OYOP: Life in Sucre – Week Two
Our second week in Sucre reminded me how incredibly easy it is to become comfortable, even complacent, in general in life. How is it possible to feel at home with almost near strangers in a different continent thousands of miles from everything I have known my entire life? I am not sure of the answer, but I know that it can happen, and quickly. We easily became relaxed in Sucre and even fell into a routine as if we were at home. Lately, I have barely noticed that I am surrounded by a language I still don’t know well and a culture that is not ingrained in me. Perhaps this is also a result of the six weeks we have now been on the road and not just the last two easy weeks of comfort in Sucre.
Though we were caught up in our comfortable life with our homestay family, we did spend much effort on our Spanish classes, homework, and overall immersion, which is what we did come stay here to do.
Over the weekend, we cooked a jambalaya for Manuel and Brenda. It was fun to teach them a little bit about our home and have a taste of it as well. Brenda made us homemade chicken and beef broths to use in the recipe, since they aren’t sold here, and we learned quickly we had to improvise on the amount of liquid and cooking time because the altitude of 2,800 meters (about 9,000 feet) greatly affects how quickly the rice absorbs the liquids. Brenda then surprised us with chantilli, a traditional Bolivian dessert with whipped milk, lemon and sugar.
Living with Manuel and Brenda has been such a treat. Brenda stays home to take care of her three children, and she also stays busy making pies and girls’ bows and headbands to sell. Manuel is very involved in their church and works with adolescents in their church community. They are both phenomenal cooks, and I have already asked for all of the lunch recipes so that I can share these delights when we return. Their three kids have been so much fun getting to know. Juan-David is getting ready for the first grade, though more importantly, he is preparing for the carnaval celebration at his best friend’s house where they will have water gun fights all day. He has made it very clear he is not happy we will be leaving before this event. However, we are happy because we have already had enough of the carnaval fun getting hit by water balloons and water guns while walking in the streets. Camila has more energy than any four-year-old, or person in general, that I know. Every toy, object, person has an elaborate story and can provide hours of entertainment. I’ll be sad to not hear her say “puedo pasar?!” about thirty times per day asking to come into our room to play. And little juju is just about the cutest, sweetest little baby you could ever hold or play with. We were their first homestay guests that she liked to play with, and I’m pretty proud of that.
We started classes again on Monday morning. This week, our classes were from 8:30am-12:30pm, and it was nice to have a change of pace in the schedule. We also had a new professor this week. The school changes the professor each week so that students do not get used to hearing a certain accent. We were so happy to meet Carolina, our new professor, who we could tell we would immediately like as we navigated this second, more difficult, week of learning.
Each morning, we had an earlier breakfast with the family and walked the 30 minute walk to class. We would then walk back home for lunch, take a siesta (the lunches are very big), complete homework in the afternoons, and go back out on the town in the evenings for a walk and dinner. The walks were nice because the climate here is near perfect. It is warm with a cool breeze and barely rains at all, so it certainly makes walking around every day a pleasant experience.
We would take a taxi back home each night after dinner. The taxi experience here is interesting because when you ask the driver if they know the street, a probable answer is “mas o menos” (more or less), which actually means you will get in the taxi and need to be able to communicate in Spanish exactly where you are going because the driver has no idea. It’s very common because such a high percentage of people with cars also decide to become taxi drivers regardless of sense of direction. We learned it’s no big deal to hail a taxi and then kindly tell them “no thanks” if we heard that popular phrase. Another unusual part of taking taxis here is you can expect that you won’t just be with the driver but with his wife and baby in the front seat as well.
We still had a couple of out of class activities as part of our courses during the week. On Tuesday, we visited the Simon Bolivar park, a park quite larger than the main plaza. Half of the park was filled with rides and activities for kids. The other half was very tranquil, with gardens, an arched walkway covered with roses, and a fountain that shoots up water in sync with music when it is played in the park on Thursday nights. On Wednesday, we took a bus to the Mercado Campesino, the largest market we have seen in South America so far. It does not get old to walk through streets of inidigineous women hauling goods wrapped in colorful blankets on their backs or even with whole pig carcasses swung over their shoulders like a napsack. It does, however, feel very different in Sucre than elsewhere. In other cities we have visited, the indigenous culture was still very present and seemed a part of everyday life. Here, there is a stark contrast of seeing the majority of the city’s inhabitants living very modern lifestyles, with modern clothes, jobs, and there are loads of university students. The indigenous people sitting on the streets selling baskets of fruits or with children asking for money look much more out of place here, and their customs seem out of sync with the culture in Sucre.
On Tuesday night, we took the walking City Tour offered through the Spanish school. While we ended up being the only two on the tour, it was nice to learn a little more about the history of Sucre but mostly just to listen in Spanish for a couple of extra hours in the day. This combined with the two hours of homework each day after class ensured that we stayed focused on our language learning.
On Thursday, we had a nice dinner with the students and professors at school for the school’s five year anniversary. Being at school every day, we had many interesting conversations with the other students and professors, so we were all in great spirits to have a long dinner with each other, and it felt as well that we were saying farewell and celebrating our trip to Sucre coming to a close.
I feel absolutely conflicted about hopping on a long bus ride tomorrow to move on to Salar de Uyuni. A part of me wishes we could just stay another week, or month, or why not spend the year in Sucre studying Spanish and living with Manuel and Brenda. And the other part of me knows it is part of this experience to meet people and places along the way that will make it difficult to say goodbye. This is the first of those times. I wonder if it will be easier the next time.