After spending our first day in La Paz resting at the hotel and adjusting to the altitude, we were ready to begin Spanish classes this morning. We were greeted at our hotel by Lucas from the Instituto Exclusivo, where we are taking Spanish classes for the next week. Upon arriving at the Instituto, we were offered some mate de coca tea, which is typical of La Paz and helps counteract the effects of the altitude.
We started classes at the Instituto Exclusivo at 8am and had a break at 10. After our break, Carlos and Milka, two of the teachers at the school, took us on a walk through the area near the school. We started at the Plaza Abaroa, a beautiful park between 20 de octubre and Sánchez Lima. It’s considered to be part of the area called Sopocachi. The Plaza is named for Eduardo Hidalgo Abaroa, a famous Bolivian war hero during the late 19th century.
Statue of Eduardo Abaroa
After we left the Plaza Abaroa, we started up towards the Mirador el Montículo. It was a substantial hike, but well worth it!
The Montículo is named for the Bolivian musician and composer, Nestor Portocarrero. The views were absolutely incredible. A large portion of the city of La Paz is visible from the lookout spot, as well as much of El Alto. Carlos told us that it’s also a popular spot for young couples to come, and the church that is located up there is often used for weddings. He also introduced us to the Bolivian term “camotes,” which literally means “sweet potatoes,” but is commonly used in Bolivia to refer to young people in love.
On our walk down from El Monticulo we came across portraits and sculptures in honor of revolutionaries who suffered under dictatorships.
After Spanish classes were over for the day, we were met by Paola from Camino, a school for children with hearing impairments, where we will be working when we begin our placements. Paola took us on a walking tour of El Prado, the main street of La Paz. El Prado was very crowded and we were able to see the diversity of the city on these few blocks where business men and women walked alongside indigenous woman dressed in traditional colorful indigenous attire. There are lots of restaurants and street vendors along El Prado. We sat down to “El Menu del Día”, a three-course meal, and enjoyed a typical Bolivian lunch (for under $3!).
In the evening, we were ready for another Bolivian culinary experience and headed out in search of a restaurant. We came across a restaurant across from Plaza de Abaroa called “Puerto Viejo”, which was recommended by Carlos and we enjoyed our second Bolivian dining experience!
Enjoying our experience in La Paz so far! Looking forward to Day 2 of Spanish classes.
Theresa Donohue & Christie Clarke