“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there”
In the Jesuit Mission of Santa Ana we take a look at the map and conclude we will have to return to the mission of San Rafael in order to be able to reach San Miguel. While we are discussing this, Flora, the caretaker of Santa Ana’s Jesuit Mission, chimes in and says there is another road.
It is a short cut.
“There is no need to drive back to San Rafael. When you drive 10 kilometers north from here you will see a turn off on your left. It will take you straight to San Miguel,” she explains and with that we say our goodbyes.
An Act of Kindness?
What is the act of kindness in this, you may ask. You are simply discussing various routes and a third person offers an alternative. How special is that?
In this series, my main criterion to call something an act of kindness is that it has to be an unexpected gesture. Somebody says or does more than I expect that person to say or do. Of course, what I expect a person to say or do has to do with, well, expectations.
We have traveled quite a bit in Bolivia and, in our experience, a Bolivian who shares this kind of constructive information without having been asked for it just isn’t common. In Brazil I might not even have noticed the gesture as Brazilians generally flood you with information.
Bolivians, on the other hand, are generally reserved in their demeanor and don’t volunteer information. Whether that has to do with not knowing, or with not wanting to share knowledge, or with not wanting to be kind, or with something else, I have no idea.
It doesn’t really matter. Bolivians tend to keep to themselves and there is nothing wrong with that. It only means that we have found it incredibly hard to obtain information on, among other things, roads and where they will lead us – let alone reliable information.
The Short Cut with Surprises
Which brings me back to Flora, who out of the blue suggested an alternative road to San Miguel, which would save us having to backtrack. Coen and I don’t like backtracking (especially not on unpaved, washboard roads) and we always welcome alternatives. So Flora’s suggestion brings a smile to our face.
We are en route to visit the fabulous Jesuit Missions in eastern Bolivia. It’s a long, beautiful road but we don’t say ‘no’ to a shortcut.
The shortcut is in such condition that we end up crawling at a turtle’s pace so it definitely doesn’t gain us any time, but the increasingly narrow dirt road cuts and winds through lush forest with little habitation and cultivation.
We get the company of colorful grasshoppers that either cling to the windshield or jump into our lap through the open window. Even more surprising are the couple of delicate-looking walking-sticks that also fall into my lap as the vehicle brushes against thick bushes because the path is so narrow. They are stunning creatures.
In our thoughts we thank Flora once more for her suggestion.
To learn why I write about acts of kindness by a stranger, please read this post.