Date: Wed, 04 Nov 1998 06:19:21
From: Claude Marthaler <>

Subject: "Finding the Center"

Dear Redfishes !
La Paz, Bolivia, km. 8O189

As I rode down the dirt trail from Chacaltaya, at 53OO m., the sun was illuminating the Huayna Potosi (6O88 m.) and far away the Illami (64OO m.). Lights of El Alto (38OO m.), the fastest growing city in Latin America, were rolling on the Altiplano. Only at the last moment could I see more, a giant wave of lights dropping into a huge hole: La Paz. The center of Bolivia. This spectacular geography made me understand how much one's own world is limited by one's own knowledge.

If the world would be a human body, the western world would be the head (with the science and its spirit of discovery), India the numbril (with its metaphysical quest), South America, the heart (with its passionate temperament), Africa the mouth (with its strong sense of expression, its music) and Australia the feet (arborigenes are multi-millenium nomads).

The catholic church for long pretended that the earth was flat and its center Jerusalem. Galilee has been condemned to death to affirm that the globe was round and no more than a satellite.

Nowadays, though every single patch of ground is topographied and quasi instantanely connectable, each continent like each country or individual put himself in the center of the worldmap. In hindi, "Bahrat" (India) means the numbril of the world. The chinese word "Zhongguo" (China) signifies " the middle empire".

Each country has its own word to describe the foreigner: in China I was a "long nose", in Japan a "gaidjin", and in in Latin America simply a "gringo". Its own paradisiac region and inferno to avoid. On the road, people constantly ask you if you come from Bogota, Quito, Lima or la Paz : their center, their kilometer "O", where "logically" the entire mileage system begins. National maps would show a detailed patriotic map and let in white patches all the neighbours, like permanent clouds over the jungle. At each border crossing, the same song : "Be careful, they are bad, dangerous, robbers,..."

In fact, human is maybe the most foreign animal on earth.

Travelling slowly by bike makes you understand that the world is like a Russian puppet, small or big, but always plurial and infinite. And that you are an insignificant part of it. I became part of Russia, part of India, a bit of everything. I had to know the earth's periphery to know its hub. To turn the wheel of life. The word "errant" comes from the french word "erreur" (mistake). I guess 8OOOO kilometers - a giant erreur-(twice the earth belly diameter), has not been enough yet to find the center...

The YAK_ (and Ruedas


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