Uruguayan music channel on television shows attractive women insufficient dressed, out to rape their overjoyed boyfriends. These boyfriends like to be ravaged by their pretty ladies in bikini, who, in between actions, cook meals. A healthy plate of food where the guy’s pistol is delicately placed next to. After the meal the pistol is tucked into the back of his belt, a shirt pulled over. Another so-called sexy scene arrives, where the bikini clad girl compete over attention with the pistol.
It seems Uruguay is fond of pistols. I am not. Or am I? I need to address my mind not to touch pistols, not to play with them, not to point them at people. I notice I think alike as these bikini clad pretty girls in the music video, without the prettiness, bikini’s and overly eager need to ravage. Seeing a man carrying a gun in the back-pocket of his jeans does something to the mind. It might as well be a gaucho with a knife tucked at the back of his belt.
Being in social surroundings unknown invites me to watch thoughts shaping. Indeed I am invited to stay at some one’s place, all is new, and all is different.
Feeling fenced in, is that a sensory issue of the mind or is it the ego that wants more adventure? Both are mental disturbances? Could it be I am doused with constantly moving on roads, whether tracks or tarmac? I might very well be in for something new altogether, but my constant moving along roads with fences, fences which I have to tackle each evening, fences with 7 iron rods so tightly adjusted that it is hard to squeeze through, makes novel ideas killed by either passion to continue on or annoyance to get out, and cycle on some more.
Maybe fences has nothing to do with my mental issue?
The moment I place myself at a crossroad to get out of the fenced-in area by truck, I want to give up hitchhiking within 5 minutes. My impatient mind rather cycles on between the fences than trying something new.
Starting something new is harder than continuing a very high-maintenance lifestyle. But these fences, the thought of squeezing through one that very night is so off-putting, I keep standing and wave my thumb with little enthusiasm in the air when a truck passes. Only trucks with eucalyptus wood are passing and the first already had a passenger but he will announce over the radio-transmitter to his colleague to stop for me.
The second truck opts its going to be difficult to carry a bicycle on top of loads of wood, but tries nevertheless. And with his colleague, who’s driving his own cargo, they find a solution to transport the bicycle. Once in the cabin Gonzales soon tries his luck with this new happening in his confinement, and shows me a very old photo of himself in not more than a loincloth while posing on a stallion. ‘That are not many clothes you are wearing,’ I reply.
After fixing a puncture, where 3 other colleagues who’re in tow of Gonzalez truck, assist him, we continue on in a train of eucalyptus cargo. Their conversation over the radio transmitter becomes jolly. It turns out gross of the marital truck drivers behind Gonzales, would love to get intimate. But Gonzales feels he has best chances, and comes up with several kind ideas to keep me longer in the truck, or meet after having delivered me in Paysandu.
Does all this make me feel super feminine, on top of my female power? No, as I am solely a single female novelty on a bicycle which undoubtedly arouses men’s imagination. I am different from Uruguayan women, and different is exciting. No lipstick, high heels and low cleavage, I rather feel like a decently dressed, smeared in dirt Marilyn Monroe on stage of a military cartel, and it doesn’t matter whether they understand Marilyn’s song-texts or not, it’s hormones and not much more. I wonder would they still be into the novelty when they find out how I go about find my space to poop in the morning.
Some of them are pretty, I really just have to stand back and pick, here in Uruguay, would I want to. But I don’t want.
Would I choose it would not be for pretty faces. It’s really a feeling. And feelings go hand in hand with thoughts and the mind made prejudices.
And so it happens I watch a parrot unhappily and bored in his small cage, being bullied by one of the sons. I myself are in a house which I hardly leave. I surrender to the family I am in now. Meet matriarch Raquel.
And my thoughts, they run free, they arrive at a place, form a picture and come to a halt when more information arrives. My perceptive ability flows with much more fantasy than the moment the iron rods of the fences started to bother me insanely. It is fun to watch prejudice, to be doused into a new culture, one where open-mindedness flies high. I like waiting for the new friend I have made, as this put me in the opposite position of taking control. Waiting without inactivity. Momentarily I soak in the overload of barrier, fences in a different form, knowing I can fly out as soon as I want. But I don’t want to fly out soon, I like it here.
The benefit of being in a surrounding different from a hotel means more social activity, getting put up with sensory incentives not necessarily preferred yet welcome.
I get to know the Uruguayan culture a whole lot better than would I cycle through. Someone back in the Netherlands told me Uruguay is liberal. What is liberal? And is liberal better? Married people have multiply sexual side-trips and it seems normal for a man to enjoy a concubine. Girls get pregnant very young from quite a umber of different dad’s. Families are intricate patchwork. Marijuana is legal (if bought at a pharmacy). Transgender seems not too weird. But this doesn’t mean more than erroneous-wired behavior, as in Pakistan the exact same happenings occur. Is Pakistan liberal?
The beginning of my stay confuse me, as I meet with women my age who are for long grandmothers, 45 that is, having delivered 7 or more children. Having 10 children is no exception either, mostly for men with at least one former wife. A new wife means a new kid, and so a granddad has a young child while his son is having children older than his offspring. It all blurs my mind at first. An age of 25 and having 5 children from multiply daddy’s is no exception either.
I can’t call it liberal when a mom stands on her own if the bestower of sperm leaves her without paying for his children; although conceived in ‘love’. Only very recently abortion is legal and anti-conception free. It doesn’t mean that because Uruguay has more cows than inhabitants that women should throw babies into the world, it is as ignorant as throwing candies out of the car window to children in Africa!
But when condoms and anti-conception isn’t easy to get, when the competition is high, the men in heat, the girls ultra aware of their femininity, and you unconscious of the brain activity caused by mutual attraction, it is easy to pull in what you want by pleasures aroused naturally. Hence a baby!
Nevertheless, children are loved and young moms seem happy with their living dolls. It seems live evolves around children, white bread, meat, Yerba mate and sugar. The very young couples are lively parents, shiny moms with a huge responsibility seemingly unaware of it themselves.
My new friend has put me up with his Mom, she is nearly 75, the age of my own mom, but with the spirit of my sister. She’s active, supple in body and mind and lonely. She doesn’t want a man as companion anymore, but a female friend; its me now. In my impatience I want to leave after a week, but my departures are easily hindered by weak excuses of Mom Raquel.
The notion that I am in a boring country while I rather be somewhere else while I experience what I practiced in those countries I rather be, is striking.
While I keep busy with photographs and pondering how to cycle on while avoiding the boredom in surroundings, the girls around me keep busy with children, clothes, hair colors, nail polish and smartphones. The gap between the two is immense, and when we sit together with Mom, she points them out how a fair, wrinkle free skin I have. That I am here is not such a weird occurrence, but that I am 45 years without a man and children is not to comprehend. That I cycle the world, and in particular the desert, is simply abstract.
That they deliver at 17, live a grown-up life at a tender age, have blended family compositions very early in life, and don’t seem to work that much, is a curious fact to me.
I meet with a woman who has no children either, she speaks a little bit of English. To talk about lentil burgers and dogs and wondering why women want so many children is liberating.
Initially I was wildly surprised by a pretty 25-year-old pregnant of her fifth. I watched her ánd my thoughts forming. She seemed happy with her offspring, not working much, as most people on the compound don’t seem to work much. While I thought about her and her number of children at such an early age, living in with her parents, I realize I am not very different from her. She experience the same need for being alone, as a partner leaves little space for libertad, she explains. The main differences are she longs for a child and obviously use no condoms.
Yerba mate is popular in Uruguay. Here they carry a matero to hold their thermos and cup made from a gourd or cow-horn. On a sunny day people park their car along the highway, roads or park and relax on a collapsible chair with yerba mate going from hand to hand.
Sharing the same bombilla is intimate, as sharing the same mug of water in a crowded Sudanese bus was. A couple sipping soft-drink from one straw in an Indian Bollywood movie, years ago, was very suggestive. Here it doesn’t mean a thing, as a strange person may well kiss you on the cheeks as a matter of greeting you.
People just sit and watch the street. Life here is not so much about making loads of money, getting a better position or planning ahead. Life seems more about enjoying a yerba mate, escaping the sun, sitting inside the house, and be with others. When I tell the girl on our compound I don’t want to return to the Netherlands because it is ‘triste‘, she assumes there is a war going on.
On a Sunday, the New Testament under her arm, a few minutes after asking my companion whether she does visit church and what I understand as her answer is ‘no’, we enter a church. It’s a tiny white washed brick building with 8 people and 2 children sleeping on the floor. Father preaching is an eighty year old man without teeth yelling hallelujah and picking up his guitar and cymbals when 3 of the devout women sing with eyes closed.
Have I been aided by sorceresses in Kashmir, now I am blessed in a circle of Uruguayans who, with eyes closed, let their tears flow. It’s a cacophony of Gloria Jesus and Dios Amor among my well-being on the road, guided by Dios. I am actually not that into continuing anymore but blessings are always welcome. After the two-hour sermon we all meet in the kitchen made of handmade stones, corrugated iron sheets, plastic and a mud floor. ‘Sorry for our simple abode’, says the pastor, before I enter the kitchen. I couldn’t be more satisfied with this all!
The longer I stay in this social network, the more access I get to deep feelings of profound happiness. One of the four children of the girl next door, comes closer and closer. It started with running away from me, continuing to pass me flowers, followed by handing out funny colored chips, ending with wanting a massage. Now, I am not known with children’s emotions much but this one is clear. While I sit in a chair, alone in a house, he places his head in my lap and ask me to touch his back. The little human then pulls up his shirt, gives me directions where to place my hands and seems to enjoy the pressure, strokes and soft scratches I deliver him. I am quite sure he enjoys as he drools on my lap, something he is surprised by himself. And in this 20 minutes session of contact, I feel a clear emotion where I stop the mental prejudice of what I am doing, instead just let myself be pulled in with this very innocent yet intense occurrence. I feel at once what a 25-year-old mom might go through, and get answers to never asked questions.
Of course, children scream much too, just as roads has fences.
Though I do wonder when this 1.5 year fresh young mind, not yet poised with prejudices and infusions feels intuitively, as when his little brother enters the house, he immediately stop what we’ve been doing and pulls down his shirt.
His little brother of 5 years old does have more poisoned, inflamed mind games going on, as I see him copying television scenes. He act as if Lassie dog is a bikini clad young girl and he moves his hips frantically back and forth at the height of Lassie’s mouth, his little hands loosely around Lassie’s elaborate brown collar.
Each day I let the hours unfold into something I not know. The notion of times fades. This nearly 75 year young lady has become my dear companion and we laugh a lot, mostly because of her swearing to people bothering our way forward. We move in a little red car, through the streets of Paysandu which seem to give us way on every right hand side street. She only has a side collision once and drives fast, or slow when she talks on the phone or handles yerba.
She cooks for me, meat mostly, vegetables is not her tendency. She tells me honestly when I stink, and presents me with cologne and deodorant. When we don’t understand each other, she makes movements which never are to be misunderstood. We talk subjects such as partners, companions and general gossiping.
After two weeks I feel the effects of the tremendous social fix. Having gossiped who is arrogant, who is cheating, who is kind, who is useless, who is loving who, who is having an affair, who is ugly, who is sweet, we share secrets and I know things she doesn’t know I know. To connect with Raquel, to be part of this social network is the opposite of solitaire cycling where hardship is experienced only by me.
When I leave she is sad, she cries. She is worried too; for Uruguay and especially Brazil, where I am heading to, is real dangerous. I should truly not sleep in my tent.
And I can understand her, seeing daily news on television shows a dreadful world. While she and her son watch me telling that the world is not dangerous, at least not for me, I notice their minds running along with the news on television. And I see how their experiences of living are immensely different from what I do the following late afternoon. After two weeks of being pampered and rested I feel I am ready to seek out the fences again.
I camp under a bridge, of all places, the perfect location for rape ending in being choked to death. By a boy who placed his pistol next to my empty plate of yet another pasta with vegetables…