July 28, 2013
The end of a social week. We celebrate Jacky’s birthday on Tuesday by having six friends over for a Cuban dinner (black beans, rice, and picadillo): René, Philly, Shannon (a Canadian we met in the La Paz airport who is establishing a job training program for youth here), Teresa, John (her American husband), and their son Kevin. Para Ti, the best chocolatier in a chocolate-filled town, makes a huge cake for Jacky, and when he blows out his twelve (plus one for good luck) candles, bits of chocolate fly everywhere.
Thursday morning at SAS, the supermarket three blocks from here, I meet an American, Don, who has lived here for fourteen years and is married to a Sucrense; his daughter attends the Colegio Pestalozzi, which he recommends for our kids, and which, or so we are soon told by a few others, is indeed the best school in town. So instead of paying $90 a week per kid for Spanish lessons that, while very good, are really designed for adults, they could absorb Spanish, be with kids their age, and it would only cost us about $70 per kid per month. We’ll talk to the school on Monday.
Coincidentally, we run into Don again on Friday night—we go with Philly to an exceptional Italian restaurant, somewhat of a secret, run by an Italian couple in the ground floor of their home, and there Don drops off Philly’s friend Mochi, who teaches English at the university, and her daughter, who have just been visiting Don’s mother-in-law in the hospital (she was hit by a taxi). And even though it takes ninety minutes for us to get our pasta, it’s worth the wait.
Saturday morning we go to the Mercado Campesino. It stretches for block upon block, completely chaotic—everything you can imagine is sold there, with no order to it at all, except that two or three blocks specialize in cheap furniture. We buy two small solid pine desks and chairs for the kids and two little chairs for our courtyard (for a total of about $70).
The darkness of our house depresses Karen. We get sunlight only for an hour a day and only in our bedroom; none of the walls are white; and all of the trim and furniture are a dark brown wood. She gets in black moods. Going for walks in the everpresent sunshine helps. We go up to La Recoleta Saturday afternoon, where a noisy children’s fair has taken over the square. The usual assortment of stalls sell junk food and made-in-China goods, and our kids are too old for it. The Museo de la Recoleta takes us right out of the chaos and into a four-hundred-year-old Franciscan cloister with breathtaking square gardens (including a hummingbird). There is Sucre’s oldest tree, a 1400-year-old massive and thriving cedro (yes, that means cedar, but most cedros in South America are cedrelas, deciduous trees whose foliage looks nothing like a cedar), next to an orange orchard and overlooking terraced spring-fed gardens tended by the novices. The library, full of ancient volumes, is closed, but we see many mysterious religious paintings darkened with age.
Then we visit Ryan again. Karen suggests that his home be featured in the New York Times’s “Home” section, and he thinks it’s a good idea. Maybe if that happens he’d be able to collect enough donations to finish it—he was only able to build about half of it before his money ran out. He wants to make it a little artist’s colony, and I think he could do it too.
I’ll write about today’s truly grand adventure later. Now I’ve got meatloaf in the oven and the neighbors are singing at the top of their lungs.