One Day in Sweet, Sweet Sucre
July 15th, 2006
Juice bars, "the spit", mercados,
and a day-in-the-life of a traveler in sweet, sweet Sucre.
(BTW: 8 Bolivianos = $1 US Dollar)
7:30 - Up with sunlight, stumble out to the gas-powered,
yet schizophrenic shower -- hot, cold, hot again
8:00 - Breakfast in the patio of our hostel - a former
colonial house with white walls and terra cotta roof.
Cafe con leche, bread (hard), butter, jam, fake orange juice.
9:00 - To the internet cafe around the block, which is
also a convenience store and the front of a family's house.
An hour of last-minute photo tweaks and wrestling against
Gmail to send the update. During all this, I chat with Dan
Huff from Austin about weddings and lives that continue
uninterrupted back home.
10:00 - Catch my ex Lauren on Skype from Shanghai, China.
She wants to hear how I'm doing and what's been happening
lately. What fruits I'm eating etc. She's busy, but well
- has started podcasting and will move to another apartment
10:45 - I'm late to meet Thomas (France) in the juice market.
To get there, I walk on the sunny side of the street (tropical
ray heaven), which is fully 15F warmer that its shady sister.
The juice market is a ring of nearly identical stands, with
luscious fruit pushing against glass cases like an overcrowded
subway. Each stand is manned by a Bolivian woman, varying in
age from 12 to 50, all with pigtails tucked under hats - white,
blue, black. Bowlers are rarer here than cowboys, but everybody's
got a hat. Before I can order my favorite milkshake (banana,
strawberry, starfruit), Thomas stops me: "no, not those
strawberries. They were on the floor 2 minutes before you came."
Our conversation recounts all the stops we've logged since our
last rendezvous on the trail near Cerro Torre in Patagonia.
Between stories, we take our "ņapita", the leftover juice, or
free second glass that comes with each order. We laugh a lot.
Hitchhiking and patience and a certain yearning for "what the
fuck" moments. We love Bolivia. Another Frenchman is supposed
to show, but never arrives. We believe him to be seducing an
Italian girl from the hostel.
1:00 - Two rounds at the juice bar, we've paid 4 Bolivianos
each (50cents) and are off to a fixed-menu lunch. The soup
has two pieces of fatty pork that easily separate for consumption.
I drown mine in aji, the local hot salsa. We are the only gringos
in the restaurant until our second plate comes - "revolved chicken"
- it's scattered in with rice and grilled veggies. We inhale.
8 Bolivianos, no beverage.
2:00 - Time for a bit of exploration: the Campesino Market,
far from the tourist center. We hop on a bus that Japan
banished to Bolivia to reduce its emissions. The bus claims
to have VCR movies, but lacks this and enough legroom to sit
straight forward in the seats. (1.2Bs) Off we jump into the
spiderweb of streets fanning out from the main market building.
It's slightly larger than the market in the city center, but
wilder, with higher stacks of tomatoes. it's quiet now because
of siesta, so we sit for yet another juice. Ready to burst, I
discover the public bathroom. It's clean, save the floor and
the persave smell of human waste. This is actually rare in
Bolivia - mostly clean, slightly dingy.
2:30 - We exit the mercado proper and begin to walk past all
the clothing that China can produce, as well as choice products
like dried llama fetuses, and dragon's blood for sexual dysfunction.
2:40 - "The Spit": though we are carrying no valuables and
little money, large gringos remain the same in the eyes of
criminals. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a man walking
towards us on Thomas' side of the street. He winds up his
neck like a pitcher hurling a slider, and hocks an enormous
loogie all down Thomas' hat, face, neck and jacket. Unlike
non-dried llamas, this launch is hardly defensive.
According to the common scheme, while a sympathetic passerby
helps to clean off the spit/mayo/mustard (loogies are cheapest),
a pickpocket comes to finish the job. (Here, that would net
about 20 Bolivianos and a disposable camera). Wise to the
scheme, we keep moving, glaring at the would-be thief as he
skulks behind street stalls. We continue, and I find REI
traveler pants for 16Bs ($2). We wander past many fake-everything
shops and houses with sheets for doors, and back to the center
as the sun sets.
6:00 - I stroll back to the hostel -- several fellow travelers
are chatting in the courtyard, interested in a movie at a local
cafe called Joy Ride. I'd mentioned the film earlier -- about
a Brazilian prison, and wanted to go for Portuguese practice.
Five folks end up coming - two gals with me for a dinner of
pizza (60Bs for 3). The lounge at Joy Ride projects the DVD
and I eat some weird Dutch chocolate cream bomb for 11Bs.
11:00 - After the movie, we discuss a nightcap, but just end
up talking at the hostel until 1am. Thomas has wondrously
appeared with the other Frenchman, even though he isn't
staying in our hostel.
1:00am - bedtime.