If Dickens had gone to Lake Titicaca.

How do people adapt to small spaces?

Nearly thirty years ago in mid-winter before college graduation  I left my single dorm room, a converted closet, at a small private college, to backpack from Colombia to Chile and back again. I was really ready to move and have kept moving every since.  Although my single bed size room and backpack days are long gone I still appreciate just how well people can get along with so little.

Living in Italy for the last decade, a country with ten times the population density as my own country, the United States, I struggle to put a maximalist  lifestyle into a minimalist city apartment. Where DO Italians put a lifetime of  exquisite baby clothes, handcrafted shoes and handbags, wall-size paintings, life-size sculptures and sunflower -tall vases?

So while I try to figure that out I think about backpacking again and how impressed I was fresh out of college with Yuros, the indigenous people of Lake Titicaca near Puno, Peru.   Three extended families, about 60 people,  live on a 100 square meter island in the middle of a freezing lake at the highest altitude in the world.  Did they argue about space? No,  they set up a volleyball net, take out cards, brought supplies from the town, canoed in a reed boat for two hours and cook, created wool garments, received visitors. The usual family stuff but without all the civil war. For that they could go to shore and find the Shining Path and all its terrorist destruction.

If Dickens had gone to Lake Titicaca to write about the Yuros he may have seen the absence of the pre-calculated cruelty so prevalent in his novels. Perhaps he would have been bored to death by the lack in intrique but for me the lesson was not lost. Indigenous peoples survive when their culture is contained, they have little time to think about the future, they are too busy tending to the present. Their ignorance may be bliss or it may not be ignorance at all.

Catherine Rodgers @ 2013



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