Let’s Learn Spanish!

March 27, 2017

First Day of School (and of real traffic in La Paz)—by Jordan Pryor

La Paz

The first day of school was, for lack of better words, a struggle. I believe that this was mostly because we were all still acclimatizing and somewhat still sleep deprived. The whole school thing started out a bit rough when we couldn’t find the school at all, even though we walked past it several times. Like any class, there were parts where time went quickly and also times that went slowly. Either way, we all survived our first lessons. It is quite interesting to learn from a native speaker one-on-one in comparison to classes in the United States. I won’t say it wasn’t difficult, but I am looking forward to the improvement these four days of classes will have on my Spanish. After our classes, we found a Peruvian restaurant, whose menu consisted exclusively of seafood… I’ll just say some of us liked it more than others. We then met with a professor from the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés to travel to a museum as well as a haunted street. We spent the rest of the evening before dinner exploring local shops and small markets, which are on every street in La Paz. We also explored the Plaza de Murillo, a popular place for locals to spend time and also a place for many shops to sell various items. One thing to note about La Paz, and about Bolivia as a whole, is the number of indigenous people. It is especially easy to recognize the indigenous women as they have a very specific type of clothing and they are often times the women running the shops. After dinner with professors from the university, the group was pretty tired and we all turned in for the night.

New Country, New Experiences—by Lauren Reynolds

Plaza Murillo

Rise and shine! It is the first day of class! Getting up at 6:30 for class was not my first thought when going on spring break. The tiredness of all the travel and then the early morning made want to cry when I heard the alarm go off in the morning. The three times I hit snooze was not enough, but nevertheless I overcame.  It was all worth it, though, when we got our day started. This morning we ate breakfast together and talked about what was the most surprising to us about Bolivia. Something that is surprising to me is the cable car system that they have implemented in the past few years. It is called the teleférico. It looks like a ski lift and it takes you from La Paz to El Alto. The traffic here is crazy, so going the short distance from the two cities can take forever. La Paz is working on adding 7 more cable car systems in the next few years.

After our language classes we went to a Peruvian restaurant that was, to say the least, interesting. I keep thinking I like seafood, but when it comes down to it, I really don’t. I was coerced into eating clams and octopus. Later, we went to a museum and got to walk around the streets of La Paz. We learned about the different groups of people from Bolivian history and how they developed tools, household items, and their ceremonial costumes. Something that was really interesting to me was how part of the “Cholitas’” (indigenous women in Bolivia) outfits came about. These Cholitas are always wearing a traditional outfit of a ruffled skirt with a top and a bowler hat. The hat has not always been original to their outfit. It originated in England, and when the English men stopped buying the hats, some businessmen took them to Bolivia to sell. When they arrived in Bolivia they could not find any men because they were out in the fields working so they told the women that if they wore the hats that they would be more fertile. That was something all the women desired so they purchased the hats from the businessmen and that is how it became part of their

Pique a lo macho

traditional outfit. Later in the evening we met up with some professors from Universidad Mayor de San Andres (UMSA) for dinner. The dinner was amazing. I ate a traditional Bolivian dish, Pique a lo Macho, which was beef tips, sausage (cut up hot dogs), peppers and onions, an egg, and a spicy sauce, all on top of French fries. I’ve made it a goal to try to eat true Bolivian food everywhere I go and so far it has been a success! Something I have noticed is that meals in Bolivia take way longer than meals in the States. Once we finished dinner we were all exhausted and went to bed because 6:30 was going to come really early.

San Sebastián & Trucha—by Connor Yarnall

My Spanish lessons began today with my private tutor, Cecilia. Cecilia is a native of La Paz and shared a lot about the cultures, customs, and people in La Paz. We talked in Spanish about the various social classes and indigenous groups that call Bolivia home. I also learned about the problems that the Bolivians have and the governmental structure. We continued for four hours but it seemed like only an hour had passed. I could not believe I was able to hold a conversation in Spanish for so long.

The doors to La Iglesia de San Sebastián

After my first lesson, we ate lunch at a Peruvian seafood restaurant where I had pulpa (octopus). It was the best food that I had in Bolivia until dinner tonight. After lunch, we traveled to the Museo Nacional de Etnografía y Folklore. I was exposed to artifacts of ancient, colonial, and contemporary eras. After the visit, we went to Plaza Murillo to see the Presidential Palace and La Iglesia de San Sebastián. I love ancient architecture and churches so this visit ranks near the top of my stay in Bolivia thus far. La Iglesia de San Sebastián was astounding and breathtaking.

We went to dinner with a few professors from UMSA to eat my best meal of my stay in Bolivia: trucha (trout). It was absolutely amazing and I would have to put it high on my list of best food I have ever eaten. The UMSA professors were great company and the food made it a fantastic night.