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 realise 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.
First Time South America: People and Places…
Currently, 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 spent time in Cuba on a government scholarship and she met Fidel Castro!
Her Castro Story
Having completed their studies of adult literacy in a school in Santa Clara, the course organisers brought them to a big conference hall in Havana. This was one of their last days in the country. To her surprise, Fidel Castro entered and he wanted to know all about their studies. This was already unexpected, but more followed.
The Cuban Year of Energy
Apparently, every year Cuba has a special theme and it was the Year of Energy at that time. In no time, Fidel set about quizzing the Cuban manager of her college about the amount of electricity they consumed. The poor guy, totally flustered, told Fidel that he would be able to bring him all the bills. In any case, 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. The experience left a lasting impression.
First-Time South America: What is Sucre Like?
First-Time South America: Impressions of Sucre
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? What should travellers expect? This is a delightful city of colonial architecture, historic buildings, Spanish schools and cool cafés. It is the perfect place to just wander around and soak up the atmosphere.
Lazing in Sucre
Yesterday I found a cool new hangout, Bibliocafe Classico, a bar café with excellent internet connections, so I have returned to the online world. Today, I had Spanish classes, a long lunch and a soccer match with the two-year-old twins. Then, 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.
The Here and Now
For the last few hours, I have been ensconced 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!