Boven op de berg

On Top Of The Mountain

The furniture in the room is as dark brown as the wooden floor, making the white crochet cloths on the tables contrast nicely. Two sweet-looking Bolivian children in days gone by smile down from the black and white photographs hanging on the wall. This is the living room of the Bolivian family I’m staying with and to whom I consistently refer as “mi familia,” having known them a day and a half.

It’s nice to get a taste of another life than that with international travelers in hostels. To play silly games in Spanish with todo el familia, and watch a film together in the middle of the day (what else do you do on Good Friday)? On this festive day we are all tired from our early morning walk: at 5.30am we commenced the ascent to the statue of Christ on top of one of Sucre’s surrounding hills. It’s a catholic tradition in this city, and so we walked with hundreds of people on the cobblestoned road winding its way to Jesus. Most people stopped to pray and sing together at these shrines that depict the stages of Christ’s suffering, but not my familia: they are catholic in theory but not in practice.

This past week has offered some valuable insights into Bolivian citylife. In my five days of Spanish class I talked to my teacher about the president (who is, as she kept repeating, muy loco); abortion (which is legal here only in case of sexual assault); jealous macho men; why the indigenous women dress as they do (they tried to copy the Spanish invaders) and about her ex-boyfriend whom she left because of his drug addiction. In the English class I volunteered at, I saw that Bolivian teenagers are just like those in Africa and Europe: shy and unwilling to speak a language they don’t master. Nevertheless, they told me about the interior of their house (class assignment), what music they liked and what traditional food I should try. Pique a lo macho, a dish with chicken, beef and porky chorizo, lots of onion, peppers, fries and mayonaise: my liver is still recovering from the fat attach.

It is tempting to stay in Sucre, to eat more three-course lunches with my family and watch some more films together while they laugh at my loudly expressed empathy for the characters. But time flies and other places call, and it is time for me to answer.