Neil Coppen

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Bolivia (part 1) Part Dickens, Part Dr Seus

December16

If not for the festive folk music, phycadellic salt pans, flamingo infested lakes, pits of sulphurous belching earth, I´d say im fond of Bolivia for its voluminous skirted Metizo´ women. These I have developed a particular infinity for they are bawdy gogo´s the lot of them -Hunched and hobbling with their plaited pig tails slung over shoulder, off kilter bowler hats-part Dickens and part Dr Seus. Pantomime Fairy Godmothers who might at any minute throw off their tattered guises and grant one their hearts desire (that or reduce them to lowly toad). Then there are the Flower sellers with their obstinate push carts,shawls, tatty hats and rotting teeth. So close in their semblance to Eliza Doolilte, that I would not flinch should one ever feel the urge to break out in - Oh Wouldn’t It Be Lovely (in Español´: Mucho chocolate para mi te comer.)

Then there are the cities ( the two I shall pay particular attention to being Patosi and La Paz). Here lives are lived at impossible gradients ,not to mention altitudes.Cobble stoned streets tipple off Andean mountain edges. At night, from roof tops, I hover amosgst washing lines and water drums, above the mazes, a beer in hand. A fine way to watch the cascading of city lights. Cities where ,depending on which side of the canyon you sit, a cup of coffee placed at the center of a table may no sooner find its way to your lap. Where time ,as with its African counterpart, has a mind and humour of its own. The type of towns where for no other reason then to confound the wearied Gringo ,laundromats vanish overnight only to re appear on opposite ends of the street. Where the Mercado De Brajos (witches markets) might make even the hardiest- muti mad- sangoma blush. Pity then the uncomfortable icons of Christ, his saintly retinue rubbing shoulders with sewn up toads, virility tokens and dried Lama foetuses. Potteresque potions of every kind, colour and custom cluttering shelves. Alas, if only prosperity, tranquility, amour and vengeance could be this easily purchased over the supermarket shelf.

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