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Archive for May, 2010

 

Sucre is a beautiful city! The historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the square is surrounded by whitewashed buildings. It’s a small university city, with a population of approximately 215,000. It’s also the judicial capital of Bolivia and home to many law offices.

I had read that this is an excellent place to take Spanish lessons and I head over to Fox Academy to arrange for more lessons. It’s now been almost two months since taking classes in Guanajuato and I’m eager for more. Fox is a private non-profit school that is recommended by Volunteer South America. I also highly recommend them, particularly my instructor, Lourdes.

I arrive a couple days before the start of carnival and it seems like a quiet city.  Festivals have a way of loosening things up and Carnival is no exception! The streets fill with people and merriment. For about a week, the city is alive with music, parading, and water balloons.  At first it’s just the local youth having fun water bombing each other; but, as the week progresses just about everyone becomes a participant and target of the water celebrations. I can’t get more than a few steps from my hotel without a relentless soaking!  Fortunately, it’s a very warm week and everyone is in good spirits.
Carnival is associated with the growing season. On the final day, as I make my way to class, I notice quite a few people burning incense. Lourdes says it’s the most important day of the festival. It’s a much quieter day, although the festivities start up again later in the afternoon.

This is a great city to just hang out in but I do visit the Casa de Libertad, where the Declaration of Independence is on hand – the most important place in Bolivia. I also check out the museo enthografica – it has an interesting mask collection, and I take a day trip tour to Tarabuco, an indigenous market town about 65 km away. I even ride the Dino Truck to Parque Cretacico.

The dinosaur footprints are on a vertical section of mountain at a cement quarry; although, as the park interpreter explains, when the dinosaurs left these prints the ground was flat and Sucre was a lake. The Nazca tectonic plate is responsible for the formation of the Andes mountain range.

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Cochabamba is not really a tourist destination, although, apparently it is a prosperous city. It has a population of approximately 517,000 and was the first place in South America where I saw blonde-haired residents.  The climate is wonderfully warm; it’s actually hot and humid and I’m enjoying it, particularly after the rain and cooler temperatures in La Paz!

It’s easy to notice the contrasts between wealth and poverty here. Parts of it are very gritty and the streets are lined with disabled men and impoverished women propped up against buildings with babies lying on the pavement. A few blocks away is a crowded and busy business square. Here men sit at tables sheltered from the hot sun by umbrellas as they put their typewriters to use. I’m not sure, but I suppose they are independent business service providers. A little further north is a lovely tree-lined boulevard with upscale restaurants and cafes.

I liked the city and stayed a couple days. I gave my camera a rest and didn’t take any photos. I now regret this!

My next destination was Sucre. Bolivian buses are not particularly comfortable and they lack washrooms. I was squished into the seat with a large Indigenous woman  who kept falling asleep, dropping her hat, and wakening abruptly to pick it up, brush it off, and look at me accusatorily. Along the way we picked up other passengers and the bus was full; however, the driver allowed two young women and a baby to take a spot in the aisle. Their night was certainly more uncomfortable than mine.

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The fleeting beauty of a perennial compels me to examine and photograph the flora in the yard where I reside. Its existence is not as precarious as the annual as it reawakens and flowers each year; however, for some, the life of the bloom is short and must be appreciated and savoured during that brief span in time.

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Today I did my first volunteer shift at the Guelph Enabling Garden.

It’s a public garden in Riverside Park that also offers horticultural therapy programs and workshops. It’s in a lovely setting by the Speed River and is appreciated by seniors, people recovering from illness and just about anyone who happens to stroll through. It is now in its sixth season.

Part of the garden is for the use of community groups, so that people who might otherwise have difficulty gardening are able to do so in the raised beds. Guelph is more or less the birthplace of Canadian horticultural therapy.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        Sunday I went on two more Jane’s Walks. The first was led by Susan Ratcliffe and, based on research conducted by Evelyn Bird, we explored the barns and coach houses in town. The second walk was led by Jim Profit, S.J., where we meandered amongst the beautiful grounds at Ignatius Jesuit Centre.

On Susan’s walk I learned that there are more 100 barns in Guelph! The Farmer’s Market had been a horse barn and an unused tunnel connects it to City Hall. At one of the residences, I heard of the Swiss herbalist who used to make an annual trip to Cuba to treat Fidel Castro. Some of the barns also contained living quarters for the coachmen who guided the horses and buggies. Guelph was also a thriving centre for the manufacture of coaches. As the horse and buggy are no longer the contemporary means of transportation barns have been re-adapted and have new lives. We saw examples of this in the form of an apartment, a house and a business establishment. Barns are also known as rural cathedrals.

On Jim’s walk we heard about Centre’s past – the first settlers, the Mickles, and the former Jesuit novitiate. And its present – the community shared agriculture program (CSA), community garden plots, Loyola House retreats, hermitages, land regeneration and reforestation. It’s called a place of peace and you do feel calm and tranquil as you walk through these wonderful grounds. We made a short stop at the Stations of the Cosmos, a spiral path with stations, which seeks to integrate the science of evolution with spirituality, a project I’d like to comeback and visit another day. We continued on to a peaceful cedar grove, crossed over Marden Creek, walked along a lovely trail and, after crossing Highway 6, we followed the creek, stopped to hear about the land which has been set aside for conservation, walked through the ruins of a former mill, which nature is reclaiming, visited one of the hermitages and strolled past the house where the Jesuit’s live. It’s not what you’d typically associate with a Jane’s Walk, although, nature does have a way of making you feel like part of the earth’s community.

I very much enjoyed both walks. Thank you Susan and Jim.

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Saturday afternoon I headed over to St. Patrick’s Ward to take in a guided walk, led by Barb Mann. It’s one of the many Jane Jacob’s walks that are taking place this weekend in Guelph and in 67 other cities across North America and internationally.

The Ward is Guelph’s oldest community. I’ve been wanting to explore this area and being on a Jane’s Walk made it all the more interesting. Not only did I learn a lot from the guide but a few other longtime residents shared their knowledge and stories as well.

I learned about the Alice Street chatel houses that were used to house the city’s first Black residents, railway workers who could not own property. As well, I heard about the city’s history with organized crime and was introduced to the  “Legends of the Morgeti”, a series of books by local author, Jerry Prager.

We passed by a former industrial use parcel of land, which was sold to Jerry —— (I’ve forgotten the surname) for $1. I believe it was said that he had a church. The land sits vacant, a perfect spot for a mixed-used development. Several re-adapted buildings were pointed out and as we passed by a closed factory our guide mentioned what a wonderful work/live space it could be. I agree on all points. We also passed by the Two Rivers Community Garden and Guelph’s first Habitat For Humanity house. All in all, a very enjoyable and informative walk. Thanks Barb, what a great neighbourhood to call home.

Photos are from both the Jane’s Walk and my own walk getting to the meeting spot.

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