I’ve been staying in Sucre now for over a week, living a simple life in a beautiful hostel called Wasi Masi with a big garden and a mellow communal feel. I was lucky enough to score a private room with a comfy double bed and private bathroom (for a whopping $7 a night), so I’ve been spoiling myself with good sleep and privacy. I’ve met some really fantastic people here and have just been enjoying my days.
Sucre, “the white city”, is a beautiful little place with Spanish colonial architecture and a culture that feels like Bolivian Humboldt- safe, mellow, slow, artistic, local and comfortable. It sits above the tree line at 9,000 feet, is surrounded by arid hills and is blessed (or cursed?) with some of the most incredible and intense electric storms I’ve ever seen. The huge central market near the plaza is amazing- you can find an abundance of fresh fruit, veggies, fresh cheese, meat, bread, sweets, grains, beans, spices and wine (I have been very pleasantly surprised to discover Bolivian wine, it’s made in the southern Tarija region and is delicious) all sold independently in the same block- it’s a huge farmers market every day. Women dressed in traditional colorful clothes sit behind stands that line the center, selling fresh fruit juices and beautiful fruit salads covering whipped cream. Most people do all their shopping here- there are two more commercial supermarkets in town but they’re not too popular. Another massive indoor/outdoor market in town, Mercado Campesino, sells everything else you could imagine from clothes to toys and jewelry, you can even drop your things off to be mended in the street. The food is Sucre is great as well- you can find everything from scrumptious and dirt cheap Bolivian food (for $1-$2 a meal) to all kinds of quality international food- an expensive dinner out with drinks adds up to $10. Of course, what is cheap for me as an America exchanging US dollars is incredibly expensive to a Bolivian living on local wages. Because tourism has increased so much in Sucre, the city is becoming unaffordable for many locals now. It’s difficult to reconcile the price of traveling when as a tourist, I am contributing to this hardship for locals. I do what I can, but it’s something I’m struggling with and need to think more about…
Last Sunday I visited artisan market in Tarabuco, a traditional village 65 kilometers from Sucre and found an abundance of beautifully crafted Bolivian goods in colorful textile patterns. I wish I had taken any photos of the way most people still dress in traditional clothing there, I just hate to be such a tourist all the time.
Yesterday some friends from my hostel and I adventured to some waterfalls outside of town. It was a gorgeous sunny day for a hike; the place was full of locals swimming and a couple crazy German tourists doing backflips off the cliffs. We climbed to the third of seven pools and were content then hitchhiked a ride back to town in a packed taxi. We only had to get out and walk once during a steep incline.
Overall, I’ve been living more of a settled life here, taking Spanish courses for 3 hours in the morning and volunteering 2-3 hours in the afternoon at an institution for children and young adults with developmental disabilities. Even though the model they’re working from is very outdated, in my opinion, it’s obvious that resources for social services in Bolivia are very limited- the hospital/institution is church owned and they receive very little support from the state. Even though the children are living in a locked/gated facility completely segregated from the community, I understand that we’re in a very poor country and conditions could be worse- the kids are well fed, bathed, clothed, taken care of and loved by the staff I’ve met… It’s tricky, and honestly I’m still struggling with how to feel about it. The facility is fairly empty this time of year because most of the children are home with their families for the holidays- the only kids that remain now are orphans. It’s wonderful being able to spend time with them and give them some love, even if I’ll just have to leave in a week, I think a little time is better than none.
Overall I think Sucre is the perfect city to spend extra time in, the hardest part will be getting on another crazy Bolivian bus to leave, but that’s another week away. I’ve yet to upload any photos but will get on it soon- it’s a beautiful city that deserves more exposure. The only one I have on my phone is from New Years Eve, but it shows the fun spirit of my hostel and a few of the awesome girls I’ve met here. Feliz año nuevo, everyone!