Sunday, March 3, 2013

First weeks in Sucre

Time for a news update before my Internet access becomes more limited. I am headed to a homestay here in Sucre, with the goal of reducing my English speaking for the next week or so while I continue my lessons. I have enjoyed the great vibe and general cleanliness of my hostel, as well as my weeks getting to know the co-operative of young women running the place, but many of the guests are far more fluent in English and we speak in English. I have nothing against my mother tongue, but do want to experiment with having the first and last words out of my mouth on a day be in Spanish. I am not doing much other than studying while in Sucre and know I will soon feel the pull of "onwards."

A group of 10-15 from the USA just arrived this morning, so I believe I have timed my departure well. If only I was not feeling so sick this morning, packing my bag of belongings would feel less arduous.

I am a little fearful my new place, which is a taxi ride away if at night, or a long walk during the day, will have me feeling isolated since I have now built certain desires into my Sucre experience. I may find myself happier if I journey forward and study again in a few months once I have a bit more speaking experience accumulated from my travels.

I have been battling a sore throat, sinus infection sort of thing and stomach problems for a week now. Some days I have felt almost normal, and have payed no heed to what I ate, but as of yesterday, I know I am far from better. I will not be eating today, but will get myself back on rehydration. Physically, I feel a mess. Apparently acclimating to the diet and sanitary levels of a third world country can be as difficult as some people believe.

My past couple of weeks were spent I the beautiful town of Sucre, Bolivia. Upon finding a hostel with a vibe I felt comfortable with, I started Spanish lessons with a girl my age (who has a free in English and is from Sucre) and since then lesson study has been the purpose of my being here. I studied Spanish in high school ten years ago, and practice again in Argentina two years ago, but am certain there are huge gaps in my understanding. As a native English speaker, we have one form of past tense, while here there are three and only now am I beginning to understand the proper time to use each. I have much left to review and am certain I will not stay in one place for that much longer, but some of my lessons seem incredibly valuable for setting up some basics. I am sure I can look up lessons in the Internet to continue teaching myself, or take lessons along my route, too.

I have done more than study while here, too, even if that was my focus. On my first day I ended up spending time with a Spanish guy I met on the bus and the two of us went to a park centered around found dinosaur tracks. The slate of tracks was neat, but overall we were amazed at how little information there was for such a well visited place. My first Sucre morning and following few I are breakfast in Mercado Central, having a roll and a cup of coffee and taking in the surroundings. One morning there I met an Argentine man who took a fancy to me and that day he showed me Recoleta, the Miradore, which is a place with a beautiful view of the city. I have since then learned that if I continued walking uphill, I would see the city's Christ. That is now on my to-do list. I met up with this man on several other occasions for lunch, as he was kind and we were communicating in Spanish, and by the end of one week I think he was overly smitten as he returned to Argentina.

On a few occasions I have gone out for drinks with couch surfers, or friends from the hostel. The local drink is singhani which is mixed with tea and called T con T. I'm not certain the youth prefers this drink, but not so unlike a hot toddy, I enjoy the mellow, warm taste of this beverage.

My weekends have been when I have removed my from from just being studious and last weekend I went out to dinner with my spanish teacher and her friends, had a drink at Cafe Berlin, a drink and danced at Cafe Florin and continued onwards to Mitos for late night dancing. On Sunday I went to a festival in Yamparra and was one of only a few tourists present, so that felt special until I felt incredibly sick. The festival was in memory of those who died in accidents before their time, and included the building of a huge form with food from their communities and part of a cow carcass, and dancing in community groups around this form. Their colorful traditional robe was festive to view. There were also lines of food booths set up and a judge trying all of the food (I looked in horror at the thought of trying so much food). Fruit was set up to sell, and I had learned that selling and donating something from each community was compulsory.

Yesterday's activity was less cultured but absolutely relaxing. A group of staff from the hostel and some of their roommates (who are travelers like me) went to Las Palmas, a swimming pool in a small town about thirty minutes outside of town by taxi. With shade covering and grass to lay on, I was rather contented. Two of the girls had been working incredibly hard at the hostel (as they are two of the founding members) and this was their first day off in a long time. I am glad they chose this place to relax for the day.

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