Work to Live

I have spent the past two months traveling in some of the poorest countries in South America.  If nothing else, it’s opened my mind to a few questions about my own life.  “Am I working to live or living to work?”  Far too often, for those of us in the US; I think the answer to that is that we are living to work.  I wish that we could work to live.  I’ve spent time watching people during my travels in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador.  Now I want to share some with you.

These boys don’t have the newest name-brand shoes, or the latest and greatest video games.  They are on an old rickety bike-like contraption that I’m sure someone in their family had to rig to get to work.   I watched these boys play for a while at the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru.  The smiles and laughter were contagious.  I found myself feeling happier just watching them.
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These two men were enjoying some down-time along one of the many cobblestone streets in  Ollantaytambo, Peru .  Note the work shoes, the sun-weathered skin, and hands that have seen many a day of hard manual labor.  Yet, they find time to stop and enjoy each other’s company in the middle of the day.  This beautiful scene possibly occurs every day for them.  When was the last time that you stopped in the middle of the day just to share a moment with a friend or family member?
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This road crew was hard at work with picks and shovels.  I can only guess what the Indiana DOT guys would say if you handed them the same tools and told them to get the job done.  Yet, with every one that was working there was another taking a brief break alongside somewhere.  I heard no angry words, no complaining and even gained a few smiles from time to time.
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This couple was enjoying the mid-afternoon sunshine.  I’m not certain where this particular photo was taken but this is a scene that was re-played all over during my travels.  The sidewalk and park benches were always being used by someone just taking a minute to relax.  How many of your local park benches are occupied at this moment?
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A street vender gives a smile with a scoop of ice-cream.  Again, notice that the bench right behind the vendor where a group of women are relaxing and enjoying the company of each other.
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On the streets in Ollantaytambo, Peru a boy occupies himself with stones.
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Here on a random corner a mother or grand-mother enjoys the company of a child while waiting for someone to come along and buy her wares.  This is another scene consistently repeated.  Children with mothers or grand-mothers as they do their days work.
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Our guide for Machu Picchu.  How could you not love life and give such a great smile if you got to see this sight every day.
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A woman and child..I just love this photo.  I was pointing my camera down the sidewalk to take a different photo and this woman and child started dancing as they were walking.  I couldn’t resist snapping the shot and it leaves me with a smile every time I see it.  When was the last time you spontaneously danced?
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These men were hard at work clearing a land-slide from our path.  With mud to their knees and callasus from a life-time of hard work on their hands; they completed their work and chatted and laughed with our driver and guide before we passed through.  If I asked you to clear a landslide with a shovel….could you smile and laugh afterward?
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The lady in this photo is a bit difficult to see.  This village was miles and hours away from any town.  There is no reason to rush, no hurry to get home….this photo gives me an overwhelming feeling of peacefulness.  When was the last time you had a peaceful moment?
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The street vendor below was passionate about her work.  The pride in her voice palpable when she explained the work that goes into making the goods that she is selling.  The smile on her face contagious.  When was the last time you made something that made you proud?  Do you smile when you explain your work to people?
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Our guide and driver changing a damaged tire.  Not one complaint from either one of them.  No grumbling about the lost time or the work involved.   I know the last time that I had a flat tire; I uttered a few undesirable words…how about you?
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Our Cable Taxi driver.  He stopped to clean the dirt from the taxi with leaves pulled off of the tree above.  I never saw the hint of a complaint from him.
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A restaurant worker attempts to lure customers.
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A woman spreads out coca leaves to dry…
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Our cook for The Peruivan Amazon.  Always hard at work and always greeted us with a warm inviting smile.  If you note; she is cooking for 5 tourists, guide, driver, cable taxi driver, and multiple other random people on a two burner propane stove.  Could you smile if given this task?  I don’t think I could…
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The living conditions and poverty in South America would be appalling to many of those I know in the US.  It’s hard work.  Most everything is still done by hand.  They are living like we in the US were living in the early 1900’s.  Many are without electricity and running water.  They rely on their hands to do the work and their feet to get them places.

They aren’t working for the new home, the new car, or the best electronics.  They are working to put food on the table and clothes on their backs.  The kids still know how to ‘play’ without the convenience of electronic toys.  They work to live….

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