Today, I wake up in a nice bed in a pension in Santa Cruz de Bolivia. This is Bolivia’s boomtown, strongest growth of them all. Towns that used to be rich in colonial times are very poor now and vice versa. On the roof are my clothes and I think the morning sun already dried them. I will get them after my coffee and I’ll see they are dry indeed. I make a cup of strong coffee and take pictures of the kid and the cat that were around. I decide to walk around the city today. The people I see on the street look friendly and calm. In a park I see a bump sitting on a bench and I talk to him. He tells me he used to live in the USA but returned to Bolivia because he’s old now. He is sixty-seven years old and lives on the streets. Later he will show me where. I offer him to have a coffee together and we walk into a street café. They deny him to enter. It makes me upset. I have an idea. Buy him a shower and new clothes, a pair of trousers, a shirt, socks. Because he stinks like hell. So we walk around the mercado and buy him a nice white-pink striped shirt, a classic grey pantalon, a piece of soap and a towel. People ask me “tu papa?” and I answer “no, he encontrado en la calle”. They laugh. Do they believe me? I take him to a public shower where I leave him for ten minutes. He has taken a shower but he has not used the soap. That bothers me. He didn’t want to use the soap I bought for him? What to do? I cannot force him to be clean. He is happy with his new clothes and expresses his gratitude with a most adorable smile. “From head to toe new” he says to me in English. To camouflage the stench he is still spreading I spray some fake perfume in his neck and in his armpits. CK one – our version of CK One. Hope that’ll do at least for the day. At least for the day, oh saint Vanity! Oh holy idol of the Vain! We go eat an icecream. He has chocolate and I have strawberry. With real deepfrozen chunks of strawberry. He is not denied entry this time. We eat the icecream with small wooden spoons. He is sitting in front of me on a plastic chair smiling at me and he will say to me he feels like Robert de Niro in a few moments. I smile back and we eat ice cream. Within half an hour, sitting in the sewer’s place, I will see this on the wall: “Un alma generosa sera un alma prosperada” – Proverbios 11:25. In the shower, I will see the body of Justo, yes his name is Justo. Con mucho gusto, Justo. His body is old and wrinkly. I see skin but the form is strange, more like an insect than a man. I will leave Justo in the same park where I met him earlier. He lives there, on the street. And I will ask him “eres feliz?”. “Si, soy feliz” he’ll answer me. Then I’ll cross the crowded street and wave to him a last time. I will be invited to a castle later today.
I’ll continue my paseo through the heart of Santa Cruz and have my jeans repaired. They give me a cloth to cover my legs while I wait for my jeans to be sewn once more. I want to keep that jeans, I’ll have it sewn in many countries. It will be an assemblage of the sewing skills of sewers from all over the world. Come on, world – unite in my pants.
I am enjoying my time in Santa Cruz. A couple of empanadas fill my stomach, and I walk into a museum where Jarin Johansen, a Peruvian painter exhibits some work from 2003-2008. “Mi camino” the collection is called and it consist of beautiful impressively colored canvasses of all materials. They depict women: nudes, dancing women, women playing a violin and a cello, women as landscapes. I liked his eye and leave a comment at the desk. It is getting dark. I want to go to a bar and drop by at a chess club first. A Bolivian from Cochabamba wants to play and we play four matches. I never enjoyed losing so much as that night. He overlooked nothing and just saw every mistake I made – and I made a lot of them. As I told him I am from Holland, he begins elaborating about Poland and the thriving agriculture there. Unfortunately I don’t understand everything and can’t respond in an intelligent matter. At least one time I achieve a draw.
I leave the chess club and enter the club next door. It is a local discotheque. I think I am the only foreigner around and received a good laugh when I tried to imitate the erotic dance style of the Santa Cruz teenagers. Very pretty girls danced with very lean boys that were moving their bodies like snakes, getting low on their feet while moving their pelvises in a copulating manner. I had a strange feeling of happiness watching the courting youth of this friendly town shaking their bodies to the hammering reggaeton beats. The music is loud, and the live band that takes over is not really my pair of sandals. So I decide to call it a night – of writing. I went back to the hostel at 1am, put some coffee on the gas and started working on the veranda, in the cool Bolivian night under the starry sky. When I look up now I see dozens of stars. This is the life, children.