn’t know. He was a sincere guy, told us about what he liked and what he didn’t like. And when we got to Cuevas he helped us to find the entrance of the nature reserve. Education doesn’t define you in any way. You can still be a polite, helping and selfless person.
What differentiates you from people lacking education is that you are much more critical and ask yourself, “Does this even make sense?” when someone tells you a story. I could have told this guy anything and he would be the first person to believe me. Not because he is stupid but because no one told him otherwise before. One great (or not so great) example is a Bolivian guy we also met in Samaipata. He claimed that Europe didn’t have a jungle like the Amazon due to all the contamination of the environment, so basically it is our fault we don’t have one. And that throwing your garbage out in the nature is the same as keeping it in your pocket to throw it away at home, because well, the garbage does already exist, so no difference to the pollution of the earth. All of us know this is not true at all. Some people here although, are missing the necessary education to understand the most basic concepts in the world’s society and I think that is one of the biggest issues in those countries. Education is limited which doesn’t give most people the ability to even build an interest to inform themselves about a topic.
As a result, in my opinion there is most of the corruption in those countries. The people don’t know much about it or don’t care. When most of the population are blindly following and believing “facts” that are being told to them by someone “from above” without questioning them, makes it even easier for rulers to do what they want to do. And the common people won’t have anything left to do but to live their everyday life without really knowing what is actually going on.
What I want to say with this post is that unlike this man we are all extremely lucky to be provided with education since we are a child and that everybody can pursue the career he or she wants, without having rich parents to pay for school. I think we should all take advantage of this. We know much more of the world than most other people in the world. This is a privilege we often don’t recognize as children, but it is never too late. So don’t be lazy and blindly believe things someone seemingly knowledgeable is telling you; inform yourself!