Sickness and Sweetness: the Adventure of the Bolivian Blankets

Hey y’all! Nik here.

And this story is going to go a little differently than most. Because in this story, Dusty is the poor unfortunate soul who was feeling under the weather (for a change). And no, it wasn’t due to heavy drinking the night before. In fact, we’re quite certain it had something to do with what he might have eaten the day before. And you know Dusty, he isn’t real picky when it comes to eating abroad. He will try just about anything. So, there’s really no telling what it was. He thinks it was bad guacamole. But whatever it was, it certainly did not agree with him the next day, we went to visit and film the markets in a little Bolivian town called Tarabuco.

The little village of Tarabuco, famous for its Sunday markets.

Poor thing. He couldn’t hardly walk or move, much less do any filming. Dusty literally wound up laying outside in the dirt next to the street, across from the little spot our guide Lourdes had taken us for lunch. I felt so sorry for him! But when we’re on a tour like that, one of us has got to go on with the tour and keep filming. The show must go on! Plus, on this particular tour, I was on a mission. Never mind the fact that these little old Bolivian ladies were walking by, throwing rocks at Dusty on the sidewalk because they thought he was drunk. (He tried to explain to them that he’d eaten something bad, but they weren’t buying it. It’s all funny now.)

But back to my mission! In all of our travels through South America, we’ve always loved the bright vibrant colors in the markets. And there’s one particular item we always gravitate toward, and bring home for souvenirs: the brightly colored handmade blankets and tablecloths they sell at most of the markets. They can be used as decorations on wooden ladders, or as tablecloths, or even throws on the back of the sofa. They’re just so beautiful!

So while Dusty was sprawled out like a drunk on a bender on the sidewalk, I set out with Lourdes to find a few things in the market that might hopefully make him feel better. And also, of course, to hopefully buy a few of those beautiful blankets that I’d been wanting to take home. Lourdes and I made our way together through the bustling markets of Tarabuco and smelled the smells, sampled the homemade food, visited with the local merchants, and absolutely fell in love with all of it. And along the way we even bought Dusty some local Bolivian alcohol (96 percent alcohol!) and a bag of coca leaves, to hopefully help perk him up and get him to feeling better. Alcohol and coca leaves to fight off sickness? Sure! t’s the Bolivian way!

So with our care package for Dusty in hand, we made our way to the last booth in the market. And that’s where we met a local fella named Paulino. By this time it was getting late in the afternoon and he had been in the booth all day, and was actually starting to pack it all up by the time we finally got over to him. But he was really friendly and very accommodating. He helped me pick out a few blankets and even fashioned one of the blankets into a backpack of sorts, which is the same way the local ladies here carry pretty much everything. (Check out the video from our visit to Tarabuco and see all this in action here.)  And then he put ALL of the blankets I had bought into the pack and tied it around my shoulders. It really gave me a great appreciation of what those ladies carry on their backs daily! Even though I know mine was very light compared to theirs. I’ve seen them carrying large amounts of vegetables, loads of groceries in general, even their children in these things!

About the time we were paying Paulino for the blankets and thanking him for his help, Dusty finally staggered up, thankfully looking a bit better than he had all day. He felt good enough, anyway, that he snapped this photo of Paulino and me with my new blankets. Ain’t it great?

But poor Dusty. As we were leaving and walking back to the car – which was parked a good mile or two away – a couple of little ladies from the village ran up to meet us. They were wondering why me and Lourdes were carrying not only all the blankets – but all of our camera gear as well – and were wondering why this big, strapping, American man wasn’t carrying a single thing. When Lourdes explained to them that Dusty was feeling poorly, well, they didn’t hesitate to tell us how they felt about that. Dusty’s still just as sick as a dog and looks absolutely terrible, but the ladies pointed at him and laughed and kept chuckling, “pobre gringito” (poor little gringo). And much to his dismay, they made fun of him pretty much the whole rest of the way to the car. It was all in good spirit – they were really sweet little ladies and they certainly weren’t trying to be rude or hateful. But poor Dusty. Pobre gringito.

It’s funny how some of these days on the road turn out. Even though Dusty felt so terrible and he wound up missing out on the experience of pretty much the whole day in Tarabuco, we will both always remember that day with a smile. And even now, on those days when he’s feeling a little sick here at home, don’t think that I don’t bring out that pobre gringito thing. It’s just too good.

Nik carrying her stash from the market, the way the local ladies do.

So if you happened to buy one of these beautiful blankets at one of our live events and you’re curious to where it actually came from, you can always remember this story. And maybe one day when your husband is sick at home, you can cover him with the blanket, kiss him on the forehead and whisper ‘pobre gringito’. May not make him feel any better, but you’ll sure get a kick out of it.

Thanks for reading, y’all. And thanks so much for watching! Cheers from beautiful Bolivia!

~ Nik


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