Thoreau and Bolivia

The band playing at the restaurant just outside my window is pleasant, but makes sleep impossible until midnight. I love Fortaleza. I love the sites, sounds, and smells of the city, but sometimes I miss sleeping. Three years ago in Bolivia, I slept like a rock. The mountain village I stayed in was the opposite of Fortaleza in nearly every way. Quiet, secluded, slow, and calm. Morado K’asa was my cabin in the woods.

I was the only English speaker and I didn’t speak Quechua so I spent a lot of time alone with my thoughts. The average day included six hours alone exploring, reading, and writing.

The first part of my day was spent exploring. I went every morning for a couple of hours. There were no people or responsibilities to distract me, just countless new trails and canyons. I’ve done this everywhere I’ve been, although the lack of people and noise in Morada K’asa was fun new twist. The exercise was calming, but not as much as having the majestic scenery to myself. I included some pictures, but the camera on my phone can’t capture the majesty of the mountains and canyons. Depth and shadows just don’t show well on a phone camera.

In town, the library was my headquarters. Only two people had keys and one of them had school during the day so I was alone until students arrived. I showed up to the library a few hours early every day, plus stayed during the children’s’ dinner break. I would have stayed after hours as well if my host family hadn’t expected me back. In the library it was just me, my writing, and music. My music. My iPod hadn’t held a charge for roughly four months so it was a nice treat to be able to plug it into a steady power source and hook it up to the computer speakers. It was always good to hear from old friends again. Less Than Jake and A Wilhelm Scream speak to me just as much as Salinger ever did.

In addition to listening to music, I did most of my writing in the library. I spent at least one hour a day writing. Some of the writing was stories that will make their way to this online journal, while others are stream of consciousness ramblings and darker personal experiences that will never see the light of day. It’s not just the storytelling that I enjoy but writing in and of itself. Finding the base ideas, organizing them internally, finding how they should be told, recording them, reviewing it, then tearing it apart and repeating until I’m pleased.

After writing, I read. A lot. I tried to split it evenly between fiction and non-fiction, but non-fiction can be frustrating because the ideas beg for discussion, and even without a language barrier, the man I was staying with who thought that Los Angeles is the capital of Mexico, our 51st state, was not the guy I wanted to discuss political science theories with. Luckily Ende, King (who gets a lot of criticism as a hack writer despite being responsible for Stand by Me, The Green Mile, The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption, It, and Secret Window), and Hemingway have created worlds that don’t need outside input to be fully appreciated. I would have read much more if I had more access to books in English, but I was a long way from Kansas.

Morada K’asa had nobody my age that show themselves in public, no internet, and no other 21st century distractions. It was a blessing in disguise: I was finally able to hear myself think. Morada K’asa was my cabin in the woods.


  1. Great writing, wonderful to bring Thoreau’s cabin to Bolivia. And excellent post title, definitely drew me in! I am envious of your time dedicated to writing an reading – that’s a great luxury. Best wishes!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s