Say what you will about 3rd World Countries, but their public transportation systems are not to be trifled with. Of course, taking a trifle on anything moving is a mistake and will only end in tears and a shirt that looks like the entire Rolling Stones entourage puked on you, but in the other sense of the word I mean transport in Bolivia was quite good.
DAY 1 Our adventure was underway at long last, and cresting the mountain, I gazed across the wide barren valley that would become our home for the rest of the day. The trail would wind down through the andean peaks, eventually disappearing into the valley far below, up and down hills for the next few days, past streams and tiny villages.
Years after my damaging MK experiences I spent much of my holidays in Sydney convalescing with my cousins. They lived near the beach, which was a plus. We were all lazy and never actually went to the beach, which was a minus. After dinner out one night we were walking home and happened upon a 2-foot long Tasmanian Atlantic Salmon in one of the salt water 25-mitre swimming pools built along the shore.
Honestly, the best part of being an MK is the trip home. Woah, that sounds negative and stuff. I don’t mean leaving the third-world hellish existence your parents thought would be nice to try for 4 years. No, that part is hard. ‘Cause if you were lucky you made friends and things.
The Summer before my senior year, James hatched a plan to hike the Inca Trail with his brother Jeremy and they invited me along. It had been done before. Some of the grades at school had traversed it for their camps on previous years. The whole region was littered with white kids’ bodies.
Just like driving on the wrong side of the road and consuming 19 boatloads of Twinkies per capita per annum, Americans once again threw caution to the wind, stood in defiance of the rest of the civilized world… and decided to misplace their summer break and stick it in July. The prevailing theory is that it had something to do with catfish hunting.
I was maybe halfway through my high school years in Bolivia when the most extraordinary thing happened: The heavens opened and George Lucas revealed he was re-releasing the StarWars trilogy with updated special effects not involving potatoes and hopefully less incest, for the 20th Anniversary of the original film’s release. The world went nuts.
Remember when you’re a kid, and there’s always some older guys at your school that you look up to? Not just because you were 2ft nothing. But you know the ones. The embodiment of everything you wanted to be? Purveyors of coolness and suave-erity?* Despite appearances, being fully aware of the amazing mullet, John and Walter, sadly, were not those guys.
While we were back in Australia on furlough, most of my free time was spent either talking on the phone to my girlfriend for hours, or talking to random strangers online for hours. It’s possible neither activity was actually helping my non-existent social life. This was before all this new fang-dangled stuff you kids have, like Facebook.
The one thing you have to realize as an MK: You will never fit in. Ever. You get punted into a culture that isn’t yours, only to return to your own culture… That isn’t yours. In Bolivia I was never going to fit in because Mum & Dad wouldn’t wouldn’t shell out for the massive amounts of tanning lotion required for the Enrique Iglesias look.
A bare brick, ramshackle building with a tin roof held on with stones from the nearby river. A Willow tree behind. Windows only recently installed. Blue curtains made from sheets. Boys in their sunday best enjoying the sun. Ladies in broad brimmed hats, multi-coloured blankets draped on their backs; babies nestled inside.
Sam & Johnny were friends from school who were better than me at just about everything. By the time we were thirteen Sam was at least twice as fast as I was on the track, and he could dunk before I could too. It was amazing we stayed friends for as long as we did.