Friday (Vienes) 18th June, 2010
Day 462

La Paz, Bolivia
La Paz, Bolivia
Miles: 46,116
S 16.56796°
W 68.08921°

It has been a week since the last entry and during that week we have learned a bit more about Bolivian culture and I have attended 4 days of a 5 day Spanish course.

As you may have noticed in our photographs many of the indigenous women wear bowler hats, and very wide skirts that appear to have (and do have) many layers of under garments. Well we learned this week that those women are of the Aymara indian group, and that they only wear that garb after they are married. When married their new husband must buy them a complete set of such clothes. We also learned that there is quite a vibrant fashion movement related to this form of dress and that each year the nature of the skirts (for example the width of the layers of cloth from which the outer skirt is made) changes as do the details of the bowler hat - taller one year shorter another, flatter on top or more rounded and also the color may vary.

On a religious front we learned that the Aymaras proved more determined than even the catholic church. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish the main deities of the Aymara were female (pachamama - the earth mother) being the best example. The (forced ?) introduction of catholicism could not change the Aymara preference for female deities so they moved the virgin Mary to the top of their religious hierarchy. In order to accommodate these incompatible views of catholicism, all Aymarian villages now have two churches - one traditional Catholic for the Spanish view and another for the Aymarians in which images of the virgin Mary dominate the decoration. In downtown La Paz there is a traditional catholic cathedral on Plaza Morillo beside the parliament building and presidential offices. This is a magnificent building but with little internal decoration. While on Plaza de los Heros in the tourist district the church of San Franscico, with its ornate interior is Aymarian.

So what did I learn in Spanish school ?

  • First I learned that 4 hours per day results in feeling like my head had been stuffed full and was about to burst.

  • I learned very little new vocabulary

  • I learned that Spanish does not have the equivalent of the English verb to get, so that phrases like "let's get some food" must first be rendered into something like "let's buy some food" or "let's find some food" before being turned into Spanish.

  • I (re)learned that the pronoun we put before a verb in English such as "I talk" or "you talk" are not usually necessary in Spanish as they can (mostly) be deduced from the conjugation of the verb. For example "(yo) hablo" or "(tu) hables". But of course you will note that this is mostly.

  • I also learned a lot about (or at least spent a lot of time on) double verbs (can I talk - puedo hablar) and reflexive verbs (there is no english equivalent).

  • And just to make matters even more complicated I learned that not only are there nouns for each of the three main meals of the day - breakfast, lunch and dinner. But there are also special verbs for the eating of these meals. So for example desayuno is the noun for breakfast, desayunar is the verb "to eat/have breakfast" and desayuno is also the form of the verb that means "I have breakfast" .. confusing!!.