Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sunday Afternoon in Cochabamba

After some rest and unpacking, we -- a group of 12 gathered by Unity Unitarian Church in Saint Paul-- walked with our trip leader a short distance to a street cafe for a snack. While it may sound boring -- it was a great pleasure to be outdoors in pleasant weather, seeing palm trees, after the horrid winter we had experienced in Saint Paul.

The purpose of this trip was to see activities of Mano a Mano, an NGO based in Saint Paul that works out of Cochabamba. Click on: Mano a Mano for much more information. This organization's first work was to bring health services to indigenous Bolivians up in the Andes Mountains who lacked such services unless walking for 6-12 hours. Mano a Mano has now built 148 health clinics in Bolivia. The next work was to build some schools and teacher housing. Housing is so scarce in mountain villages that it was impossible for a young teacher to come out into the mountains and teach in a village school. Mano a Mano has also built nearly 1000 K of roads in places that lacked connection with the outside world.

Our specific purpose was to learn more about the new Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA and nicknamed with Spanish pronunciation as "Say-a."

The founders of Mano a Mano are Joan and Segundo who live just down the street from me here in Saint Paul.

That said, back to eating.

A popular snack food in this part of Bolivia is an empanda. This one, with a bite out of it before I thought to take the photo, is filled with cheese. The cheese I would call a cousin of the white farmer's cheese that one finds in Central Europe. It has a hint of a salty taste, and has a bit more firm texture than the white cheese in Central Europe. I liked it very much since I enjoy always the cheese in Central Europe. The bun itself is made with wheat flour, but I can't determine what the leavening is. I learned one rolls out the dough, cuts the circle, places filling on one, and then covers it with a second circle and pinches it shut. It is then baked in an oven. Here I also had some pineapple sorbet. Oh my! it is good.

We then walked back to the hotel and boarded the bus to go up to the Christos monument. Yes, this is a touristy thing to do, but there were lots of Bolivanos up there too on a Sunday afternoon.

As we made our way up the mountain I got these views of the country side:

These are part of the Andes chain that goes along the west side of South America. You may think these mountains don't look very high. Cochabamba is already at 8000 feet (2438 meters). The city appears to sit in a bowl with the mountains surrounding it on all four sides.

From the parking lot we got a good view of the city as well.

There are about a 100 stairs from the parking lot to the base of the monument. I went up the stairs slowly since I don't walk stairs much at all anywhere, based on a orthopedist's advice nearly 15 years ago not to use my damaged knees for walking stairs or riding bicycles. And walking stairs at 8000 feet is a bit of challenge too. But eventually, by going slow, I got there.

One thing that surprised me on this day is just how dry is Cochabamba. Here are cactus used in the landscaping around the monument. I knew Cochabamba has been regarded as the breadbasket of Bolivia so wasn't expecting the climate to be quite so dry.

Now I've been saying monument. Here's a view from the bottom of the stairs:

And the above view is from the plaza around the base of the monument. Over and over again web sites say this is the tallest statue of Christ anywhere in the world. It's official name is Christo de al Concordia -- the Christ of Peace. It was constructed in the late 20th century. The statue is 34.20 meters (112.2 ft) tall, on a pedestal of 6.24 meters (20.5 ft), for a total height of 40.44 meters (132.7 ft). Much to my amazement Wikipedia says this statue is taller than one in Poland if one excludes the crown worn by a similar statue in Poland. In all the times I've been in Poland no one has ever mentioned to me there is such a similar statue in that country.We enjoyed walking about up in this area and had a group picture taken -- that may catch up with me someday.

After about an hour's visit we gathered again at the bus and then made our way through the city.

Street markets and little shops were one could get food or beverage were busy on this late Sunday afternoon.

Then suddenly I was attracted to this intersection with some outstanding murals.

I didn't see anything similar anywhere else in the city. When I asked later about why the murals were here I was told, "it's a pretty intersection." Well, yes, but I'm still wondering why here.

Others were getting off the bus while I was mural gazing. We had arrived at a building I had heard about. Segundo and his brothers who live in the United States had constructed a building to house their parents in Cochabama. Then they proposed extending the building so one of the Bolivia siblings could live close to their parents as they aged. The father said he couldn't chose between his children, so the building got bigger so all the siblings in Bolivia could live in the same building.

We went up to the sixth floor which serves a common area.

Above is a view from the veranda area on the sixth floor.

Three were busy cooking in the barbeque area.

A nearby table was covered with food.

We started with vegetables.

I was surprised to see beets often in Bolivia. I had never before associated that vegetable with South American cooking.

From the barbeque came dishes meats -- sausages, chicken, and pork -- as well as grilled eggplant.

Oh! It was all good.

After good conversation, the bus returned us to the hotel were I think we all crashed after a busy Sunday that had followed a "red-eye" flight out of Miami.

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