- Potosi – Sucre
- Meet up with the girls
- More spanish lessons
I was super excited to get to Sucre because I was re-meeting Naomi, Fran and Rhona, all from our Flori group and Naomi who I had spent Carnaval with too. They were still on their salt flats tour for another day the day that I arrived though which gave me an evening to settle in. The taxi driver dropped me in the central plaza, just two blocks from my hostel, The Beehive.
The hostel had a great, chilled out vibe as soon as I walked in. I was moved room to allow a couple to be in the same room, which didn’t matter too much, and then went out to the supermarket for some greenery for dinner. Whilst cooking, I met Andre and Yuya, from Portugal and Australia/Hong Kong. They provided lovely evening company over dinner and invited me to go climbing with them at 7.30am the next morning. I politely declined as I wanted a lie in!
However, those in my room had other ideas for my lie in as everyone was up before 8! Still, the girls had arrived at 5am and were in reception waiting for me with breakfast bowls in hand. It was so great to see them having left my lovely salt flats group behind in Potosi. They were all a little ill and very tired and then found out that the hostel had overbooked meaning they also had to move for one night. However, nothing a good shower and little kip wouldn’t fix and once they’d settled, we met up again around midday.
In the meantime, I booked in for some more Spanish lessons. It was incredibly cheap in Sucre i.e. just £35 for 8 hours of private lessons! My teacher was also called Gabriela (note the Spanish single ‘l’) and I figured we’d really hit it off and all would go swimmingly.
The first afternoon the four of us head to Sucre’s main square and had lunch at a place called Carot. They sold fab paninis and smoothies, awesome to get some vitamins back inside me. We then wondered around Sucre, looking at the little market stalls and getting our bearings around the city. There was a strike on that day meaning many places were not open for business so it limited our afternoon somewhat.
Instead, we head back for a relaxed afternoon and then went out for dinner at the Irish pub, O’Finnigans. Being a Monday night, it was pretty quiet but the burgers on offer were great and cheap for how much food was placed in front of us! We didn’t stay too long and were all in bed by 10pm that night, but it was so lovely to have my A-Team back.
The next morning was fairly leisurely for the girls, whilst I went and met Aubrey (they had arrived the night previously) and head out for a run at altitude. We struggled through a 3 mile run considering how unfit we were and the height at which we were running and then doing circuits. Still, any exercise is good exercise!
Sucre is not a city of hustle and bustle, but more of a relaxed pace, a place to live and a place to study (having two universities in the city centre and umpteen Spanish schools). After I’d showered and the girls had moved back over to Beehive, we decided to walk up to the bus station and book our tickets onwards to La Paz before the girls had their first Spanish class. The walk was quite long and we had to climb some fairly steep steps but the view from the top certainly made up for it.
Considering how long the walk took, we taxied back to town. The girls head to their Spanish lessons and I went to pick up some dinner food before also going back to the hostel before my Spanish lessons. As it turns out, my lesson time was never confirmed so I had to rearrange for later that evening. Instead, I head out to meet Or, Kasia and Aubrey for food. They were at Cafe Condor so I grabbed a coffee and cake to join them and caught up on their mine tour from Potosi. It sounded tough because they’d had to witness almost slavery and child labour down there in the most horrific working conditions. In some ways I’m glad that I left Potosi that day earlier.
My lesson was then at 7pm and went pretty well. I followed this up with yet more exercise at the hostel; myself and Naomi did the Pilates class ran by a flamboyant Bolivian man in tight yoga trousers! We made a healthy dinner of veggie fried rice, had a girly catch up and went to bed. So far Sucre was proving to be our city of recuperation (just like my entire previous month had been).
Day number 3 in Sucre and things got a little more interesting. The girls had their Spanish lessons in the morning however, Kasia and I had found out about a volunteer opportunity nearby. Off we set at 8am on a public bus to Barrio Bajo Aranjuez, 15 minutes from central Sucre. There we entered the children’s daycare centre. This was a place, run by nuns, for families on low income. They could drop off their kids for the morning and go to work, before the youngsters went to school in the afternoon. And it was all for free, including two meals.
Upon arrival we were flocked by cute Bolivian children from babies to 7/8 years old. Kasia, speaking better Spanish, was placed in the older kids class to help out, whilst I was put with the 2-4 year olds and to help with the babies at meal times. Oh my gosh I cannot even begin to explain the cuteness overload of my class! They had two teachers and I was just a classroom assistant, but being the novel white girl, was the main attraction! I spent all morning teaching children how to cut, running around a playground, feeding milk to babies in high chairs, combing hair, washing faces, and rocking babies to sleep in blankets slung over my shoulder (not the traditional English way but certainly traditionally Bolivian!).
At 12.30 when it was time to leave, Kasia and I were exhausted but full of love. We’d had the most incredible morning playing with these children and promised to come back again the next day. I then went to meet the girls for lunch at Abi’s Cafe on the central plaza where I could finally get a good cappuccino, which is proving rare around South America when not in a coffee region.
I waited around until 4pm for my Spanish lesson, which was getting much harder since irregular verbs are just that: highly irregular! The girls went off to the cinema and so before their return, I roasted a load of veg and made a bruschetta type dinner for the 4 of us. We then spent the evening chatting to people around the hostel and chilling out.
The next morning we were not quite so efficient and were also not willing to miss out on the incredible breakfast that Beehive offered:
As such, we were late to daycare but Kasia (this time joined by Aubrey) had arrived on time and informed them of our tardiness. Rhona and Naomi had come with me that morning but speaking even less Spanish than I did, were in with the babies and under 2s. The loveliest thing happened that morning in that the kids all recognised me from the previous day and my class jumped on me when I arrived, wanting my help in every one of their activities.
That day we made Father’s Day presents because it was Bolivian Father’s Day on the following Sunday. We also had a bit more play time which was a lot of fun for me! I hate to say it but I had two favourite kids (and one child that thought she was my favourite but she wasn’t!). Little Nataly who had a tiny braided crown and topknot and cute pink tracksuit outfit, and cheeky class clown Oscar who loved playing around, were absolutely my stand out kids. Teachers to-be are aloud favourites, right?!
As we left that afternoon, Analisa, the manager, thanked us kindly and gave us each a bracelet for helping out at the centre. I mean really we wanted to give her a bracelet because we’d had such a lovely time there and I was so glad I’d gone along to participate. We ate again at Abi’s Cafe when we got back, meeting Fran there and then I head back to do my homework before my lesson.
That day was also St.Patrick’s Day and one of the hostel staff was Irish, meaning the rest of the hostel were positively forced to go out too! The four of us girls went out to eat at a local restaurant called Florin and then the girls bailed on the night out. However, I’d arranged to meet Or, Kasia and Aubrey at the Irish Pub so I left the hostel for drinks with them. “Drinks” quickly escalated to a full night out with dancing, although the other 3 left once the Irish pub started to clear out.
By that time, my hostel had arrived and Yuya and I had buddied up for the evening so continued our party, along with Simi, another girl from our hostel, and a group from a nearby hostel. We ended up at a club called Montis (perhaps) dancing to reggaeton music, resuming a semi-permanent squat position and getting down low with our South American hips that don’t lie, a la Shakira. It was such a fun evening and we headed home around 4am. The only issue was that the hostel locked their doors at midnight and none of us had a key so we were shouting at windows in the hope that someone would come rescue us. We were in luck and also managed to find someone who was still awake, so we didn’t make any enemies in the process either!
My last morning in Sucre was spent getting my life together somewhat. A wonderful pancake breakfast was followed by my Spanish homework, getting some money and food and then a Spanish lesson. I was told that I write well, mostly understand when spoken to but think slowly. Apparently all a natural part of learning a new language and I was heading in the right direction. A result for me! I then checked out, paid for everything and waited for the girls before we grabbed some lunch, showered and sorted out our downloads ready for the night bus to La Paz.
The bus station was quite funny too. It was the first time I’d experienced two things seemingly unique to La Paz’s Terminal de Buses:
- You have to pay a separate ticket to actually get on to the correct platform of the bus that you have already paid for!
- You drop your bags off in the bus company’s office upstairs, go down the stairs to get on to the bus and then watch your bags being roped down from the balcony to the ground floor for loading. I’m still unsure why you can’t take these down yourself!
What made the bus terminal even funnier was Fran’s toilet song which changed the lyrics of ‘In the Jungle’ and received some odd looks and remarks from the locals. And then the random Bolivian man screaming “Gabi” right behind me, to which I thought I was re-living the monkey man situation (monkey man 3.0). We did make it safely on to the bus and departed at 7.30pm. Myself and Naomi sat in Cama Class, the first time I’d had a fully reclining seat, whilst Rhona and Fran splashed out for Cama Leito, which gave them a curtain and wider chair/bed for the journey. And off we were to La Paz!
So, 143 days in to ‘life from a bag’ and I can now conjugate all regular and most irregular Spanish verbs (when looking at notes!) and thoroughly enjoyed mixing my Brazil gals with my salt flat group. I’ve ticked off some volunteering on the travelling bucket list and now head to La Paz a happy girl-chappy, ready for a good old party once again!
P.S. I apologise for the lack of photos in this post. It turns out that I was too busy studying in Sucre (lol) to capture all my super exciting Spanish lesson moments.