Category Archives: Travel

To Live, To Love and To Learn To Let Go

That age old saying. You have to learn to live, to love and to learn to let go. It’s a funny saying. Because so much of it is up to interpretation. These days the one of these things I find the easiest is the letting go. But I feel that maybe sometimes you can let go too much. And sometimes you can let go of the things you probably should be holding on to. At what point do we start to find ourselves in the position where we let go of things that are just too hard and walk away when we should probably stick it out?

My life in the last ten years has been so transient that everything comes and goes and learning to let go was a coping skill that you needed to develop to survive the heartbreak of constantly making new friends, only to have them leave, or meeting the most amazing guy and having a fling for a week and then having to leave. Of falling in love with a place and it’s people, and then having to leave. It has gotten to the point where I am so used to someone leaving or to me leaving something, I feel so comfortable with this trend. I now continue subconsciously choosing men, friends or situations that are leaving because it is the pattern that I know and can deal with. But what if I didn’t? What would happen if I chose things that were more permanent? Maybe it is time to let go of the notion of temporary. To let go of the belief that I need to protect myself from all of the impermanence. Maybe it is time to stick with something for a change? However, within reason.

The idea of starting everything a fresh is quite daunting. But as I sit looking at all of the things that I need to do to get my life on track I feel like I am sitting in front of a giant pile of Lego blocks. I get to choose which blocks I want to use to build my life and my story. If I don’t like the colour, or the block doesn’t fit, I toss it back in the pile and find another. I don’t have to pull down an entire house to get rid of one broken brick. I can cull those broken bricks as I go. It is an interesting situation to be in.

I have realised that once I choose my bricks, I also need to cement them in or the house will ultimately fall down. There is no letting go of things that are too hard this time and running away. It is time to make better choices from the start and that is hard. That is hand choosing every single brick that I believe will make the best house and placing it in the best position. Sometimes it might mean turfing out the pretty coloured brick for one that will be more structurally sound and it is always hard to get rid of those ones, because they are so pretty and alluring.  But game on! Let’s do this. It is time to make better choices. It is time to open myself up to the pain that comes with not walking away from anything and everything that might be good for me and clinging on to those things that aren’t.

The valuable life, the one that is full of real, deep love, the one where you feel content with every single day you live. It doesn’t come from a place of being afraid and letting go of everything that might hurt even a little. It is about facing that fear and saying ‘shove off’ and then choosing to stick it out no matter how scary it might get. No matter how afraid you are of the hurt. Because while the minor highs of minor commitment to anything will feed the entertainment meter for short periods of time, it will never permanently fuel the soul like something deeper that stems from actually having to stick it out and work for it. It all starts with a choice. So which block are you going to choose first?

 

 

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Shit I Learned In Bolivia

There was definitely no shortage of shit to learn in Bolivia. Some of it sad, some of it angering and yet some of it hilarious, entertaining and interesting. It is a country that has had it’s ups and downs and then some more after that. Here is some shit I learned while I was there.

Bolivia used to have access to the sea

Well once upon a time, before Chile decided that the bird shit for fertilizer meant big dollar signs and that they could just essentially go to war with Bolivia and take that area of land and call it their own. Needless to say, Bolivia is now landlocked and this is one of the contributing factors to it being one of the poorer countries in South America. No access to the sea, means having to transport goods through another country overland and that is going to cost. Another win for Chile.

The dollar sign was created in Bolivia

$$$ Yep! That one. Back in the day when the mint in Potosi was working at exceptionally high output (well for back in those days when horses were operating the machinery) they used to brand the coins with symbols that signified that they were indeed minted in Potosi. These symbols consisted of the letters P T S and I merged into one symbol. The S and I merged together were what originally gave rise to the dollar symbol. Well according to the mint in Potosi…. the internet is still out with those decisions.

The Bolivian Presidential term is supposed to be limited to two terms.

I say supposed to be because the current, corrupt-as-shit president decided that if he changed the name of the country, then he could run again for a third term because he was president of a whole other country before. The locals obviously got pissed off with this as they don’t want some corrupt-as-shit wanker running their country and had a referendum they referred to as 21F because it happened on the 21st February. The majority decided they were against changing the constitution to allow dictators the capability to take over the country, but as dictators do, they take over and don’t listen regardless. There are still quite a lot of protests happening with this, but mostly they fall on deaf ears.

A 21F protest. ‘Bolivia says no’.

A man’s prowess is to be expressed through knitting

That’s right, you heard correctly. Knitting. When these boys are young, they have to get out their knitting needles and start practicing making these knitted hats that they use to demonstrate to the ladies how skilled they are. The single chaps wear different hats to those that have married, however, if ya boy can’t knit, he is gonna have some shocking lady problems. In that he ain’t gonna have one.

The Tiwanaku gave rise to the Incas

The Tiwanaku people originated on the southern parts of Lake Titicaca, which now is much smaller than what it was before as the ruins that used to be on the water are now a substantial way inland. The people consisted of different groups that spoke different languages, two of these being the Aymara and the Quechua. Today you can still see small groups of the Aymara’s living on the lake. The have built fabulous reed islands and have an interesting culture. The Quechuan speakers, however, went off and became and entity unto themselves. They became what we know now as the Incas. Majority of the building structures and styles of the Incas demonstrate a knowledge developed from the time of the Tiwanaku as can been observed by looking at the structures from both periods.

The glorious ruins of Tiwanaku

The Spanish screwed up a few words in this hood too

That famous place that they sing about where music and passion are always in fashion…. yeah that is right, the Copacabana…. that is a word that derives from Aymara. But of course the Spanish can’t pronounce ‘kota kahuana’ and butchered it like everything else.

Other fun word meanings

Lake Titicaca. Titi in Quechua means puma, and caca translates to rock. So Lake Titicaca is essentially a puma rock. Which is somewhat odd. How they ever knew what the shape of a lake that size was in astounding. The lake itself is shaped like a puma, so it makes it somewhat believable. The jury still isn’t on this one though, as there are many different ideas of where the name came from including more Spanish butchering of indigenous words. The truth? Nobody really knows what it used to be called before. There aren’t enough artefacts to tell us.

Dinosaurs

After a very long journey, through a very long valley all the way from Cochabamba to Torotoro to learn about dinosaurs, I learned a great deal about how they train tour guides…. in fact I am pretty sure that they don’t.

“So um, how were they preserved?” I ask.

“Well the dinosaurs just walked here and then over time the mud dried and it got hard.” Ummmm….. and then?

It is fair to say that we had a rather beautiful, humorous and not so informative journey through here. Who am I kidding? I didn’t learn shit about dinosaurs! (Chuckles internally at the thought of making tour guide consistently awkward by asking too many scientific questions in Spanish that he didn’t seem to know the answers to.)

Dinosaur footprints. Big dinosaur (from deduction). Don’t ask me how they got there and stayed there. Who knows? Lol.

Bolivia! Incredible country. Some of the most incredible nature that I have come across and somewhere that I would definitely return to and explore some more if I ever have the time and money!

 

 

 

 

What I Reckon: My Loathing Hatred Of Airports

Airports. Once upon a time so luxurious and lovely and flying was such a wonderful thing and blah blah blah. In this day and age of ‘terrorism’, low cost carriers, and the cheap flight battles, we have gotten to a point where flying is no longer a source of wonder and joy, but a pain in the arse. In the last two and a half months, I have been 9 times on a plane. In that time I have been screened with baggage about 3 times on average per flight, I have been patted down four times (cause lets face it, I must have magnetic tits when I am walking through the thing wearing practically nothing) and aggressively prodded in the pubic bone during manual search (ummmm…. if you ask someone to stop publicly prodding you in the vagina in an airport does this make you a terrorist with something to hide or must we endure it to get on the flight? Or do we need to subject ourselves to gloved-finger vaginal searches as well?).

Not only is the screening process a pain in the arse, but now baggage has also become one of these ordeals that you wind up paying out the arse for. I find myself standing in a queue with all my heavy toiletries in my jacket pockets, a computer down the back of my pants and all manner of other heavy things jammed in my bra while I am subjected to the weighing of hand luggage, by one of those transportable scales at the actual fucking gate. Don’t check people when they approach the front desk. Get them at the gate and if they are a hundred grams over tell them they have to check their bag and pay sixty fucking dollars for it.  Not only that but once upon a time it was ten kilograms and you could get a reasonable amount of stuff with you. Now it is seven kilograms, which is pretty much enough luggage to take a wheelie suitcase with not much at all in it. If I take my computer in that case, game over. Well unless I am graciously hiding it somewhere in my pants under a bulky jacket.

Airlines do not give a fuck about customer service these days either. It is perfectly acceptable to leave someone in the airport waiting for three and a half hours for a delayed flight, because ‘who fucking cares if you have somewhere you need to be?’ Oh and even better, those times when you have problems checking in online and when you arrive to the airport they kindly inform you that there is no space on the flight for you because you didn’t check in on time. ‘Well I fucking tried, but it’s your fault I am not checked in, it is your computer malfunction and I bought this ticket eight weeks ago!” Nah. Too bad. You find yourself standing in a line waiting to see if somebody else doesn’t show up so that you can get on the flight that they have oversold that you have already paid for. Fucking furious.

Or those times where you are sat on a plane on the runway without information for four hours while they faff about trying to cross reference a passenger list with luggage, which let’s face it, shouldn’t take four hours. Then the airline has the nerve to say ‘oh yeah, we can sell you some food’. People on that plane were going to cause a riot if their hangry selves didn’t get fed and as such the airline after facing a hoard of crazy customers decided to offer one snack and one drink complementary per person. By the time I got up to go and get my snack, it had gotten even more out of hand. It was like watching a new teacher try and manage thirty out of control teenagers as passengers took whatever they felt like from the cart that was more than just a sandwich and a drink. “Oh, but sir…..”. But guess what, sir doesn’t give a fuck and you clearly have no authority as to say no to him so he’s taking his five chocolate bars and four sandwiches and he’s off. As it was I wound up with two sandwiches, a chocolate bar and a drink. I do not feel bad. Whatever.

And don’t even get me started on people who walk slowly with their wheelie fucking suitcases in everyone’s way and taking up both sides of the escalator instead of being polite so that those of us in a hurry and who suffer crippling impatience can beat you to the immigration counter. The amount of people that I ran down in the Stansted Airport in London because of them being slow and in my way I can’t count. But then there was something about London, and London Airports especially, that transformed me into the largest kind of arsehole there ever was that lived.

Anyway, my point is, I hate airports. Fucking hate them. It is the part of travel that I loathe the most. I would rather take a bus and for the most part, I have done most of my cross-continental travels on the bus. Planes are only a necessity when going across water. The people who work there hate their lives and are rude. Security is a bitch at the best of times and depending on where you are, they can be so rigid that it takes forever. Even flight attendants these days seem to hate their jobs. The glamourous and fabulous experiences of the past are dead. Now everybody gets herded like cattle in a transport van, all jammed in at once into tiny seats with their knees around their heads so that they can sit uncomfortably and hungrily for hours without food and water unless you buy a ten dollar box of crackers or water, or manage to get an empty plastic bottle through that you can fill with hot water in the bathrooms because the arseholes don’t have a cold tap anywhere to encourage you to buy more plastic water bottles that end up in the oceans you fly over so we can watch the penguins choke on them. Exactly. Fuck the airport. The only good thing about it is that after dealing with two of them, you can leave for a while and go explore somewhere new until you have to go back again to go home. Ugh.

 

The Trials Of Returning From Travel

I’m not going to lie. At times in the last month I have felt like a wild animal backed into a corner. Trapped. And I just want to fight my way out and run off. The truth is, it is a lot of confronting things you don’t like, that don’t resonate with you anymore, and doing things that you don’t want to do. Yes, I know, life contains all manner of things that you don’t want to do that you have to, including finding a job and somewhere to live. They so rightly term it ‘adulting’. But right now, I just don’t want to deal with any of it. I am throwing the dummy out of the pram big time.

When I first got back I had all these thoughts of how I was going to find a lovely house and make myself a compost and vegetable garden with herbs and lettuce. I was going to throw fabulous dinner parties for my friends and make amazing food from around the world with country-themed meals. I was going to be zen-as-fuck and meditate everyday, do yoga for stretching my back even though I hate it. I was going to jump on Tinder, go speed dating and meet some lovely guy and message people to catch up and make loads of new friends and life would be smashingly wonderful.

Instead, I find myself fighting to get paperwork completed so that I can get money or actually apply for a job. I am definitely nowhere near zen, I live in a state of perpetual annoyance because of how much I have to do, and none of these involve socializing, cooking good food or gardening. I did however start Tindering and two weeks into it I am bored as shit. I don’t have any energy to put forward to make a decent first impression, which let’s face it (especially for anyone who has actually met me), is difficult at the best of times. I am too tired to even want to get up  out of bed in the morning and do anything and massively snowed down with a list of things to do that is longer than my forearm and never seems to get any shorter. The mountains of shit and things pile up around me and I feel smothered by the whole lot of it. It is too much to organise, too much to deal with and I have gone into total shut down mode with it all.

The other thing with getting set up is the general bullshit bureaucracy of it all. It is incredibly difficult for some members of organisations to believe that ‘no, you didn’t have a house and somewhere to live permanently for the last year and a half’ and ‘no, you didn’t have a phone number’, and ‘no, you haven’t lived the conventional life that fits into their very square-shaped mould, and what are you supposed to do if you’re a lovely dodecahedron instead?’

I have spent much of my time fighting with organizations who do not have policies for people that live anything other than the very standard straight line of expected life. How ’bout you ask me to list ever single place I have lived in the last ten years and then question me about why there is a gap? Or why there is a gap in my resume? Or why all of my life dates don’t line up in a nice continuum of the expected? Because I travelled dipshits! I choose this! Why can’t you accept that I chose unemployment and homelessness for a year and a half? Fuck me! Ok, here, just have my childhood address to fill gaps for the sake of it even though I wasn’t in the country! Stupidity!

That and I am fast becoming morning coffee buddies with the JP’s that work in the Civic Centre because I am in there so frequently getting documents signed after I am emailed to be informed I need ‘yet another document’. Why? “Oh no, if you work in another country we don’t consider this as demonstrating that you understand anything about how that same job works in Australia. You can go back to being a ‘provisional/trainee’ type staff again. Oh but we do need like ten different police checks from every country you may have set foot in for all of your life. And more papers. And copies of this and that and this and that. Also stupidity.

And then there is house hunting, trying to pack up all of my things into boxes and figuring out how I am going to move it, job hunting, especially when I can’t get my registration to work, fighting with Centrelink, frequent doctors appointments for health problems and that overwhelming feeling that you have not enough money and not enough time to get all of it done. A part of me just wants to kick back off to South America where I don’t have to give a shit about fifty million bits of paperwork and where everything seems to be just that little bit easier than it feels right now every time I open my eyes in the morning and think to myself ‘Fuck me, I have to deal with all of this shit again”.

Hopefully within a couple of weeks, some of these things will start getting sorted and then I can stop juggling fifteen balls at once. Then maybe I can have a friend over and we can share a meal on my cardboard box table of Uber Eats because I am too poor to equip my house. Until then, sorry to any person who has to deal with me and be in my company whilst receiving yet another email from somewhere telling me that they can’t help me and that I need to supply some other kind of paperwork. I promise that in a couple of months, I might be a bit better settled and less stressed.

Foods I Miss From Around The World

One of the biggest joys of travel for me is food. Oddly though when people ask me what foods I miss from home, I tell them none really. I don’t really miss any of it. Most of what constitutes “Australian foods” are candies, chocolate biscuits and all round unhealthy shit.

After time spent in Canada and the UK, I can safely say that a Tim Horton’s chilli is probably the only thing I miss from there. But despite my adversity to Western foods, there are specific foods from other parts of the world that blow my mind that I do occasionally get cravings for and that I cannot replicate and cannot get in the authentic manner where I am.

Fish and sweet potato puree from an amazing restaurant called La Sirena d’Juan, Mancora, Peru. My god….. foodgasm!

So one can imagine my excitement when I am walking around downtown Melbourne and in the market I find a stand that sells Burek, an Albanian pastry most commonly filled with ricotta and spinach or minced meat. I am well excited! And gözleme from Turkey! Momo’s from Nepal! Arepa de choclo from Colombia! And I am now well excited. I even managed to find an amazing woman who was so incredibly lovely selling pre-mixed packets of Indian spices to make things like Goan fish. Authentic Goan fish. Not the shitty, watered-down, westernised, jar sauce rubbish that tastes nothing like curry from actual India. I’m talking the ones that will blow your head off and still be considered “mild”. Real. Curry. Mmmmm…..

Menu del dia from the side of the road in Cali, Colombia…. approximate cost, 3 USD.

I miss my standard “menu del día” from Colombia with my fried plantains and chicharrón. I miss real Mexican Tacos made with maíz tortillas and not the shitty Old El Paso box crap with crunchy tortilla shells. Not once did I see those in Mexico. I miss a proper ceviche from Peru with those little toasted corn kernels of white corn on the side…. Any authentic empanada from anywhere South American. Venezuelan arepas. Pad Thai cooked in Thailand. Tom kha kai….

Traditional Peruvian causa with passionfruit juice.

Mussaman curry. Mango sticky rice. Actual Vietnamese Phó from Vietnam. Amok Curry from Cambodia. Egyptian falafel…. Ugh…. All of this is making me hungry as I write. Proper gelati from Italy and those little tortellini things that float around in the beef broth from Bologna. Norwegian brown cheese. All cakes and hot chocolate from the Republic of Cacao in Ecuador…..

The world’s best hot chocolate from the Republica de Cacao, Quito, Ecuador…. oh and the cake! This was dinner every single night for a week. Oops.

As is, half of my backpack coming home was filled with Ecuadorian Cacao paste and packets of Sancocho soup mix from Colombia. Throw in some David’s tea from Canada and an authentic Indian chai…. Ugh….. Take me back!

The most amazing Nicaraguan ice cream sandwich ever!

Anyway, the point is, I managed to find places in Melbourne that sell these things or ingredients to make these things authentically. And upon this discovery, I was the happiest I had been in a long time. Because if I can’t go to the food, at least the food can come to me and remind me of all of the good times I had with such foods. Venezuelan arepas dripping down my chin as I drunkenly smashed one down in the street. The pupusas I ate every day in El Salvador on the beach. The falafels I ordered on my own with my very limited Arabic on the side of the road in Egypt, despite arguments with my guide. The targines we ate every single day in Morocco with couscous and Morrocan BBQ in a dingy market. All the days I sat with locals, the only white person in the place munching down on Indonesian bakso or ayam Goreng.

Indonesian bakso…… mmmm…..

The food opens doors to my memories. It allows me to keep them alive through my taste buds and the connections they have to events. I expected to find some, but never this much here. And now that I have, I’m excited to get in the kitchen and cook. It is my own little time machine at home, when jumping on a plane cannot suffice. And for now, it will have to do.

What I Reckon: Couples in Dormitories

I have met some very cool couples travelling. Couples that are their own people that can interact with others and make friends and better yet, can for the most part, respectfully keep their hands off each other in public. I love these people. These people are great. What I don’t love are young, needy couples who think it’s ok to treat a shared dormitory with ten other people in it like their own private bedroom.

Last week I rolled into Cochabamba at 8pm and was ushered to a dorm room where I was shown to a bed one meter away from a completely STARK FUCKING NAKED couple that were fondling each other and whispering sweet nothings in each other’s ears while I am trying to awkwardly organise my stuff and go to bed. The most confrontational part was when I roll over and open my eyes to bear witness to one hairy male arse crack escaping from under the sheet cause ‘guess what mate?  Single beds and single bed sheets were made for one fucking person so either put some fucking clothes on or go to your own bed!’

Thinking that after a day I had escaped this, I moved on to the next city, but low and behold, two cities later, adjacent bed, same naked fucking couple. Do they get that in their own little world of neediness that they are making every other person around them uncomfortable? They also barely talk to anyone else. They don’t need to. They have each other… How adorable and completely unhealthy.

So they left, and even better, my mate and I walk into the room where we’re staying and two more couples who don’t know how to stop touching each other have moved on in. Great. As it is I write this in the darkness to the lovely musical intonation of people kissing each other. But you know, they put a sheet up so nobody can see and this apparently acts as a magical fucking sound barrier as well. And given the head of my bed and theirs line up, I don’t have a magical sound barrier. By the light of iPad, I can see and hear fucking everything. And you know what? I’m sick of it!

Some people call me a prude. Some call me unromantic because they are young people in love. The fact is, I don’t care if you’re young and can’t keep your hands off each other, just do it somewhere else. Get a private fucking room like all of the respectful couples I mentioned above do so they don’t annoy people or do what my ex and I used to do; kiss each other goodnight and go to our own fucking beds to sleep. I’m not so fucking needy that I need to cling to you in the middle of the night on a top bunk that’s narrow with no railings at the risk of falling out or sleeping like shit just so that I can show ‘I love you’. I already trashed my back and neck sleeping in a single bed with my boyfriend at 18 in a room on our own at uni. Why you’d want to do it in even a shitter dorm beds is beyond me.

But then I’m a loveless old hag with respect for the personal comfort of others and situational awareness. What the fuck would I know?

 

 

Shit I Learned In The Potosí Mines

I was picked up this morning by a very funny local man by the name of Antonio Banderas. He tells me that there is the famous Antonio Banderas of Spain who sings (?? I thought he was an actor) and then there is famous Antonio Banderas of Potosí who dances (him).

We first went to his office where we were equipped with sexy red pants and jackets, helmets and torches, ready for a bit of industrial spelunking. On the way of course, we had to stop and acquire some supplies. Such supplies consist of coca leaves, a 96% bottle of booze, and snacks to give as presents to the miners. Why you ask does a person need a 96% bottle of alcohol in a mine, well, we will get to that later.

Antonio Banderas and his dick dynamite

So a bit of background history. Locals lived here for thousands of years happily. The Spanish rock up with their guns and evil trickery and take over pretty much the entire continent. Upon the discovery of a boat load of silver ore underground, some of which being up to (oddly) 96% pure, they decided to base their entire South American economic operations out of Potosí. Problem though. Who is actually going to work in these unsafe mines in shocking conditions for the profitability of the Spanish? Certainly not the Spanish.

According to Señor Banderas, up to eight million local Quechua died working in these mines from either accidents or lung failure from the silica dust. They were forced to work there as slaves. My fact checker journalist friend finds a mere hundred thousand in comparison on the internet but no doubt these numbers have been fudged a bit along the way by both parties. As it stands today, there are 7,500 people still working across 40 different cooperative mines in the area and there are on average approximately three deaths per month. One of the last they had to haul out in pieces after he exploded himself with dynamite.

A derailed cart for transporting silver through the mines

In an attempt to protect themselves from the evils of the mines, there are several rituals which miners undertake to ask Pachamama and their devil friend they call Tio, for sparing. At first we throw coca leaves and some alcohol on the ground at the mine entrance to ask Pachamama for her blessings and then we enter.

Back in the days of the Spanish, when the Quechua would refuse to enter the mines, the Spanish lied to them and told them that unless they went and pulled as much silver out of the ground as possible that they would seriously piss of the God of the underworld, also known as Satan, and that he would rain fucking hell down like you’ve never seen. All lies of course, but what this started was super interesting.

Scattered throughout the mine are devil statues of varying sizes that they call Tio. Tio means uncle in Spanish, but it is more likely the case that they were trying to call him ‘Dios’ without the capacity to be able to pronounce the letter ‘d’, thus ‘tios’. Each Tio has his hands on his knees in sitting position with an optimistically giant erection sticking out from between his legs. The ritual proceeds that one gives coca leaves and alcohol to each hand, to protect the hands, to each feet, to protect the feet and lots for the penis for “lots and lots of sex sex sex!” Antonio Banderas tells me. Of course he is joking, the significance of the giant schlong is fertility and they make the biggest offering to it in hope that the mine will be rich with ore and give back ample dinero. Antonio then also sparks up a doobie, has a few puffs and inserts this cigarette into Tio’s mouth so he gets the trifector of all vices of miners. Most of the Tios have black noses for this and black lips. This is still something that is performed in devout manner to ask for protection and safety every single day in disregard to occupational health and safety measures. Despite losing both his father and grandfather to lung disease from working in the mines, Antonio still didn’t wear a mask.

One of the many ‘Tios’ scattered throughout the mines

What he did do however was sing the Indiana Jones theme song quite consistently and recommend that we use hands to crawl like ‘Spider-Mans, Spider-Womens and Spider-Pigs’. I can say that I not so graciously attempted to follow this advice as I squeezed my way through some of the small cracks where we observed the miners working in their actual conditions with hammers to break up stone, shovelling rocks into carts and pushing them along the tracks. These days the ore is lucky to contain ten percent and as such, not a lot of money is to be made from such a gruelling process.

They are however a proud people. Proud of their jobs and proud of their history. I can tell you this right now, I don’t think you could pay me enough money in the world to make the daily sacrifices that these men make, with their lives and their long term health, just to sustain their families. But then I was fortunate enough to be born with such a choice. Many of them don’t and come from generations of miners like Antonio Banderas. He did something smart though. He learned to speak English and started doing tours of the mines.

One of the tunnels used for transporting silver in the mines.

“Six years”, he will proudly tell you he has been speaking English. “Fuck is the first English word I learned”, he chuckles as he adds in “fucking tourists, jejeje”. He is one of the most friendly and jovial men you will meet, and very, very funny. But his face takes a hard worn look to it as he discusses his friends that died in the five years he was working in the mines as a miner. A reality that every single man in the mine faces.

It’s all fun and games crawling around a mine as a tourist, in all your gear, with your helmet, but at the end of the day, that’s what we are. Tourists in the unfortunate lives of others. These men work in appalling conditions that will either lead them to rapid accidental death or the eventual death by age forty from the constant inhalation of silica dust. It is hard, dirty, and completely unregulated in what we would consider a western standard. Nobody here survives in the end. They just accept that it’s their card and get about it until they die, with the exception of the odd ones like Antonio and a few others who defy this and find work elsewhere. It certainly gave me an appreciation for the options I have for work in my life. At least I don’t have to die to provide for my family for the short working span of life I would have working here.