06.17.2012 - 06.22.2012 70 °F
Sucre – June 17 – 22
We landed in Sucre with clear, sunny skies, happy that we hadn’t stayed in Cochabamba if only for some of the worst air quality I’ve run across since I was in Taipei nearly 30 years ago. The Sucre airport was a bit of a sight. The main terminal had some boarded up windows and the control tower had clearly been constructed in phases so that nothing fit quite right. Just another subtle reminder that we’re not in Kansas anymore. We bade fair well to Mara, a young Danish woman that we befriended en route, collected our duffel bag full of sleeping bags and headed for the curb.
A short taxi ride took us to our Hostal – La Dolce Vita – a small place not far from the main plaza with a lovely courtyard run by two Swiss ex-pats that were really friendly and extremely helpful when it came to explaining the city. Bridget immediately took to the place if only for presence of Michi a very amiable Siamese cat. Sucre is a city of approximately 250,000. It is an old colonial city and the judicial capital of Bolivia. Deservedly a world heritage site for its amazing colonial architecture it is Bolivia’s most beautiful city and home to 4 public and several private universities which provide a certain vibrance typical to university towns.
Sucre is a lovely city by any measure. The people are friendly, the architecture is stunning and with a good loaf of French bread fetching all of 2 bvs or about 30 cents and a buck for a decent Bolvian pils there’s not much to leave you wanting. I have to admit, I was also a bit surprised at how stunning the women are. The Indians look far more Asian than Spanish and the faces of the old people could provide a never ending series of portraits depicting humanities toil.
Besides the fact that Sucre is a must for any visit to Bolivia, we planned to spend the next 5 days with all four of us in language school. Anne honing her very capable skills and I attempting to resurrect what was left of 4 years of Spanish classes almost 30 years ago. Me Gusta Spanish School was located just down the street from our hostal and around the corner. Run by a nice young couple Fernando and Ely Gonzalez, it was one of the few language schools that I could find that would take kids.
We spent the first afternoon strolling around the many parks and other highlights of Sucre then at 8:15 a.m. sharp, we marched down to school with notebooks and language dictionaries in hand. The kids complained bitterly that it really wasn’t fair that they should have to go to school during summer vacation, but we reminded them that this wasn’t a typical summer vacation. Me Gusta is a small school with not more than a dozen or so students at any one time. After some testing to determine our level, Fernando took the kids, Anne went with the advanced group and I was left with an Australian gal named Kate. I was comforted by the fact that she was in decidedly worse shape than I when it came to comprehension and with that Australian accent injected into her speech, I felt like a real pro.
The standard class was 4 hours in the morning and I had thought about doing the intensive version with an extra 2 hours in the afternoon. After 4 hours of non-stop Spanish my brain was complete mush and I was as ready for the final bell as any typical school kid. I had overworked some brain cells that hadn’t been exercised in a really long time. I had to believe that maybe part of it had been removed. With mornings spent in class, not to mention another hour or so of homework in the afternoon, our days in Sucre flew past, highlighted by the Ballet de Origenes a live show that exhibited the costumes and traditional dances of various indigenous people of the area. Other highlights included the Indigenous Textiles Museum that exhibited the most unbelievable weaving I have ever seen. After spinning the wool by hand then dying it with natural dyes, a 3x4 panel typically requires about 3 months to finish. Each area of the country has their own unique designs. The Museum of Ethnographic Folklore had an exhibit of ritual masks that were extremely ornate and completely spooked the kids. On Thursday night we had dinner with Fernando and Ely and their two young children, and I can honestly say that for the first time ever I participated in and followed a conversation completely in Spanish and actually understood a good part of it. The beauty of speaking Spanish in Bolivia is that for 60% of the population it is their second language, most people speak Quechua or Aymara along with 30 other dialects so they tend speak more slowly than in most of the other Latin America countries and it is much easier to understand.
We finished classes on Friday morning and then caught an afternoon bus for the 2 ½ hour trip to Potosi.