So now on to today. My morning was amazing. I was picked up at my door (I have been very spoiled) by one of the other Maryknoll Lay Missioners Bill and we took a taxi trufi (#120 to univalle) to the small town Bill and his wife Eileen live, called Tiquipaya, which is located just outside of Cochabamba. We then took another trufi (127?? M??) up towards the mountains just north of town and went for a HIKE! It was so nice to get ouf of the city and see some greenery. The hike went along the aquduct system the town uses for irrigation as well as drinking/etc water.
This is a bridge connecting the town of Tipuipaya with another small town close by. Eileen walks over this bridge every day on her way to work. LUCKY WOMAN!
Picture on the left is of the waterfall! It was very pretty and seemed to come down out of the sky. I thought it looked like a lovely place to shower (although a bit cold), and apparently someone else did too as evidenced by the used shampoo bottle found on the ground... The picture on the right is looking down into the Cochabamba valley. You can see the city of Cochabamba in the distance.
And now for the exciting portion of the blog where I get to talk about...COCA! It is very common in Bolivia for people of all ages and genders to chew coca leaves, which yes, if used with malintent are the base for cocaine. However, in their pure form, coca leaves are a mild stimulant, appetite suppressant, mild pain killer (has a slight numbing quality) and help with the adjustment to higher altitudes. This plant has been used for centuries by the indigenous people of Bolivia for all of these beneficial properties. Bill chews coca leaves a couple times a day, usually with coworkers, and finds that it gives him a calm steady sense of energy--unlike caffeine, which can lend itself to jitteriness along with its energy boost. Also, just in case you're wondering, coca is also non-habit forming and can be used as often or infrequently as desired :) Often times it's chewed with a little bit of sodium bicarbonate, which somehow acts as a catalyst to increase the taste and effects of the coca.
Above is a picture of the bag of coca leaves Bill gave me along with a small bag of sodium bicarbonate. I plan on chewing some each day during language school to help keep me focused and un-sleepy so I can learn me a whole lotta Spanish! To all of you who are curious and want to know more information, below is a link to a website I found on myths and facts surrounding coca.
Tomorrow I have plans to go to the GIANT open air market in Cochabamba called "la cancha." I sadly won't be able to take any pictures because as I was told today by Bill, "you only bring things to the cancha that you want to leave at the cancha"--ie the pickpocketing is unreal and most people have had money/phones/etc stolen from them while they were there at one point or another. Good thing I have so many experienced people to help me not make the same mistakes :)