Blog written by Ansgar Fellendorf (Nunavut Expedition)
Location: Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
Being a volunteer in the school of Ch’alla on the Island of the Sun in Lake Titicaca, one of the world’s highest lakes, is already quite social as I teach the children not only English, but also broaden their horizon and offer a sports program in the afternoon.
Well, what´s social for me? I think one important part is to speak and to share with people and to learn and grow with their different perspectives and experiences.
The local Aymara people definitely have a lot of different points of view and I thought to speak and learn best when working with them in their everyday life. I accompanied to the tough field work. Before starting the manual labor we sat together, chewed Coca, had soda and enjoyed the company. “Compartir”- sharing is one of the main mottos in the Andean world. I dare to say that the Aymara care more about community and family than we do. When going back to Europe I want to take some of the timelessness, peace and enjoyment with me. You hardly hear ever anybody yell or see them being in a hurry.
With the view of the deep blue lake and a white sandy beach we started working. We loosened the earth with tools that remind of the Middle Ages. With your foot you stamp the metal blade, that´s attached to a wood with leather, into the earth. Then you pull and get out a large piece of earth. The women take it with their little shovels and turn it over. Random people of the community came to help without asking for money. We all had lunch together on the field: Chuño (dried potatoe), Aba-beans and plantain.
I learned a lot by talking to the Aymara: on purpose they choose a simple life without cars and Internet. Most of them have been to the busy city of La Paz, but couldn´t agree with modern life style. Most of them are subsistence farmers with some animals and fields. They don´t know problems like air pollution, chemical fertilizer and other issues that industrial development carries.
The afternoon of March 21st I visited the house of Victor. He is 44 years old, from the village and has been a fisherman all his life. He says, he still doesn´t get tired of it, though. He was so kind to invite me to accompany him to go fishing in his small self-made boat. First we rowed direction open water, then set sail. The construction of the cloth sail didn’t remind me of Pangaea at all. The mast is a wooden stick, the sail looks like a linen and it’s simple attached just with strings. But it works!! Easily we `flew` over Lake Titicaca, which is sacred to the Aymara. Here the first human Manco Kapak rose out of a stone and here the spirits (or Pachamama) watch life.
Going in the boat the views of the surroundings in the evening light were just gorgeous. We two had loads of time to chat. Victor has learnt fishing from his dad, when he started there was much more fish in the waters. I asked him what would be problems: 1)big fisher boats from Peru. 2) contamination from the cities. Nobody controls what the industry does with its toxic garbage.
In the middle of the lake we put out the nets, that are floating on the water, stones pull the lower side down. I rowed and he threw in the nets. They are attached to each other and like this build a long line. After about two hours we were done. The fishermen always stay the night in their boat on the lake. So did we. We witnessed the sunset in the water, had a simple dinner together and talked beneath one of the clearest skies filled with stars I´ve ever seen. I heard about the Aymara custom that a married couple has to live some months by itself just with nature. When there was a shooting star my friend said “This is a robber searching in the sky.” It was very interesting. Sleeping on the wooden ground of the boat with the waves was just fantastic.
We got up at 4AM and pulled in the nets. There was Trucha (trout) and Pejerrey, but not too much. I am convinced that fishermen like Victor are not responsible for over-fishing and dead oceans! They catch as much as they need to feed their family and when it´s reproduction season he doesn´t go. It was very exciting when we caught a huge Trucha of more than 14 pounds, but right after that it was just sad to see many plastic bags caught in the nets!
We saw the sunrise over the Andes and then got back sailing. The people can´t afford an engine and don´t desire one. I learnt so much and think it´s always exciting to learn and share with the people around you.