We had a busy day today! After our individual Spanish lessons in the morning, we all ventured out for an afternoon at the museums with Carlos and Cecilia, two of our teachers at the Instituto Exclusivo. We had a hard time finding a mini bus to take us all, so instead we had our first ride on one of the larger buses. In the afternoon it wasn’t too crowded (which was a nice change from the mini buses) but Carlos told us that during rush hours and busier travel times they get packed with people.
We rode the bus up El Prado which is most similar to our Broadway in New York City. Our teachers explained that it’s an important road in La Paz because it connects the north, center, and south parts of the city. In El Prado there is a statue of Simón Bolívar, the liberator of Bolivia. Carlos explained to us that if the subject of a statue is riding a horse, you can determine how they died! If the horse has all 4 feet on the ground, they died of natural causes. If the horse has 3 feet on the ground, they died due to injuries sustained during battle and if the horse is standing on only 2 legs, they died during battle itself. Unfortunately the bus went by too quickly to snap a picture of Simón, but the horse he was riding had all four feet on the ground so we determined that he died of natural causes!
We walked down Calle Apolinar Jaen which Carlos explained is named for Apolinar Jaen who was involved in the Bolivian revolution. The street dates back to Colonial times and we could definitely see the difference between that and the other streets of La Paz.
We arrived at the Museo de Instrumentos Musicales de Bolivia (Museum of Bolivian Musical Instruments) and began to explore the vast collection they have. Carlos explained all the instruments we saw and made special note of the sicu which is traditional of Bolivia and comes in many shapes and sizes.
There was a huge variety of instruments including different types of charangos (similar to what we consider a guitar), xylophones, bells, drums, and even an instrument made from sheep’s nails. We even got a chance to try playing a few traditional instruments!
After we left the museo we walked to Plaza Murillo, which is named for Pedro Domingo Murillo, who was the liberator Bolivia. Today, the plaza is the site of the Congress building, a beautiful church… and also many pigeons.
After touring the church and the plaza we were all hungry so stopped for lunch of sandwiches and coffee in a nearby café. After, we were ready to do some shopping! We had heard that Calle Sagarnaga was the place to go so headed over from the café. We found stores upon stores selling everything anyone could possibly want from Bolivia; scarves, sweaters, hats, and gloves made from Alpaca fur, purses, keychains, instruments, paintings, tapestries, jewelry and so much more! We enjoyed walking around the stores looking at everything for sale… and also doing a fair amount of purchasing.
With all our shopping we learned a little bit about bargaining! Some helpful tips that we learned:
1. If you hesitate in making a purchase, even for a moment, the seller will likely drop the price.
2. Christie and Theresa’s Spanish teacher taught them the word ‘rebajarme’ which translates into ‘can you lower that for me?’ Try using that and sometimes the seller will lower their price.
3. Look around before making an impulse buy! Often the same items will be cheaper in a different place just around the corner (a few of us learned this the hard way…)
We were hoping to make it to mercato de las brujas (witch’s market) but were tired after our shopping spree. We hope to go with the rest of the group later in our trip. We came back to the hotel to do a little preparation for our Spanish exams tomorrow morning and rest before dinner. We went to La Guinguette, a french restaurant that we’ve had our eyes on for a while. We enjoyed vegetable lasagna and hamburgers. We’ve been steering clear of most raw vegetables in case they were washed in tap water which would likely make us sick. It’s always exciting when we can find cooked vegetables in a meal!
Tomorrow the rest of the students and our supervisors and professors arrive. We’ve all loved our week of Spanish classes and exploring and getting to know La Paz but we’re excited for the rest of our group to arrive so we can begin our clinical work!