Jim Shultz believes Lockport is full of practical people who know how to be comfortable in their own skin. As he admires the character of his new neighbors, he's reminded of their similarity to the people of Cochabamba, Bolivia, where he and his wife lived for 20 years.
"(Lockportians) have lots of very practical skills and they know 'how to be' in a very practical way, and that's Bolivia," he said.
Shultz recently published his fourth book, "My Other Country," through No Frills Buffalo Publishing.
A regularly contributing essayist for the Union-Sun & Journal, he calls the book partly a memoir and says it's all about his journey finding his family.
Shultz is a native of California, a state in whose politics he was deeply involved as a teenage activist and then as a staff member for the California state legislature. When he met Lynn Nesselbush, another young person working in the statehouse in Sacramento, in 1987, he found his future course.
"The very first time Lynn and I actually sat down and had a real conversation, we didn't know each other that well, we realized we both had this same dream," Schultz said. "Of leaving the United States for a time, moving to Latin America and to work with children."
After marrying in 1990, Jim and Lynn moved to Bolivia for a year. In 1998 they returned for another one-year stay, which ended up being 20 years.
My Other Country opens thus: "When does a journey begin? It's not when you board the bus, or the train, or the plane. It's not when you pack your bags. It isn't when you start to plan your itinerary or buy your tickets. The journey begins when the idea of it dances as an inspiration into the outer edges of your mind and the mystery of the universe plants it there and it remains."
The book chronicles Shultz's time in Bolivia, where he and Lynn ran an orphanage, after most of the other directors left, and eventually adopted three children.
While he was there, Shultz wrote about the Cochabamba water revolt, an uprising against water privatization, as it happened.
"Some of (My Other Country) is a family memoir, it's about a family coming together and living in an unusual place," he said. "There's a chapter in the book called, 'Witness to a Sort-Of Revolution' which is all about the political stuff; and (another chapter) about the daily life in this strange little place called Cochabamba; and it is about the decision to come home."
Shultz doubles as the executive director of The Democracy Center, which he founded in San Francisco in 1992. The center works with grass-roots organizations "to help them be more effective," he said. His travels on its behalf span five continents and the assisted concerns range from small, indigenous "super grassroots" groups to UNICEF, the United Nations agency dedicated to helping children worldwide.
It wasn't politics that eventually called Shultz away from his home in Bolivia, but rather another chapter in his family's history.
“My oldest daughter moved here after college. She got a job at the GM plant, walked into Applebees one night and met her husband, so they settled in Lockport,” Shultz said.
Just as he said that, Shultz was interrupted by his first-born granddaughter Elena, who wanted him to read a book to her. The Shultzes now live across the street from daughter Elizabeth, son-in-law Michael Mulligan and their children.
“We moved to Lockport for the best reason you can move anywhere, for family," Shultz said.
My Other Country can be found at NFBPublishing.com or Amazon. Once the pandemic is over, a launch party will be planned at Steamworks Coffee.