Through a glass

Salinas Grandes, Argentina, 2007  :: © Jon-Marc Seimon

You’d think I were a man of leisure. I never mention work here - never. It’s as if my life were lived on two completely separate, disconnected planes. That says something, although I’m not exactly sure what. Do I just view this as a place to escape? Is this my actual real life, and work is just what funds it? Am I afraid that what I do for a living will appear too banal?

Look at this boy. He lives up in a place called Salinas Grandes (Big Salts), on the altiplano of the Andes in northern Argentina. It’s high up there, this town is 12,000 feet above sea level. Mining town – I forget what they’re mining, but I don’t think it’s salt (which would have been an obvious guess). See his town. Identical little Monopoly houses, a green bit suggesting something to do with sports. Up on the hill, a big display - the name of the town? The name of the mine? The name of the company?

The boy is offering us little chunks of salt, yes, despite the coloration it’s salt. It looks like they’re fragments of building blocks – salt is actually a building material up there. It’s of course a cliche to start ruminating about what HIS life must be like, maybe throw in the observation that the word “salary” originated from an ancent word for salt.

Selling chunks of salt. Selling sugary cereals. Selling unguents for women to smear in their hair. Selling sleeping pills. Selling vaccines so the boy won’t get sick so he can drag more out of the earth when he grows up. 

My work makes me despondent, but at least it pays me well.


An observation: This blog has achieved a sort of weightlessness in a remarkably short time. By “weightless”, I mean that it’s out there, I occasionally contribute to it, and I write as IF I had an audience. But I look at the little counter, and particuarly recently I’ve realized that I’m pretty much the only person visiting the site!!

So – in reality this has turned into a kind of a diary, completely open, lying there on the table unread. Even as I write this, there are people in Uzbekistan, Antananarivo and the Moluccas who COULD be wasting their time here – but luckily aren’t.