Go With The Flow

Bunched behind the Brother, leading us across Cochabamba’s chaotic streets, we missed the masked Bolivian bin-man enthusiastically jumping on sodden bags, atop the parked bin truck.

The burst bag emptied yellowy slop; stock bones, chopped potatoes and avocado rained down, sludging me.

It was one of only two risks the Christian Brothers missed during our time with them; they minded us so well, showing us their world, a Latin America tourists never see.

We lived where guide books say is too dangerous to stay, south of Calle Aroma, in the Brothers’ house.

A comfortable house, amidst mechanics’ one-roomed workshops, tyre repairs and welders.

The Brothers were our guides, watching out for us on the streets, talking to us about social justice.

They brought us to the After School Club, Centro Hermano Manolo, they run for working children in the disused railway in La Cancha market, one of South America’s biggest.


The market is huge,  taking up fifteen blocks; anything can be bought here, fruit,fabrics even foetuses. Stalls and stalls sell llama foetuses and magic potions for traditional rituals.


Tourists are vulnerable here, but the Brothers guided us through it, calmly introducing us to workers they’ve befriended over many years.

Hatted Ayamara and Quechua ladies showed and explained their products, the varieties of bananas and potatoes, the way avocados are grouped, priced and sold.

But, perhaps we didn’t need to be shown all the grisly offal and gory
entrails at the meat stalls.

Indigenous Bolivians generally dislike being photographed but through the Brothers’ negotiation, we were allowed to take snaps.

It was a privilege to witness the Christian Brothers’ hard work and see the warm atmosphere in Centro Hermano Manolo

The children, aged 8 to 18, work as sellers in the market, attend school by day or night and drop into the centre for support.

If they get into trouble, the Brothers act as advocates, helping them.

Other charities work here too and we met up with an Austrian who helps street children; his work funded by Austrian friends and neighbours.

While we were in Bolivia, the nation was gripped by month-long Carnaval celebrations.

Most impressive was the breathtaking parade in Oururo where masked dancers and musicians paraded from dawn to the early hours; live pictures beamed across the nation.

On our streets, teenage gangs sprayed shaving foam and water, especially at three unsuspecting gringos.

Outside shops, smoky charcoal fires burned, supposedly bringing good fortune to owners. Traditional rituals remain strong.

The Brothers work in a challenging environment ; in this Latin America, nobody can predict what’s going to happen. ‘Go with the flow’ is the only way.

They warned us about the ‘Bloceo’, the bus strike blockade,but we were still gobsmacked at the number of brightly coloured buses barracading junctions.

The street scene looked like a Hollywood disaster movie.

‘Just go with the flow! ‘

That’s what I did when the bin slime landed on my head.

And that’s what we told Nan when the worm crawled out of her lunch.


3 thoughts on “Go With The Flow

  1. How nice to hear from you!!I see you are having such a great time and falling in love with Colombia jeje!!!!we are back at Newman ,it´s very hot here luckily we are having some rain.Everything fine at school and at home all the best regards to three Irish Adventurers.

    Liked by 1 person

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