Trip Start Sep 25, 2007
35Trip End May 29, 2008
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We´ve seen some amazing things, met fantastic people, and had more exciting and varied bowel movements than we could ever have wished for. And now we´re doing what hundreds of millions of South Americans can´t - we´re leaving it all to go to a place where you can drink the tap water, flush your toilet paper, there´s a proper health system and laws regulating things like 97% pure sugercane alcohol and rhino-grade tranquilisers. We´re going to a place where we can make nearly a hundred times more than many people here, simply by working a 40ish hour week, anywhere. Last year the Bolivian government introduced a universal pension - it´s about US$300 per annum, and you qualify for it once you reach 60 (which in relative terms is about 75 years in NZ). There are families there where both parents work full time (which is around 50 hours/week) and they still can´t afford health or child care.
But none of this changes the fact that the world´s not fair, and economically we´re on the good side of things. It´s simply all the more reason to try and make something of the advantages we have. On that note, Nicholas has decided to go back and finish his computing degree, starting in July. I´ve decided to put my only real talent (abstract, circular argument) to use and become a political theorist, so I´ll get my Masters´ from Canterbury and a PhD from anywhere overseas that I can weasel a scholarship to. Another change is that I decided (some time ago) to go vegetarian once I got home, so I´ll be giving up red meat and poultry from when I reach NZ as a first step towards this. Besides, after Argentinian steaks as thick as your arm, nothing can really compare.
Another thing we´ve learnt in our travels is the the way the laws of diminishing marginal utility apply to personal possessions. Simply put, it´s great to have some stuff. It can keep you warm, entertain you, help you get clean and keep in touch with people, etc. But the more stuff you have, the less each thing contributes to your quality of life, and the more you are burdened by having it all. In his biography, Bill Bryson asserts slightly whimsically that everything that really improved people´s quality of life had been invented and was in the American home by around 1960 - after that they just worked longer and harder for more and more crap. Now, I´m not suggesting we´ll live by this at home, but asking yourself, ¨do I want to carry this on my back across South America?¨ is a great way of putting things in perspective. I know it sounds hippy, but we´ve been forced to realise that purchasing things is rarely the solution to our problems that we are constantly told and hope it will be. A polar fleece and a hat is important for that overnight bus trip, and an MP3 can help, but the thing that will really get you through the winding roads, pot holes, coca chewers and screaming babies is your mindset.
Eight months is a long time to be away from family and friends, and for us this blog has been a slender link with a world which has generally carried on merrily without us. We really appreciate everyone who´s taken an interest in our trials and tribulations, and we hope you´ve enjoyed them. We´ve got a lot of people to catch up with, but please feel more than welcome to drop us a line, through the blog or otherwise, in the meantime.
The flight is confirmed and reconfirmed, and if Aerolineas can simply get a plane somewhere on time, we should be back early on Thursday morning.
We won´t miss - South American bureaucracy - I know they need to employ people, but having to go to six different counters to order and pay for coffee is way excessive. And don´t get me started on those little scraps of paper you have to keep for when you exit the country...
We´re looking forward to - giving everyone their ponchos; having our clean, normal clothes to put on; sleep; and PAUL AND ANGELA´S WEDDING! of course.
See you soon!