I am standing on the sidewalk. I turn to my left and there are two old ladies in traditional dress with bowler hats talking earnestly on the street corner. Meanwhile, the shop opposite me is blaring the 80s Cyndi Lauper classic ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’. I pinch myself as I realize that I am in Sucre, Bolivia. This is a land of syncretic culture where Catholicism coexists with traditional beliefs such as the Sun God and Pachamama, Mother Earth. Getting here was costly and painful (flights via Sao Paolo and Santa Cruz de la Sierra), but it was definitely worth all the extra cost and effort.
More interesting people and places…
I am studying Spanish in Academia Andina and I am staying with a Bolivian single mom and her adorable two year old twin boys. Again, speaking Spanish has made the experience so much more enriching. In Argentina the owner of the hotel in Puerto Iguazú had met El Che on a trip with her grandfather to a local casino. Here, the lady I am staying with went to Cuba on a government scholarship and she met Fidel Castro! She had been studying adult literacy in a school in Santa Clara and they were brought to a big conference hall in Havana on one of their last days. To her surprise, Fidel Castro entered a short time later and he wanted to know all about their studies. Apparently, every year Cuba has a special theme and it was the Year of Energy when she was there, so Fidel set about quizzing the Cuban manager of her college about the amount of electricity they consumed. The guy was totally flustered and told Fidel that he would be able to bring him all the bills. Anyway, Fidel was having none of it and started asking him about the number of rooms they had and how many hours each room was used. Then, he sat down, took out a pencil and paper and started calculating how much electricity they used. She said that he positively radiated charisma, energy and intelligence- they were impressed.
Sucre is a city I would happily return to and hole up for a month studying Spanish, drinking coffee, shopping and generally lazing about- could this yet turn out to my summer vacation next year? It is a delightful city of colonial architecture, historic buildings, Spanish schools and cool cafés. I have spent the last few days wandering around and just soaking up the atmosphere. Yesterday I found a cool new hangout, Bibliocafe Classico, a bar café with excellent internet connections, so I have returned to the world of the cyber connected. Today, after my Spanish classes, a long lunch and a soccer match with the two year old twins, I finally did something touristy by visiting La Casa de la Libertad, the birthplace of Bolivian independence. Again, it was more the beautiful colonial style of the building that captured my imagination. For the last few hours I have been holed up in my new favourite hangout where I have had hot chocolate (hot milk with a chocolate bar), a delicious strawberry crepe with cream and a few Americanos. Life is tough for travellers to Sucre, but someone has to do it!
I think I may walk up the nearest mountain tomorrow afternoon in order to undo the damage!
PS: the football match with the two year old twins was surprisingly peaceful and there was no Uruguayan style fouling!