Now that we’re all adjusted fairly well to the effects of the altitude we have been able to begin exploring all that La Paz has to offer! We started the day bright and early with the delicious desayuno from the hotel.
Mate de coca has become a staple of our diets, not only because it helps with the altitude but also because of the weather! When we left the hotel this morning it was a balmy 32 degrees Fahrenheit. We walked to the Instituto Exclusivo and began our four hours of lessons. Our groups are working on different things ranging from worksheets, to vocabulary, to conversation, to 30 minute oral presentations! We’re learning a lot and the Spanish is coming easier with practice! During our 30 minute break we got together to talk about our mornings and drink some more Mate de coca to ward off the cold!
After our lessons were over for the day, we were all ready for a filling lunch. We decided it was about time to try Alexander’s, a café that many students from former Bolivia trips have recommended. We enjoyed some Mexican dishes including quesadillas and flautas.
After our filling lunch it was time for our daily siesta. Being in the high altitude requires more effort to get the oxygen we need through our bodies, making us tired more easily. We came to the hotel and slept and/or did some Spanish homework (and course packet reading). We had planned to explore some of La Paz that some students got to see yesterday during class before heading to dinner. After our siesta we walked to the Mirador el Montículo, a scenic viewpoint that looks out over La Paz. Although we had to climb a steep hill, we were pleasantly surprised that it’s becoming easier and easier. The views were beautiful and we enjoyed learning about some of the city from students who had visited yesterday.
From the Mirador we can see different parts of the city that are separated by socioeconomic class. The difference is very noticeable in the houses.
We also learned that this snow capped mountain is used as a direction signal; if you’re facing the mountain you know you’re looking south. Legend also has it that if you look at the mountain from El Alto you can see the face of Pacha Mama (Madre Tierra- Mother Earth).
Here are some scenic views from the Mirador!
On the way back down we learned about the practice of displaying a dead person– or something that resembles one– to dissuade people from entering abandoned houses. It would certainly keep us away!
Last night, after dining alone in the restaurant we realized that Bolivians typically eat later than what we’re used to. In order to try and have an “authentic” Bolivian dining experience, we decided to get some café before heading to dinner. We stumbled upon Blueberries, and we all enjoyed our beverages there.
By then we had worked up quite an appetitite and figured it was late enough to try and catch some locals in a restaurant. We were wrong about the locals, but we had a delicious dinner at quebecoise. We ate everything from Pollo Clementine, Pollo Cordon Blu, y Fillet Mignon. We were so hungry and it was so delicious we forgot to take pictures. Sorry! We’re sure that we’ll return (especially since they brought a space heater to our table) so we’ll remember to take pictures then.
We’re looking forward to Apthapi at Instituo Exclusivo tomorrow! This is a traditional Aymara event where people share typical food. We are going to learn to prepare a traditional drink made out of purple corn (called Api). We will leave you with some things we have learned today.
1. Don’t step in tar; even if it looks like a thin layer on the street you may sink into it like quicksand and almost fall.
1a. Have no fear! If you do step in tar, it will likely dry and flake off leaving your boots (hopefully) just fine! (Despite the disapproving looks from the Bolivians on the street.)
2. Street performance at red lights is completely acceptable! And the performer will likely forcefully request applause.
3. Even if you specifically ask if a sandwich contains vegetales cocinados (cooked vegetables) and are assured it does, you will likely be surprised with a sandwich containing primarily lettuce.
4. In Bolivia, broken bottles are used to prevent pigeons from roosting.
5. We asked our Spanish teacher about the hats worn by indigenous Bolivians such as this mujer (woman).
We were interested because we hadn’t seen any men wearing them, even though they appear to be hats designed for men. We were told that this dates back to the colonial times. After the Spanish left, people wanted to emulate them, especially in their clothing. They started selling these typical hats to men, but they were uninterested. Instead, the hats were then marketed toward women, where it was successful.
Elanna Seid & Kiera Crowley