Wednesday, February 5, 2014

End your winter doldrums – travel to Bolivia by reading Ignore the Pain

I think February is a good time to plan vacations and forget winter. How about a trip to Bolivia? If you’re unsure, why not read Ignore the Pain? Besides being exciting this book gives you a chance to do some armchair traveling to Bolivia.

Why would Bolivia interest me?
What do you like to do when you travel? See historical sites, shop for unusual items, learn about a different culture, hike a bit, and be surprised.

Bolivia fits the bill and Ignore the Pain gives you a realistic, but safe view of Bolivia.

In Ignore the Pain, you get a guided tour of attractions in Bolivia, like the Witches’ Market of La Paz. You’ll not only see native women in black bowler hats and layers of brightly covers skirts sell llama fetuses for offerings to the gods, but also smell the aromas of the city. (Note: Not all are pleasant.) You’ll also travel across the austere, almost Mars-like landscape of the Altiplano to see the exotic stone columns in the Valley of the Moon and the shores of Lake Poop√≥, long a summer nesting spot for flamingos and now polluted by mining runoff.

Sara is your guide. Of course, her view of Iglesia de San Francisco in La Paz might be a little different that that of the average tourist. Someone determined to kill her is chasing her across the church’s roof. The description of the roof is realistic – I’ve been there.

Why read Ignore the Pain before you plan a trip to Bolivia?
There’s a reason Ignore the Pain is a thriller. Bolivia is a poor country with severe problems. Sara gets into the midst of these problems because of her past history and her current assignment as a consultant on public health issues.

Bolivia is the third largest producer of coca, the raw material for cocaine, and coca is everywhere in Bolivia. If you don’t believe me, look at tea bag cover I saved from my trip to Bolivia. Coca tea is available in most restaurants.

But don’t jump to conclusions. the use of coca in Bolivia is often logical. Thus in Ignore the Pain, Sara learns laborers in the silver mines of Potos√≠ carry little food or water into the mines. In order to endure the pain caused by thirst, hunger, and heavy exertion at a high altitude (13,000 feet), they chew coca leaves. The active ingredients in coca leaves are stimulants, which help users ignore pain. Those facts are also basis for the title of the novel.

Bolivia suffers from grinding poverty. Over 6% of the children born in Bolivia die before five years of age. Instead of reciting statistics, I had Sara relate a story to her colleague Lew in Ignore the Pain. Sara’s story is based on the explanation an artist in the La Paz area gave me for a picture seen everywhere in Bolivia in 2006.

She (Sara) pointed to a drawing of three Bolivian women in bowler hats with pigtails down their backs…. “This picture was emblazoned on all sorts of items in the markets of La Paz during my previous trip to Bolivia. When I visited a studio by the Valley of the Moon, an artist claimed he knew the story behind this drawing.”

Lew stopped shuffling papers and cocked his head. Sara continued. “He said when poor women in rural areas have twins, they give the smaller infant to the mountain gods. Supposedly this picture depicts the sad scene of a mother and her female relatives walking up the mountain to make their sacrifice.”

“Wouldn’t happen. Bolivia is a Catholic country.”

“That’s what I said. The artist laughed at me and claimed the women in the rural villages knew from experience they couldn’t produce enough milk for two children. And one healthy child was better than two dead ones.” Sara paused, “Don’t know if the story is true, but it would be interesting to collect data on perinatal mortality and the incidence of multiple births. We might be surprised by the results.”

I hope you’ve decided to blast out of your winter doldrums by reading Ignore the Pain. Then you can decide if you want to visit Bolivia.