1994 Total Solar Eclipse

Eclipse Chaser's Journal, Part 3.
The Wild One:
Total Solar Eclipse of November 3, 1994.

(Section 1 of 3)

by Jeffrey R. Charles.

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Sponsored by: Versacorp

© Copyright 1994-1998, 2018, 2019, 2023 Jeffrey R. Charles.
All Rights Reserved.
Registered Copyright MCMXCVIII by Jeffrey R. Charles. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
This material is protected by Intellectual property laws. Any reproduction or commercial use without the prior express written and signed consent of Jeffrey R. Charles (and all other contributors, where applicable) is prohibited. Where permission for reproduction is granted, this notice and all credits must be preserved on each copy. This is part 1 of a 2 part document. It is in two parts due to file size limits of early Macintosh text programs (Teach Text, Simple Text) used to author it.




This journal is a factual account of the experiences of Jeffrey R. Charles during his expedition to the total solar eclipse of November 3, 1994. On this expedition, Mr. Charles sought to have more exposure to the local culture than would be possible in an organized group tour. This indeed happened on the expedition, but Mr. Charles got more than he bargained for in terms of exposure to what could be considered the few "undesirable" aspects of Bolivian culture.

In some cases, Latin American culture and politics can have a significant impact on a visitor to modern day (circa 1994-1997) Bolivia, particularly in situations where the visitor becomes sympathetic to the plight of the country's poor after seeing it first hand. Even when a visitor does not actively promote causes of the poor, simple association or identification with them, or with those who advocate for them, can (but does not always) lead to difficulty that arises from local people who dislike the poor. In Mr. Charles' case, the difficulty did not arise from poor people themselves (it rarely does). Instead, difficulty arose from a few relatively wealthy local people who seemed to be bothered by his wanting to spend some time with indigenous or poor people. Occasionally, this type of circumstance may cause the unsuspecting traveler or those he meets to be (unwillingly) drawn into a certain degree of political intrigue, or even socioeconomic conflict.

It is important to note that the difficulties Mr. Charles experienced in Bolivia were not the result of any government imposed or government sanctioned activity; all of the problems were brought about entirely by a limited number of local people who were acting within their own independent social structure. It is also important to note that the people who caused these difficulties do not necessarily represent a cross section of all Bolivian people in their economic class: Unknown to Mr. Charles at the time, some of the people involved in imposing difficulty had friends and close relatives with high political ambitions, and this situation can make things more "interesting" than usual in certain Latin American cultures. The unofficial title for the part of this journal set in Bolivia is "Eclipse!" In that section, the names and relationships of some Bolivian people have been changed in order to protect their identity. (Added decades later: But some relationships were disclosed herein after those who would have been at risk passed away.)

A related (through partly fictional) work called "Syzygy", has also been (partially) written. Syzygy is a fictional adventure/drama inspired by the experiences of Jeffrey R. Charles and a few Bolivian people he became acquainted with. Unlike this factual Eclipse Journal, the Syzygy story exaggerates Jeff's actual experience, but not to an extent beyond what could potentially occur in some areas. One need only recall the current (circa 1997) political events in Peru to see the extremes of what can actually (though rarely) happen to a person who visits more volatile parts of Latin America. Such extremes can be even more severe (and even fatal) for the citizens of such countries. It is important to point out that the sanctioned oppression, paranoia, and resulting "guilt by association" attitudes often exhibited by some Latin American governments (circa 1997) are not prevalent in modern day (circa 1994-1997) Bolivia, which has policies that are far more civilized by comparison. (Added decades later: But the Bolivian Coup of 11/2019, and the massacres the Coup Regime committed in Sacaba and Senkata, could lead one to rethink this!)

In order to include more action in the story titled "Syzygy", certain elements are changed. For instance, demands imposed on a fictional central character in Syzygy do not degrade the character's his health as severely as Mr. Charles' health was actually degraded (due to impositions of rich men and a wannabe politician) on his 1994 expedition. Syzygy begins with a fictional account of a total solar eclipse as seen from the central United States during the 19th century. Click HERE to see Syzygy parts one and two, plus enough of parts 7-12 (set in 1990's Bolivia) to fill in the story, clear up to the ending in part 12.

The factual account of the 1994 eclipse expedition is below. With the exception of the "Afterword" chapter, it was written shortly after the eclpse, then made into a web page in late 1997. After this, only minor edits were made to the main text. However, the "Afterword" chapter (at the end of Section 2) has been periodically updated to reflect major events in Bolivia over subsequent years and decates. Because the "Afterword" material includes events from years later that do not relate directly to the eclipse, a third section was added to cover most events that occurred after 1997.

We will start with a brief description of what it is like to see the dynamic and amazing spectacle of a total solar eclipse:

The Experience of Totality

The sunlight has been growing steadily dimmer for the last hour. Birds have begun to fly back to their nests and it appears as though it is near evening, but the sun is still high in the deepening blue sky overhead. The light continues to dim, and colors begin to appear washed out, as though it were a cloudy winter day.

The sky is getting dark near the western horizon. You have seen this deep blue color before. A storm must be approaching; but a closer look reveals that there are no storm clouds. This is unusual. A few minutes later you notice that the darkness is no longer confined to the western horizon. It is growing; wider and wider, higher and higher into the western sky.

Overhead, there is only a tiny sliver of light where the bright sun used to be, and the ambient light is now more than 60 times dimmer than normal. Toward the west, the rapidly growing darkness now covers almost one quarter of the sky! Yellow color begins to appear on the horizon toward the north and south, near either side of the growing darkness. The light level begins to fall rapidly, getting dimmer and dimmer as the approaching darkness seems to completely cover the sky. You are being engulfed! Suddenly, all of the direct sunlight disappears!

The ambient light is now more than 1,000 times dimmer than normal daylight, but the horizon all around is ablaze with the yellow and orange colors of a sunset! Some motion above the eastern horizon catches your eye. The moderately bright light remaining in the eastern sky is steadily retreating toward the horizon, as though it is being covered up by a great shadow.

Overhead, where the sun used to be, you see a dark disc surrounded by a softly glowing ring of pearly white light. The ring of light is unlike anything you have ever seen before; it is about as broad as the diameter of the dark disc it surrounds, but there are many delicate fanlike streamers and bright lines extending from it. Small areas of bright pink light are visible around the edge of the dark disc. A few stars are visible overhead. All is quiet, and you stand in awe at what is happening.

The sky is already getting brighter in the west. Overhead, one side of the dark disc has become ablaze with a bright arc of pink light, far brighter than the pearly white ring. Suddenly an incredibly bright white light pierces the middle of the pink arc. It quickly grows so bright that you cannot see the ring of light any more.

The whole sky brightens except for a dark area near the eastern horizon, and the light intensity on the ground begins to increase. The darkness remaining in the east quickly disappears and soon the daylight seems normal again.

You wonder, what was this strange and exciting experience? And then you wonder: When will this happen again?

You have just witnessed the greatest celestial light show visible from earth; a total eclipse of the sun. The darkness covering the sky was the shadow of the moon, and the ring of light was the corona, the sun's atmosphere. - The moon covered the sun, yet you saw the sun in a way you had never seen it before!

Making an Eclipse:

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves directly between the earth and the sun, and when the moon is close enough to the earth that its apparent diameter is larger than that of the sun. In a total solar eclipse, the end of the moon's conical shadow (umbra) usually moves rapidly across the earth from west to east. Those inside the shadow will see a total solar eclipse.

In Bolivia, the Moon's shadow was 160 kilometers wide and its ground speed was more than 4,000 kilometers per hour.

Hundreds of eclipse chasers will often travel thousands of kilometers to be in the moon's shadow for a few brief, awe-inspiring minutes. During the total phase of the eclipse, or "totality", one can observe the sun's beautiful corona. Just before totality, during totality, and just after totality, one can see the dramatic approach of the moon's shadow, (or umbra), the rapid dimming of the sunlight, and the appearance of sunset-like colors near the horizon.

Like true eclipse chasers, scores of Bolivians and myself traveled to the Bolivian altiplano to "be in the shade" for three minutes. As shall be seen in this journal (and a related photo web page), a total solar eclipse offers the observer many unique and fascinating experiences, and the expedition to the eclipse can offer even more.

Instrumentation and Preparation:

February 26, 1979 is a day to remember. It was the day I saw my first total solar eclipse. My father, J. Randall Charles, my brother, David L. Charles, and myself all traveled from our homes in Colorado to the small town of Grassrange, Montana to see and photograph this awe inspiring eclipse. This experience had a decided impact on my future interests.

In addition to seeing the corona, I was impressed by how fast the light dropped before totality; the unexpected, dramatic appearance of the lunar umbra as it rapidly moved across the sky; and the yellow-orange color that appeared around most of the horizon. This experience is what inspired me to take 360 degree panoramic photos of the entire horizon during all subsequent total solar eclipses I observed.

Over a year before the 1979 eclipse, I had invented and fabricated a unique "Cassegrain" axial strut wide angle 360 degree panoramic capture reflector to photograph the entire horizon in one circular picture, but I did not bring it to the eclipse because I did not have enough camera bodies and I was not expecting such an all encompassing experience. The reflective 360 degree panoramic capture system has an absolute angle of view exceeding 300 degrees, allowing it to cover the entire horizon with nearly 130 degrees of vertical coverage when its reflector is oriented vertically. I decided not to use the axial strut wide angle reflector system at later eclipses because I wanted a faster f/ratio and a larger image scale than it produced. Its effective focal length is only 4 mm when configured for a 35 mm camera, so the resulting image scale is rather small unless a medium format camera is used. It was also time consuming to implement darkroom techniques I had developed in 1976 to convert the circular image to a straight panorama. The advent of digital image processing later made this panoramic conversion process more practical.

In order to get a relatively large image scale in 360 degree panoramas of future eclipses, I decided to take a series of photographs with a 16 mm fisheye lens or a rectilinear lens of slightly shorter focal length. The short duration of a total eclipse does not allow time to manually pan and position a camera for each series of panoramic pictures, so in 1991, I designed and built a remote controlled semi-automated motorized indexing rotary panoramic camera platform. I later added commutators to the platform in order to eliminate having to spiral a shutter release wire around the tripod. Still later (in 1995), I added a special circuit to the platform control box which allowed completely automated operation of the platform and two cameras. The entrance pupil of both lenses obviously cannot be over the center of rotation when two cameras are used, but this matter is not an issue here because my eclipse panoramas seldom included much in the way of nearby foreground subject matter.

My next total solar eclipse was the great eclipse of July 11, 1991, which occurred over Mazatlan and other parts of Mexico. The sun was behind clouds during this eclipse, so the corona was not observable from my site. Even so, watching the approach of the lunar umbra was a dramatic and worthwhile experience. Click HERE to see 360 panoramic photos of the 1991 eclipse which were taken with my motorized indexing rotary panoramic camera platform.

In addition to their artistic value, panoramic eclipse photos can be used to measure the position of the umbral boundary as it is projected on the sky, and the areas at which the colors around the horizon are the most prominent. This information will enhance our ability to predict the appearance of the umbra and the horizon at future total solar eclipses. Being able to accurately make these predictions is the ultimate goal of the project. Click HERE to read more about this experiment.

Since it was mostly cloudy at the 1991 eclipse, the most obvious projection of the umbra was on the clouds. This made the appearance and motion of the umbra very dramatic, but it did not allow observation of the umbra as projected on clear sky. Fortunately, a small area of clear sky low in the west allowed me to determine that the umbra could be detected several minutes before totality. This and other work also indicates that yellow-orange "sunset" colors are likely to be most intense near the most distant observable boundaries of the umbra, particularly when there are distant clouds to reflect the direct sunlight outside the umbra.

At the total solar eclipse of November 3, 1994, the primary focus of my work will be to conduct an experiment that should allow me to determine the altitudes at which the lunar umbra is most prominent projected on the earth's atmosphere. In order to predict the appearance of the lunar umbra at a total solar eclipse, one has to know the altitudes at which the umbral boundary is the most prominently projected on the atmosphere. These altitudes can be determined if one knows the elevation angle and azimuth of an observed section of the umbral boundary and the relative position and size of the umbra at a given point in time. Since the eclipse is total only inside the umbra, there is no direct sunlight inside it to be scattered by the atmosphere. This lack of scattering is what makes the umbra visible as a dark area in the sky. The eclipse of November 3, 1994 is observable from the desolate Bolivian altiplano, where the high altitude and good weather prospects present ideal conditions for this experiment.

The primary data for the experiment will be obtained from time indexed video and several sets of photographs which cover the entire 360 degree horizon. The same rotating panoramic camera platform I used in 1991 will be used again at this eclipse. Some improvements were made to the platform since 1991, the most important of which is the addition of commutators for the remote shutter release switch. This eliminates the cumbersome shutter release wire that formerly had to hang from the camera.

To properly measure the projected umbral altitude, a number of conditions have to be met. These include clear weather, accurate timing of data collection, and other factors. In order to facilitate a proper match in the photos of each panorama, the exposure for each panoramic series must be set manually and in accordance with a light curve I developed from previous eclipse data. These stringent requirements make preparation, site selection, and alertness of paramount importance.

Accordingly, I plan a very light schedule for the days prior to the eclipse. This should allow me to get over jet lag and begin to acclimate to the high altitude. The first day does not have any planned activity other than sleep, and I only have one eclipse presentation scheduled on each of the next two days. The rest of the time is set aside for rest, leisure, local eclipse preparation, and travel to the eclipse site. Each night, I have allowed at least 10 hours for sleep, since I typically require eight or more hours of sleep per night if I am to be alert and feel relatively healthy, and it could take longer than usual to get to sleep in a new area. Cochabamba, the city I will be staying in during most of my expedition, has an elevation of about 2500 meters. The elevation of the eclipse site is close to 4000 meters.

Much planning and preparation is required when traveling to observe an eclipse from a remote location. Instrumentation has to be built or acquired, then tested. In addition, the short duration of the eclipse dictates that all procedures should be repeatedly practiced until they can be reliably performed.

My goals for the 1994 eclipse were relatively ambitious, so in all, my preparation took a few hundred hours. This included designing, fabricating, and installing a battery powered pulsed stepping motor drive in my Aus-Jena equatorial mounting, making modifications to my indexing rotary camera platform, fabricating other equipment, purchasing film and necessary equipment, obtaining a passport and other documentation, checking with health authorities about any required inoculations, and developing and repeatedly practicing my equipment set up, photographic program, and data collection procedures. This may sound like a lot of preparation for something that lasts only three minutes, but the eclipse will not offer a second chance if things should go wrong! The brevity of totality is what makes the preparation necessary.

In all, my setup included a light meter for taking light curve and photo exposure data; two video cameras for the corona, one of which has a home made 3x telephoto converter lens; one video camera with a 0.45x wide angle converter for the lunar umbra; the motorized indexing rotary camera platform for taking 360 degree panoramas (for umbral data and artistic purposes) with a Nikon FM camera having a motor drive and a 16 mm fisheye lens; a camera with a 20 mm wide angle rectilinear lens for aesthetic pictures of the eclipse over the horizon; a Canon Photura for general shots of the site; a camera with a 350 mm lens for black and white shots of the outer corona with Kodak Tmax 100 film.

A VernonScope 94 mm f/7 refractor with my Versacorp VersAgonal is used for images of the corona at 1000 mm and 640 mm on Kodachrome 64 film, and at 640 mm on Royal Gold 100 film. The VersAgonal has built in optics which allow me to change the effective focal length of my telescope without removing the camera, and its built-in flip mirror makes it easy to look at the eclipse through the telescope. I have a 32 mm eyepiece for the corona, which provides a magnification of 20x. Totality is expected to last a few seconds more than 3 minutes, and I was able to regularly complete my photographic and observing program in 2 minutes and 25 seconds or less almost every time I practiced - even in the dark.

One item I acquired specifically for the trip was a JVC GR-SZ7U Super VHSC camcorder. This unit has ordinary camcorder features, plus a very unusual and useful feature for astronomical imaging: It has several "Slow Shutter" (i.e. integrated or time exposure) settings, the longest of which was a full second! Before and after the eclipse expedition, this proved very useful for planetary imaging with my VernonScope 94 mm f/7 refractor and other telescopes. It even allowed me to use the afocal method to get good full color images of Saturn through the 94 mm telescope with much less trouble than film photography.

Selecting Bolivia as the Country to Visit

In early 1992, I had moved to California to begin work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Well over a year in advance of the 1994 eclipse, the Bolivian Altiplano was selected as the observation site. This was due to weather prospects, relative accessibility, and my impression of the area's safety and political stability, (as opposed to Peru, for example). Some of my older colleagues at JPL still thought in terms of old stereotypes about revolutions and the like in Latin America, and one co-worker thought I was crazy to want to go anywhere in South America. I did not see this as a problem in 1994, but time would tell.

Shortly after starting at JPL, I began attending a Latino church in Pasadena. There, I met my friends Vidal and Ruth Juarez, their sons Johann and Ludwing, and their new daughter, Betsy. Vidal is the pastor of this church, and he and his wife are from Cochabamba, Bolivia. After getting to know Vidal and Ruth, I wanted to go to Bolivia at some time just to visit their relatives and friends, their former church, some rural mission churches they were involved with, and other aspects of the country and its people. Cochabamba is only about 200 kilometers from the eclipse path, so the eclipse offered a good opportunity to visit.

A few months before the eclipse, I was delighted to learn that some Bolivian people Vidal and Ruth were casually acquainted with had offered their hospitality. Even better, these people also wanted to see the eclipse! The house I would stay in was apparently owned by two or three sisters from a moderately large family. One of the sisters had a family of her own, and they apparently had at least some ownership interest in the premises. Staying with these people in Cochabamba would allow me to become acquainted with them and the area more than would be possible otherwise.

In addition to seeing these people and observing the eclipse, I am looking forward to visiting a particular Bolivian school, and speaking there about the eclipse and astronomy if they want me to. The school is Colegio Buenas Nuevas, and Ruth's sister, Willma Alcocer, is the director.

Many weeks before my expedition began, the basics of my proposed schedule were reviewed with my host family, and they were very agreeable to it. My schedule will be light (particularly before the eclipse) in order to allow time for adequate sleep, adjustment to the local time and high altitude, and to locally prepare for the eclipse.

Murphy's Law Strikes Even Before I Leave Home. October 11, 1994:

As the time to leave for Bolivia drew nearer, I was blindsided by an unprecedented number of seemingly random problems that came out of the blue.

A couple of weeks before departing for Bolivia, I received my phone bill, and was surprised to discover that my long distance phone service had been switched from MCI to AT&T, then to Excel (a company I'd never heard of before) without my consent. I investigated the matter with the help of Excel personnel and discovered that the switch had been made by an unethical salesman, the name of whom they provided. (Initials are RS.)

I was able to get my phone service switched back to MCI before I left, but I was unable to use my MCI calling card during my trip due to the recent unauthorized carrier switch. This resulted in a great deal of inconvenience and added expense, because I then had to make calls on my host's phone account (which did not have cheap international rates) and reimburse them.

This would also limit how often and how long I could make calls out of Bolivia. Therefore, my folks back in Arizona would not be able to hear much from me. (While I was gone, my folks told my brother that they were just in denial about the fact that I had gone to South America alone.)

I later submitted a carrier restriction form to my local phone company. Due to this experience, I believe that unauthorized switching of a long distance carrier should expose a phone company to civil liability, and that the salesperson involved should be exposed to both civil liability and criminal prosecution. As it was, I thought the troublesome salesman was deserving of being strapped to the sub reflector of a large dish antenna and zapped with a few hundred kW of microwave power.

Only four days before I was to leave for Bolivia, CSE, my insurance provider, (with which I'd had an inland/marine policy on my telescope and cameras for two years and never had a single loss) said it would not cover my equipment during the trip to Bolivia unless I jumped through a lot of last minute paperwork hoops for them before I left. (My agent had known I was going on a trip because I had added a few new items to the policy a few weeks and months and earlier.) This took a lot of time and caused problems in regard to getting ready for the trip. I later switched insurance providers.

Foreshadowing. October, 15, 1994:

About 10 days before I left for Bolivia, I called my host family to confirm flight times and other details. I was surprised and a little concerned to learn that the husband of one of the sisters who owned the house, whom I will call Roberto, had taken it upon himself to take over arranging for my stay. This seemed surprising, since my schedule had been agreed to some time ago, and the schedule was so light that there was little arranging to be done other than the matter of travel to the eclipse site.

Roberto said that he was the one in charge of arranging things, which seemed unusual to me because I had never heard of him before, and though he did live on the property at which I would be staying, it was the understanding of both the sister in the USA and I that he was not a majority owner of it.

I had been under the impression that I was really the guest of the sisters who owned most of the place. But now, it appeared that maybe I was not the guest of the host women with whom my schedule had already been arranged. This didn't sit well, especially with it being on short notice.

However, Roberto seemed in agreement with my schedule, but he wanted me to work in an additional presentation, possibly at a city auditorium. I though that it may be possible, but I made no guarantees. In spite of this new person on the scene, all still seemed well. At least sort of.

Just to be sure there was no misunderstanding, I arranged to fax Roberto a copy of my previously discussed schedule, but I found that he gave me the wrong fax number. When I called Roberto a few days before I departed in order to get the correct fax number, he asked me if I could work in one or two more presentations. I told him that I could not do so on such short notice, but he said we would see about that when I arrived. I repeated that I could not add more presentations and that seemed to be that. At that point, I began to be a little concerned about his changing expectations.

Monday evening, October 24. The night before departure. 9 days before the eclipse. It's near midnight, but everything is ready.

A few hours later, I had an interesting time cramming a few last minute clothes in my luggage that some people in the church wanted to send to their relatives in Bolivia. This had been accomplished by a little after midnight. The 1994 eclipse expedition is about to begin.

All of the late breaking drama with the phone company, insurance, and other things had used up a lot of my time and energy, and kept me from getting much rest before the trip. This meant that I would be tired at the very start of the trip.

Fortunately, my light schedule has no obligations for the first 28 hours after arrival at my host's house in Bolivia, and that should provide time to rest after arriving. This aspect of my schedule had been specifically arranged to compensate for Murphy's Law events such as those I just experienced.

I had long looked forward to this trip to Bolivia. And now, the trip is about to begin. This is my first opportunity for a vacation in nearly three and a half years. At last, it is about time to leave for Bolivia!

The Expedition Begins (Tuesday, October 25)

Finally, on October 25, it is time to go catch the flight to Bolivia. I take a taxi to a local Pasadena hotel, then catch the airport shuttle bus a little before noon. Upon arrival at the LAX airport, I found that sky cap service was not available for international flights, so I had the daunting and interesting task of getting a footlocker, a large suitcase, and two carry on bags to the the airline check in counter by myself. To make things even more interesting, the airport was rather busy.

By the time my place in line reached the counter, the time my departure was near enough that I decided to run part of the way to the gate. I was certainly glad that my carry on bags had wheels! I reached the gate in plenty of time and got on the plane, where I was able relax during the remaining minutes before departure.

Finally, the flight took off from LAX a little after 2:30 pm (est.) on the afternoon of October 25, 1994. Away at last, on my first ride in a Boeing 767. Just after takeoff, a very interesting vortex originated from the engine cowling outside my port side window. Condensation made the 20 cm diameter vortex very obvious, and I could even see its shadow on the wing. The vortex became invisible as we gained altitude. This American Airlines flight was to connect with a Lloyd Aero Boliviano flight in Miami that was to leave at about midnight.

Nail-biting Time in Miami:

At about 10:45 p.m., the flight landed in Miami and I went directly to my connecting flight. There were a lot of people waiting for the flight, so I waited in line with them, talking with a family from Bolivia as we waited. When my place in line reached the ticket counter 25 minutes later, I presented my ticket and seat assignment to the airline's ticket agent, but before he even looked at it, he began to smirk and curtly told me that "the flight was full", and if I had wanted on the flight, I should arrived over an hour earlier than I did. This seemed unusual because I already had a seat assignment, and my travel agent had assured me that the connection time would not be a problem.

The next flight would be 24 hours later; too late to allow preparation for my first Bolivian school presentation. I explained this situation to the smirking agent, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears. I also pointed out that I had waited in line for 25 minutes. The ticket agent responded to this by telling me that I should have cut in front of everyone else. This made no sense because the Bolivian people I spoke with in line had not experienced any difficulty getting on the same flight.

I eventually realized that he and the other agents had been allowing dozens of other passengers (all of Latin American origin) onto the plane, and that I had been the only Anglo person waiting to get on the flight. I reluctantly began to think that I may be dealing with a "racist" ticket agent. Praying seemed like a good idea at the time, since I was not getting anywhere with this agent.

I continued to politely plead my case, and as many precious minutes slipped by, more and more people were being allowed on the plane. Eventually, just a handful of passengers were left at the check in counter and only a few minutes remained before the scheduled departure of the flight. I had been dealing with this agent for the better part of half an hour, and I was getting desperate.

Finally, I raised my voice and repeated to the agent that I had arranged to speak at a school in Bolivia, and if I could not get on THIS flight, I would not arrive in Bolivia soon enough to be able to prepare for and make my first presentation there, (which was true if I was going to sleep at all between my arrival and the first anticipated presentation on Thursday afternoon).

At that point, the ticket agent's supervisor must have overheard me, because he signaled for the wayward agent to come back to where he was. They both went through a doorway, and several seconds later, the same ticket agent returned, looking shaken and bewildered. He huffed that he would make an "exception" and put me on the plane, and added; "You're only getting on this flight because I decided to let you on". I thought to myself; "Yeah, right". But I was nonetheless thankful and relieved to get on the flight.

By this time, all of the coach seats really were full, and the befuddled ticket agent had to upgrade me to business class - for free!

I had to run to catch the flight, and was the very last person on. I put one of my bags in the overhead compartment, took my seat in row three, and put my other bag under the seat. There were plenty of empty seats in Business class, but few if any were left in coach. Some of the flight attendants were very petite and were having some difficulty reaching the overhead storage compartments as they found homes for the few remaining bags which belonged to other passengers.

Wednesday, October 26:

My expedition seemed to be off to a nail biting start. Just after midnight on the morning of October 26, our red-eye flight left Miami. Next stop, South America. This plane was a rather beat 727. It was almost impossible to sleep after my tense experience with the ticket agent, though I could tell I definitely needed sleep.

Fortunately, I was not alone. On this leg of the flight, it was my pleasure to be seated next to Alfonso Canelas, the director of Los Tiempos, the largest newspaper in Cochabamba, Bolivia, the city I was going to. We talked about the upcoming eclipse, and Alfonso eventually asked if he or his daughter could to interview me later during my trip if I had the time. I told him that I would try to work it in, adding that someone related to my host had asked me to squeeze in an extra presentation just a few days before I began this trip.

Alfonso later said that a story about my experience in Bolivia would be nice if I had time to write one after my expedition was over. I gathered that this would be a more likely prospect if the trip proved to be a good one. At that time, we both expected that my expedition would be an entirely good experience, and I looked forward to writing such a journal when I got back home. Due to the possibility of writing such an article, I decided to keep notes of the details of my trip, so that little would be left to memory.

Soon, some lights became visible from the plane. I thought that it could be Havana, but I was not sure. Several minutes later, the plane started making a descent. At about this time, I started having a twang of Montezuma's revenge, probably due to sleep deprivation, which is something I am very sensitive to. (I had been up late the night before, working last minute items into my luggage that friends in Pasadena were sending down to their family in Bolivia.) Good thing I was in Business class - not as much competition for the rest room! Immodium AD was not an option for me due to a condition I had.

First Stop in South America (45 Minutes in Caracas, Venezuela)

The plane began to descend at about this time. It turned out that we were making an unscheduled stop in Caracas, Venezuela. We landed at around 3:00 a.m. I got off the plane for what I thought would only be a couple of minutes, but it turned out that the flight attendants would not let any of us back on the plane until just before departure. At about 3:45, they let us back on the plane and it took off a few minutes later. In a few more hours, the sun came up just about as we were flying over what appeared to be the Amazon river. After that, I was able to sleep for about half an hour. I have always had trouble sleeping on flights.

Later in the morning, I was looking out the starboard window at the rain forest. It was beginning to show clear spots and gradually gave way to vast, green grassy areas. I noticed that flight attendants were going in and out of the cockpit with increasing frequency, and whenever the door opened, I could hear male voices laughing and female voices giggling. They all certainly seemed to be having a good time. It was nice to see people having some fun on the job, just as long as the pilot remained attentive. It would soon be obvious that perhaps the pilot was not remaining attentive!

Around eight a.m., we started our descent into Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The aircraft was making turns during descent, but the bank angle was sometimes different than would normally be used for a coordinated turn. I could feel considerable side pressure in my seat. Suddenly, one of the meal serving carts rolled out of its closet and with a loud clatter and a thud, fell over in the aisle right next to me. It turned out that the closet door was missing.

A flight attendant quickly appeared and began to stand the cart up and roll it back into place. I offered to help her move it and to let her use one of my luggage straps to secure it for the duration of the flight, but she said it would not be necessary. (I was thinking that I sure would not want to get beaned by something as big as the cart if we hit turbulence). A few minutes later, near the time of final approach, the plane made another partially coordinated turn and the serving cart again rolled out of its closet and fell over in the aisle. A flight attendant again attended to it. That was the cart's last attempt at acrobatics.

Arriving in Bolivia (Connection in Santa Cruz)

A little after eight, we landed in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and we went into the terminal. The connecting flight was to leave in about an hour, but we had to wait something like three hours because they held the plane for another connecting flight. Alfonso and I talked more, and he informed me of what to do when going through immigration. Normally, this is straightforward, but I was a bit spaced out from sleep deprivation, having had only half an hour of sleep since the previous morning.

At about eleven, we boarded the plane. Soon, the flight took off for Cochabamba. On this leg of the flight, I was in coach, which seemed very much like being in a sardine can compared to business class. It was more crammed than the coach seats I'd been in on other airlines; so crammed that my knees touched the seat in front of me. Out my window, I could see the plains give way to hilly terrain, then to treeless mountains.

Landing in Cochabamba (12:05 p.m.)

Cochabamba is in a large valley, partially surrounded by mountains that are about 4,000 meters high. On final approach to Cochabamba, I noticed that we were flying over areas that looked very impoverished. These areas extended almost all the way to the runway. The plane landed a little after noon; over two hours late.

As we taxied to the terminal, I could see Cochabamba stretching all the way up a gentle slope at the foot of a mountain range to the North. It was very picturesque. A few seconds later, it suddenly dawned on me that I was in a place very different than the U.S.

The plane finally came to a stop on the tarmac and we debarked. Two armed and uniformed men greeted us and directed all of us to the terminal. The recently self-proclaimed head of my host family, whom I will call Roberto (not his real name), was waiting for me at the airport.

A Harbinger of Things to Come

I went over toward Roberto to introduce Alfonso and myself. But it seemed that Alfonso did not want to linger after catching sight of Roberto. He promptly left the airport after barely a cursory greeting. His apparent desire to avoid Roberto proved to be a harbinger of bad things to come, and some of these things would become apparent before the end of the day.

Roberto and I talked as we waited for my checked bags. Aduana (Bolivian customs) did not bother to inspect my carry on bags and my checked luggage never materialized. After waiting to see if my luggage would show, we left the airport without it. The next flight would not arrive until the next day, so I'd have to do without the stuff in my checked bags for a while. This was unfortunate, because the material for my presentation at Willma's school was in my missing checked bags.

Roberto introduced me to his wife, whom I will call Gloria, and we walked toward their family car. A pleasant though sad looking older female beggar of indigenous descent intercepted us and Gloria eventually gave her a couple of coins, showing marked annoyance as she did so.

Just after this, a radio announcer came up, ready to tape an interview with me. He vigorously started asking me some questions. There was no time to answer one question before the next was asked. It was too much to process while sleep deprived. So I responded by saying that I was going to get some sleep (I really needed to sleep), so he said he would catch up with me later. After this, I continued toward the car with my recently self-proclaimed host. The announcer was not obnoxious, but I certainly wasn't ready to be interviewed out of the blue at that time.

Unwanted "Fame":

Roberto and Gloria told me that I was "famous" in the area, and that the interviewer was a relative of Roberto's. I had hoped to keep a low profile, and recall thinking that I did not like the idea of being "famous" if it meant people would be sticking microphones in my face at the airport. I assumed that this new found and somewhat unwanted "fame" was due to some sort of promotional effort by Roberto, and that it probably had more to do with my working at JPL than with anything I may have accomplished personally.

While some may like to be "famous", I did not. Especially on this trip. This was the first time in three and a half years that there had been an opportunity to take a "vacation", with a brief trip to Mexico for the 11 July 1991 total solar eclipse being my last real vacation. (There had also been a rushed trip from Phoenix to Los Angeles for the January 1992 annular eclipse, which had been clouded out, but that wasn't really like a vacation.)

On this trip to Bolivia, I had anticipated, and hoped for, a quiet trip without many objectives. But I did want to accomplish those objectives, because this could be the only opportunity in my lifetime to do so. Therefore, I did not want many distractions from those objectives. And being "famous" could lead to many unwanted distractions.

My objectives included:
- Observe the solar eclipse and conduct my umbra projection altitude experiments.
-- The 1994 eclipse is the only one in my lifetime that is optimum for this work.
- Observe southern sky, and take pictures of southern sky objects from a dark site.
- Visit churches in the Campo that the church in Pasadena had planted or supported.
- Visit Iglesia Cristiana Evangelica Bolivar, Vidal and Ruth's former church.
- Meet and get to know Willma Alcocer, see her school, speak there if she wanted.
-- This was as important as the eclipse, because of what I'd heard about Willma.

Flashback to Learning that Matchmaking was Afoot:

Willma was an elder sister of my Pastor's wife in Pasadena, being the second most eldest of four sisters. I wanted to meet her partly because I had heard she made sacrifices for her younger siblings in her early adult life. That was a mark of good character, and I liked meeting people of good character.

There was no anticipation that there would be any romantic interest or connection, partly because she lived on a different continent, partly because I heard her job at the school was important to her (so she would not be likely to leave the country during her career, and I had not even seen Bolivia), and partly because she could be up to half again my age.

However, at a wedding of some church friends in Los Angeles a month earlier, I heard rumors that matchmaking may have been afoot for us. The pastor of the couple's church was not ordained in a capacity that let him conduct the civil aspect of their wedding in the USA. Therefore, a person with that capacity visited the home of the bride's family to conduct the civil part of the wedding. I was there to take video of this for them.

At the end of the ceremony, the bride spoke to me and said something like: "...when you come back, I want to see you with that lady you are going meet in Bolivia..." This and other things I heard were significant, because I had never spoken with anyone outside of Willma's family about her. And little did I know: Sometimes, the unanticipated can happen out of the blue.

From the Cochabamba Airport to the House:

Roberto, his wife Gloria, and I arrived at the car and got in, but the engine would not start. Roberto hailed a cab for his wife and I, then stayed behind to tend to his car. I offered to stay so he would not have to call a cab, but he said it was not necessary. I was glad, because I was looking forward to many hours of uninterrupted and needed sleep, as allowed for in the schedule that had been worked out with Willma (via her sister) before Roberto got involved. We got in the taxi and it took off for a wild and fast ride to my host's house.

It was by far the wildest car ride I ever had - even in my sleep deprived condition, the ride was more exhilarating than any I had ever experienced in a car, including the time way back in 1974 when a high school friend impulsively drove me past the Rocky Mountain National Park headquarters building at 117 mph in his Chevy Nova. (By the way, I would discourage such fast driving, particularly near the mountains.)

We arrived at the house around 1:30 pm on Wednesday, October 26. The grueling and nearly sleepless "door to door" travel time had exceeded 22.5 hours, starting before noon (PST) the previous day. This included the taxi and shuttle bus, the four-leg flight to Cochabamba (LAX-MIA, MIA-CCS [unscheduled], CCS-VVI, VVI-CBB), waiting for missing bags, and the taxi ride to the house. Accounting for the time zone change, the arrival time was over 25-1/2 hours later than when I had left home.

The house was quite nice, with two levels and a fully enclosed yard. I was allowed to use an upstairs bedroom which had a hardwood floor and a nicely finished wardrobe cabinet. The fact that my checked bags were missing made it take a bit longer to get ready to sleep. My mouth tasted really bad, but my tooth brush and all my clothes were in my checked bags, as were the slides and materials I needed to make my presentation at the local school.

I had filled my carry on bags with the most delicate pieces of equipment that I would be using for the eclipse. This left little room for other items, and I had not foreseen the degree to which I would want a tooth brush so soon after arrival. My first presentation at a school was not to be until late the following afternoon, which gave me at least 24 hours to rest and prepare. (Or so I thought!) Finally, I was ready to crash.

The Perils of Being a Commodity

Just as I was getting into bed, Roberto arrived at the house. He knocked on my door and said he needed to talk to me right away, so I put my shoes on again and we met in the hall.

Roberto Immediately Shows His True Colors

Roberto told me that I had to meet with some people at seven o'clock that evening, about scheduling my presentations at schools and other locations.

I told him that I thought the matter of my schedule was already arranged, and that I was speaking only at Colegio Buenas Nuevas and a maximum of one other place, and that I needed to sleep if I was to function properly.

He said something like: "Gringos always think they need a lot of sleep after they arrive somewhere, but we don't need to do that."

I was somewhat surprised by Roberto's bluntness and reminded him that I had a migraine condition that required me to get adequate sleep, that I was currently in need of sleep, that my work at the eclipse was highly critical, that I had to acclimate to the local time and altitude, and that I could not consider continuing the trend of starting out the trip with inadequate sleep.

Showing some further loss of pleasantry, he said that I really did not need to sleep, and that the meeting would not take that long. I did not believe the meeting would be very short, since its purpose would probably be to get me to do things which I had not previously agreed to do. (If I'd had a credit card, I would have left the house right then and checked into a local hotel, then not even let him know where I was until I had gotten adequate sleep.)

I asked why I was not informed about this meeting in advance, and why it had to be scheduled in the middle of the time I had scheduled for sleep. He said that the people who would be at the meeting were not available at any time other than the evening. I suggested that I meet with them the following evening. He replied that they wanted me to do a lot of presentations the next day, so the meeting had to be before then. (This confirmed my suspicions about the purpose of the meeting.)

As a last resort, and to the extent possible while sleep deprived, I questioned Roberto about cost versus benefit (for him) over the short and long term. I explained that what he was proposing put my eclipse experiments at risk. Then, I asked if it would be better for him if he helped enable successful results (by honoring the original schedule that had been worked out with the host women) - because then, I would be in a position to acknowledge him for his "assistance" after getting results.

The payoff for him could potentially begin as soon as 10 days later, when I could locally, and then elsewhere, begin presenting results after the eclipse. But he wanted nothing to do with it. His only interests were being "in control" of the conversation, or where a payoff for him would be in the next few days, without regard to how it would play out 10 days or more (let alone months or years) into the future.

He said that the people who wanted me to present the additional lectures were "influential". I said that Buenas Nuevas was the only presentation that was potentially scheduled for the next day, reminded him that the slides required for my presentations were in my missing checked bags, and repeated that I needed sleep.

At this, Roberto firmly (and with what appeared to be some degree of veiled contempt and seething volatility that seemed just below the surface), replied: "You have to do this!"

It soon became clear that there was no way to change his mind on the matter, particularly in my present sleep deprived state, which made it difficult to think or negotiate on my feet. It was clear that he would not stop hounding me or let me sleep unless I agreed to the meeting.

The first day in Bolivia, and already there are serious problems. I had planned to sleep off my jet lag as soon as I arrived. So much for that! I again would have split and gone to a hotel right then if I had been able to access my bank account in the U.S. I did not have a credit card, and the funds and traveler's checks I had with me were insufficient to pay for lodging in a hotel for the two weeks I would be in Bolivia. So it appeared I was stuck.

Intrigue Concerning Ownership of the House

Roberto then left the house. I was surprised that he would be so demanding, particularly in light of the fact that he and his wife allegedly had minimal ownership in the premises and I technically was not "his" guest. (Years later, it would come to light that there was considerable intrigue concerning ownership of the house. Intrigue that had secretly been instigated by Roberto some time ago. This later discovery would reveal why he "acted like he owned the place.")

I complained to Roberto's wife about his actions, and she seemed surprised that he had acted the way he had. She said she would talk to him about it. I got ready to sleep again. The newly imposed meeting was only 5 hours away, but I could not sleep at all due to being upset at the prospect of my schedule being turned upside down, which is what I justifiably feared the people would try to do at the meeting. (Hundreds of hours of work preparing for the eclipse experiments, along with considerable related financial investment, could now be at risk.) A little after six, I got out of bed, tried to take a spit bath at the sink, and got ready for the meeting.

By seven, no one but Roberto had arrived for the meeting. He told me that everyone would be there at eight. (Apparently eight is Bolivian standard time for seven as far as they were concerned.) He said he had talked to his wife about the situation and thought the meeting could be limited to about 20 minutes. I wasn't so sure about that estimate. The purpose of the meeting was to get me to do things I had not agreed to do, so I expected I'd have to push back against at least some of their demands.

He then offered to delay the meeting until early the next morning, adding that he "thought" he could contact everyone in time to keep them from coming (all while making it abundantly clear that it would be a big deal to do so) but again added that the meeting would not take long. Having to get up early the next morning was not very attractive, and I had already gotten up for the evening meeting, so I was inclined to get it all over with. We went into the dining room and waited for the others.

Then, a blessed respite: A wonderful soul. The best part of the trip, but all too brief:

Meeting Willma Alcocer (7:45 p.m.)

A little before eight, Willma Alcocer came by after getting off work at Colegio Buenas Nuevas. I guessed that she may have been ten to fifteen years older than I was, but there was a brilliance to her that seemed kind to the core and younger than I was. She gracefully came through the front door and into the dining room, apparently oblivious to my displeasure with Roberto.

She saw me, and with a big smile, enthusiastically said "Hola!", kissed me on the cheek, and gave me a slim glass vase with a few flowers in it.

"Gracias" was about the only response I could think of on the spur of the moment, though saying more to express appreciation would have been in order. (She had a comforting aura about her. One that inspired the kind of feeling you get when you come home after weeks of absence. I wished I had been awake and alert enough to fully perceive it.*)

I guessed that Willma may have been told about me by her sister in the U.S., since she acted as though she knew me. Strangely, I sort of felt like I knew her too, even though I'd never met her before. (It was actually more significant than this, in that almost immediately, it seemed like I already knew her quite well. I would soon learn that something similar had happened to her at the same time. She described it in a way that made sense, when she told others that it seemed like "we have known each other for a long time".*)

Her sister Ruth had told me some good things about her, but the impression I had upon meeting her was much more significant (in a platonic way at the time) than just matching a face with a person I'd heard about. I wished that my senses had not been so dulled by sleep deprivation, since I may have been able to perceive more of the depth of her character if I had been alert. Even with dulled senses, I perceived that she had a goodness of character that was far deeper than her smile.

Willma started talking in Spanish to Roberto and I, while looking happy and excited. She was talking too fast for me to fully understand, particularly while in my sleep deprived state. When Roberto noticed that Willma had given me flowers, he said: "Giving the flowers is the cultural thing to say hello to a new person. I forgot to do that". Willma eventualy went into the kitchen but periodically came back into the dining room.

(Before long, Willma sat down at the table and we briefly talked. I was surprised to find that I was not nervous at all, in spite of how profound our first meeting had seemed only minutes earlier. One of the host sisters acted as interpreter on occasions where my Spanish was inadequate.*)

(Some of our conversation was about people who were economically disadvantaged, and the relative lack of opportunity for low income people everywhere. In a general sense, we also talked about how many among such people seem to have good character and a more robust emotional consitution than many who are financially better off than they are. (This is to simplify the conversation for the sake of brevity. The conversation was more specific, and part of it was at a later time.) Her views on this were about the same as mine, and I would soon find that her related views were something that she lived.*)

(I did not then know the degree to which opportunities for low income people were sorely needed in Bolivia, but I was about to find out. Starting only minutes later, I would learn that many children from low income families attend the school where she is a Director, and that she is passionate about their well-being. I would also find that her school, and her work with low income people - was opposed by certain local people who were represented (by Roberto) as being wealthy and influential, and by some with political ties. (Though the political ties were not known to me at the time.) Race had not come up at all in our conversation, but I was about to discover that those who opposed Willma's work also opposed indigenous people.*)

(Sadly, the joy and positivity of meeting Willma was about to be followed and overshadowed by its antithesis, as people who were found to have agendas that opposed her (and most of what she stood for) began to arrive on the scene.*)

(* Text in parenthesis in the preceding several paragraphs was not included in the 1997 online publication of this journal, for privacy reasons. It was not included here until after Willma sadly passed away in 2023. It seemed acceptable to include then because, within a day or two after our first meeting, it got back to me that she had said it seemed to her like we "have known each other for a long time," so it wasn't a secret she kept. The context can be platonic and/or beyond. It didn't then matter because it was strong either way. We did not discuss the context of this owing to events and impositions that began only minutes later ultimately impacting my health and severely limiting time with Willma. And with poor health, my limited ability understand Spanish evaporated for weeks, preventing private conversation with Willma for the rest of the trip. (Such limited time with Willma due to the trip being full of unwanted impositions from Roberto and these men did not allow time to know such things without asking her outright, but I could not ask unless I did so via an interpreter. I didn't "try anything" of universal language (not even touching her hand) out of respect for her.) A more thorough account of first meeting Willma is in my fictional story "Syzygy", also at my eclipsechaser.com web site. It is similar to our actual meeting, with the exception of who she relates her "...for a long time" impression to, and it condenses my impressions from the whole Bolivia visit (and later reflection) into the first two conversations with her.)

Then, as suddenly as the respite began, men who opposed what we stood for ended it:

Clash with the Antithesis of Willma Alcocer (8:00 p.m.)

At about eight, some of the men arrived for the meeting and Willma got up from the table. The rest of the men arrived well after eight. Two of the three or four men were wealthy Bolivian individuals and the other(s) were apparently middle class. (By the way, I think the whole idea of "class" sucks).

The meeting started with little in the way of pleasantries or introductions, and I was somewhat annoyed to later hear Roberto occasionally refer to me as "esta gringito" (this little gringo) instead of using my name.

The men who came for the meeting aggressively launched into making a ridiculously excessive number of demands on my time. Roberto produced a calendar and began writing on it. Initially, no one was ASKING me if I would do anything. Everything was being demanded with confidence, as though they felt entitled to my cooperation.

It was obvious to me that these people were not organized, since some of them had conflicting agendas. When they weren't pelting me with demands, they were arguing with each other, though usually not loudly. Initially, it was all so hectic that it was difficult to answer anyone, and it appeared that working with them would be next to impossible. After a while, differences between their demands began to diminsh, but these did not completely disappear.

The men were trying to get me to make three and four presentations per day on several different days, even during the week of the eclipse. Not counting travel time, each presentation (including addressing participant questions through an interpreter) could last two or three hours. Anyone involved in public speaking knows what a ridiculously heavy schedule this would be.

I informed them that my itinerary had been agreed to ahead of time, and that what they proposed would put performance of my eclipse photography and experiments at risk. I also mentioned that it had taken over a hundred hours and a lot of funds to prepare for the eclipse. Unfortunately, mention of my experiments seemed to make them increase their demands. It was obvious that they did not care if they torpedoed my eclipse work, and they didn't care how much preparation was required.

What the men were demanding would triple to quadruple the obligated time on my itinerary, and thus prohibit nearly all of my planned activities. Not to mention that it would stand in the way of spending time with Willma Alcocer.

Until that evening, I had not expected that time with Willma would have so suddenly become a priority, but it had become a prioroty from the moment we first met. Therefore, I further resisted their ridiculously burdensome demands.

One specimen, whom I will call George, made more demands of me. Then another, whom I will call Simon also did so, but more aggressively. I maintained that I had agreed to make only one presentation a day for the next two days (three days if the tentative presentation Roberto had asked about on the phone was included), that the presentations were mostly at Buenas Nuevas, and that they had to be either in the afternoon or evening.

They said that was not good enough, and that I had to speak at more places than that. I said that I did not. This went on for several minutes, and I was getting bewildered. I just wanted to leave and go to bed, but it was obvious that this was not an available option.

I eventually realized that these people were demanding that I appear at a lot of schools, but that no one was mentioning Buenas Nuevas, the only school I had prearranged to speak at, so I said something like:

"I've heard you mention a lot of places you want me to speak, but I haven't heard any of you mention Colegio Buenas Nuevas. That is where I..."

George interrupted and said something like:
"That school is for poor people. It would not be a good use of you."

Roberto (with accent) then said:
"They are just Indians there. They would not understand what you tell them."

I replied:
"But that is where I had arranged to speak! Besides..."

Roberto interrupted and said:
"They are only poor people there."

Up to this point, I had not known that indigenous or low income people attended Colegio Buenas Nuevas. But now I did know. And with this knowledge came an abiding conviction that defending my arrangements there was the right thing to do. The only thing to do.

So I responded:
"All the more reason to speak there. The poor have less opportunity!"

Willma (standing by the table and making a fist to subtly gesture with) added:
"Amen!", and a member of the host's family also defended my position. Willma continued with a few more affirming words in advocacy of her school. Her expression had become serious, and she had some fire in her eyes as she spoke.

At this, Simon (in a rude tone of voice) interrupted and snapped back with several scolding words in Spanish to Willma and the family member. Willma temporarily looked taken aback by the rude reply.

I began to become very much more upset with these men, whoever they were. But I was quite impressed with Willma for even briefly taking them on.

I raised my voice and said:
"I am speaking at Buenas Nuevas. The poor here have less opportunity!"

More heated debate followed and Willma again left the room. The bias of the men against Colegio Buenas Nuevas (and apparently against Willma herself) made me wonder if all of the schools on their agenda would turn out to be only for rich kids.

I could not believe how rabid these people were about trying to deny even a small thing like my presentations to poor people of the area. They actually seemed to believe that the poor were less capable, a view much like the antiquated social views that were prevalent in the United States up through the early 20th century.

In light of this, I perceived that the poor of Bolivia should be given much more in the way of advocacy. The men kept trying to set up presentations that would conflict with my appearances at Buenas Nuevas, but I was able to at least hold the line on having one favorably timed presentation there. I was concerned about the way these people felt "entitled" to change my itinerary, but what really galled me was their bias against the poor, and a sustained and vicious racism such as nothing I'd ever seen in person before.

Another reason to defend appearing at Buenas Nuevas was to simply show respect for, and deference to, Willma, because she and one of her sisters were originally supposed to he my hosts. It was obvious that Roberto had usurped this role without her consent. The fact that she had backed me up concerning Buenas Nuevas showed that appearing there was important to her. Therefore, resisting the men on this was a reasonable thing to do in her co-owned house, whether Roberto liked it or not.

An additional problem was that these men were trying to schedule presentations at everything from primary schools to universities, while the material I had prepared (and that was in my missing luggage) was geared toward younger people such as those at Buenas Nuevas. It made no sense to present such elementary material at a university. And I had no resource material (and no time or alertness, given that I needed sleep) to put together a university level presentation on such short notice.

At least one of the men began to claim that they had already promised all of the other schools that I would appear at them, so I HAD to appear. I was shocked that they would really have done this without checking with me first. I also replied that I had prearranged to speak at Buenas Nuevas, and that if they did not have a problem with trying to get me to break my commitment there, I couldn't worry about them having to break theirs. Of course, this did not affect things, and their continued demands were wearing me down, even though they were gradually becoming less aggressive.

(This paragraph added in 2023: In conjunction with the above pressure tactics, Roberto and the men attempted to use religion to manipulate the situation. They began to claim that they wanted me to present at a lot of places for the purpose of Christian "evangelism". But that was not true at all. They only appropriated the term "Christian" for their brand of politics. Coercion of people is not a Christian trait, nor was their opposition to indigenous peoples and the poor. Following this meeting, there was only one occasion, at Instituto Americano on 31 October, where one of them (Simon) showed up to present anything about the gospel in conjunction with one of my (coerced and sleepy) eclipse presentations. I did not share the gospel in my presentations because I did not want to associate it with what was a scandal behind the scenes (I was not the only one they coerced), not to mention being ill at the times my presentations were made. If those men had NOT been involved, I probably would have been in reasonable health for my presentations, and could have shared the gospel myself. But everything those men touched - including ministry opportunities - got ruined. Ideologies associated with events that would occur 25 years later, in the apparent coup of Nov. 2019, were eerily similar to the ideologies expressed in this situation, in that the 2019 Regime claimed to be "Christian", yet it oppressed indigenous peoples and the poor.)

After Perceiving a Possible Threat to Willma, I Partially Capitulate (10:00 p.m.)

I was also concerned about something else: Upon seeing that Roberto, (the self proclaimed head of the extended family living at my original host's premises) had made no response to defend me, Willma, or the member of his family who was disrespectfully snapped at by one of the men at the meeting, I became concerned for the safety of Willma, Roberto's family, and myself.

I wondered if Roberto may have been manipulated or coerced by these wealthier people. They were very confident and aggressive, and Roberto had not even defended a member of his own family when they snapped at her.

Therefore, I did not know whether or not these men could pose a threat to Willma, or to Roberto or his family, either then or after I left the country. No one there was wielding a rubber hose or a cattle prod, but the experience was intense enough to make me wonder what could eventually happen if I did not cooperate.

I was too sleep deprived to think it all through rationally, so I eventually decided to be on the safe side and ultimately gave in to many of their demands. Under duress, I agreed to up to three lectures per day, though not on every day.

But I refused to cancel all of my appearances at Colegio Buenas Nuevas. Seeing opposition to the school by these men, learning the school was attended by some children from low income and indigenous families, and seeing Willma catch flak from them for defending my appearances there, birthed a resolve on this that was stronger than any I thought could exist, especially while weak and comparatively wimpy from sleep deprivation.

With all of the newly demanded presentations at schools for rich kids, the rich could have their corerced "more". But they were not going to take from the poor. Not this time. With God's help, I was not going to let them hold the poor down this time.

Fighting for this was more than just fighting for myself. It was also fighting for Willma and the children at her school. It was a matter of conscience that was driven by my faith. A faith that Roberto and the men claimed to share, but that their words and actions contradicted. Their failure to get full compliance seemed bother them. If their goal had been to coerce full compliance, they set themselves up for failure by opposing Willma and the poor. Their disappointment was of their own doing.

Political Opposition to Willma and Her Work with Indigenous and Poor People

(This part in parenthesis added in 2023: The fact that these men explicitly and repeatedly tried to prevent me from appearing at Colegio Buenas Nuevas is fraught with significance, but the circumstances were not disclosed while Willma was alive.
- In reality, Wilma was a resident at this house, though she had separate living quarters. And she and her sister were "supposed to be" by my hosts.
- However, her authority and host role were USURPED by the person referred to as "Roberto", who was her brother-in-law by way of marriage to one of her sisters.
- He ruled that household in a way that made it clear that Willma had absolutely no say in what happened in that house, including what happened to a guest there.
-- (And, as was discovered later, this was true even for what happened to HER.)
- She was then a Director at Buenas Nuevas, and Roberto, who usurped her role as host, was trying to prevent me from appearing at the school where SHE worked.
- In other words, "Roberto" was actively trying to PREVENT the very things that Willma wanted, and had been looking forward to, in regard to my trip to Bolivia.
- It was obvious that Roberto was hostile to many aspects of what Willma wanted.
- And, Roberto was using his usurpation of the host role to work against Willma.
- He also used his usurpation to actualize disdain he and the men had for the poor.
- Willma was also part owner of the house, but it appears that was taken from her.
- Events leading up to 22 Aug. 2023 show that there was indeed a threat to Willma.
- (Details are in Section 2 of this Eclipse Journal, in the "Afterword" chapter.))

It is important to note that, while Willma did advocate for her students and other children, she was not a political activist. Instead, Roberto invited rich men to impose themselves into her home, and thus onto both of us. Once there, the men made it clear that they opposed indigenous people and the poor, and that they were against Willma's school. In other words, these imposing rich men brought the rich vs poor fight to Willma (and by extension, to me), by coming right into the home of her extended family.

Political Intrigue Involving the Brother of a 1993 Presidential Candidate

Initially, later investigation (conducted mostly after I returned to the U.S.) showed that these people may not have had this kind of influence over the family, but there was no way to know this at the time, particularly with my senses dulled from sleep deprivation.

(These sentences in parenthesis added many years later: However, years later, events revealed that Roberto was actually the main cause of the problem, and that there may have a threat to one of the host women, and that he may have begun to harm two of the sisters financially, even prior to 1994. Details are in the next paragraph, and in the "Afterword" chapter at the end of Section 2. These sentences (and Afterword update) were added only after a resident sister passed away. There was then no one left in Roberto's sphere of influence that silence could protect.)

Though I did not know it at the time, later investigation showed that some of the troublesome people at the meeting had political connections. I later learned that a local street bore the family name of some of these people, and that one of the others (Roberto) had a brother (Casiano, of the Bolivian Renewal Alliance party) who was a Bolivian presidential candidate in 1993. A different one of these people (Simon) was associated with yet another politician (Linera) who came to power as Vice President of Bolivia several years later. The latter association seemed odd, since Linera was/is a Socialist, while men at the imposed 1994 meeting expressed opposition to the poor.

I assumed that these men may have been trying to gain political or social points by "arranging" for me to speak at various places. Some of them later kept introducing me as a "NASA scientist" before each presentation, but I kept correcting them and saying I was just an engineer. This correction probably did not make them very happy.

I had heard of sleep deprivation tactics being used in interrogations by corrupt police in various countries to get innocent people to confess to crimes they did not commit. And I now knew just how effective sleep deprivation tactics could be. After hours, I was ready to say just about anything I had to say in order to get away from those people so I could sleep. The pressure that authorities could bring to bear on a person would be far greater than what I had experienced.

Aftermath of Impositions By Men with Political Agendas:

The meeting was grueling and lasted more than two hours, with the most intense part being in the first half hour or so. Resisting these people to the extent I did had radically increased the duration of the meeting, but it had also paid off in the sense that the maximum number of major engagements per day was now three instead of the four they had wanted, and I only had to present material on one day during the week of the eclipse instead of the three or four they had initially insisted on.

In all, I had succeeded in eliminating about half of the work these people had initially sought to impose; however, the remaining number of imposed presentations were still a copious burden, tacking up to TEN hours per day onto my schedule for several days. Also, having to present any talks at all on the week of the eclipse was really going to interfere with my planned preparations for it.

More importantly, the imposed burdensome schedule also prevented spending much time with local people of my choosing, such as Willma Alcocer. Her sympathies regarding opportunities for low income people seemed in alignment with mine, and this was consistent with my initial good impressions of her. In fact, everything I was aware of that she said or did thereafter was consistent with those first impressions. I wanted to know more about her. A lot more. To know her better.

(This paragraph in parenthesis added 29 years later (spoiler alert): Interference by people with political agendas prevented spending much time with Willma Alcocer in 1994. I wanted to make a return trip to Bolivia and stay in an undisclosed politician-free location (to preserve my health and freedom) so I could see her again. But due to circumstances beyond my control, I never had an opportunity to return to Bolivia to see her again for the rest of her life. And she was unable to come to the USA. Never underestimate the ability of politicians and rich people to ruin everything!)

(This paragraph added in 2023: Sadly, Wilma Alcocer passed away 28 years and 10 months later, on 22 August, 2023.
A Eulogy to Willma is at the end of Part 2 of this journal:
http://www.eclipsechaser.com/eclink/ecjrnl/ecj94p2.htm#wilmae . Also see:
- Announcement that someone in Wilma's family kindly sent me:
Srta. Prof. Wilma Silvia Alcocer Borda / Q.E.P.D.
http://www.eclipsechaser.com/eclink/image/wilma94/wilma23a.jpg , AND:
- Post from Colegio Evangelico Buenas Nuevas (24 Aug. 2023, on Facebook):
Quiero comunicar que falleció la Srta. Profa. Wilma Alcocer
(Copy/paste all lines of each link into browser): https://www.facebook.com/photo
/?fbid=698754612289692&set=a.467338152098007&locale=es_LA , AND:
- Post from Sociedad Biblica Boliviana (23 Aug. 2023, on facebook):
CONDOLENCIAS: Srta. Prof. Wilma Silvia Alcocer Borda (with 2023 photo)
caivPrfULLwzPBPgbjdRthSPTkSzvsjh6T5LtFvCXWvWUiE2UTHUmaFKqFl .
Mention of people passing away may later be moved to the end of this journal.)

Even though I eventually took on this substantially heavier schedule, the people making demands still were not satisfied. I do not think they would had been satisfied unless I had capitulated to every one of their demands, which would have been humanly impossible. Apparently, they were dissatisfied partly because I refused to cancel all of my planned appearances at Buenas Nuevas, but by then, I did not really care what their feelings toward me were. The men were presumptuous, abrasive, and insufferably annoying. I just wanted to get away from their oppressive presence.

Many if not all of these men seemed to harbor prejudice against indigenous and poor people, and they apparently did not want indigenous or poor people to benefit even from little things like my presentations. It wasn't enough for them to get more for themselves. They also wanted to prevent gains by financially disadvantaged people. To hold them down. (The extreme prejudice of these men bothered me infinitely more than any effect their actions had on my itinerary or eclipse preparations.)

Most of the poor in this part of Bolivia are the indigenous Quechua people. I soon learned that racial and economic prejudice in Bolivia was not limited to these few obnoxious wealthy people alone. Even so, the social ills I saw Bolivia would seem minor when compared to places like El Salvador (particularly prior to the 1990's) or Colombia or Peru. Several decades ago, Bolivia at least had the common sense to implement some meaningful semblance of reformaguaria (land reform), and as of 1994, shameful atrocities against indigenous peoples have not been prevalent for some time.

Additional Demands and Related Medical Implications

In addition to the numerous presentations imposed at the meeting, a plethora of other unscheduled impositions followed. As a result of all these demands, my health failed within the first three days, and I did not recover for the rest of the trip. Among other things, this significantly affected my performance at the eclipse. I may have voluntarily tried to make more presentations (particularly after the eclipse) if I had been given enough advance notice to have made it possible to extend my trip.

The meeting on my first night in Bolivia had not been pleasant. But with it finally over, I could now go to bed, at least for a few hours. In spite of the fact that my slides (those needed for my presentation) had not arrived, these people had insisted on my making a presentation the next morning. Before I crashed for the night, I saw Roberto alone and asked him who these people were. He said that he "had not even heard of them" until a couple of days before I arrived, but that they were "influential".

The irony is that the things that Roberto and these men pressured me to do - also prevented me from having the time or energy to brief Roberto, his family, and others (possibly even these very men) about what to expect at the eclipse, how to get the most out of it, how to get photos of it, and more. I had hoped to do this for the host family and for Willma and others, but would have needed time to prepare. Before the 1991 eclipse in Mexico, I had done such a briefing (plus a timed dry run) for our group, and it sorted out limitations of their equipment and processes far enough ahead of time that they could compensate. But with the new imposed schedule, it appeared that there would be no time or energy to do this for our very own 1994 eclipse group. The impositions of these men preventing an eclipse briefing proved to be an understatment, because the initial impositions were not the only impositions. In the end, these men interfered with every aspect of the trip.

Roberto's Lies

I went to bed, but I could not sleep, partly due to the stress of my new circumstances, and partly due to jocular conversation the men were now having in the other room. Even though they were speaking in Spanish, I could overhear and understand some of what was said, and I was shocked to hear Roberto laughingly making light of my desire to allow 10 hours a day for rest and sleep in the days before the eclipse.

It was obvious that Roberto had known these men for some time, and that he had lied when he said he "had not even heard of them" until shortly before I arrived. It appeared that some of the first actions of this self-appointed "host" (Roberto) were to coerce his "guest", and then lie to him.

I reluctantly began to realize that Roberto could be a patsy or a chameleon, and that these particular men were probably too indifferent or unsophisticated ("illiterate" in the local vernacular) to appreciate the preparation that is required for exacting work at an eclipse. And they had not treated Willma well either. Everything about these men was wrong.

That night, it turned out that the pressure of the meeting, and worry about my schedule, only allowed me to sleep a few minutes, if at all, which was unusual for me. I was well on my way to unintentionally breaking my record of 79 consecutive hours without sleep that I had unintentionally set way back in October of 1976.

Aduana Adventures (Thursday, October 27)

When I got up next morning (Thursday, October 27), I found to my chagrin that I had developed even more severe Montezuma's revenge, and also had more prolapse and related bleeding problems. (Gross, but part of the story since it significantly influenced events). This made me a few minutes late in being ready to leave for my first presentation, but my ride was equally late also.

This development could result in the need for some short notice stops on the way to various places. All of the clothes I had not worn on my flight was in my checked bags, both of which did not arrive with the flight. This means I had no spare clothes to bring in the event of an "accident".

Less than 24 hours after arrival in Bolivia, I am about to leave for my first presentation. My dizzying new schedule has me so busy its hard to tell which way is up. It seems I've become a commodity. No time or energy for pleasant distractions like taking pictures or for errands like picking up a tooth brush.

Soon, the person I'll call Simon (the same person who had snapped at Willma during the previous night's meeting) came by to pick me up for my first presentation. He was driving a white vehicle that looked like a VW van that had been converted to a pickup truck. He was going to interpret at my presentation, but the airport had to be our first stop because I needed my slides and other presentation materials from my tardy checked bags. When I got in the vehicle, I was obviously displeased to be around Simon again, but I decided to try to make the best of it. Nonetheless, a long, icy silence followed.

Finally, Simon said:
"I wanted to see you speak at more Catholic schools. The others are always against Catholic schools."
Simon was not Catholic, so his preference seemed unusual at first. I thought that he should have realized I had been unable to significantly influence the outcome of the meeting we had both attended the night before, so I indignantly replied something like:
"You know very well that I had precious little to do with what was decided last night! I don't know why you're complaining to me about it."
I felt somewhat badly about unloading on him, so I was more courteous after that. I'd only had half an hour of sleep since the previous Tuesday morning, and this sleep depravation tended to erode my diplomacy and other social skills.

After a few minutes, we arrived at the airport and went in to look for my luggage. The flight had arrived some time before, so no passengers were left in the area. Unfortunately, only one of my two bags had arrived, and it was not the one that had my slides in it; however, it did have some reference material I could use to prepare a lecture. I needed that material because I was too spaced out to even remember my well practiced presentation. The outline for my presentation was with my slides in the bag that was still missing.

When I tried to get the luggage through Aduana, or customs, the agent inspected the contents. When he saw my telescope mount, he told me I had fill out some forms and leave the mount and other items with him for several hours while the forms were processed. I had been warned by my Bolivian friends (in the USA) not to go along with this scheme if I ever wanted to see my equipment again.

I had previously been informed that the usual solution to this type of problem was to pay the agent a bribe in the amount that he would subtly indicate with his fingers. I watched his fingers, but did not see the characteristic signal. I also did not want to pay a bribe; both because I did not want to spend the money and because I did not want to contribute to the delinquency of an adult (the Aduana agent, in this case).

I even offered to check my bag back into the airline's custody and come back later, when dealing with the customs situation would not conflict with my school presentation, but the agent would have no part of it. I patiently continued to argue with him through Simon, who was acting as my interpreter, for about 40 minutes. I considered the possibility of waiting by my equipment all day while the customs agent "processed" my forms. Praying came to mind again, and shortly thereafter, I realized that there may yet be an expeditious way to end the situation.

I recalled that while on my flight to Bolivia, Alfonso Canelas and I had discussed the matter of my writing an article for his paper (Los Tiempos) about my experience in Bolivia. At the time, I fully intended to oblige, and I realized that my experience with this Aduana agent was just as much a part of my experience in Bolivia as anything else. So, in the hearing of the agent, I said to Simon; "You know, I've been asked to write an an article for a local newspaper, and I sure would hate to have to mention that I was not able to appear for this morning's school presentation because I had to wait in an airport due to a difficulty with Aduana".

At this, the agent looked at Simon and, in Spanish, asked him what I said (Que dice?). Simon then interpreted my last remark to the agent, and the agent instantly lost his confident demeanor. The agent then went into a corner office and began talking with another person. When he came back a couple of minutes later, he waved us through and told us that we could leave immediately with my luggage!

The First School

We then drove to Santo Tomas de Aquino, the first school I had been newly scheduled to speak at. As was the case virtually everywhere I visited that day, my first order of business was to use the restroom. The facilities in some schools were far more primitive than even the most basic facilities in the U.S.

In order to attend this presentation, the students at this school were going to stay past the usual end of their school day, but most of them had left by the time we got there. Apparently, Simon and the others who pressured me had not been organized enough to even call ahead and inform the school that we would be late. The fact that even the scheduled presentation time was after school hours made me begin to wonder if maybe the school had also been pressured by the same people into allowing a presentation that day.

The few students remaining were all identically dressed girls who appeared to be in their later years of high school. They looked sad as they expressed disappointment in not being able to see my presentation. I felt sorry for them, but there was nothing I could do other than try to squeeze a short talk to their school in between my later imposed presentations. This was an unlikely scenario, so I did not mention the possibility. But I later learned that Simon had.

Even though the people who pressured me into presenting claimed that they had "arranged things" with all of the schools in advance, I began to wonder if they had really done so. Planning, communication, and attention to detail, were not their strong suits. As it was, the possibility I had raised at the airport turned out to be what actually happened: I had not been able to present at the school due to a difficulty with Aduana.

We left the school, and Simon expressed concern about my not having any presentation materials. I was equally concerned, because the sheer number of students anticipated for my next presentation could make the use of a black board impractical. I would at least need view graphs, so we went to a store and bought some blank view graph material and some view graph pens. I also asked if they had toothbrushes, but they didn't.

Making view graphs meant that I could not take a nap before the next presentation, which was at 3:30 that afternoon. There was at least one good thing about that afternoon's presentation: It was at Colegio Buenas Nuevas, where Willma Alcocer was the director. This is the only school I had prearranged to appear at. Yea! I get to go to Buenas Nuevas! That was my first happy thought of the day.

We arrived back at Roberto and Gloria's house and I went inside. Lunch had been prepared. The family had a Quechua maid named Delfina who lived on the premises and had done all the work. We had lunch and Roberto's four children began watching a VHS video tape of the movie "Home Alone 2" for one of what turned out to be many times.

After lunch, I set to work on the view graphs. My Spanish dictionary was in my missing suitcase and I was too spaced out to remember how to spell some things in Spanish, so I checked with Roberto. Unfortunately, he did not know how to spell the words I needed either, so I guessed. If I spelled a few words wrong, it would probably make for some good laughs.

Roberto told me that a television reporter was coming by to interview me later in the day. This was another unscheduled imposition. I was not happy about this idea, because I had not been able to shave or brush my teeth since the previous Tuesday morning due to my missing luggage. Not to mention that this also would prevent getting any rest at all.

He then started telling me about a lot of interviews and other events that would be happening at the house between my presentations. None of these events had been scheduled or even so much as tacitly agreed to, and it became clear that he had no intention of allowing me any time to rest. The reporter either showed up that day or the next day, I don't recall which, and I sleepily muddled through the interview. I don't know if it was ever aired.

Roberto's family did not seem to approve of the way he was treating me, but it appeared that they were in no position to do anything about it. Even though he allegedly was not an owner of the house, he was definitely "in control" of all things in the household. At the time I thought that this may have been due in part to the patriarchal nature of the culture. (However, when the above mentioned "intrigue" concerning ownershp of the house later came to light, it explained a lot.)

A Dizzying Hodgepodge of Events

At about three, another person, whom I will call Gerardo, arrived at the house to take me to Buenas Nuevas. He was a very personable college student, and we began to talk.

I eventually mentioned how Colegio Buenas Nuevas was the only school where it was pre-arranged that I speak (I had volunteered to appear there before I even left home), but that I had been pressured into making a lot more presentations (all at other locations) that I had not planned on, and how it was affecting my sleep and health. He asked me if I knew the names of the people who had pressured me, and I told him the names I could recall.

Upon hearing the names, Gerardo became visibly disturbed and related that some of the same people had made him interpret at my presentations, adding that he had final exams the next week, and the impositions on him could compromise his studies. He said that he did not like those people and added that he did not like Roberto very well either. My unfavorable perceptions of Roberto and the other men appeared to be congruent with their local reputations.

(Socially, it seemed that Roberto was a small man with high ambitions who wanted to rub shoulders with big shots, and who exploited others in his efforts to do so. It appeared that Roberto tried to barter labor coerced from others to try and impress influential people. Yet in so doing, Roberto was only being used by them, not genuinely liked or respected by them. [This paragraph was written circa 1997, but was left out until early 2024.])

I enjoyed Gerardo's company, but I felt badly about the pressure that his being coerced into interpreting so near the time of his exams was putting him under. As it was, he was going to miss the trip to the total eclipse due to his tests. The people who appropriated us apparently had little interest in doing much of the presentation related work themselves.

Even though Gerardo was under this pressure, he enthusiastically volunteered to give me a tour of some of Cochabamba as we drove between various schools, restrooms, and the house where I was staying. (I had thought the house belonged to Willma and two of her sisters, and only partly to Roberto by means of marriage to one sister. But for all practical purposes, it increasingly appeared to be Roberto's house. Regardless of who really owned the house, Roberto controlled what happned there. For this reason, it will often be referred to as "Roberto's house" from here on.)

I appreciated the incremental tour of Cochabamba with Gerardo because, as it turned out, it was the only tour of the city I would ever get to have.

First Time at Colegio Buenas Nuevas (2:50 p.m.)

As we drove south toward Colegio Buenas Nuevas, the town around us gradually took on a more impoverished look. As we drove up a hill to get to the school, we were able to look out over the vast area of Cochabamba. Finally, we arrived at Buenas Nuevas.

I was glad when we arrived. Being "allowed" to appear at Buenas Nuevas had been hard won, requiring over an hour of argument against Roberto and rich men who had unexpectedly imposed themselves the night before.

Just over 24 hours earlier, I could not have imagined that the rich would oppose this school, or that I'd be caught in the middle of it. It was supposed to be a simple two week vacation, in which I'd do little more than visit Willma, visit and present at her school, visit some churches, photograph southern sky objects, and observe an eclipse.

But Roberto and the rich men had made it political. Yet by God's grace, the rich were not going to have their way regarding this school.

Gerardo and I got out of the car and he gave a Boliviano (about 22 cents, US) to an old Indian lady that was sitting under a small tarp by a "Foosball" table. I asked him why he was paying her, and he said it was so she would "watch" his car. I knew exactly what he meant, but asked to verify that it was so. It was for "protection".

Colegio Buenas Nuevas is an unassuming complex of red and yellow brick buildings that is attended by about 1,800 students. Half come in the morning and half come in the afternoon. But the buildings are not what matters. It's all about the staff and what they teach there.

Willma Alcocer met us out near the street and led us into the school grounds. After my usual "bio stop" to deal with Montezuma, she escorted us into the lecture hall, where there were at least 400 students seated on benches, and possibly also at a few small desks off to one side. Most of the students were twelve years of age or younger.

All of the students had identical white gowns or smocks over their regular clothing. I had never seen this type of uniform in person before I'd gone to Bolivia, but I sort of liked the idea of this type of school uniform. It helped level the perceived economic playing field between students while at school.

Gerardo and I went to the stage at the front of the lecture hall and Willma introduced me to the students.

Then all of the students loudly and enthusiastically responded:
"Buenas Tardes Jeff Char-les!" in unison.

This was impressive, and both Gerardo and I were pleasantly surprised! Gerardo even did a double take.

Willma made a few additional introductory statements and led the students in a prayer. Prayer was practiced in virtually every Bolivian school I went to, and I liked the fact that prayer was both allowed and utilized. I am sure there are people in the U.S. who don't like the idea, but after seeing it first hand, my argument for prayer in school (particularly voluntary prayer) would be one of results:

People will usually put something first in their lives, and if God is not allowed in the school, students will seek out someone or something else that they can put first. For some, this may be their studies, but for others (particularly in the U.S.), it will be drugs, guns, or gangs. Lethal violence in U.S. schools is the legacy left by our high court decisions over the last few decades. Prayer is allowed in Bolivian schools, and there is less violence in Bolivian schools. Go figure.

After the prayer, I began my presentation. Unfortunately, owing to my missing luggage, I only had the four view graphs I had made earlier that afternoon, so I quickly ran out of material. Most of the view graphs were to explain the difference between a partial and a total eclipse. Cochabamba was outside the path of totality, and I realized that few if any of the students would be able to go to the total eclipse, so my emphasis was on safe viewing methods for the partial eclipse.

After presenting the view graphs, I wanted to use some balls or disks and a light to illustrate the earth, sun, and moon. I asked Willma if anyone had any of these items on the school grounds. One of the teachers went out of the room, and soon returned with something that pleasantly surprised me.

She returned with a beautifully made articulated mechanical model of the earth, sun, and moon. It was the neatest gadget I had seen in a long time. After I finished marveling at it, I used it to illustrate how a solar eclipse occurs, then went to questions and answers.

The children were well behaved and had a good attention span, particularly considering the fact that I was tired and had no photos to present due to my missing luggage. (Being tired imparts a "Joe Friday" quality to my presentation!) As we were leaving after the presentation, a few of the students came up to grab and/or shake my hand. They seemed very appreciative.

Gerardo and I left the school at about 4:30 and started back to Roberto's house. Gerardo mentioned that he was very tired from the experience of standing and speaking for so long and did not know how I was able to have the energy to make more than one presentation a day. I told him that it was not easy, and that I would never schedule more than one or two presentations a day if it was up to me.

Playing Hooky - From the House - Not from School! (4:30 p.m.)

I was beginning to get sicker from lack of sleep. But by then, I knew that I would not get any sleep, rest, or even peace at Roberto's house. So any near term destination would be preferable to going back there. I did not mention this to Gerardo, but he must have sensed it, based on his prior knowledge of Roberto.

Gerardo offered to show me more things around town "on the way" back to the house. I accepted because I correctly anticipated that Roberto would not allow me any time to take my own tour. Also, the house was intermittently infested with presumptuous wannabe politicians, pushy wealthy people, and others who seemed to have agendas that were in opposition to the poor, and thus in opposition to Willma and her work, not to mention my own values.

We stopped at a few places including a few music stores where I bought some Bolivian music I had on my shopping list. The main music on my list was the album "Lo Mejor de Los Kjarkas", since it had their 1976 song "Bolivia" on it. Other music included that by Grupo Creacion, Grupo Kory Marka, Grupo Luz de Bolivia, Grupo Nueva Vida, Munakuy, and Nectar Andino.

Two of the music tracks were for an amateur video about the trip that I had initially planned to produce. However, a final version of this video was never made because demands by Roberto and the rich men prevented getting planned location and other footage, and I could not get permission to use third party video that would have partially compensated for that.

Gerardo and I may have initially stopped at a furniture manufacturing shop that one of his relatives owned, so I could rest there for an hour or so.

When we arrived back at Roberto's house (probably around 7:15, or about 45 minutes after sunset), Roberto said that he wished I had arrived home sooner so I could have done a bunch of other things he wanted me to do. I was glad I had gone on my little detour. It was much less pressure than Roberto's incessant demands!

Roberto's wife could tell I was ill and offered me some Linaza tea. I was ready to try anything. I later (while still ill after the eclipse) even tried Coca tea. Coca tea is not what one would think it would be from the name, since it is too weak to have a narcotic effect. If it did, it would not necessarily make one well, but I presume that if it was stout enough, one just would not care if they were sick!

Near the time I was having the Linaza tea, I was told that my other checked bag had arrived at the airport and that Simon had gone to get it. He was going to bring it to the house, so I waited a few more minutes for it before going to bed. After days without a toothbrush, I really wanted to brush my teeth.

Thus far, Simon had been the only one of the men at the previous night's imposed meeting who had done any actual work to support the coerced presentations. Because of this, my view of him may have softened more if he had not scolded Willma the night before.

That evening, while awaiting my late suitcase, I was finally able to take some video of the family.

Dinner that evening was late enough that Willma could come by after work. This was one of the rare times when Willma stayed to have a meal with the family. However, my health had already begun to fail, and with it my ability to understand Spanish. I could still speak some Spanish if I had time to gather my thoughts, but this turned out to be the last night that my Spanish remained intact while in Bolivia.

This made it almost impossible to speak with Willma during the family's dinner conversations. It was difficult to be at the table, only one meter away from her, yet be incapable of speaking with her. Roberto presumed that I'd only want to hear what he said, so his voice dominated the table. After dinner, I didn't remember a word he said.

After dinner, Roberto's children came into the room I was staying in with their cat, Perico. Two of them were holding the cat over their heads and in a position similar to that of Superman when he flies. I took a break to shoot some video of the flying cat, who did not seem to like his flying lessons. He later ran away from home for six days.

Roberto's family had more pets than just their flying cat. They had dog named Pelucha, and another dog, or at least I think it is a dog, named Snoopy: The latter has a reputation of being something like a Tasmanian Devil. Whenever guests arrive, Snoopy is put into a room outside the house where he can't try to eat anyone.

At one point, Snoopy got loose and ran into the house. I saw a small dark blur shoot past my door at about Mach 2. (Maybe he really is a Tasmanian Devil?) With alarm in her voice, Roberto's wife told me to shut myself in my room for my own safety and not to open the door until I was told it was safe. I eagerly did so while the family risked life and limb to apprehend the mystery creature and put him back in his room. Once snoopy was safely back where he belonged, I cautiously emerged from my room.

A Second Conversation with Willma Alcocer (9:00 p.m.)

At about nine PM, Simon arrived with my suitcase and I unpacked my toothbrush and the Carousel tray with my slides in it. Simon said he would bring a projector by in the morning.

After brushing my teeth, I took my slides and presentation outline to the dining room table so I could refamiliarize myself with them. I did this because I realized that I had forgotten even basic things that would ordinarily be second nature.

Willma was at the table when I got there, and a member of the host family came to the table to interpret any words I came up short on.

Given the tense situation with the men at the imposed meeting the night before, our brief conversation immediately turned to the plight of economically disadvantaged people, and all that appeared to be arrayed against them. The previous night, I'd had to argue with the men for over an hour to resist their attempts to keep me from speaking at Buenas Nuevas. This and other aspects of the imposed meeting the night before had highlighted how pervasive opposition to the poor was in Bolivia.

The conversation was also about how, in spite of all that appears to be against low income people, their character is often admirable. And that it can be deep and humbling to be around the meek (not just meaning weak) among them. I had long been impressed by how such people, even in times of loss or greater hardship, got on with life in a "matter of fact" way. While I did not say this at the time, I felt they were admirable people in whose presence I felt small. I thought that I would be a far better person if I could be even a little bit like them. (This is to generalize for the sake of brevity. Many aspects of the conversation were more specific.) We talked of most of this in Spanish, before my Spanish evaporated with my health the next day.

Events of the night before had driven what proved to be our common interests and priorities (in a number of areas) to the forefront.
(Comments: There is a slim chance that the above conversation may have been on a different day. Some details and the above paragraph were added in 2023. Most text in the three paragraphs before the one above one was originally shown in the first conversation of the night before, to obscure the family (bother in law) relationship between the man referred to as "Roberto" and Willma (for her sake), for as long as Willma was alive. Roberto imposed stressful conditions on Willma that contributed to her death in 2023. Details are in "Afterword" chapter in Section 2 of this journal.)

(This paragraph was outlined in the 1990's, but left out until Willma passed away in 2023: Months before I went to Bolivia, Willma's sister in the USA had compared the appearance of Willma's face when she smiles, to the face of an angel. At the time, I thought she was exaggerating. But when I met Willma my first evening in Bolivia, just before the men came over for the imposed meeting, I saw a glimmer of this. During this second conversation, I could perceive more goodness behind her smile than was perceived the night before. And when she smiled, her face increasingly looked just as her sister had said. Even though it may seem forward, I wanted to tell Willma of this while I could still speak directly to her in Spanish. So, I told her, using what Spanish I had left. She smiled and briefly looked down at the table. She may have then said something to the effect that I needed glasses if I thought that, but she looked content while saying it. After this, there were occasional pauses in the conversation when she'd smile with her mouth closed or mostly closed, and looking content and relaxed. Sometimes she looked at me, and sometimes off to one side. It was then that I could better sense her aura, maybe because I was not distracted by trying to speak in Spanish. It was good that I had told her this small part of what I saw in her when I did, because there was never an opportunity to tell her again.)

Finally, I was able to go to bed. Partly due to Montezuma's revenge, pain related to a now-worsening prolapse condition, and other factors, I was only able to sleep about two hours that night, mostly during the few hours just before I had to get up.

Friday, October 28:

The next morning (Friday, October 28), I was still spaced out and felt even worse, so I still did not bring a camera with me to photograph the schools. It would have been nice to have pictures, but it seemed that it took extraordinary effort for me to do even the most basic of things.

Losing the Ability to Speak or Understand Spanish

My health had failed with remarkable swiftness: Even more rapidly than I previously thought possible from external circumstances. In the fog of illness, I'd lost all ability to understand Spanish. Some Spanish words still sounded familiar, but I no longer knew what they meant. The night before, I could tell that my Spanish (and some other cogntitive abilities) were slipping away, but I did not know the extent to which these abilities would be lost, or for how long. (I'd never had abilities "evaporate" before.) I was glad I had complimented Willma the night before, since it appeared there would not be another chance to directly do so while in Bolivia. (Even after I returned home, my Spanish never returned to where it was before I went to Bolivia.)

The Emanuel School (10:30 a.m.)

Gerardo picked me up and we drove to the Emanuel school for my 10:30 morning presentation. It was a brick building having a much different layout than Buenas Nuevas. The rest room was little more than a raised trough with a separate basin of water and a can which is used for "flushing".

Other than Colegio Buenas Nuevas, Emanuel was the only school at which I had been "allowed" to speak where the students were from something other than rich and middle class families.

At Emanuel, the presentation was done was in a shaded meeting area that was partly outdoors. After we arrived, uniformed children started coming down some stairs from their classrooms. Many were carrying their desks down with them. This was a little time consuming, but amusing to see. As the children assembled, I noticed an unusually large striped yellow hornet hovering above a wall ten meters or more to my left. I occasionally cast a cautious eye toward it as I began my presentation. I certainly did not want it coming my way!

We made the presentation with my pictures, and I was delighted to find that the projections of my slides were visible in the relatively bright surroundings. I made many mistakes during the presentation: In my sleep deprived state, I was even forgetting the name of familiar constellations like Scorpius and Sagittarius. Fortunately, Gerardo remembered the names of some of them from my previous review of what would be in the presentation, and he made appropriate corrections in his translation. He could definitely tell that I was not all there.

Second Visit to Colegio Buenas Nuevas

After this, we went to Buenas Nuevas for a second time. This was the only window of opportunity prior to the eclipse for me to make a presentation to the morning classes at Buenas Nuevas, but it was not optimally timed due to demands by Roberto et al that conflicted with more favorable time.

The only available time "allowed" by Roberto et al was after the end of the morning shift classes at Buenas Nuevas. It seemed that Robero had deliberately scheduled the other school presentation first, so that it would conflict with a more suitable time at Buenas Nuevas, in order to frustrate Wilma.

It also seemed that everything Roberto and his wealthy friends touched became hopelessly disorganized or even got ruined, and this trend would continue for days. Gerardo and I gave the talk at Buenas Nuevas, and it went a little better than the the one earlier that morning.

After the talk, Gerardo challenged me to a game of Foosball, on the table next to where his car was parked near Buenas Nuevas. I knew he would beat me due to my condition, but I thought it would be fun. It had been 15 years since I had played Foosball. He gave the Indian lady by the machine (the same lady who "watched" his car) some coins, and she gave him the balls for it. He beat me in mere seconds, so he offered to play the next game with just one hand. He beat me again, but it took him a few more seconds. If I am able to go back to Bolivia in a well rested condition, I'll have to go for a rematch!

Playing Hooky Again - From the House:

Gerardo and I again drove to a few places "on the way" back to the house. He showed me the college he was attending and told me about his girl friend. He remembered the exact year, day, and even the minute, that he first met her. She would probably be impressed!

Near his school, the traffic was particularly crazy and he nearly got stranded in the middle of an intersection as he was trying to turn left. He was worried for a while. Even though relatively few intersections have traffic control signals, he said that one could get a traffic ticket if they got stuck in an unsignaled intersection. Seemed crazy to me that one could get a ticket for that in an intersection with no signals, but we obviously were not on U.S. roads.

Gerardo later mentioned that if I wanted to, he and I could go out of town for target practice after he had finished his exams. I wanted to take him up on that after the eclipse, but I did not know if my condition (or Roberto) would permit it.

Less than an hour after we had left Buenas Nuevas, it started to rain. He said it was the first rain they'd had for months. The rain made driving difficult, so he took me to his family's furniture business and showed me around, then we had a soda and I got to rest for the better part of an hour. After the rain let up, he dropped me off at Roberto's house, probably at around 3:45.

Roberto Shows his Shortsightedness - Again:

After I came into the house, the Roberto's usual impositions prevented me from even taking a nap. This time, it was being demanded that I do not grant Los Tiempos (the paper directed by Alfonso Canelas, my fellow passenger on the flight to Bolivia) an interview during my trip, and that I instead had to grant an interview to a competing paper at five p.m. that day. While I did not say anything at the time, I was inclined to just disappear when the time of the competing interview arrived.

I did not want to stiff Los Tiempos, and I also did not like the idea of being interviewed until after I was able to get a decent amount of sleep. Fortunately, the competing reporter never showed up. I eventually called Alfonso at Los Tiempos and told him that I could have some difficulty meeting with him during my trip, but that I would still try to do so. It turned out that I never had the opportunity to meet with him again:

(This paragraph added in 2023: Sadly, Luis Alfonso Canelas Tardio passed away at age 66, on 26 Feb. 2009, after surgery in Santiago, Chile for lung and esophageal cancer.
See: Los Tiempos link [copy and paste link into browser]:
And: El Cronista de Cochabamba:
More sadly, Alfonso's youngest son passed away four years later, at only age 23.)

What Roberto was doing seemed very short sighted. Here, the largest newspaper in Cochabamba had asked me not only for an interview, but also (if I wanted) to write an article about my experience in Bolivia for the paper. (Ironically, the article would have been a short version of this journal.) This journal can be as detailed as it is because I took notes, owing to the prospect of writing such an article. In the end, I did not submit it to the Cochabamba paper because some people in Roberto's house were innocent, and I did not want it to reflect on them.

If Roberto had honored the original schedule that had been worked out with Willma and her sister, he would have helped facilitate work at the eclipse, then had positive exposure in such an article. But now, Roberto probably knew that he had blown that opportunity, so he now wanted to prevent me from even interviewing with the paper.

Meeting New Friends at the First University Presentation:

The next coerced presentation was at seven p.m. at Universidad Mayor de San Simon, which I believe was a state run university. Roberto was translating this time, and the talk was rather sluggish because of my lack of sleep and Roberto's ability to only haltingly interpret a few words at a time. After the presentation, there were a lot of questions, but the meeting was pretty much over by around ten thirty that night.

Just as I was getting ready to leave, a few people came up and told me that they were going to the center line of the eclipse too, and wanted to show me their material. I very much wanted to see what they had, but I was feeling very ill and sleepy, so I said that I would have to hurry if I was to look at their material. They were obviously unaware of my difficulty earlier on the trip, so I felt bad about putting them off, but I was desperate for sleep. I am glad I did stay to see their material, since that meeting was the beginning of a decades-long friendship.

What they showed me was very impressive. They had produced a table for the 1994 eclipse from the Besselian elements. The table had detailed eclipse data for every major city in Bolivia. It was obvious that this was their own work rather than a copy of a NASA publication.

They had much more material that they wanted to show me (and I wanted to see it) so I got one of their business cards with a phone number. Then, they invited me to their next meeting, which was on the Saturday night after the eclipse. They even offered to pick me up. I accepted, contingent on the state of my health. The group was called Astronomia Sigma Octante (ASO). It was led by German Morales, and they met at Centro Simon Patino. I was glad to have met fellow astronomers in Bolivia.

(This paragraph added in 2023: Sadly, my friend German Morales Chavez passed away in 2021. See: Los Tiempos. 11 Sep. 2021:
Mas cerca de las estrellas: el legado que dejo el astro-fisico German Morales.
https://www.lostiempos.com/doble-click/vida/20210911/mas-cerca-estrellas-legado-que-dejo-astro-fisico-german-morales )

Roberto and I left the school. He seemed excited about the people from ASO whom I had just met. I somewhat cynical about the motives behind Roberto's enthusiasm, because he was probably just looking at them as another commodity he could try to use. Roberto didn't seem to notice that the director didn't appear to like him. Roberto had been acting like a fan who wanted a celebrity's autograph or something.

After hearing me speak with the ASO people and seeing evidence of the extensive preparatons that they had made for the eclipse, Roberto may have begun to realize that serious astronomy, including an eclipse expedition, is not a thing one can just go out and do without a lot of preparation.

In my case, such preparation, including building, procuring, and modifying hardware; developing and practicing procedures, site selection, forecasting what the appearance of the lunar umbra might look like from the anticipated site (to the degree then possible), etc., had taken hundreds of hours, and some of the hardware was not cheap.) I had told Roberto this before, but it never seemed to register.

While Roberto's impromptu demands on me did not stop altogether, things did get substantially better (for a couple of days) after that, and he began to show me some respect, at least temporarily. He even began doing occasional token things on my behalf. This made it much easier to tolerate or occasionally get along with Roberto, at least during the periods of time between his future impromptu demands.

Unfortunately, much damage had already been done. I was quite ill - more so than I had been in a long time - and there was apparently no way to get out of doing the imposed presentations over the next few days. This would make it a challenge to recover, particularly in time for the eclipse. Nonetheless, I did sleep better that night, getting about six hours. At least my surroundings no longer seemed hostile or indifferent.

Saturday, October 29:

At eleven on Saturday morning (October 29), my imposed schedule called for me to have a live one hour interview with a small group on a local Christian radio station.

Unfortunately, my Montezuma's revenge had become something much worse, probably due to the stress of the previous few days.

A More Serious Medical Situation

For a few years, I'd had a rear end prolapse condition. It had not yet become severe enough to be debilitating, and I was going to be corrected with a moderate surgery. However, my insurance referrals for this never came together before my employer changed contractors (and with that, my insurance changed), and the referral process had to be started all over again. This caused it to gradually get worse over time.

By this morning in Bolivia, I was more sleep deprived and stressed than I'd been in over a decade and a half, and this apparently had an adverse effect on the strength and control of my pelvic floor muscles.

The prolapse condition suddenly became much worse than it had ever been before on that morning, prolapsing about 4 cm, and causing pain that I expect would be as bad as having all ten of one's finger nails smashed at once. In addition to the local pain, I could feel pulling clear up as high as the splenic flexure of my colon.

Swelling and considerable bleeding could not be stopped for over an hour, and severe pain continued for quite some time afterward. I could not even leave the restroom during the swelling, because it could not be pushed back inside where it belonged until the swelling went down. During the swelling, the volume was about as large as a hemisphere from a tennis ball. (Gross, but that was reality.)

The pain was very bad during that hour. I was also very weak after this, and my alertness was way off. The painful process would repeat itself many times during and beyond the rest of the trip, though the average duration of most future painful swelling during prolapse events was more like 20 minutes.

The 1-Hour Live Radio Interview that Didn't Happen

The rear end problem made me nearly an hour late for the coerced 1-hour radio interview, not to mention the distraction of the continuing severe pain, and still being zoned out from accumulated sleep deprivation. Only 5 minutes of the radio program remained after I arrived. And I was still in pain, so I did not say much.

(Comment: I did not even begin to recover from this increased prolapse condition until weeks after I returned to the U.S. The problem got worse again the next year, and major surgery with a 9-day hospitalization was required less than a year after that. The first surgery was an "abdominal rectopexy" that also included resection of the upper part of my rectum and some colon; about about 20 cm in all. The surgeon, who had practiced for decades, said it was the worst prolapse case he had ever seen in a male patient less than 60 years old - and I was only 37.)

While I was still at the radio station, I loaned the announcer what I thought was a tape of music from the Latino Church in Pasadena. I had been so spaced out and wracked with pain that morning that it was a miracle I'd remembered to bring any tapes with me at all.

Later that weekend, I noticed the radio station was playing songs by an artist called "Rabito" in exactly the same order I'd had them on one of my tapes. After a while, I began to wonder if I'd given the station the wrong tape. It turned out that I had, and here it was being played over the radio! Oops!

The heavy imposed schedule had taken a severe toll on my health, and many of the newly imposed short notice school presentations (particularly those following the eclipse) ultimately had to be canceled due to my condition.

My original schedule (which allowed for plenty of rest right after arrival) would have allowed me to work in more presentations than I was actually able to do, and remain healthy in the process. It seemed that those who demanded my cooperation did not care what the long term results of their actions were for anyone. They had no appreciation for the long game. Short term satisfaction was all that mattered to them.

Time was running out for making local eclipse preparations such as assembling and re-testing my equipment and performing dry runs of my procedures. This is something I'd originally planned to be well into completing by now. But as it was, my eclipse equipment was not even unpacked yet. The eclipse was less than five full days away, and one full day would be needed just for travel to the path of totality.

The Second University

That afternoon at 2:30, the presentation was at Laredo University. Roberto interpreted for that presentation. Later that day, I was able to start unpacking some of my eclipse equipment, but I was too tired to get much done. I also had to make relatively frequent and painful long duration trips to the rest room because of my worsened prolapse condition.

The plumbing in the house was rather finicky, and it was not unusual for the commode to become clogged. I typically tried to fix the problem myself when it occurred, because I noticed that the maid did not have access to tools such as a plunger. Instead, she had to manually remove all water and blockages from the commode with her hands and a small can, then pour heated water in it as it was flushed.

I asked the family if they could get a plunger so their maid would not have to go through this ordeal; I even offered to pay for it myself. Before long, the family got a plunger, and I typically would use it myself whenever it was necessary. The first time I used it, Roberto's wife Gloria almost laughed her head off when she saw how enthusiastic I was about having it. It was important to me to have the plunger because I did not want to see the maid have to go through her former toilet unclogging ordeal any more.

Sunday, October 30:

The next day (Sunday, October 30), I went to church at Iglesia Cristiana Evangelica Bolivar with the family. The service began at 11. This is a church that my friends in the U.S., Vidal and Ruth Juarez, used to attend when they lived in Bolivia. They met and were married in this church. We were late getting to church, but this time, being late was not because of me. Willma attended the same church as well.

I took video in the church, but the image seemed to be strobing in the viewfinder. I thought something could be wrong with my camera until I realized that the blinking was probably caused by the fluorescent lights (and the standard area power of 220v 50 Hz) beating against the roughly 60 Hz of my video camera.

During the service, they sang "El Senor Es Mi Rey", a song that was familiar to me because it was also sung in the Spanish speaking church I had attended in the U.S.

After church, we all went back to the house, where Roberto's wife, and sometimes Willma, occasionally tried to nurse me back to health. I could see why Roberto's wife might do this, as Roberto had a hand in causing my illness. But Wilma had nothing to do with the cause. Yet here she was, helping. I had wanted to spend time with Willma, and this was intermittent time with her, but attempts at nursing me back to health, all while I was unable to speak a peep of Spanish with her, was not the dynamic I had in mind. She probably wasn't favorably impressed, but it's hard to say.

But I was favorably impressed with her. Here she was, taking time out of her day for this, when she had no part in causing my illness. (The common nemeses of us both caused it.) It wasn't that she was doing this for me. It was that she would do this for anyone. Her taking time to do this, as well as many other things she did and said over time, all fit with the good first impressions I had of her four days earlier. In spite of these continuing good impressions, my ability to perceive Wilma's aura had diminished when my health and my ability to understand Spanish had evaporated two days earlier. I would not have thought that health could impact this sort of thing, but it did.

Willma spoke Spanish to me during this time, but I'd lost my Spanish almost two days earlier, and had no way to verbally answer her. I had asked that someone in Roberto's household interpret to her that I could no longer speak or understand Spanish, but I don't think anyone ever told her. In some ways, I was already "on the outs" with Roberto, after becoming too ill to perform well at corerced engagements he had set up. With him, it was all about how useful a commodity one was.

Zampoñas on My Shopping List that Apparently were Not for Me:

Approximately on this day, the father of my Pastor in Pasadena came by the house with three Zampoñas and a flute-like instrument called a Quena that he had just purchased. These were the exact items on my musical instrument shopping list.

As I was about to pay for them, Roberto said in no uncertain terms that the items were for the Pasadena church Pastor and not for me. This seemed strange, because the Pasadena Pastor already had the same instruments. The Pastor did send a shopping list down with me, but I thought it would be longer than four items. I had not tried to read it before I gave it to Roberto to hand off to the Pastor's dad a few days earlier. It also seemed highly unlikely that the Pastor's shopping list would have been only for the exact same items as my list. And, it begged the question where my items were, since Roberto was supposed to have given him both of our lists.

Since Roberto had recently done things to frustrate Willma (such as scheduling the Emanuel presentation at a time that would have worked better for Buenas Nuevas two days earlier), I wondered if he wasn't also trying to frustrate the Pastor's efforts to get the items on his list, by saying my list was his. This would not have surprised me at all, since Roberto had lied to me about the rich men on my first day in Bolivia. (I didn't know it at the time, but things were brewing behind the scenes between Roberto and the Pastor's wife in Pasadena, who was one of Willma's sisters. This included intrigue related to ownership of the house where I was staying.)

Either way, the upshot was that, for me, none of the instruments on my shopping list had been aquired. And given all of Roberto's impositions and demands, I wondered when or if I would ever be able to obtain the musical instruments on my own list.

Glaring Inequality (Monday, October 31)

On Monday morning (October 31), I went to speak at Instituto Americano, the school attended by Roberto's children. This was my last scheduled presentation before the eclipse. The school was by far the most affluent looking one I had been to. The students wore uniforms here too, but these were "fitted" uniforms. I sort of liked the simple smock idea of the other schools better.

I began my presentation at about 10:45. The school had wireless microphones and other fancy gadgets, but the children there did not have the attention span exhibited by students at other schools. The audience was the largest for any of my presentations, with nearly all of the school's nine hundred students in attendance.

Roberto interpreted because I had been able to get Gerardo freed from that imposed responsibility so he could work on his college exams. Roberto's wife Gloria video taped some of the presentation with my camera. After my presentation, Simon gave a short talk to the students that was not eclipse related, then he helped in translating the student's questions and my answers. I attempted to answer one of the simple questions (about the duration of the eclipse) in Spanish, but failed miserably at it. So my ability to speak Spanish (which had left me when my illness got worse on the previous Friday) was still out to lunch.

After the presentation was all over, I went outside to look around. The school had nicely cultivated gardens, ornate white buildings, and other amenities. It was much larger and fancier than Buenas Nuevas, but it only had half as many students. I had nothing against this ritzy school, which could easily be mistaken for a school in the U.S. But it seemed that the people at this school had ample opportunities, and that my presentation (predictably) made no difference to them. I was just one of many guest speakers. (And a video of my presentation showed that I sounded just as tired and ill as I actually was.) By contrast, it may have been more than a decade since the last foreign speaker appeared at a school like Buenas Nuevas.

In the distance toward the south side of town, I could see the hill near where Buenas Nuevas was located. I recalled the kindness and dedication of Willma and the rest of the staff, the unison greeting I had received from the students, and their seeming eagerness to learn from just about anyone, including me. I felt a connection with the faculty and students at Buenas Nuevas, and I wanted to be there again.

After remembering the way that some wealthy local people had strongly resisted my speaking at Colegio Buenas Nuevas, and how these wealthy people even seemed hostile toward its staff and students, I wondered what would ultimately happen to the students there. Will they be held back by racial and economic inequality, or will they grow up in a Bolivia that offers them equal opportunity and privilege? Will any of them have the opportunity to be engineers or scientists at NASA? I hoped they would get the chance to do so if they wanted. Fortunately, there are things more important than what one does for a living or how much money one has. Things like strength of character, which no one can take from them.

They Learn Young - To Disrespect the Poor:

We left Instituto Americano and went back to the house, where I sleepily resumed my eclipse preparations. I gave Roberto's family and their maid some eclipse viewing goggles for viewing the partial phases of the eclipse; one for each member of the household. His children looked at them and treated them with great care.

I was delighted to find that Los Tiempos was going to issue eclipse viewing goggles with the newspaper that was to come out just before the eclipse. There were also well made television commercials that told people not to look at the partially eclipsed sun without proper filtration. Also, local authorities appeared to be doing a good job of locating and shutting down operations that were selling defective or unsafe solar viewers, one of which was using only (unsafe) color film as the filter.

In the evening, Willma came by so I could give her a couple of dozen eclipse viewing goggles for some of her students. I put them on the cabinet near the dining room table while we talked nearby. What happened next really surprised me. As soon as Roberto's younger children perceived that the goggles were for the children at Buenas Nuevas, they went over and grabbed them off the cabinet and started carelessly playing with them, even beginning to play tug of war.

The children were soon made to stop this by Willma and their parents, but it was an almost unbelievable thing to see. Even the children were showing disrespect for indigenous and poor people. And there was no hesitation at all before they did so.

One of these same kids had also shown disrespect for the Quechua maid, Delfina, by pulling her hair. I did not think it was right that Delfina had to put up with that, but then, one of these kids had also pulled my hair on a number of occasions. I had told the kid to quit, but Delfina may not have been at liberty to do so.

It bothered me to see Delfina have to put up with this, because she seemed to be a very disciplined, sensitive, and gentle person. A better person than many of the local affluent people I had met.

Getting to the High Altitude Eclipse Site

I soon got back to my eclipse preparations. In my original schedule, this entire day was set aside for eclipse preparation, and some prior days had been set aside for rest and in-country equipment testing - not to mention that half again more time had originally been scheduled for sleep. But all of that had gone out the window due to coercion on my first day in Bolivia.

I had initially expected to have everything ready for the eclipse by now, so that I could be performing "dry runs" of my procedures after unpacking. Most of the preparation simply involved setting the equipment up, testing it to be sure it was not damaged or misaligned in transit, practicing my procedures, and re-packing only what I needed to take to the eclipse. Unfortunately, I was still ill and felt confused all the time, so things went very slow.

I took a short break to shoot more video of people at the house. As I was taping, the women at the house played their usual game of hide and seek with the camera.

But then, there was another surprise. And it wasn't a good one. Roberto suddenly proposed that I take public transportation (ALONE) to Oruro later that day, to prepare for the eclipse at a house he had an interest in there. This was impossible to do, because I could not be packed for the eclipse in time to leave that day, and even if I could, there was no way that I could handle all three cases of eclipse equipment on my own, especially in my weakened condition. And with my ability to speak Spanish out the window, taking public transit to Oruro, then finding a house while alone there would be a challenge, to say the least. Such a short notice change would also interrupt my ongoing eclipse preparations. He must have realized that it was impractical, because, for a change, he took my "no" answer with little resistance.

Tuesday, November 1:

Tuesday, Nov. 1, 4:20 pm. The equipment is finally set up and tested, but there are problems. My condition has not improved, nor has it been possible to make up more than 20 hours of time and energy that was lost to unplanned meetings, imposed short notice speaking engagements, travel to and from the speaking engagements, interviews, etc.; not to mention the consequential worsening of my health.

I can no longer remember the proper sequence of my eclipse procedures, and the day's trial runs for these procedures took more than 3 minutes; far longer than any previous trial at home. I had a written procedure with me, but the part of the procedure that is done during totality has to be retained in memory because it is too dark to read during totality. Also, having to read during totality lengthens the procedure too much.

The equipment also still has to be packed again. It is clear that some long-planned eclipse projects have to be canceled, in order to be able to focus my limited energy on fewer things. But at least now, at long last, there are no remaining conflicting demands for my time. However, there was also no time to rest, because I had to play "catch up". We leave for the eclipse the very next morning. It took me until almost eleven at night to get everything disassembled packed. Had I not been ill, this aspect would have taken only about an hour and been done by noon.

Wednesday, November 2:

Wednesday morning, November 2. We will soon be off to the eclipse.

Our convoy includes a chartered bus and a few other vehicles. Roberto and his immediate family are in the bus, as are Willma and a few people from Buenas Nuevas. (Yea! Buenas Nuevas!) The bus driver is a man from Sweden who has grown to really like living in Bolivia.

The vehicles are grouped by a park that is half a block southwest of the house where I was staying. (Events since my arrival made it confusing as to whether it was the Host Womens' house or Roberto's house, but it increasingly seemed like the latter.)

At 8:30 a.m., a really good example of a "sun dog" appeared in the sky, about 22 degrees right of the sun. It was at the intersection of a bright ring around the sun and another ring that appeared to be centered on the zenith and intersected the sun.

I am riding in a missionary's van with nine other people. One of them ("George" in this journal) was at the imposed meeting on my first night in Bolivia (where they tried to keep me from going to Colegio Buenas Nuevas), so I was not happy to be around him. There are a lot of other people in the convoy who I do not know.

We are going through Oruro (mostly via 4) and then to Sevaruyo via other roads. We were initially going to go to Pampa Aullagas, but we decided not to after hearing that the road to it may not not very good. The new destination is just outside of Sevaruyo. We left Cochabamba at nine. Less than 24 hours to totality!

The road to Oruro is impressive. It is clear that a great deal of effort went into it. A couple of hours after leaving Cochabamba, we cross a very high bridge (Viaducto Alfonso Subieta) that extends over over a deep ravine.

Just after crossing the bridge, we are treated to a panoramic view of several valleys, with the northwestern part of greater Cochabamba visible in the distance toward the NNE. We briefly stopped so people could take pictures.

A while after crossing the bridge, we reach the pass which is the highest point on the road to Oruro. At 4800 meters, the road is higher than any of the mountains in the "lower 48" of the United States.

The road has been paved almost all the way thus far. But a little less than an hour after reaching the pass, the chartered bus blew a tire. All vehicles in our convoy waited for the bus while the tire was changed, which took the better part of an hour.

I was not feeling too good, so I moved from the van to the bus so I could try to partially lay down on half of one of the seats. I also figured that the smoother ride of the bus would be more agreeable with the Montezuma's revenge I was still experiencing. Unfortunately, the only available space in the bus was right over one of the front wheels, so it was not much smoother than the van. But at least I could partly lay on my side.

The way I was feeling, my personality was probably about as dynamic as that of a rock, and I could keep more to myself on the bus than had been possible in the more crowded van. I had been going batty and getting increasingly argumentative from hearing one person in the van repeatedly propose going to observing sites other than where we had planned. A site change in the van would have been a disaster, because most of my eclipse equipment was on the bus.

It was later found that the spare tire on the bus was not fully inflated, so the bus had to slowly limp at about 30 km per hour to Caracollo, the nearest town. Meanwhile, the van I had formerly been riding in went ahead to Oruro, to locate a new spare tire for the bus.

The slowness of the crippled bus increased the time it would take to reach the next rest room, so I began to wonder if I'd made the right choice in switching to the bus. My condition made it undesirable to just use the great outdoors as a restroom for reasons relating to pain, risk of infection (since I was bleeding) and privacy.

Some local people did not seem to place much of a premium on privacy. On the way to the eclipse, one female shepherd who was passing by had simply relieved herself right out in the open, not more than 20 meters from where our bus was parked to change the blown tire.

We finally reached Caracollo and inflated the tire. I noticed that the rest rooms were getting more and more primitive as we got farther from Cochabamba. With the tire fully inflated, we take off for Oruro, where we will pick up the new spare tire.

In less than another hour, we reach Oruro, but the tire situation is not solved yet. Roberto has relatives in Oruro, so we all go their place to wait for the tire. The house is an interesting four story building located in a business district - and it has a rest room.

The delay in finding a new spare tire for the bus would have provided a perfect opportunity to give our group a last minute briefing about the eclipse - if I had been up to it, and if there had been time to prepare. But at the time, I had no energy at all, I could not speak very loud, and I could not even remember most of what would otherwise be second nature.

After an hour or so, were able to board the bus and set out for some of the more desolate parts of the Bolivian altiplano. Before long, nothing but empty plain lay before us. Here (as Willma put it), the ground is the kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom all rolled into one! Bolivia's apparent class economic system tends to cause so much of the wealth to be concentrated in major cities that there is little development of the rural infrastructure.

Occasionally, I could see a small grass and mud hut. Apart from the high altitude cities, these huts were some of the more deluxe accommodations on the altiplano.

While I was in Cochabamba, I had seen toilet bowls advertised on television and had been puzzled why they would be advertised so prominently. Such things are seldom advertised on TV in the U.S. Now that I'm battling Montezuma's revenge while on the altiplano, I know why they are advertised. Many people in Bolivia do not have them, and one of those lovely contraptions would be a really welcome sight to me about now.

Near sunset, we could see that it was raining up ahead, and that there were also dust storms ahead. The deep blue under the mid to late afternoon storm clouds we had seen earlier was very similar to the color of the lunar umbra at previous eclipses. Several minutes later, we crossed the northern limit of the total eclipse path near Pazna. Now, I felt like I could rest easier.

At dusk, we went into Challapata and stopped so I could see to my usual biological problem. The related facilities belonged to a small business that looked sort of like an old west bar on the inside. It was interesting, particularly since the inside illumination was provided entirely by candles and lanterns. The dark and detached facilities were reminiscent of a stable (and perhaps were a stable), consisting of a cement slab with three or four holes in it, each separated by a short cement wall.

A little after dark, we went through what I was told was Huari. (But I am not sure if it was really Huari, because maps show that Huari is failry close to Sevaruyo.) After this, the road became rough gravel, and our progress slowed considerably. At about ten forty PM, we were met by a member of the caravan who was out looking for our bus. By eleven, he had led us to the eclipse site that had been staked out by the people in the missionary's van.

I was surprised to find that the van had arrived before dark, and wondered if I had made the right choice in switching to the bus. We arrived at least four hours later than the van, but at least I had more or less been able to lay down in the bus. At the time, I did not know if I could have made it without laying down. The pain, weakness, sleepiness, and miserableness were extreme and unprecedented.

Our bus had been delayed mostly due to its blown tire, but its slower average speed and my restroom stops slowed us as well. The bus has a restroom facility, but it did not work and it was not accessible because it had been filled with bedding and luggage.

I got out of the bus to inspect the site, but it was so dark that I initially could not see anything. As I had mentioned before we left Cochabamba, I needed a site with low eastern and western horizons for my umbral experiment and pictures, so I asked asked how high the horizon was in each direction. When one of the people said that there was a mountain to the east that was fifteen degrees high, I became alarmed, but as my eyes adjusted to the dark, I measured it myself and found that it was only about six degrees high and situated toward the east-northeast. So the site was fine.

It was partly cloudy, but I was able to see the southern night sky for the first time in my life, and it was fantastic! The large and small Magellanic clouds both at the same elevation angle above the southern horizon. It was a beautiful sight, and I wanted to photograph it and look at it through my telescope, but I knew I could not do so because I needed sleep. I had to get up before six in order to get ready for the morning eclipse. First contact was going to be at 7:19 and totality was going to start at 8:22.

I set out to sleep in the bus, but Roberto told me that he had made a place for me in his family's tent. He added that he had brought a small padded mattress just for me. I gladly accepted and was able to fall asleep by a little before midnight. The mattress was nice, and I was so tired that I almost hoped it would rain during the eclipse so I wouldn't have to get up. I really was that exhausted.

Continued in Eclipse '94, Section 2:

The Eclipse
New Friends: Astronomia Sigma Octante
The Campo
The Staff and School Children of Colegio Buenas Nuevas
Getting Back Home
Reflections on an "Interesting" Expedition
Afterword (events or discoveries after 1994 expedition)
Eulogy for Willma Silvia Alcocer Borda (2023)
Recommended reading: Other material related to 1994 eclipse, including:
Corona and umbral images from 3 Nov. 1994 total solar eclipse
My umbral experiments and their objectives
Continued firther in Eclipse '94, Section 3 (about Bolivia, not eclipse)
Continued further in Photos of 3 Nov. 1994 Total Solar Eclipse and Bolivia

Comments: In this 1994 Eclipse Journal, this Section 1 web page, and Section 2 which follows, were first published in 1997. Multiple web pages had to be re-uploaded after a 2021 cyber attack on my ISP. Therefore, upload and "last modified" dates for this Eclipse Journal will be more recent than 1997.

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Go to Photos of the 1994 total solar eclipse

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Document originated: xx January, 1995
Bolivian experience outline originated: 12 December, 1996
Document converted to HTML: 11 September, 1997
Document text last modified: 15 June, 1998, 30 Nov. 2019
Document separated into two parts (32 kb TeachText limit): 10 Feb., 1998
Links and limited elements last modified: 27 Aug., 15, 23 Sep. 2023

In Memory of:
- Willma Silvia Alcocer Borda
- German Morales Chavez