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Paging Mr. Speilberg

I am still in Sucre, and still loving it. My days are composed of waking up around 8 a.m., walking to the market next door for a fresh fruit and yogourt breakfast, returning to the hostal for a Spanish lesson, then reading on the permanently sun-drenched terrace for a few hours. After that, I go hang out in the plaza, and follow that up with a great dinner and some cheap beers. I try and *do* one thing a day here, but end up failing as often as not. Obviously, this can not go on forever, though I am willing to spend a lifetime or two figuring out why not.

I am taking Spanish lessons with a local guy, Jorge, who is very funny and exceptionally patient, a necessity when teaching me anything. I was introduced to him by two Australian friends at the hostal, Kathy and Ron, and have been lucky to find him. He is a good teacher and, moreover, is unbelievably hospitable. I have been over to his house for a few dinners with his family in order to practise my Spanish in only five days of classes. Classes are only one hour a day, and one hour is really only actually 45 minutes. Jorge assures me that this is a Bolivian thing, though I am not convinced that it is not a Jorge thing. No matter.

On Tuesday, after writing my last entry, I stepped outside the internet cafe and accidentally walked straight into the middle of a parade that was being held for the Kings of Spain, who were visiting. I ducked out of sight quickly, before the some Archbishop was about to introduce himself to me.

Things are always going on in Sucre, as it is the capital of Bolivia, though only technically. This is still the judicial capital, and the official captial, but all the politicians live in La Paz. As a capital city with no politicians, it has to be one of the best government cities in the world.

After the narrow escape from one of my never-ending brushes with Spanish royalty, I headed to Las Alasitas, a one-week a year market in Sucre where dozens of vendors sell nothing but little things. Little coke bottles, little newspapers, little guitars, little dresses, little et cetera et ceteras.

It is interesting in that it is just sort of odd, but the locals couldn't believe that I didn't buy anything. I tried to explain to them that I don't really need any little anythings (Bolivian ladies, take note), but they were still amazed.

In an effort to redeem myself culturally, I joined in the ancient Bolivian tradition of getting paralytically drunk while watching a Bolivia-Chile soccer game on television the next day. Ron, Kathy and I headed over to Jorge's where we watched the game and listened to Jorge solubriously belt out every single chant as they were being sung in the stadium a thousand kilometres away. Bolivia scored in the 88th minute to win the game 1-0, and Jorge screamed. Crying tears of joy and 97% rum, he kissed us all and gave us his oldest soccer jerseys, proclaiming that we were his best friends in the world. We tried to return them to him, but he told us it was an insult.

Jorge lead us to the centre plaza, where all the Bolivians were dancing about and celebrating. Jorge promptly disappeared, trampled underfoot in a state of semi-conscious glee, and Ron and I made city-wide television whlie dancing with a group of drunken celebrating teenagers.

I woke up the next afternoon, sat about, and then went off to see a play with Ron and Kathy that we had seen advertised the night before, and which seemed interesting. It turned out that we were to watch a couple of segments of university-run interpretive dance. Now, I figured I would interpret Bolivian interpretive dance the exact same way I interpret American interpretive dance, which I interpret to be crap. It actually wasn't too bad, and the second segment was quite decent; we figured it was either about the tormented life of a struggling actor, or about the events leading up to the Bay of Pigs. Certainly one or the other.

Yesterday, I headed out with Jorge, his brother, Santiago, Ron, and three other friends from the hostal - Bart and Tom (NDR) and Florence (FRA) - to play some soccer. We headed to a nearby pueblo where Jorge assured us we would meet other locals who wanted to challenge us. We ended up at a deserted fortress with one soccer pitch in the middle of a sandstorm with nary a soul to be seen. Finally, a young boy showed up and lent us his ball and we kicked it around 3-on-3 for an hour. As a word of fair warning, playing sports at 9,000 feet in unblocked sunsihine is NOT the same as it is at lower elevations. After 8 minutes on the pitch, I was cramping up badly and after 10 I thought I would throw up. During the breaks, I could literally hear my heart beating through my chest. Tom threw up later that night, and Bart, Ron and I all felt quite nauseous in various stages throughout the evening. A very odd experience, and this is the lowest elevation I will be at for the next 2 or 3 weeks.

After the game, Jorge took us to his local bar for a couple of post-match beers - I figure a little more dehydration is just what we needed. The bar was amazing, and I would definitely not be surprised to hear that we were the first gringos ever inside its hallowed grounds. It was tucked around a sharp corner and hidden behind a closed aluminum door, and the locals there proved to us that this was not a bar, but a drink-to-get-drunk watering hole. I had a beer and then ordered a local drink, Chicha. Chicha is made by women chewing maize, then spitting the masticated liquid out into a bucket and letting the maize juice-saliva mixture ferment. The fermentation is then boiled, and is finally cooled before serving. As if this tropical blend wasn't classy enough, it is ordered as a ChuChu (Spanish for 'tits'), as it is traditionally served in a pint-glass shaped like a naked woman's torso. It isn't awful.

After 45 minutes at the bar, Ron and I challenged a couple of locals to a game of Sapo, a supposedly common bar game in Bolivia. In the game, you toss gold tokens, trying to land them in the mouth of a brass frog, and get various point scores by how close you get. The game is only played with beer or money on the line, and is sort of the Bolivian version of darts. Whereas we MAY have been the first gringos in the bar, I am CERTAIN we were the first they had ever seen play Sapo, and I think we made Jorge a little nervous in the presence of potentially non-tourist friendly locals.

There was no need to worry, however, as they took to Ron and I instantly, particularly in that we seemed to be gold-token-in-the-brass-frog's-mouth naturals. The locals cheered loudly for us, hugged us and gave us drinks constantly. Carlos, our opponent in the blu-blocker shades, hugged us at every opportunity and laughed every time he would use his broken English in conjunction with our broken Spanish. It was certainly one of my trip's highlights so far, as I got a real feeling of doing something very local, and just loved how friendly the Bolivians were.

Today is El Dia Del Amistad, the Day of Friendship, and I spent it having a huge lunch with the sweet people who work at the hostal I am staying at. The entire staff is lovely, and the hostal is perfect, except for the fact that is now housing the same massive group of Paraguayan Menonites that have been all the last three hostals as me, and now seem to be following me around and are starting to freak me out quite a bit. Save for that, it is exquisite.

I haven't figured out when I will be out of here yet, likely next week, as I want to get to Macchu Picchu before wet season and I have so much left to do in Bolivia. And then so much to do in every other country as well...