I felt the beginnings of life in Bolivia clicking into place this week. The start of good friendships, and Spanish gradually becoming slightly less of an obstacle course (although indirect pronouns still slow me down quite a bit).
It started on Monday when I moved in with a Bolivian family (Beatriz the mother of the family, her daughter, Isabel and almost the entire neighbourhood’s dogs and cats).
It has meant that my waking and sleeping moments are accompanied by chatting in Spanish and trying out Bolivian food. In exchange I cooked the family and a couple of friends a Thai curry last night (minus the shrimp paste and Thai fish sauce which are slightly tricky to get hold of here although I did try).
Breakfast is the main time when the three of us are together, and so far I have generally chosen the topic for debate based on my spanish classes later that day. We have covered machismo, religion and politics so far this week. Not bad going as long as you are into heavy topics over your morning papaya and toast.
Religion as usual got quite heated. Beatriz is a Theosophist (yes I didn’t really know what that was either) and I don’t think Isabel quite shares her views.
As yet, I haven’t quite decided on next week’s topics so any suggestions welcome. I am happy to do a report-back in exchange.
Then on Wednesday, I went for a walk after work with one of my teachers, Liliana, to the palatial house of Simon Patino, a tin mine owner and once one of the richest men in the world.
I clicked with Liliana almost at our first lesson. We are both about the same age and share the experience of having hippy parents and a mutual love (strangely) of Scottish folk music.
As we wandered along chatting suddenly it seemed I could say what I wanted to stay, that Spanish was not stopping me from being myself and from making close friends. As the evening gloaming settled, we sat and shared stories in the gardens of the house surrounded by the heady scent of flowers that fill the whole of Cochabamba.
I then headed off for dinner with my two Belgian friends, Tomas and Cecile, who I met last time I was here and who have hosted me several times. We had a lovely dinner and wine, and I felt a connectedness to both of them despite the short time I have known them.
They remind me in some ways of two good friends, Salman and Christele in Edinburgh, a couple I was best man for a few years ago. Perhaps, not surprisingly then, I am off this Sunday to join Tomas and Cecile’s for celebrations of their first wedding anniversary.
The evening finished with Tomas and I sharing a spliff on the roof. As I gazed up at the stars with a tropical breeze tugging at my sleeve, I had a great sense of being alive (an existential experience as I like to call them) and thought "Yes. This is where I want to be."