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Trip Start Jul 10, 2010
Trip End Nov 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
Wasi Masi

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, September 13, 2010

Ok, so last time I wrote we had decided to leave the hostel we were staying in and move to a nicer one to stay for a week and learn Spanish. Our old hostel was called Hostal Amigo ('friend') - which is highly ironic considering the general mood of the staff there, which swings from irritated to rude, from bored to annoyed ... you get the picture. We had our breakfast thrown down in front of us like they were feeding dogs, my room was like a prison cell, and I didnt manage to get a hot shower in the two days I was there. Me, Nina and Guilleume (from now on referenced as 'we') had bumped into Chris and Camille from the salt flats tour and they told us about their lovely hostel across the plaza - we practically ran there!

Wasi Masi is a beautiful guesthouse run by a lovely family, including some cute little boys who spend their days learning the panpipes, and an excentric old man who insists on talking to you in a mix of Spanish and Quechua (native Bolivian language), despite the fact that he knows you speak neither! Add in a cute little black dog who instinctively guards the guests luggage, and you've got yourself a winning guesthouse! We booked ourselves in for a week and I got my own lovely room with an adjoining bathroom (a luxury when you're travelling!) for the equivalent of five pounds fifty a night. Bargain!

We settled into our new place and the staff told us about a good Spanish school close by called Fox Language Acedemy. As I mentioned before, our teacher Gavi was a lovely, diminutive Bolivian lady with a penchant for homework! I've never been so tired in my life as I have this week, because my brain was constantly crowded with Spanish verbs, pronouns, exceptions and silly phrases like 'Donde esta el baņo?' (where is the toilet?) and 'Yo soy de Inglattera' (I'm from England). Obviously we learned more useful phrases than those, but it's the simple ones that repeat in your head day and night! 

I honestly don't know where our week has gone, because between classes in the morning, homework, lunch, more classes, more homework and dinner - there wasn't much room for anything else! We had some lovely meals out at restaurants and also visited to amazing central market, where there are mountains of colourful fruits and vegetables (luckily Gavi had taught us the names!) and everything else you can think of. Literally. Because I turned around in the market one day and came face to (partial) face with the mouth and nose of a horse (and nothing else) - god knows what kind of local delicacy THAT particular ingredient inspires! But the three of us managed to make huge salads, have roast chicken, fresh bread, fruit, and bucket-loads of homemade guacamole for around 8 pounds. Gorgeous! Something tells me my weightloss hasn't continued this week!   

We've also partaken in a few bottles of wine in the evenings (around 3-4 pounds for a really lovely bottle) and we also attended a salsa evening with some people we had met in our Spanish school (namely a very smooth-talking American guy called Josh, of all things, who wooed all the ladies in the room!). Happy hour mean't I could happily sit and drink numerous cuban mojitos for one pound fifty - it was a wobbly walk home that night! Another night we bought beers and sat in the plaza drinking - although it sounds bad, many people throughout the week were doing this and we believed it was OK during festival. Turns out we were wrong! We were swiftly surrounded by 5 scary-looking Bolivian policemen, who asked us where we had got our drinks. Turns out, that one day, alcohol was banned. Oops! They took our cans and emptied them onto the floor - fair enough. But then they threw the cans onto the careful manicured lawns! Litter bugs! (We amended for our sins by putting the cans in the bin - thats the closest I want to come to the Bolivian law!)

Each day throughout the week there were still small practice parades going on daily through the city for the big weekend festival and we were excited about witnessing the real event (considering how fun the practice ones were to watch!) The night before the saturday festival, large wooden structures sprung up all over town - officially these were tiered stands for sitting on (5 levels high), but they looked like something a 16-year-old had made in design technology class, i.e. you just wouldn't trust to sit on it! This was proven the next day when we saw that several of the top rows on some of them had snapped in half - I hope their weren't people sat on them at the time! But this is Bolivia, and anything goes! You could buy seats on these stands, which went the whole way around the plaza, for 20 Bolivianos (2 pounds!). Bear in mind that our only other option was trying to get a view from the pavements on the parade route - and these had also been snared by money-making fellows who had painted 'Ocupado' ('occupied') on a section of pavement, added their phone number and you would have to pay them to sit there! On public pavement! Hilarious! 

So on the saturday we bought tickets from a guy in the stands (for a little extra, obviously) and got a great view (not from the top!) of the end of the parade route in the plaza. I say end, because the parade route begins roughly 5-6 miles out of town and takes the dancers 5 hours to complete! Some of the costumes were absolutely huge and many of the leggy female dancers were in skyscraper heels - I don't know how they did it! A few people had treatment at the side of the road for cramp and exhaustion. The young children in the parade did amazingly well to last so long on their feet.  

When the dancers reached the end of the route, they were met by the statue of the Virgin de guadaloupe. The troups of dancers would fall to their knees in front of it to pray and give thanks (or penance, one of the two!) - I think a lot of the people were falling to their knees from exhaustion more than a willingness to give penance! It was a lovely sight though and fascinating to watch.

Over the three days of the official festival we met so many lovely local people. Before we had realised about buying seats, we had sat in the stands unknowingly until someone asked us to move from their seats. Another woman near by offered us the seats that belonged to her because her family hadn't turned up yet. Another lady sat next to me started chatting about the festival and explaining all the different dances and songs to me - it was in Spanish and I understood a lot, and she laughed kindly at my attempts to converse. Clearly a week of lessons hasn't improved my Spanish all that much! But I was so impressed by the lovely nature of the Bolivian people and their enthusiastic festivities!

I have absolutely loved staying in Sucre - the white-washed, colonial buildings and terracota roof tiles give it a European feel, but the atmosphere is strictly Bolivian! The sun shines every day and even when it is quiet (on sundays and during siesta), it is beautiful. I will be sad to leave but I cannot stop in one place forever - there is still much of Bolivia to see! Tomorrow, Guilleume, Nina and I are getting a night bus to the biggest city in Bolivia - La Paz. Turns out they aren't quite sick of me yet! So I will update again from the crazy heights of the home of Death Road! To be explained.........
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