It seemed like an easy task. The Secretary at the Bolivian Consulate in Puno, Peru, asked us to take our dollars to a bank, deposit them in the Bolivian Consulate account, and return with a voucher from the bank, so that we could finish our process for a visa. The task perfectly illustrated a challenge faced by much of Latin America… reliable infrastructure.
Each day is a mystery. We may or may not have water, electricity or internet. Busses may or may not arrive on schedule and if they do, they may not have the mechanical ability to make it to their destinations. While any of these things could, on occasion, or in times of natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, be absent in the U.S., most days one can rely on their presence.
We are even more thoughtful than when we left the U.S. about the local, state, and national taxes we pay that assure us of infrastructure reliability. While we complained about high utility and internet bills, we increasingly understand that much of what we purchased was the ability to count on the product being available if we flipped a switch.
In Costa Rica, the infrastructure was significantly better, litter was virtually absent, and water was drinkable from the tap throughout the majority of the country. Peru has been a very different story. The litter, sewage, and lack of dependable water, electricity and internet are a part of the daily lives of the people. Places such as Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, may illustrate this well as the influx of tourism and the bounties of the water have brought too many Peruvians and tourists to the site too fast. The town is overwhelmed and the stench is undeniable. Services simply cannot keep up with the demand.
So in Puno, when one goes to the bank to make a deposit, the bank may not be able to take it that day. The computers may be paralyzed, and innovation and the can-do attitude so much a part of our daily lives in the U.S. are not prioritized. It may take hours or even days to make the deposit.
We all know intuitively that we take so much for granted. Each day, life is a teacher providing us with lessons in Latin America. The most important lesson is a perfect one for Thanksgiving week. We are so thankful for all we have had and all that we do have.