16 Tons And What Do You Get?

Today, we are in Potosi, the highest city in the world. It sits at roughly 4100 M (about 13,500 ft) which is only 1000 feet less than Mt. Whitney, the continental US´ highest mountain. We arrived last night and decided to walk to the center of town to get some dinner. The hill we walked up was not too steep and the entire walk was about a mile, but I was so out of breath just trying to accomplish the short walk. I also had a little bit of a headache, which is one of the syptoms of altitude sickness. However, the cure for that is a tea made of coca leaves, which actually helped! After dinner we went to bed early, becuase we had scheduled a trip into the mines for early the next morning.

The mine tour was very interesting. We got to see how the minerals are mined, processed and what the finished product is. In the Potosi mines, they are all collective, which means that each miner works for himself. Actually, groups of miners work together as a team; they each have their own area of the mine. There are approximately 15,000 people working in the mines, the youngest is about 8 (which is illegal, the age limit is 18) and the oldest is about 68 (which is rare, many die after 10 or more years from black lung).

We were down inside for about 2 hours, breathing dust and stuck in small hot spaces. It was horrible. I cant believe so many people spend 8-10 hours a day in that (6 days a week)!! I really have a new respect for the miners. After the tour, we went outside and we got to set off dynamite. It was pretty cool. With a wick of about a foot, you have about 4 minutes before the dynamite goes off.

Now we are back in the town, walking around, waiting for our overnight bus which will take us to Cochabamba, which is where we are going to do a month of volunteering.

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