Feb 6 (Day 13)
Our posts are finally catching up to where we are in real time (i.e., it really is Feb 6 as I finish writing this and I hope to post it today as well, though it IS something of a process)
On Saturday, needing to stay close to “el bano”, we rested, but Sunday we got out and had some fun. In the morning we took a bus to San Pedro Hill
just east of the centre of town, upon which sits a giant statue of Christ. It’s
exactly like the famous one in in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but a little bit taller, meaning that it is the tallest of its kind in the world at just over 33 metres. Each metre represents one year of Christ’s life. According to the Lonely Planet guidebook, Bolivians justify the one-up-man-ship by arguing that in fact Christ lived a little bit more than 33 years, so theirs is not only taller but more accurate. There are 1250 steps to get up to it, which is about 1240 more than we felt up to doing, since our health is still far from what we’d like it to be. So we took the cable car (teleferico) – another first for the kids (total cost for the family – $3).
The view from the top was very good and confirmed our sense that this is one darn
large sprawling city. Back at the bottom, small park with beautiful bushes and slides and swings for the kids, where you can eat ice cream while you wait for the cable car. We were surprised to find there some familiar faces…
The bus ride back from San Pedro Hill took over an hour and a half because it went through the San Martin market where it seemed like we were literally driving through throngs of people. There was lots of honking, lots of waiting, and hardly any forward movement. At one point, the driver got out to go argue with the driver of the bus (“micro”) in front of us. (Buses here are all privately operated, with licenses to ply certain routes, so if one driver is seen to be taking passengers from another, they have to work it out between themselves.) Because our “micro” had very few passengers, we just waited until it was sufficiently full to make the drive worthwhile for the driver. Needless to say, we were an hour late for lunch.
In the afternoon, we attended a professional soccer match! This was only the second time we’ve ever done this (the first being in Toronto, where my brother-in-law was able to score us some free tickets). The game was between the Cochabamba team and one of the two La Paz teams, this one being called “The Strongest” (that’s not a translation; their name is in English). Nicknamed Los Tigres (tigers) for their black and yellow striped jerseys, they are a formidable team and have won the national championship each of the past three years. The rivalry between the two teams is very strong, and consequently the stadium was almost full – 40,000 people! Fortunately, the Cocha team held their own and scored the first goal, which was a beauty. La Paz came back in the second half, leaving the final score at 1-1. I was relieved because I feared what might happen if La Paz had won!
To be fair, though the fans were passionate, and the crowd huge, it was a very civil event. In fact, we saw much more poorly behaved fans at the TFC game in TO. The only truly disconcerting thing was when an Afro-Bolivian player for the La Paz team came on the field for the first time, there was an upswelling of monkey sounds from the crowd. Muy raciste! Fortunately for our ears, people don’t use voovoozelas in Bolivia (remember World Cup 2010 in South Africa?); they explode fireworks instead – in their team’s colours. Our photos don’t do justice to how full the stadium was, because we were there almost an hour early, but hopefully you can get a sense of the palpable excitement that filled the air. (I also took videos and for $60 could pay to upload them to this blog. Or, we could just show them to you when we get home.)
When we get “home”, there is lunch (“almuerzo” – the main meal of the day) which takes us to almost 2:30. At that point, if we can resist napping, we do homework (there is quite a bit!) and sometimes errands, like taking our clothes to the laundry, which has to be done about every 3 days because we brought so few clothes. A couple of times we have gone to the centre of town, either to take money out of the bank or to simply explore.
The kids have observed with very wide eyes the seemingly extreme (to us) protective measures people take to secure their houses in middle-class neighbourhoods. Most have walls in front with locked doors in them. On top of the walls you will find everything from very thorny brush to barbed wire to steel spikes to broken glass, all acting as deterrents to would-be thieves.
We also notice that about every third shop is a pharmacy. (Make of that what you will…) In one of the outdoor plazas downtown we saw about a dozen individual entrepreneurs with typewriters set up at little umbrella-covered stands to fill out forms for people. Apparently there are many forms that need to be filled out. Between here and the language school, there is an old man who sits every day out on the sidewalk under an umbrella fixing shoes. I SO wanted to take a photo of him, but when I asked his permission, he declined.
As in La Paz, many of the streets in Cochabamba are named according to the dates of significant historical events – e.g., 14th de Septiembre or 6 de Agosto or 25 de Mayo. The former (Sept 14) marks the date of Bolivian Independence, but we have yet to learn the significance of all the others – there are SO many of them. It probably has something to do with having such a tumultuous political history – they’ve had something like 192 presidents in 188 years! One lasted a mere six hours. I wonder what they’ll do when they run out of dates on the calendar.
It is exciting that after only 5 days of language school (ok, to be fair, also a year-long course for each of Erik and me, more than 20 years ago), we can stagger through conversations and ask questions on topics of interest to us (not just where the bathroom is). We are finding out lots about the political scene here, which interests us, and is, of course, more complicated and nuanced than it appears from a distance. No surprise, really, when you think about it. But the details of that shall have to be saved for another post…Time for bed!
p.s. This weekend we are going to Toro Toro National Park where there are canyons, caves, waterfalls, and dinosaur tracks and where we will take in some of the festivities of Carnaval. We opted not to go to Oruro, which is widely regarded as the best place to attend Carnaval in the country (some would say the world) because it is going to be SO crazy there (not to mention that you might have to sell a key piece of your anatomy just to get a hotel room at this late date). Because of its popularity, prices have gone astronomical during Carnaval week, so it would be crazy expensive too (comparable to a weekend at a ski resort in Canada!) We figure we can catch a little of Carnaval in Torotoro this weekend and a little in Cocha next weekend and save our dinero for some other adventure.
p.p.s. We have heard from a few of you and just want to say how much we enjoy getting replies – gracias! If you don’t want to comment because you don’t want it published, just say so, and we won’t approve the comment. We’ll still get to read it, though. It just won’t appear on the blog. Alternatively, we are still checking email – email@example.com.
Much love, Jennie, Erik, Felix and Quinn.