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The Best Photo I Have Ever Taken

Shortly after arriving in Bolivia as a Peace Corps Trainee, I was sent to the site of Tim, a Volunteer who had been in-country for a number of years. He worked in the most rural area imaginable, with no water or electricity, and in the midst of people who lived as they had for hundreds of years.

Tim took me on a hike through a nearby river valley to visit the local communities and get a taste of traditional Bolivian life. It was during this trip that I took this photo. Here is an excerpt from my journal:

"We soon parted company with our four Bolivian guides. When we asked them where they were going, they said they might just hang out in the valley for a day or two before returning home -- y'know, for kicks.

"We, meanwhile, started walking upstream on our way home. About half an hour into our return hike -- just at the moment when I was looking around at the lush vegetation, marveling at the extreme geography, and thinking 'we must be miles from the nearest human being' -- we encountered a band of strolling minstrels. Really. I mean, there we were, nowhere near anywhere, and around the corner come eight slightly inebriated guys with flutes and guitars who, upon spotting us, immediately launched into some traditional campesino ditties for our benefit.

They played a couple of songs, and Tim chatted with them before they lurched off downstream. Apparently they lived in a small community about five miles away and were headed for another village approximately six hours down the valley. That had (don't ask me how) caught wind of a big party brewing in Other Community, so had grabbed their instruments and coca leaves and set off to revel. No food or water, mind you -- they left on their journey armed with only coca leaves and flutes. I was beginning to like this country."

Posted on March 26, 2003 to Storytelling