Before I traveled to Bolivia, I remember hearing concerns from friends and family about how dangerous my trip would be.
To this day, the fears regarding safety are not as extreme as they were back then but still persist to a degree.
But not really.
It’s not as extreme as before.
Still, there are days where people back home shit themselves like when Covid started in which I got phone calls from back home as you can read here.
Outside of that though, the fears regarding safety have gotten less intense.
I could probably write an entire article of 20,000 words about every single little thing I have ever been warned about regarding life down here from those who haven’t lived down here.
Well, I can understand it to be fair.
Got a kid? You worry.
So it’s understandable.
Still, one of the fears I remember getting has something to do with this Tweet that I saw about 20 minutes ago that reminded me of this topic.
The words to emphasize from that Tweet are the following: “Haha la coca no es lo mismo que la cocaina …. Some indigenous people even chew coca to combat mal de altura.”
And it was that tweet that reminded me about one of the earliest fears family had back home about my extended time in South America.
In which, when coming to Bolivia, there was this idea from my mom that “coca leaves are cocaine.”
Coca Leaves are Cocaine?
They sound familiar, don’t they?
Has the words “coca” in it.
Just like coca cola!
Well, maybe that’s not a good example to bring up…
Regardless, that was the concern from my mom back in those days.
That I should NEVER use coca leaves in Bolivia because they are basically cocaine.
Now, to be fair, she didn’t know anything about coca leaves or Bolivia.
She simply was curious about where I was going.
Did some basic reading from whatever sources that popped up from Google.
And somehow read something online that implied that coca leaves are cocaine.
Which, to be fair, I guess there is some reasonable association given this video here.
It’s easy to see why people d confuse the two.
But they’re not the same!
Being honest, I don’t know how common this idea is.
Though, given my experience with this idea from family, I suppose it’s not entirely uncommon?
Because, as I said, my mom no real knowledge of Bolivia, coca leaves or cocaine production.
So she read it from someone online!
And that someone, if I had to guess, was repeating ideas they heard elsewhere also.
On top of that, the tweet above makes me think that maybe this is a legit stereotype?
So I figured I’d write a quick comment on it.
Yes – coca leaves are not cocaine.
Want to know why?
Well, being honest, I’ve never done cocaine before.
So I can’t compare how consuming coca leaves compares to consuming cocaine.
But I have consumed cocaine leaves!
So let’s wrap this up with all my experiences regarding anything “coca” outside of “coca cola” and “cocaine.”
Consuming Coca Leaves in Bolivia
So, as that tweet implies, some people consume coca leaves to handle difficulties with higher altitudes and all.
Bolivia is, as we know, a very mountainous country.
When I first arrived to Bolivia, I actually don’t remember having any difficulties with the higher altitude.
Granted, I’m the type of person to wait a decade before getting any medical assistance on anything.
I just have a “toughen it out” attitude unless I’m literally dying on the street after having been stabbed 10 times by Somali pirates.
I can’t remember the last time I been to a hospital.
I don’t get sick easily and I have a high tolerance also for pain in general before I decide I need medical help.
So maybe that might’ve delayed me ever seeking coca leaves for the higher altitude of Bolivia.
Still, I eventually did seek them out.
When living in Bolivia, I was staying mostly in a city called Cochabamba.
In the first homestay of the family, I remember being in the kitchen at night feeling a bit down.
A little bit sick.
The daughter of the family happened to be around and noticed that I looked a little bit off.
I described how I was feeling.
She decided in the moment to get me some coca leaves.
She actually gave me a whole bag of them and just let me keep it.
I guess they’re cheap?
Anyway, she was generous for sure.
I didn’t need a whole bag but she gave it away.
Did it help?
Honestly, I was a little bit confused on how to use it.
I never used coca leaves before in my life by that point.
So I just chew them?
I didn’t get how that’d help me to be honest.
It’s just a foreign thing to me!
How does chewing it help me?
I chewed it anyhow.
I don’t remember it helping me that much though but life moved on.
Outside of that, I remember the same daughter also eventually giving me some drink.
And I’m 90% confident that it was a drink with similar ingredients to a coca leaf.
But in drink form.
Having not been in Bolivia for some odd years, I felt uneasy writing that because I’m actually not sure if such a drink exists.
So I searched it up on Youtube. You can see a video here.
And here's another video on the coca leaf drink that I wanted to share here but Youtube is a limp dick faggot that limits with age restrictions what I can share on my blog. So here's the link to it (better then the video above).
Maybe such a drink does exist?
Anyway, I remember the drink that the daughter offered me did help me feel better.
It worked better for me than just chewing leaves when it comes to altitude sickness.
So I guess it maybe had some relation to coca leaves.
Anyway, I remember telling me mom about the drink and the leaves and she got concerned that I was consuming cocaine momentarily.
Though, regardless of the cocaine content of the material (none), it did make me feel better.
So there’s that.
Anything to Add?
Does this stereotype actually exist?
I have no idea.
I’m not as familiar with Bolivia as maybe Mexico for example.
But I suppose it might to a degree.
Anyway, despite whatever association one might have between cocaine and coca leaves, I can say that coca leaves are not dangerous.
They, in a drink form, did help me with altitude sickness.
And they apparently help others in coca leaf form.
Also, I didn’t die consuming either nor did I face any serious medical issues.
So that’s all I got to say.
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And thanks for reading.