Day Four : Santa Cruz
My fourth day in Boliva saw me visit a clinic called ‘Aprecia’ in Santa Cruz de la Sierra which caters for the needs of people with various visual impairments including cataracts and blindness through to diabetes, glaucoma and eye injuries.
My translator, Gonzalo, was blinded eight years ago as a result of diabetes and as we walk together in the morning from the hotel to the clinic, he fills me in on life in and around Santa Cruz.
With his help, we interview some of the patients who have come to APRECIA to be treated for an array of different ailments. I soon learn that these people, who are so dependent on their families, have had to travel vast distances just to get here.
After a morning of interviews, Gonzalo and I headed for a nearby restaurant where he told me what it has been like for him since losing his sight eight years ago. He explained that he had to re-learn how to walk; how to take care of himself; and how he had to give up on some of his life luxuries and dreams. Gonzalo is in his sixties and had previously enjoyed years of reading and watching films but now, as he approaches retirement age, he talks about the pain of how diabetes robbed him of these pleasures and how he has had to completely re-adjust his lifestyle.
In the afternoon we took a drive to the outskirts of Santa Cruz – into farming communities, where large communities of people suffer from congenital cataracts. As we traveled along some of the dirt roads, Gonzalo reminisced about his life of travel and talked about some of the books he now listens to on audio cassettes. He makes for a great companion, retaining an incredible sense of humour throughout my journey across this unfamiliar country.