A girl feeds pigeons as her mother takes a photo, in a park in Cochabamba, a city amidst the Andean hills.
A girl feeds pigeons as her mother takes a photo in a park in Cochabamba, a city amidst the Andean hills.

The sun set on Peru, and rose in Bolivia.

To traverse a one-hour time difference, we booked an itinerary including three planes and four landings. We changed planes in Lima, then flew to Santa Cruz, passing over Cochabamba, to La Paz passing over Cochabamba again, and then took another flight to Cochabamba.

It didn’t make much sense, but that’s how it all worked out.

Coming off the plane in La Paz my breath fogged in the crisp air. Clouds hung over our heads. I felt nauseous and thought I was getting sick, and only later realized that I was feeling altitude sickness.

As we took off for Cochabamba I thought the cloud cover would obscure the scenery of the flight. Then our plane broke over the cloud line and jagged, snow-covered mountains emerged with us.

We flew past the craggy, breathtaking Andes, tropical mountains covered with ice, which eventually dropped back below cloud cover as we descended to Cochabamba.

This city deserves to be called the city of eternal spring. The air is warm at midday and cool in the evening. Finally, I wear jeans and T-shirts again. Just breathing doesn’t make me sweat.

Even more importantly, this city oozes charm. We’re staying just north of the center of town, in a modern apartment building, with a swimming pool and hot water and elevators and an apartment with shiny wooden floors. As we take long walks around town, Aaron and I joke that we’re exasperated by all the tidily landscaped parks and adorable little shops everywhere.

Aaron and I joke that we've grown bored of all the meticulously landscaped parks in Cochabamba, like Plaza Bolon in the center of town.
Aaron and I joke that we’ve grown bored of all the meticulously landscaped parks in Cochabamba, like Plaza Colon in the center of town.

Cafes, chocolatiers, hand-made ice cream parlours, pizzerias, bars, nightclubs, and car dealerships line the streets, with the tall hills always looming behind. Some women wearing traditional straw hats and long skirts, hair in twin braids down their backs, squeeze orange juice in stainless steel machines under magnolia trees, which office workers buy during their breaks. Ladies fry empanadas in piazzas in front of Spanish-style churches.

Pastel houses with terracotta roof shingles are interspersed with tidily landscaped parks and squares, leading into the center of town where expensive clothing stores and high-end restaurants give way to colonial buildings bunched  around city parks. Some of these parks are ringed by arched walkways and it feels like Spain.

Walking down some of Cochabamba's streets, sometimes we feel like we're in Europe.
Walking down some of Cochabamba’s streets, sometimes we feel like we’re in Europe.

Around the post office is a market of booksellers. Health food stores selling handmade soap and products such as bee pollen and herbal aphrodisiacs have cropped up among the ubiquitous fried chicken places. The city is bustling and full of beauty and delicious treats. Delicious, dangerous treats. The vegetarian and yoga evolution will probably soon follow the coffee shops and fried chicken. In the meantime, I cook and eat papayas sold out of wheelbarrows.

If one were to judge just based on the presence of a huge book market downtown, Cochabamba is a highly literate city.
If one were to judge just based on the presence of a huge book market downtown, Cochabamba is a highly literate city.

A statue of Jesus Christ, the tallest in South America, looks out over it all from a hill to the west.

If I were to choose a city in a foreign country away from my family to live in, Cochabamba would definitely be on the short list. Perfect weather and gorgeous hills serve as a backdrop for a wonderful balance of city life and quiet.

This place is an unexpected delight. I thought that Bolivia would be a destitute hovel. In the crowded city south that we’ve explored, it is – masses of people, trash, vendors selling junk on the sidewalks. Like every other urban center I’ve seen on this golden, emerald and azure Earth, lost and forgotten people wallow in drug addictions. We are wary of thieves. But in general, Cochabamba is a thriving middle class city, and it’s a pleasure to spend time here.

A statue of Bolivia's national poet, Adela Zamudio, stands at the head of a greenway.
A statue of Bolivia’s national poet, Adela Zamudio, stands at the head of a greenway.

I wanted to upload more photos to this post, and hopefully will have an opportunity to do so soon, but Lightroom keeps crashing the computer, so once that’s worked out I’ll have more images to share on this post. In the meantime, enjoy this poem by Bolivia’s national poet, Adela Zamudio.

To be born a man

She works so hard
to make up for the sloth
of her husband, and in the house
(Pardon my surprise.)
he’s so inept and pompous,
that of course he’s the boss
because he’s a man!

If some poems get written,
a person must have written them,
but she just transcribed them.
(Pardon my surprise.)
If we’re not sure who’s the poet,
why assume it was him?
Because he’s a man!

A smart, classy woman
can’t vote in elections,
but the poorest felon can.
(Pardon my surprise.)
If he can just sign his name
even an idiot can vote
because he’s a man!

He sins and drinks and gambles
and in a backwards twist of luck
she suffers, fights, and prays.
(Pardon my surprise.)
That we call her the “frail sex”
and him the “strong sex”
because he’s a man!

She has to forgive him
when he’s unfaithful;
but he can avenge himself.
(Pardon my surprise.)
In a similiar case
he’s allowed to kill her
because he’s a man!

Oh, privileged mortal
you enjoy lifelong
honor and perfect ease!
For this, to get all this,
it’s enough for you
to be born a man.

Translated by Liz Henry

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Written by Ada Kase (Kulesza)

Ada Kase is a freelance journalist and photographer from Philadelphia. AJKTravels is her personal travel blog documenting her adventures with her husband, journalist Aaron Kase.

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