During my journey so far, I have met so many amazing, beautiful, interesting, funny and inspirational people, I could not be happier. But for this week’s installment, I’d like to focus onjust one of the many friends for life I have made.
I arrived in La Paz to stay with a Swiss guy named Pius, another amigo from the ingenious and in my eyes now legendary CouchSurfing, but the first guy who rose from the taxi was not Pius. Man, he looked like a yeti.
Gianluca is also travelling around South America, and he has just come from working on a project in Guiyana, helping to install sustainable energy solutions for the future.
He’s going to tell you about that one day.
Within an hour of my arrival we were on our way to a party. Sick. I am impressed by his confidence and linguistic agility. After all, he has only been in the city for one night longer thanme. Also, like a real Italian, he sure knows how to run that barbeque like it’s his own backyard, and he’s dishing up the steak left, right and centre.
I don’t know if it was because of the fact I was feeling frustrated because of an injured ankle, but I felt like he was trying to keep his distance from me that evening.
When we got home, him and Samuel (another guy living in the apartment) actually lifted my wheelchair up two long flights of stairs. I felt enormous gratitude towards their genorosity.
The next morning, we are on our way into town to meet up with a couple of Bolivians we had met the night before. Gian questioned my decision to carry only cash with me whilst travelling, rather than travellers’ cheques or a credit card (in this economic climate I might as well be Pinocchio applying for a credit card) and he is not afraid to express his opinion that this is an extremely bad idea. Again, I feel a little distance.
But later in the day, I found myself immersed in the kind of atmosphere which I think attracted meto Bolivia in the first place. We go for a Sunday lunch, and unlike last night, the conversation is solely in English, allowing me far more scope for interjection.
‘Berlusconi is not a politician…he is only a businessmen.’
‘So why,’ I asked, ‘has he been in power for so long.’
‘Sadly, it seems that this is what the majority of Italians want.’
I’m glad that I asked if I could tag along when Gian mentioned visiting San Pedro Prison, because the following day was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
We met a prisoner called Daniel Foley, who I asked to interview for Ctrl.Alt.Shift. He accepted. We also met Jorge Dias, a drug lord imprisoned for seventeen years anmd counting, who askedme to write his biography upon his release from prison. I think my new position, at least in Gian’s eyes, as a serious journalist, gained a lot of respect.
That day, I saw him struggle to keep up with the fast-paced foreign language of Jorge, desperate to share his thoughts with the world after nearly two decades of only the mirror in his own mind as an audience, and I saw him try cocaine for the first time on the top floor of a Bolivian prison. He didn’t the cocaine.
Who would’ve thought I would ever find myself in these positions.
After leaving the prison, over a very late and much needed lunch, we both agreed there was a huge amount for us to discuss together. We were both overwhelmed by such a surreal experience.
I realised the distance I had felt before must’ve simply been cautious apprehension, or nervousness.
Gianluca is a well cool guy.