It’s the New Year, and all my excuses for remaining here in Sucre have been fulfilled.
Bolivia is one of those places that just consumes you. Why I haven’t written much here is beyond me… but I can tell that my experiences here will be burned in my soul for quite some. I won’t say it’s been easy or even entirely pleasant either, although in a way I am sort of cruising through (6 weeks already!) and what have I done? And where am I going? Even better question.
Upon arriving two weeks ago, I relaxed a bit from my ass-kicking bike ride here from Potosí, taking up an easy schedule of museum and church-going, cemetery meandering, market-browsing, visiting the many chocolate shops, becoming a regular of the vegetarian restaurant (and their 4-course, $2 lunches), and passing hours in the town Plaza, the center of my world here, where I can see everyone I know and make new ones too. Socializing with my lovely hosts and various others has been a nice change of pace, as have been the holiday dinner parties and occasional nights out. Although after four days here I still wasn’t convinced that I should carry-out my intended mission: to find a Spanish school. The little voice inside me insisted I take a look. I’m pretty sure I was hesitant to get sucked-in, which is exactly what happened.
I collected some fliers, did my homework, and checked-out the two non-profit schools (meaning the foreigners’ Spanish classes pay for Bolivians’ English classes.) The first school didn’t give me any warm-n-fuzzies, but at the fledgling Fenix, however, I felt the family vibe immediately, and despite it being significantly farther from the center of town, I signed-up to take a class the following morning. In fact, I signed-up for the whole day: first my class, then I’d return (after siesta) to give-out hundreds of holiday gift bags to some needy/deserving campesinos, and in the evening we’d have a pot-luck dinner with all the staff and students of the school. What an Orientation day!
My teacher, Lourdes (aka Lu Lu) is awesome, and after a few days of 2-hour classes which just whizzed-by – I was starving for some solid instruction! – I doubled my hours. I enjoyed my homework, my teacher, her cute daughter who was always popping-in (to her mother’s chagrin), and everyone at the school.
My awesome Belgian hosts Kim and Dries took me out to a festival in a distant village, which was a nice contrast to the Colonial/Republican, somewhat European vibe here in Sucre. On Christmas Eve their roommates came home, and were also awesome, and I somehow felt adopted instead of moved-out, and happy to acquire a bigger family here in Sucre. I stayed in town for Christmas, continued with my classes, made a few more local friends, and the Holidays flew by. By the time I felt like I really should leave, the roommates made more travel plans, and welcomed me to stay in “my room” again through the New Year. I sheepishly asked Kim and Dries if I they’d mind (cool Belgians!), and they said they like having me around.
I took nine classes with Lu Lu, got some excellent notes for continued reference, and said good-bye at the end of our final, Dec. 31 session. New Years came and went, as did much merry-making with my peeps. I saw virtually everyone I know here in the Plaza at midnight, and in a lapse of good judgement I sold my damned tie for a good-luck $100 bill (to a dude I saw again today, who shortly thereafter gave it to a French guy!) Kim, Dries & I spent the next days in pajama-therapy, recovering with movie marathons and pizza.
Today I went out, to regain my sea legs and make my move. First to the bus station for schedules. Then, as I’ve done before, I hopped a random micro to a random edge of town (to walk back:) Under big grey clouds which suddenly rolled-in and brought with it uncharacteristic cold, I felt a bit sad. I found refuge in my favorite of the many churches, La Iglesia San Francisco. Shortly after I sat in a pew right in front, a (Christian) rock-band, full-on with electric guitars, drum-kit and two singers, started playing a set to a decent audience which appeared out of nowhere. Somehow, I felt right again!
I hope that, in the absence of my new friends, I will again confide in my wee journal, to fill-in the many back-stories which have brought me across Southern Bolivia to where I am now. It’s horrible good stuff. Like the hallucinatory Salt Flats, the Devil inside Potosí (PS: that wasn’t The Tío in my last post), President Evo Morales, the dancing, karaoke, prostitutes, masks, costumes, weavings, colors, Cholitas, witches, heart-eating heroes, child laborers, transit strikes, stretching the goat… I need some discipline again, Ha!