Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Todos somos Stanley Yelnats

Our Urban Agriculture group has gotten off to a strong start, despite unfortunately losing three members already. We’ve become regulars in El Alto, one of the weirdest places I have ever visited. Ranging from bustling markets filled with everything under the sun (bulletproof vests, snake lip balm, car parts for days), to a level of urban sprawl I didn’t even know could exist; streets and streets filled with dogs, dirt and dust. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger though, and no one has died yet, so we’re bloody strong.

Yesterday was spent digging holes. Lots of holes. In previous days we had dug a trench, and filled it back in. Reminiscent of the popular film/book ‘Holes’ we were told to dig 30cm deep, 30cm wide. So not really like Holes, but close enough. We all adopted the Stanley Yelnats role. Yesterday though we were finally ‘let loose’, given free reign of the area. We just had to dig. Hitting things with big metal things is fun, but wears off after you realise how tough a job it actually is. You pickaxe a bit, spade a bit, sift a bit, rinse and repeat. Except we don’t rinse, we just get covered in more dirt.

It sounds dull, but trust me it’s not, it’s just my way of writing. Despite progress being slow you can always see it at the end of the day, and the women we work with are always so grateful. The only bit that’s dull is the sunburn. That’s the real killer, as you get it in the most unexpected places (e.g. your butt).

Fortunately the construction part of our project isn’t all digging holes. One of the most enjoyable parts is planting the seeds, and seeing them a couple of weeks later all big and grown up. This has been a main feature with the children we also work with, when we give each of them a small plant to take care of. Loads of fun.

For me though, the most enjoyable part is the food we get. Every day in El Alto features an apthapi, a mish mash of different types of food found around the city. Basically everyone cooks some food for 3-4 people, then just shares with everyone, people taking small handfuls of each type. It features a lot of potatoes, especially if you’re working with the cholita’s, but if you ignore the 10 different type of potato in one sitting then you’re golden.

It’s hard work, the 2 or 3 days we work in El Alto each week take everything out of you, only for you to have long days in the office. However we’re the busiest (and best) project, and you can easily see that in the amount of work we do, and the results of it. What a day.

“When you spend your whole life living in a hole, the only way you can go is up”

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