Hard to believe it is our last night in Bolivia. On one hand, it feels like we have been here FOREVER but on the other it feels like we just got here and the time flew by. I am definitely ready to get home and see my husband and family, but goodbyes are always hard. I have made some great friends this month that I will really miss- Jenny and Phillip (from our homestay), Jenny (Spanish professor), friends from church and Bible study, new friends at the hospital….what a great experience!! Thank you so much to everyone who donated to make this trip possible. I learned so many lessons that will stay with me for life!
Today we got up really early to meet (Spanish) Jenny at the teleferico station. It is about a 15 minute teleferico ride from Obrajes where we live to El Alto at the top of the mountain. I always enjoy teleferico rides. Round trip 30 minutes with stunning views all around for less than a dollar. Can’t beat it 🙂 We then took a short van ride from the teleferico station to a plaza where we met the tour group. The tour lasted about 4 hours and took us all over El Alto to see these colorful houses where the (rich) indigenous people live, called cholets. There are some interesting videos if you google them in case you are interested in learning more. Generally the first floor is the family’s business, usually a little shop; the second floor is a SUPER elaborate “ballroom” of sorts that they rent out on weekends for weddings, parties, etc.; the third – fourth floors are apartments that the family rents out; and the family lives on the highest floor. Each building has its own unique design picked by the owners but almost always has shapes and patterns inspired by the culture (i.e. Tiwanaku…I will talk more about this on my next post). Today we had a tour guide as well as two amauta’s, which are older men whose job it is to pass on cultural beliefs to the next generation…so basically experts in Andean culture. They explained the symbolism on each building we saw…pretty neat! I got to be friends with one of them by the end of the tour. His name is Victor and he took the time to answer my questions and point out different things to me. He wanted a picture with me when the tour was done, gave us his email address, and told me I have to send it to him haha. There were several architect students on the tour, as well. More and more people would join the tour sneakily after each stop and by the end of the tour they could barely close the bus door because the bus was so full. Hilarious! We also got to go to an overlook of the city of La Paz and an art museum. All for $1, which was for the transportation to and from El Alto 🙂
Judithe and I were sad to say goodbye to Jenny after the tour but so thankful for her patience and encouragement over the last month. He aprendido MUCHO español!! In fact, there were journalists today on the tour and they were interviewing various people about their thoughts on El Alto and the cholets (this is the first time they are publicly showing this architect’s work). Before I knew it the guide looked at me and asked if I spoke Spanish to which I replied, just a little. And then he told me they wanted to interview me…in Spanish. WHAT?! I tried to protest but they were persistent so they took me to this porch overlooking the city and stuck a microphone in my face and began before I had time to think. I feel like I started off pretty well, talking about how El Alto has a lot of people and vibrancy and life, and how I liked the cholets because they are so colorful…but then my mind went blank and I forgot EVERY SINGLE SPANISH WORD I EVER KNEW. Which was unfortunate timing. So I ended quickly, stating my name and where I am from, all the while looking desperately at Jenny, who was behind the camera encouraging me. They also interviewed Jenny, who did a wonderful job. On the way out of the building the journalists told us that the interviews would be in the newspapers, radio stations, and TV….no big deal….oh boy… Jenny told me that she would look for the story and if I am in anything, she would let me know. Oh well, it was an interesting experience!
And finally here are the promised pictures (in no particular order) from my last post. We will see if the wifi at this cafe cooperates tonight…enjoy! I will post one last blog when we get to Miami tomorrow night. We have to leave bright and early tomorrow morning to catch our 7:30 am flight out of La Paz!!