For unto us a child is born… err… will be born

For those who didn’t yet hear, let me make it official: Yoli is pregnant. We will have a baby this year!

We didn’t find out for certain until the day we left on this trip. That made it hard to get the word out. We didn’t post it on this website because we wanted to surprise Yoli’s family, and we didn’t want this news to reach them before we got there.

Well, technically we aren’t there yet, but we will be tomorrow. And I hope the news won’t travel faster than we will.

Anyway, we’ve already started buying “baby things” like a miniature poncho we got here in Sucre. We are excited about the future!

Water bombs in the White City

Today was museum day in Sucre. We saw some interesting things. But before we get to that, let me tell you about something else we saw: an unsuspecting young woman (presumably a tourist) was pelted in the head with a water balloon as she walked with some friends in the plaza downtown. One thing we’ve learned is that around here you need to walk around with your eyes open, or if you’re on a bus, keep the windows closed. Kids walk the streets with water balloons they throw as a prelude to Carnaval. But the guy today was no kid… he was probably college age or even older. Last night, a boy threatened to throw a balloon at us if we didn’t pay him 50 centavos. We pretended we didn’t understand Spanish (It was probably harder for Yoli to get away with that). This morning, on our way to our first museum, we saw a pack of kids roaming around outside a church/convent complex looking for targets.

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Eating etiquette

Sunday morning we had been scheduled to visit the thermal waters in Potosí with Yoli’s Tio David and the rest of his family. However, this didn’t work out because they had problems with their car. Instead they invited us to lunch.

We got to see his house, which us undergoing some major construction as they add a second story. We also got to meet two of his children: Karina (with her husband) and Daniel. Daniel is studying linguistics and speaks some English, so we had interesting conversation with him.

But something gave me a feeling I was getting into something over my head.

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Churches, convents, and crypts, oh my!

Saturday morning we headed over the San Francisco, an old church in Potosi. The guide was young and energetic and showed us lots of interesting things. We started by looking at paintings on the four walls surrounding a large courtyard, mostly on the subject of San Francisco de Assisi. Then we went into the main church sanctuary and he showed us the miraculous image of the Señor de la Veracruz. It’s a giant sculpture of Jesus on the cross made from one piece of cactus. It’s really quite beautiful. The “miraculous” part comes from the story of its origin. The statue showed up unexpectedly on the church’s doorstep one day, but headless. Then three guys came to town and offered to fashion a head. Not knowing these guys, they were asked to stay isolated in a room for three days, which they did. They never ate a thing. When the people went to the room to see why they weren’t eating, the dudes were gone. The statue of Jesus suddenly had a head, and it looked as if it had been part of the statue from the very beginning.

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Potosi, highest city in the world

After a very late check-in, we slept in and started our first day in Potosi around 11 a.m. At first we were thinking of switching hotels since the one we were at was a bit pricey and not everything was working as it should (tv, telephone, toilet, lamp, etc). But eventually these problems were fixed and we decided to stay.

We went to the Torre de Compañia de Jesus and climbed to the top where we had a spectacular view of the city and Cerro Rico (“rich mountain”), the mountain that made Potosi wealthy and famous. You see, silver was discovered in Cerro Rico, and that led to a mining boom. The truth is that during colonial times, Potosi was the largest city in the Americas and the source of enormous wealth for the Spanish empire. This led to the construction of tons of beautiful churches and buildings across the city. But all this came at the expense of the lives of Indians from across the region forced to work as slaves in miserable conditions in the mines.

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Down a mineshaft … and into a Mac store

After having found out that we would have to stay in Oruro an extra day before moving on, we decided to check out some local attractions. The first place we went was the mirador at the top of the Faro, a sort of lighthouse or beacon set on top of a huge rock near one of the edges of town. From there we had a spectacular view of Oruro. The city begins against several yellow-brown mountains, and then spreads across the plain below them. It was a long walk to get there, but from that high place we spotted some interesting buildings far off that we later walked past.

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Surprise in Oruro

After returning from Copacabana to La Paz on Sunday, we scrambled to get to the bus station and buy a ticket to Oruro. We made it in time and arrived Sunday night around 9:30 p.m. We found a comfortable hotel (Hotel Bernan) with hot water (and no “electric showerhead of death”!).

Monday morning we had nice showers and some delightful breakfast (api, a thick purple corn drink; and buñuelos, a pastry). Then we set out for the train station to buy tickets to Uyuni, a city next to a giant salt lake… One of the wonders of Bolivia, and something Yoli has never seen. We expected to leave around 11 am. Oruro was just a transportation stop-over.

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Copacabana and Lake Titicaca

The bus ride took longer than we thought it would. The most interesting part of the ride was when we had to disembark from the bus to cross Tiquina Strait. The bus went across on a ferry and, after paying a fee (of course), we were herded into motorboats and went across. Once on the other side, we petered around the plaza and waited for the bus to arrive. Once it did, we got back onboard. But not everyone realized the bus had come. The driver didn’t seem to care. He began driving off after honking a few times. Some passengers began yelling “Faltan! MUCHOS faltan!” (Missing, there are many missing!) So he relented and went back to pick up the stragglers, who were still unaware of their plight.

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