miércoles, julio 25, 2007
Back home again
After a cancelled flight, and two nights in American Airlines vouchered hotels, I got back to New Orleans. Will Buckingham was waiting for me at the Louis Armstrong airport and I opened my front door to be greeted by Felix, Rocco and Gris-Gris. In the seven weeks I was gone, with daily tropical rains, vines and trees had grown remarkably. After a dry Bolivian winter, everything here seemed so lush and green.
I had interrupted submitting blog entries when Linda and Kelly Wagner arrived. Our two weeks together was so eventful and enjoyable. I will only be able to touch on a few highlights.
On Thursday, June 28, I waited for a glimpse of Linda and Kelly passing through customs at the Viru Viru airport in Santa Cruz. They, like I, a month before, had spent the night on the flight from Miami. We stayed at an elegant hotel (the Conciller) only two blocks from the Plaza. Arq. Carlos Barrero, a student from my Peace Corps days, arranged an architecture tour with Lucho Fernandez, one of Bolivia's best architects. His own house, built under the protective umbrella of a roof recovered from a demolished factory, incorporated his wife's studio.
We arrived in Sucre the next day and I had the pleasure of introducing Linda and Kelly to my favorite Bolivian city and my friends. For the most part, Sucre is quite compact and most of the museums, churches and other points of interest and within walking distance of the Plaza. We stayed at the Hostal de Su Merced. When took my last sabbatical in Sucre, four years ago, I stayed there for the first month. We immediately headed up to the roof terrace for a panoramic view of the city and its surroundings.
On Sunday, Dario and Carmen Julia (and Valeria) took us to Yotala, a small neighboring town and we had a wonderful lunch at La Campana. After a sopa de maní - peanut soup - we enjoyed the buffet of grilled meats and vegetables in the setting of a country house. My Peace Corps friend, Bill Lofstrom, had recommended the restaurant and, sure enough, he was there with his daughter and her family visiting from the States.
On Monday, we took a taxi to Potosí, two hours away. Sucre is at 9,000 ft. altitude. Potosí, the colonial mining center, is the highest city in the world at 14,000 ft. We retraced the entry route of Viceroy Morcillo, the setting for my art history paper which I was to deliver at the Archivo Nacionál the following Friday. We climbed to the top of the roof of the church of San Francisco - which might have been far too much exercise at that altitude. Linda and Kelly had a very bad night and in the morning we decided to cut our Potosí trip short and return directly to Sucre. However, that Tuesday, there was a blockade. For the past few weeks, students and faculty, all over the country, were protesting anticipated moves by the government to expand their control of university government. In Sucre, a major university town, there had been demonstrations almost every day, often met by tear gas. Protests had now escalated to the next step. For considerably more money, we were able to find a driver who was willing to take us on a detour around the blockade - using picturesque (and very rough) back country roads - providing a much more intimate connection to the landscape than we could have anticipated.
Back in Sucre, Linda gave her talk to the Colegio de Arquitectos (similar to the AIA) on Thursday night (July 5) and I spoke at the Archivo Nacionál
After my lecture, there was a despedida at the house of Arq. Roberto Castellón, the director of the architecture program at the university. I had spent a memorable 6 weeks in Sucre surrounded by so many good friends. I hadn't realized how much my own life was compartmentalized into so many separate places and experiences. This was the first time I had ever brought together dear friends from different times and places. Surprisingly, it really worked and was so affirmative. In so doing, my own life takes on a greater sense of objective reality.
And then we went to La Paz. Dario drove us to the airport and our flight was delayed. Indeed, once we left Sucre, none of our other flights, buses or boats left on time (and in one instance, even on its proposed day.) Our hotel, the Naira, was comfortable, inexpensive and handy. We wandered down the Prado and got a good feeling for the intense La Paz's intense activity which really made Sucre seem like a sleepy town. Sidewalks are jammed with crowds moving with purpose and concentration.
Early Sunday morning our bus to Copacabana picked us up at the hotel. The three-hour trip was broken up by our arrival at Tiquiňa. In order to get to cross the Strait of Tiquiňa we had to get on a small boat while our bus crossed on a raft. We found our hotel in Copacabana and, after a stroll along the shore of Lake Titicaca, we visited the Basilica. There were many stands in front of the atrium selling decorations for the cars which were being blessed by a priest. The ch'alla
The following morning, the lake was very rough and we didn't depart for the Isla del Sol until mid afternoon. It was a difficult crossing and the waves seemed as large as our little boat. Our guide Juan took us to Pilco Kayma, an Inca site on at the Eastern edge of the island. From there a guide from our hotel led us on a gradual (but, at 13,500 ft., challenging) climb to our hotel, La Estancia, about 4 km. distance. The hotel, a series of thatch-roofed adobe cabins, and a main lodge with dining facilities, was high up on a ridge overlooking the lake. Each room had solar-heated hot water and a trombe wall for heating - a small sky-lit chamber with an operable door to control the heat. Unfortunately, our day was overcast and there was much less heat than one might have wished. (Again, thick blankets were sufficient.) Dinner was excellent - Lake Titicaca trout. We ate at a long table with the only other guests, a family from Prague. After breakfast the next day, we had the much easier down-hill walk to the port of Yumani. We were concerned about making an early bus to La Paz and finally took off for Copacabana, were the bus was delayed anyhow.
The highlight of our last day in La Paz was, without question, the National Art Museum. It is located in a wonderful colonial mansion at the corner of the Plaza Murillo. A selection of some of the most beautiful colonial and more recent paintings and sculpture are exhibited in comfortable and well lit spaces. We spent the rest of the day shopping. I bought a number of books at Los Amigos de los Libros, Bolivia's best bookstore. I remember its Cochabamba branch from my Peace Corps days as the place that I bought the first two volumes of Le Corbusier's Oeuvre Complete
In the late afternoon, we headed up to the airport at El Alto. After many check-ins and immigration stamps, we were moved into successively deeper lounges where we waited for our departure. At 10:30 pm, it was announced that our flight was canceled and that we would be spending another night in La Paz. We finally flew to Santa Cruz at about 3pm and, after delays there, arrived in Miami at almost 11 that night. I said farewell to Linda and Kelly. We stayed at different hotels and what began as a delightful adventure ended up unceremoniously as we got on separate buses in the Miami airport. A little over a week later, I find the memories are fading faster than I would have expected. Writing this blog is an act of reconstruction whereas just a few days ago my trip was such a vivid and unquestioned reality.
the next night. Actually, I was gradually recovering from laryngitis which I contracted in Santa Cruz and croaked my way through my own lecture. Luis Pozo, a student from my sabbatical semester has spent a high school year in Connecticut and was able to translate Linda's lecture. Luis was one of our wonderful hosts in Sucre. He happily escorted Kelly's exploration of Sucre night life. On Thursday, Kelly went on one of the Joyride Café's bike tours. (Luis is one of the guides.) ceremony, which I had seen in Sucre, is probably the most common example of syncretism - combining Catholic rites with elements of Inca religion (the spilling of alcohol as an offering to the Pachamama - Earth Goddess.) That night, there was a tremendous hailstorm followed by an electrical outage. All of the guests in the hotel huddled in the restaurant where we were served by candlelight. There was no electric heat that night and, happily, our thick woolen blankets were more than sufficient. and the place where we would by US magazines.
martes, julio 17, 2007
My first weekend in Bolivia coincided with Valeria's second birthday. Two years ago, she was a toasty little loaf of bread in the arms of Dad Dario and Mom Carmen Julia. Two years later, she is a powerful being with her own definite ideas of what should and should not be and how she should comport herself. She is courageous and runs in the direction of action and excitement. It's not at all surprising that she insists on playing basketball, just like her older cousins who train with their grandfather every afternoon.