DAY 11 – look both ways before you cross the street.

DAY 11 – look both ways before you cross the street.

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National Helath Center – Cochabamba.

Cruising from Oruro to the high tropical valley city of Cochabamba, to meet with knitters and visit family before the Christmas-News Year’s celebration back in the highlands, we turned a corner and was met with a slew of traffic as a large bus going to La Paz, 8 hours away stopped at a roadside snack stand amongst a mix of trucks and cars.  We, a Bolivian mom and her three sons plus my daughter and I, were traveling in a “surubi” a small minivan which swiftly made its way across the Andes, darting around the cumbersome tour busses which most people took and large slow trucks carrying goods across the country.  Costing about $2 more than the large busses, it was also a more comfortable trip and one that took about 25% less time than the bus.  This meant that we could get from Oruro to Cochabamba in 3 hours instead of 4.

All had been going great until we turned that corner.  A young girl was casually walking across the busy road, holding a newly purchased soda, and looking at her mother from bus window across he way – motioning for her to hurry up.  Our driver slammed on the brakes, pounded on his horn, the girl turned, startled, tried to back up, but not in time.  She was hit on the shoulder and thrown under a truck, which luckily was stopped at the time.

Her mother came flying our of the bus, hysterical, a mass of witnesses gathered, our driver stopped and we all got out.  I thought for sure the girl was dead, her head hit.  But though unconsciousness for a moment, and apparently just in shock, she can to after a few minutes and seemed to be amazingly OK.  People were careful to not move her in case she had a spinal injury and covered her with a blanket to shield her from the hot sun.  Her head had not been hit, just her shoulder.  And besides a few abrasions, it looked like she was going to have a good Christmas celebration after all.  The ambulance quickly arrived from the rural town we were in, applied a neck brace and lifted her onto the stretcher to take her, we assumed, to the city hospital a few miles down the road.

Though the police never arrived – as was custom in Bolivia, people policed themselves.  Many citizens had already taken cell phone photos of the driver’s license plate, and license to send to the local authorities.  When we got into the surubi to follow the ambulance and see if the girl was going to be OK, since we were witnesses and the driver could be held at fault (though we all agreed it was not his fault), people gathered around to make sure he was not just going to try to escape.  We assured them this incident that would be properly reported and it was not the driver’s fault.  They reluctantly let us go though we had already lost the ambulance by then.

After asking some people around the road which way the ambulance went – local hospital versus city hospital and then which city hospital – with conflicting results – we decided to find it on google maps.  Finally we gave up and told the authorities at the toll three miles away what had happened.  They were already waiting for us.   They detained the driver, politely asking us to take public transportation the rest of the way to the city.  They then asked the driver to pay for our public transportation fee (50 cents each) but we all declined, saying we would pay it ourselves.

The young driver would have to wait and see what the outcome was at the hospital and what fees were involved for the girl’s medical treatment.  Then authorities would demdetermineine who’s fault the event was and what was paid for by whom.  Everyone was very calm.  This was just another of the hundreds of traffic accidents that happen each day in Bolivia –a teeming teaming with pedestrians and a mad max feeling of movement around the country’s few thoroughfares.

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