Monday, March 22, 2010

A Trip to Tarabuco.

I had an absolutely splendid weekend. Jorge had been telling me that I have to take a weekend trip to la Candelaria some time before I leave. The Candelaria is a property/hacienda/ranch that belongs to the family. One of Jorge's cousins, Liz, runs weekend tours to the property through her mother's travel agency. It isn't hardly publicized and is really a hidden gem I would say. The property is just an hour and fifteen minutes past the town of Tarabuco, which is famous for its Sunday market. There was a big fiesta in Tarabuco for the weekend, so it was the perfect weekend to take the trip. I hadn't planned on going until the last minute. Liz called Jorge and informed him of an opening they had on the tour for one more person so I jumped at the opportunity.

Jorge dropped me off at the home of Liz, her mother Eli, and Eli's mother. Liz has two teenage children, so there are four generations living together in one home. Incredible. The more incredible thing is that the great grandmother took the long trip with all of us as well. She is not in the greatest of shape, but she doesn't let any tourist on the property unless she is there too. I love it! A woman very strong of heart. I waited in their home until the small bus pulled up with the other travelers in tow. This included Linda from California, Erik and Caroline of Switzerland, Amanda from England, Neil and Ivette from Seattle, and Kathleen from the States as well. A great group of people that I am so glad to have met. I was the baby of the trip, so it was quite an experience for me just to be in the presence of such experienced and knowledgeable people. I spent the majority of the trip chatting with Linda, who was probably the easiest for me talk with. We made a short stop in Tarabuco to buy some fruit and check out a very gory statue before continuing on to la Candelaria.

The drive was stunning and mountainous/hilly. Pure countryside. At last we made it to the hacienda, and I was absolutely in love. It isn't in the best of shape, but it was certainly charming. Liz showed us all to our rooms. Mine was absolutely massive and held five beds. Linda had a room attached to mine that was much the same. We shared a bathroom, though I ended up getting it to myself as Linda was not a fan of the lack of running water. Haha. Our toilet wouldn't flush either. We were given a huge tub of water that was safe to use for face-washing and such things, but it also served as our toilet-flushing water. Linda opted for sharing a bathroom with the others. :) Understandably. That evening I was just laying down to sleep like a baby when I heard a scream from Linda's room. "Are you okay?" I shouted hesitantly from my bed. No reply. I quickly ran to my door and knocked, shouting again, "Linda, are you okay?!" That got a response at last. I opened the door to see her bed fallen to the ground. She crawled into her second choice of the five ancient beds and it collapsed beneath her! She opted for her original choice after that, but it was pretty much the equivalent of sleeping in a hammock. I am guessing Linda was happy to go back to a newer bed in her hostel last night. Not to rub it in, but I slept like a baby. Pitch black out in the countryside. Nothing better.

When we made it to the ranch, we had lunch pretty quick and got a tour of the property. The cutest part was walking out to the chesnut trees. I felt like we were living in an old-fashioned movie the whole stay. Sitting under the chestnut trees at sundown gazing into the horizon. Adorable. A very small portion the ranch is still used for farming and it still maintains various animals. The land reform in 1952 made the size of the ranch MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH smaller than it once was. The property was charming. After the quick tour we headed into the village.

In the village we entered the homes of some weavers. Tarabuco and the surrounding villages are famous for their amazing and intricate weavings. As we were walking, I talked with one of the local women that was walking with us. She had a spindle and some wool in her hand and was making thread with that. Her name is Sabina. I asked her if I could take a picture of her working, and after explaining that I would like to put it on the internet for the SeeVida project on Flickr, she was thrilled. Normally villagers don't want their picture taken even for money, but she was eager. I felt really honored to be able to speak with these women. They speak Quechua naturally, but also speak Spanish equally well. I didn't feel like a tourist once we got going. Once you talk to them all barriers are down. It is a great feeling. When we entered Sabina's home, I chose to buy a weaving from her. It was only part way done, but I thought that was cool. It will be a fun piece to have, and it felt personal buying it from her. I got a great photo with her and the purchase as well that will be posted on picasaweb. The other great thing about the trips that Liz runs here is that the tourists can barter and buy directly from the makers. There is a museum in Sucre that sells weavings. This has been a great thing because the tradition of weaving was turning into a lost art until the museum jumped in. It is cheaper for the villagers to buy American clothing instead of making their own. The bad thing about the museum is that they make a boatload of profit that doesn't all go to the weavers. Tourists with money buy a very expensive weaving at the museum instead of a cheaper one of same quality directly from the maker. I am not sure if the weavers know this or not. So it was nice to know that my money went directly to the producer, and that I actually met the producer. Much more intimate and real.

After walking the entire area of the village and talking with a few weavers, it got dark and we headed back to the property. I practiced my zampoña for a little bit while everyone else was relaxing with tea in the kitchen. At this time I met Karina, the daughter of one of the women living on the property. Karina was a cutie. She spoke Quechua, but she understood a little of my Spanish. She sat next to me while I practiced and played with a plant. A sweetie. After a while I felt a need to be social and take advantage of being able to speak in English, so I headed for the kitchen. My mother would absolutely die to have that kitchen in the bunkhouse! It was so cozy and intimate, and there was a great group of people to chat with. The dogs were running in and out, bothering the great-grandmother that was seated peacefully in a chair next to the stove. In one corner the grandmother was working on slicing carrots while chatting with us. All kinds of pots and pans were hanging on the walls, and the millions of delicious smells churning out from the pots cooking over the wood-burning stove distracted me from conversation. After having tea and eating another delicious meal, we all stayed in the kitchen and relaxed in conversation. Liz, the daughter/granddaughter, started talking about her experiences with politics in Bolivia and we were hooked. It was very interesting to hear Liz's side of the story in English. I haven't a clue how much time we spent in the kitchen, but it was great. Romantic.

We retired to our rooms and Linda's scream came just moments later. :) I think we all slept like babies, and I woke up around 6:30 the next morning. We planned breakfast for 8:30, so I washed my face and changed my clothes to take a walk around the charming property with camera in hand. By the time I made it back to my room, I was informed that Sabina had come with the weaving I promised to purchase. After speaking with her and getting a few Kodak Moments I sat in the kitchen with Neil and our bus driver to chat a while. Finally breakfast was ready and we all had a great time of it. None of us were apparently raised with dinner-table manners. Neil showed us how to split an apple in half with just bare hands the day before, so we of course had to start a tradition. At breakfast he split an unpeeled banana in half with bare hands, and then Ivette and Erik showed us their ways of cutting an apple into a puzzle. Amusing.

After breakfast we got a last little tour of the cathedral and the buildings where crops and grain are stored before packing up and heading off for Tarabuco. For some reason the hour drive to Tarabuco was far more incredible than I remembered it being the afternoon before. The land is just immense and impressive. So simple. We arrived near Tarabuco and did a little walk before arriving on the outskirts at the "donkey parking," as Liz put it exactly. Only in Bolivia. :) We spent a good hour walking through the famous Sunday market of Tarabuco. Every Sunday morning the people gather at the market to trade, buy, and sell their crops. After getting through all the food we wrapped around the town to the clothing and supply section of the market. As we got closer and closer to the town's center, the makings of a party were clear. There were small bands and dancers every so often, and as we wrapped around to the other side of town the market had ended. We followed the massive crowd and headed down to where the party was. Basically, there is a huge and dusty soccer field. In the center, is the Pukara. The Pukara is a very very tall structure to which the people tie cans of fruit, bottles of alcohols, streamers, and even a half of a cow was at the very top. So there were tall bleachers absolutely packed with people along one entire side of the area. The inside of the entire area was packed with different groups of dancers and bands, and of course with both fellow gringos and Bolivians. So pretty much everyone just stands there watching whichever group dancing. There were really only two types of dances there. The Pujllay is Tarabuco's famous dance, and also my favorite traditional Bolivian dance. The other one was the Tinkuy, but I only saw one group dancing the Tinkuy. The Tinkuy might be my second favorite Bolivian dance. At one point the vice-president flew in with helicopter and danced around the Pukara for a while. I was informed by Liz that he is a 'maricón,' which means gay. Apparently the people are quite amused by this, because I told Jorge he came and the first thing Jorge said was "the maricón?!" When it became unbearably hot and we had seen the basics, we headed to a building where Elie, Liz's mother, was cooking lunch for us. As usual, the meal was delicious. After yet another amusing meal, we had 45 minutes to walk through the market and make last-minute purchases of weavings or whatever. I purchased all kinds of pins in the hopes of being able to fill up my Rotary blazer before leaving Bolivia. I also ran into Robbie and Hannah. Robbie is the director of Los Masis, and Hannah is a German volunteer there. Both very nice people. Nice coincidence, but I am surprised I didn't see more people I knew there. The festival is huge now, and people go from all over Bolivia.

We put the great-grandmother on a cart and paid two children five pesos to push her uphill to the other side of town where our bus was waiting. That got a few glances. We headed out and I was starting to get a little bummed about the thought of having to go our separate ways. I really had a great trip, and it was nice for me to be able to speak with people that have been doing some real traveling. I was the baby of the trip, and I stayed quiet most of the time, but I soaked up every little thing these amazing adults had to say. Pretty fun and unique experience for me. We arrived to Sucre's main plaza, gave good-bye hugs, and I headed to Liz's and Elie's home to call a taxi. Soon after I made it home and started the task of editing photos. Simple as that. Nice short trip. Elie invited me to come back with her any weekend I want, so I will definitely be taking advantage of that offer.

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