September 23, 2013
Ryan is going to give the kids ceramics lessons, four hours every Saturday morning. He has clay, a kiln, a wheel, glazes, books. This Saturday is a brief introduction. Jacky brings with him the model Kon-Tiki he has built over the last month or two out of dowels (three), popsicle sticks, chopsticks, string, thread, and a handkerchief, based on Thor Heyerdahl’s research into Inca rafts; he names it Supay, the Quechua word for demon. At 11:30 we launch it in a tiny version of Lake Titicaca below the Café Mirador. It’s part of a now closed outdoor children’s museum; Ryan gets the key from the groundskeeper. Down the hill for a block are terraced gardens, each featuring a different Bolivian ecosystem and a native dwelling there. A miniature amphitheater is in the middle and at the bottom is a greenhouse with a jungle in it.The museum, the indoor part of which filled two eighteenth- or nineteenth-century water tanks next to the Plaza de la Recoleta, was shuttered about half-a-dozen years ago, but the grounds are well kept.
In the afternoon, bus number four takes us on a circuitous route through the mercado campesino to visit Cal Orck’o on the very edge of the city. In 1994 the huge Sucre cement factory Fancesa discovered, while blasting a hill, a vertical layer of rock with thousands of dinosaur footprints. The beasts had tracked through clay, which a layer of volcanic ash covered and petrified. The formation of the Andes by shifts in tectonic plates moved this trod-on plain from horizontal to vertical: a flat wall three-quarters of a mile long and 250 feet high with five thousand prints from close to three hundred different species crossing it in straight tracks. The viewing platform is across from it on a tall hill in a park full of cheesy life-size dinosaur sculptures emitting roars that bring the one-year-olds there to tears. The view takes in all of Sucre, floating below the two hills behind La Recoleta and above a steep valley.
Sunday Karen and the kids go to the mercado campesino while Philly and I visit Che, an American radical writer who has been in Bolivia over three years and now rents a house from a family who supplies lettuce to the best supermarket in Sucre. Chaupo Molino is a village of thirty-two families just north of Las Palmas on the Rio Chico; we get off a bus, clamber down a dirt road, cross a swaying pedestrian bridge, and walk through farmland. The family’s two sons, Rodrigo and Sebastian, go to Colegio Pestalozzi with Jacky; I understand the Spanish they and their mother, Ximena, speak better than that of any other Bolivians I’ve met, with the possible exceptions of my Spanish teachers. They greet me warmly, inviting us all to visit their farm in a few weeks, when they’ll fill the swimming pool outside Che’s house; they’ve just built a pond and filled it with 3500 pacu (an Amazonian fish) which they’ll also sell to the supermarket; they’re growing artichokes, celery, arugula (a rarity here), tomatoes, parsley, and basil too. She tells us when we come, besides the expected goats and sheep, we might see frogs and toads, rare parrots, pumas, and owls; if you kiss one type of frog, she says, you’ll hallucinate. All we see, though, are lizards and birds and that peculiarly friendly creature called humans.