Day 71 – 12 May 2012
My plans for Sucre were simple – I wanted to take some Spanish lessons to improve my conversation skills and mostly just relax in one place for awhile. I wanted to stay at least for a week. I got a lot more than I bargained for…
Back in Uyuni, after the fateful coin toss determined that I wouldn’t be going to Sucre alone, Klaus** and I had both been assigned to the same 6-person dorm room at our hostel. Our other 4 roommates had yet to show up so we shared a bottle of wine summer camp style, each sitting on our respective bunks in the dark with flashlights until the wee hours of the morning. Sometime after the wine ran dry, we passed out and were harshly awakened about 5:00am by our 4 Israeli roommates who made no effort to keep quiet. It seemed it was time to hit the road.
The introduction to a Bolivian bus terminal was starkly different to the orderly bus stations in Argentina and Chile. It was mostly a cacophony of hawkers bellowing out city names. “La Paz!” “Potosi!” “Oruro!” “Tarija!” “Sucre!” If you didn’t already have a ticket (and we didn’t) and know exactly where you were going, you would undoubtedly be escorted by a variety of characters that could “help” you. The first place we entered looked like it was someone’s living room with so many people piled on top of the furniture, it didn’t bode well for the comfort of the bus itself. Thankfully, Klaus agreed and we left there in a hurry. It was 8:45 and we were keen to catch a 9:00 bus. We had only just entered a second office when a woman working for a competitor said she had an 8:30 bus that was still available. Without a second to think about it, we were ushered out of that office and basically shoved on to this new bus. We were already underway before I realized that I had not had time to buy a snack or go to the bathroom and we had no idea how long the ride would actually be. We survived that ride on one chocolate bar split between the two of us.
Three hours in and I was sure that my bladder would burst. I didn’t know if we had one more hour or six. I saw a town coming up on the horizon so I decided to ask the driver if he would stop. He agreed, but instead of continuing on into town, he stopped right there. In the middle of nowhere. There was a small brick wall on the opposite side of the street and that appeared to be my best option. Toilet paper in hand, I found myself squatting behind that wall as the rest of the bus watched. Not one of my better moments.
We changed buses in Potosi and from there, it was only a couple more hours to Sucre. Again, Klaus and I were in the same dorm with 8 other people this time. We dumped our stuff and headed out to explore. We ate pasta in a library converted into an Italian restaurant, we strolled through the central market, we shared the most giant beer I’ve ever seen in a dingy discoteca, and by the time we returned that night I had completely fallen for him. Not such a good idea when you’re traveling – someone is always going to have to leave and you’re always going to have to say goodbye. But for the next few days, I allowed myself to forget that this was a bad idea.
The next morning I started Spanish lessons at the Sucre Spanish School. My teacher, Guiselle, was a 25-year-old single mother of a 4-year-old boy. I was already an intermediate level student, yet Guiselle insisted we spend at least 50% of time on grammar so I was back to conjugating verbs. Kill me. I had to remind myself that I was there voluntarily.
My mornings were spent in class and in the afternoon, Klaus would be waiting for me to have lunch and act like locals. We mostly just walked around and had an especially nice afternoon strolling in Parque Bolivar. His final night in Sucre was mojito night at Kultur Berlin, but I had Spanish homework to do. Some friends that we had met on our bus adventure, Ruth and Wolfgang from Austria, joined us and I seemingly downed 4 mojitos that night while reviewing subjunctive verbs. It’s called multi-tasking. Kind of like college!
Four days after we arrived, Klaus had to go. He bought a plane ticket to fly to La Paz and would be departing while I was in class. He was in more of a rush because he was meeting a friend in Lima, but we made plans to reconnect in Peru. He would be meeting his friend to head south from Lima and I would be heading north around the same time. We didn’t know where, but when the time came, we promised that we would pick a spot to meet again.
The same day he left, while I was in class, one of the other Spanish teachers came rushing in to tell Guiselle there was a problem with the water. It wasn’t working. I wasn’t sure what that meant exactly until I returned to my hostel, Kultur Berlin, with the intention of taking a shower, only to find out that the water to the entire city was out. The main water line had burst and the city would be without water indefinitely. It’s hard to fathom what this really means until you’ve lived it. It means you can’t shower, you can’t wash your hands, you can’t flush the toilet….the list goes on.
I had changed rooms after Klaus left and the guy on the bunk above mine was up most of the night puking into the only garbage can we had in our 10-person room. A sick person in a cramped room with no water. Yep, we all started dropping like flies. The following day I was sick. Then 3 more people in the room and at least 3 other rooms had their own germs going around. More than 50% of the hostel was sick and we were 4 days without water. The logical thing seems to be to leave the hostel, but some of us were too sick and the last thing we had the energy to do was pack up our belongings and move. It was pretty terrible but I fought through it and stayed. Besides, Ryan and Chris (SpaceJam and California Raisins) had just arrived and I needed the company.
A few days later, Stuart, who I had trekked with in Torres del Paine also showed up. I definitely wasn’t expecting to see him again! I was finally ready to put sickness behind me and make the most of my last few days in this city with some old friends. Stuart and I walked to the cemetary, which I’ve found, in South America, are always beautiful and elaborate. I also walked to the mirador, overlooking the whole city and had lunch at a lovely cafe on the top of the hill.
On my last night, a week had passed and it was mojito night again. This time I was with Ryan and Chris to toast our last night together. They were headed back south toward Buenos Aires and I was headed toward La Paz and beyond to Peru.
It was getting late and I definitely had my fill of mojitos, yet I decided to check my email one last time. There was an email from Klaus with a confession. Somehow he forgot to mention that there was a girlfriend back home waiting for his return to Germany in July and he didn’t have the words to tell me in person. Emotions already clouded by a boatload of mojitos, I was pretty devastated and heart broken. It was the last thing I expected, yet it should have been the first thing I expected. This was a traveler’s romance cliche through and through. While I was feeling pretty sad, I knew this situation is not unique; it happens all the time because everyone is “just passing through” and it’s super easy to lie and to be lied to. I debated whether I would share this incredibly personal experience on this blog, but the whole point of my blog is to talk about my personal experiences and it wouldn’t be genuine if I skipped things that affected me so deeply. Plus, it gives me content to write a later post about romance on the road. **Also, I may or may not have changed his name in this story to protect the innocent. Depends on how innocent anyone really ever is.
I spent 10 nights and 11 days in Sucre, the longest I’ve stayed in any other one place. It was beginning to feel like home but it was time to put the experiences (both good and bad) behind me. I needed a fresh start!!