Over the past four years I've received dozens of questions by email and through our forums from people who are anxious about the political and economic situation in Bolivia. Most of these messages have come from foreigners who either already live here or are studying the possibility of doing so. Everyone seems to be curious about how both internal and external factors will affect Bolivia's future.
I can't tell you what will happen in Bolivia or what the future will look like. I do feel a heightened sense of anxiety among a part of the population, especially here in Santa Cruz. If you live here and watch the news every day things do look rather bleak at times. It's hard not to let it affect you.
But does it have to?
When I began to design this site,
I was motivated by one thing:
projecting Bolivia in a positive light. And although this is a bit of a challenge sometimes, my motivation has not changed. I don't have answers for those of you who want them. I can only see trends and try to learn more about them, analyze both sides of an issue, then make decisions.
When I'm affected by something in the news that makes me worry I turn back to my original motivation: I love living here. I love almost everything about it and I can only trust that whatever happens it was necessary for some reason and will be useful to us at some point. It's a conscious decision I've made: I will not allow fear to invade me.
Does that solve things or make life easier? Not really. But there are certain things that, as a foreigner, I can do nothing about. My general belief is that when we make the decision to move to another country we have to do so with the understanding that a) we must at all times abide by that country's laws, b) we are guests no matter how long we live here, and c) Bolivians must make their own decisions about the directions they want their country to take. Those of us who are foreigners and non-citizens who are not content to live with the decisions they make for their country have the option to leave, whereas many Bolivians have no other options.
Now I realize that sounds harsh, and will probably draw gasps from other foreigners, like myself, who have lived in Bolivia for a really long time and feel fully identified with the country. In fact many of us, and again I include myself, have grown up here and have lived here for so long that we actually feel Bolivian in many ways. In addition, some of us no longer have the option, or perhaps no longer have the desire, to go back to our "home" countries. For many who've decided Bolivia will be their permanent home, it's very difficult to not want to influence or participate in decisions regarding Bolivia's future. But no matter how long we've lived here, if we are not citizens we have to understand that we don't have the right to do that. After all, back "home" we'd expect non-citizen foreigners to respect our decisions regarding our countries' futures as well, wouldn't we?
So what can we do about the fear or anxiety some things cause us? I admit it isn't always easy to live here. Bolivia is not for everyone. The only thing I can do is share my own experiences with you and my opinions are based on those experiences. You will not have the same living experiences as I have - ever. So the decision regarding whether or not you have the inner strength, the patience and tolerance, and the ability to find joy in life despite outside negative aspects, is completely up to you.
What I can tell you is that no country is without its negative or difficult aspects. Making a comparative list of the pros and cons of Bolivia and other countries you might be interested in experiencing may be helpful to you. Informing yourself continually and keeping up with the news is also essential. Talking about your anxieties with others who have more experience living here is also essential. Being honest about your ability to cope with anxiety in a healthy manner - or not - is also essential. And finally, assessing and even possibly adjusting your choices periodically as changes occur, is also essential.
Bolivians are not required to make changes to accommodate us. We must decide for ourselves whether or not we're willing to change our attitudes, expectations and life plans in order to live here. In the end, it's really all about what you want from life in general and whether or not you feel you will be able to fulfill your goals by living here. Personally, because I'm a Christian, I believe everything and everyone has a reason for being or happening. I hang on to the words "Fear not, this too shall pass".
Living with fear about the future is not optimal and it's unhealthy. Here are some things I've learned about fear and being anxious about the future which, by the way, none of us really ever has any control over no matter how well we plan or where we choose to live:
"And if it is a fear you would dispel, the seat of that fear is in your heart, and not in the hand of the feared." - Khalil Gibran
"Often it is not even advantageous to know what will be." - Cicero
"The man who is constantly in fear is every day condemned." - Syrus
"He who feared he would not succeed sat still." - Horace
What you can do to feel empowered, while being tolerant about the things you can't control, is to proactively change the things over which you do have control.
Bolivians have two sayings that I really like. "No hay mal que por bien no venga" (there is no bad thing that doesn't happen for a good reason) and "no hay mal que dure cien años" (no bad thing can last a hundred years). Peace to you! Bella.