I´ve arrived! Actually, I arrived on Sunday, but this is the first chance I´ve gotten to update the blog. As soon as I got here, my host father told me that the next day had been declared a holiday, so school would be closed. We took off pretty much right away for their weekend home in the country, and we stayed there until Monday evening. On Tuesday, classes began for me. They began with a test to see what level class I should be in. Then I went to my designated class, which has two other students: Frederico from Quebec, and Jeff (absolutely no resemblance to my Jeff) from Ireland. My class - students and teacher - will change up each week so I can get used to different accents, etc. Tuesday´s class ended up going the whole day, for 8 hours, instead of the usual half day, in order to make up for missing Monday. My brain was -fried-. Today we had normal classes, and we´ll have a party at the school this evening to celebrate the Bolivian holiday of San Juan (which, I believe, was the cause of everything being closed on Monday).
Now that the busy business is written about, it´s time for the more interesting stuff!
First, the homestay family. There are the mom and dad, who are maybe 40-ish, and their three daughters, ages 15, 13, and 5. They are fairly well-off and well educated - he´s an accountant and she teaches pharmecutical chemistry at a university. Both of their houses (the one in Sucre and the one in the country, which is actually in a small village about 30 minutes outside Sucre) are pretty big, even by US standards. The family is exceptionally welcoming, especially considering that the school tells you not to expect kitchen access or dinner (breakfast and lunch are with the family, but Bolivianos eat very small dinners, so many Westerners feel underserved at Bolivian homes in the evening). My family, however, is happy to serve me dinner, albeit small (but lunch is huuuuuge!), and I can help myself to what´s in the kitchen anytime. No one in the family speaks any English, but they are extremely patient with my Spanish and really try to keep me in the conversations.
The family´s main home, the one in Sucre, is about a half-hour walk from the school, which is in the center of town. That´s not a bad amount of time, but it´s hilly and at a 9000 ft elevation, so I get winded a lot. I like the exercise, though. I end up walking both ways twice a day, since lunch is at home, and with classes in the morning and classes or other activities in the afternoon. But the walking is a good contrast to classes, which are pretty intense. Conversation at home can be pretty intense, too, since my Spanish isn´t so great yet. I continue to speak Spahili, and find myself wishing I´d never learned Swahili in the first place. My brain seems to have two language compartments - one is "English," and one is "other."
Sucre is a beautiful city. It´s got a little over 200,000 people, but it´s very compact. The roads are narrow, and the buildings come right up to the roads - no yards in front or anything, although many buildings are built around a central courtyard. Sucre is known as the "White City" because most of the buildings are whitewashed, as per Spanish colonial fashion. It is one of the few towns that preserved a good portion of the original colonial buildings.
The town seems fairly laid back. With all the time I spend walking, I´ve only been asked twice if I want a taxi, I don´t get stared at, and no one has yet yelled "gringa" at me, all of which are in huge contrast to Tanzania. I feel pretty safe here, too, although I don´t take my chances. I haven´t gone out at night yet, but I get the impression that it livens up a bit then.
And, the food. Everyone always asks about the food. It´s actually quite good. Breakfast and dinner are pretty small, just bread and fruit and coffee (instant, but I guess I´ll survive) or tea. Lunch is the showcase meal of the day. It starts with soup, so far always a different one - I´ve had vegetable, spinach, and beef stew. Then comes a heaping plate of at least two starches (pasta, rice, and/or potatoes, fried or boiled) and a main dish. I´ve had delicious roasted chicken, a beef and veggie stir fry, and sausage and vegetable patties. My family cooks non-spicy (thank God), but then loads on the picante sauce to their individual tastes, as well as ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard.
So there you are, my life in Bolivia, so far. I´ve been busy, but it´s been good. And in no time, Jeff will be here, which I´m really looking forward to!
Take care, all,