Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I've had enough of the strikes

At the end of my last post I mentioned that there had been strikes again– this is pretty common in Bolivia and something that I haven't really explained because I don't completely understand it myself. It seems hard to imagine that when people aren't happy with the way things are going they just completely stop doing their job– yes, we have those sorts of strikes in America, but luckily they don't go on for days and days and days. And it isn't every single working group. In Bolivia, it seems like there is a strike everyday– and there probably is, although not always here in Sucre.

Yesterday morning when I had to get off the bus and walk the last couple kilometers into Sucre it didn't seem like that big of a deal, it was in a way sort of humorous. Classic Bolivia, I thought. In that moment, I wasn't really thinking about the bigger picture, it seemed like it was just targeted at the tourist buses coming in and out of Sucre because that was the way it was effecting me. The blockade was literally a kilometer plus long, with dozens of trucks crisscrossed across the road making it impossible for anyone who wasn't on foot or bicycle to navigate their way through. I later found out that no one can get in or out of Sucre– all the major roads have been blocked with the trucks. This is what I understand about this particular strike: there are two cement trucking companies in Bolivia, and one trucks 49% of the cement, and the other 51%. The company with only 49% wants the cement loads to be split 50/50. So they are striking.

This is the bottom of the Pampa Aceituno road– the trucks make
it impossible for anyone to get in or out.
It wasn't until this morning when I realized the depth of the situation when I tried to get to Pampa Aceituno and I couldn't because the same strike was going on. In order to get to Pampa Aceituno I usually take a micro, which drops me off at a corner where I wait with the children until some sort of vehicle rambles by and we all climb into the back and start the journey up the hills. Unfortunately, the start of this dirt road is in the middle of the blockade– meaning that no vehicles can get in or out of Pampa Aceituno, meaning the kids who live in Sucre but go to school in Pampa Aceituno have no way to school besides walking an hour and a half uphill to school, only to have a few hours of classes before turning around and walking back down. It is so frustrating that these truck drivers are still protesting– by doing so they are taking away children's education; if they can't get to school how are they going to learn? Additionally, they are making it extremely difficult or impossible for people to go to work, which means they may not be able to put food on the table for their kids that night. These kids and parents who can't go to school or to their job aren't the ones that should be punished for the 49/51 cement truck divide– so why are the drivers doing this? They are doing more harm for others than good for themselves. And yes, I understand that this is there way of trying to get attention from the government or whomever controls the dispersion of cement, but I wish they would think of a better/more clever way of doing so.

This morning Lise and I tried to get into Pampa Aceituno. We took the micro like we normally do, but got off when it couldn't go any further because it reached the first tractor trailer truck parked
The empty road to Pampa Aceituno
across the road. We walked to the Pampa Aceituno turnoff– why we did this I am not really sure because we both knew that we wouldn't be able to get up to the library and school. One of my students was there with her mom and younger sister, hoping that a truck would come down the road and just turn around and go back up. Lise and I waited for a few minutes before deciding it was hopeless and walked back to where we could catch a micro back to BiblioWorks' office. On the way we passed a Pampa Aceituno teacher who asked us if there were any vehicles waiting at the bottom. We said no, and she told us that she would just have to walk again– yesterday it took her an hour and half to reach the school. I am getting really frustrated with these situations because I only have three weeks left in Bolivia– and I feel like I have barely spent any time here, especially in the Pampa Aceituno library. The first week I was here, there were strikes and I couldn't go into the library– since then there have been numerous holidays or celebrations– so there is no school. This Wednesday and Thursday are both holidays so I won't be able to go then, and Friday the teachers aren't expecting anyone– I don't think we can just turn up unannounced. This is so frustrating because I love spending time in the library and school and have so many things I want to do with the kids– but so little time. There is still plenty of work to do in the office, I am staying busy and happy, but it is hard when I have all these projects that I have started and want to finish. I had all the supplies to complete my Juan y los frijoles magicos project today, but I guess it will have to wait until next week, if the strikes are over by then.

Like I mentioned earlier, these strikes happen everyday, and we don't know when this particular strike is going to end. I guess the strikes must have some effect since upset workers or groups continue to use them, but there must be a point when they just don't even turn the government's head anymore. It is hard for me to grasp the situation– I don't understand why the police aren't there making them move their trucks– it is just such a different world here when it comes to enforcing laws, regulations, and politics. I don't understand it at all.

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