Saturday, 22 March 2014

Sucre: Sugar, spice and all things nice

Sucre definitely left a sweet after taste. Filled with tasty fresh food from the market and spending lots of time with cute children. I was excited to arrive in Sucre as we had planned to stay there for a bit longer than we usually stay in one place. Lots of people do this in Sucre as there are lots of language schools to take some Spanish lessons, and lots of opportunities to volunteer. This was something Nick really wanted to do, so our first day we went in search of someone who needed our help.

We stayed at the hostel Takubamba or Casarte, which was one of my favourite hostels we've stayed in. It was very big and had lots of white washed walls that were decorated with art by the guys who ran the hostel. The kitchen was outside, covered by a thatched roof, the rooms were big and clean and the people were really nice there. We had a few nights spent cooking huge meals for 15 people, which all proved to be really tasty.
Sucre
Sucre
Our first morning, once we were unpacked, we asked the guys at the hostel if they had any ideas about us volunteering. I really don't like the companies that charge tourists to offer help, and we first of all browsed some of the oppoiƧrtunities on this site, although we didn´t really have months to offer so many were out of the question.

The guy in the hostel told us to go to Amsterdam Cafe. It´s a cafe run by Linda, a dutch lady, and most of the profits go to helping charities around the city. She sat with us and talked us through all of the programmes in the city who would need our help. We eventually decided on an orphanage called Tata Juan de Dios which was for children under 5.
Sucre
We took the walk across town, up into the hills where the colonial buildings faded out and were overtaken by half finished brick buildings, with lots of street dogs hanging around in the doors. As we approached the orphange, we could hear screams and shouts inside, but before I had chance to think, a lady was calling for us to come inside.

We met the sister who runs the orphanage, she explained that it was divided into two. Babies and toddlers were put into one section, and children from about 2 and a half to 5 were in the other. Our first task was to help the other volunteers take four of the young boys for a walk around the block. This is the only time they really leave the orphanage, and the only time they get to see things in the outside world. It was really nice to see how excited they got over simple things like a dog or an aeroplane.

Many of the children there still have parents who just cannot afford to give them the care they need, but the orphanage allows the parents to come and spend as much time as they can with their children. If it is possible in the future, they may be reunited.

Other children, if they are very lucky can be sponsored by local people, who can come and visit them regularly and buy them gifts. A pair of twins were lucky enough to have a sponsor father who came to see them every weekend and were were treated to some llama ponchos while we were there.

The next 7 days were a blur of children, happy children, sad children and sometimes naughty children. Tasks like hanging out their clothes to dry in the sun, playing with them in the playground, feeding them, putting them to bed and giving out lots of cuddles. It was nice to spend a bit of time focusing on someone else, as sometimes travelling can seem very self indulgent, doing whatever you want, whenever you want.

It was interesting to note that in the older children, there were only 4 boys and about 20 girls in the group. All of the kids were incredibly cute and desperate for a bit of attention. The orphanage definitely gives them all they need in terms of food, shelter, health care and clothing, but it's just the extra touch of attention they need. It was very hard putting them to bed on the last day and saying goodbye to them.

We worked in the orphanage every morning, and would spend the afternoon exploring Sucre. My two favourite places were the markets an the Recoleta view point. It seemed like you could buy anything you needed in the markets. In the centre are the fruit juice ladies. As soon as you walk past they start calling to you, Nick and I decided to stop one day and enjoyed one of the fruit salads. A mountain of fruit, cream and cereal. I also couldn't resist one of the hundreds of rainbow jellies that appear to be a delicacy here. The reason why I look so nervous in the picture with the jelly is that a beggar chose that moment to This is the perfect place to eat lunch if you are on a budget.
Sucre
Sucre
Sucre
Sucre
We were in Sucre at the start of the carnival period, which means one things for Bolivians...water fights! Having finished at the orphanage one Sunday afternoon, Nick and some of the other guests at the hostel armed themselves with water balloons and went to the square. Finding they were a little out numbered, they recruited the shoe shine children into their army. Giving them water balloons, and pointing out targets the boys would then pepper the poor, unsuspecting victims. It was a lot of fun as a spectator, especially while enjoying an ice cream from Abi´s.
Sucre
Sucre
Sucre
Sucre
Sucre

The other place that was really nice was the Recoleta look out point. You can watch the teracotta rooves of the whole city from between the white arches, and sit in a deck chair enjoying the sun. A perfect way to get away from the madness of carnival in the centre.
Sucre
Sucre
Sucre
Sucre

If you do find yourself wanting to volunteer in Sucre, I would definitely recommend getting in touch with Amsterdam Cafe, and perhaps treating yourself to a hot chocolate while you're there. Guilt free, knowing that it's helping someone else too!

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