Last day in Sucre...
Oct 17, 2009
|Today was our last day in Sucre and we also had our last Spanish classes with our school.
Iris continued working with her normal teacher today and she covered a most fascinating topic in Spanish. Regular verbs in the present tense - hablo / hablas / habla / hablamos / hablais / hablan. Loads of fun!!!
My teacher - Estephanie - wasn’t able to make it today since she was going to do her TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) today. She wants to go to study in the US for a year as part of her University course and needed to take the test to get in. It’s a bit unfortunate that I didn’t get to have all my lessons with her as she was very good. But I can really understand that she is more keen to do this test than to teach me…
Instead I got another teacher - Carola - to help me with the future tense, the past tense for irregular verbs, the dative and the accusative pronouns. A most fascinating topic I was really looking forward to! However, the little time was spent on this and the lesson turned into a listening comprehension exercise. And it was a really interesting listening comprehension exercise! She probably spoke at 90 percent of normal speed and slightly more clearly than normal. I’m quite proud to say that I understood most what she said.
The discussion was very interesting because she gave a very good insight into current issues in Bolivian society - the types of issues that you wouldn’t normally come across when you casually speak to people. I also got a better understanding of (her view of) Bolivian politics and current events.
My teacher was 28 years old and had two children aged two and seven. She had recently divorced. Apparently the role of women - like her - is very rapidly changing in Bolivia and women have now much more liberated than one generation ago.
For example, the three of the most important roles in Sucre was now held by women. The president of the city council, the senator for the city and the chairman of the Supreme Court were old women. This would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.
Divorce is becoming increasingly common and many women like her now have the opportunity of leaving their husbands and living an independent life. My teachers parents had wanted her to move home once she got divorced. Previously, this had been the norm but it is now possible for many women to live away from the core family if they so wish.
Her mum had married when she was 17 and had two children very quickly - before she was 20. This was very much the norm in Bolivia for many years but this is now changing. Many people in the countryside still marry and have children at around 17 but many city dwellers wait a lot longer.
There is still a lot of a macho culture in Bolivia and men feel that they should be head of household. My teacher’s husband didn’t want her to work while she was married. However, she got so bored with doing nothing that she ended up starting to teach English from her home. She ended up doing this every day during the week for a couple of years without the husband finding this out. Quite interesting…
My teacher told me that there is somewhat of a power struggle between La Paz and Sucre for being the capital. Up until a few years ago Sucre had been the formal capital of Bolivia but politicians then decided to move the capital to La Paz. This caused loads of anger in Sucre and loads of joy in La Paz. As a result of this, a number of students organized a protest march to La Paz from Sucre - the roads had been blocked so they had to walk.
When the group of protestors reached La Paz they were attacked by a number of people from La Paz that killed all members of this group - it was quite large - probably 150 people or so. The killings were fairly brutal and after this Sucre gave up the claims to being the capital. Although the government now sits in La Paz the Supreme Court sits in Sucre - so it’s bit of a split capital.
A few years ago, the current president, Evo Morales, decided to have the constitution rewritten. He put in place a number a group of people to write this new constitution - the main problem was that the majority of these people were illiterate and had no legal training. Most of them had probably not even graduated school. The group was working in Sucre and kept working for about a year without producing any output.
This lead to uprisings in Sucre - and at the same time the residents of Sucre wanted that the constitution should stipulate that Sucre was the capital. The crowds surrounded the theatre in Sucre where the group was working and the delegates had to flee to a nearby military base. After (not) working for the constitution for a year - the committee managed to write and approve the new congress within four hours. This is pretty quick going especially as a new constitution is a very complex legal document. Apparently they just took the Venezuelan constitution word for word and approved it.
My teachers dad was a barrister/lawyer specializing in constitutional affairs and he (and other) did not approve of the new constitution. My teacher had also trained to be a lawyer and she was not impressed with it either. Apparently it gives the president far reaching rights - such as changing the constitution at his own will. This in fact turned the Bolivia into something akin to a dictatorship.
But the president hides behind the fact the new constitution was written and approved by ordinary citizens. The irony is then that the people who approved the new constitution had to flee from a crowd to a military base and then approved the new constitution in four hours inside the military base…
The approval of the new constitution then led to big riots in central Sucre. Students were fighting with the police and the military. It apparently had a fairly bloody ending - something akin to the Tianmen Square massacre.
Apparently the new president Evo Morales is still very popular with people and a lot of people put much trust in his socialist government. My teacher really approved of two of his policies. Firstly, he has started giving out a small state pension to the elderly - circa 150 bolivianos per month (15 pounds). Secondly, he has started giving out money to children to help fund the costs for sending them to school. And to promote education for girls - usually the ones who suffer - he pays a fair bit more money for girls than for boys.
However, my teacher didn’t approve of most of the other things Evo Morales is doing. In particular, she didn’t like the fact that it is now compulsory for all Bolivian schools to teach a new subject - Socialism - but obviously labeled something less conspicuous. She also had issues with some of his policies leading to much increased racism between the various tribes in Bolivia. There are three major tribes and they had got along quite peacefully up until he came to power. Now there is apparently quite a lot of problems with conflicts between the various tribes.
After these very interesting insights into Bolivian politics and daily life - we started with the less interesting topic of grammar…
We had our lunch at our normal restaurant - La Cocharra - close to the school. Their food is mind-blowing. Iris had the Picante de Pollo and I had another dish. They are quite good value as well. The waiter was very happy to see us. He has a very interesting smile - you see all his teeth - not just the upper ones. It looks almost like he’s doing ads for tooth paste. When we told him we were leaving for Santa Cruz in the evening he made us promise to come back to his restaurant when we next visited Sucre.
The afternoon passed quite quickly and we soon had to take a taxi to the bus station in Sucre. We had booked and bought our ticket through our hostal - Hostal Cruz de Papayan - and were given a voucher we should use to get on the bus. The girl had meticulously noted down the departure time for the bus - 5.30 - and the name of the company. She had also written that we wanted to go to Santa Cruz and the seats we had reserved.
Despite all her hard efforts she had managed to really mess it up - she had gotten both the bus company and the departure time wrong. We’re really fuming and amazed how she managed to really mess this up so badly! When she made the booking there was no one else in the reception and she had all the time in the world to complete the booking. And she got it wrong!!!
Hence, when we got to the bus station there was a lot of confusion. We even managed to get our bags checked onto the bus back to Potosi where we came from a few days ago. We would have ended up in Potosi if we hadn’t asked how long the trip was and thought it strange that it was so short.
In the end the bus company she had written on the voucher had to call the hostel and ask what bus company we were meant to go with. The girl helping us was really nice and we’re eternally grateful for her help. So after a bit of issues we managed to get to the right company and get our bags onto the right bus.
Only problem was that we though the departure was at 5.30 - she couldn’t get two things wrong - right? However, Iris went straight to the departure gate and figured out that the bus actually departed at 5.00 and not 5.30. Only problem was that she figured this out as our bus - with our bags on - reversed out of the parking lot. Iris had to fetch me in the toilet and we had to scream to the bus to wait for us.
We did in the end manage to get onto the bus heading for Santa Cruz - but it was a near miss. The moral of the story is to never stay at Hostal Cruz de Popayan as they are completely useless!
After a few hours on the bus we got to a small town where the bus made a stop so that we could have some food. As we were waiting in line to order, we heard a voice behind us asking if we came here a lot. It turned out that our friend Hugh from the Salar de Uyuni tour was on the same coach. We chatted for a bit during dinner and agreed to share a taxi once we got to Santa Cruz. This was a very pleasant encounter as we really like Hugh.
After dinner we spent some long hours on the bus and managed to get some sleep as we bumped along the dirt roads to Santa Cruz.