The one window I have in my hotel room faces the east, and even with the curtains drawn, the morning sun peeks in. A good thing...my own self-setting alarm clock! I think the maids must work according to the sun, cause each day they knock at my door just about 30 minutes after it appears, ready to clean: "disculpe señor, podemos regresar mas tarde!" No telling when they must rise each day to be at the hotel ready to go by 7:30.
After the breakfast buffet, I took a stroll around the downtown neighborhood while my hotel is located. Just about two blocks from here is the main Plaza, with a lovely large brick cathedral.
Cathedral and Plaza in Santa Cruz, two blocks from my hotel
Managed to find my way to the grocery store I remembered from my last visit, and picked up some provisions for the room, and some Powerade to take with me to classes and rehearsals. Three sacks full of stuff for less than $10.
My conductor friend Charlie Houmard recommended a jogging route from the hotel to the Parque Urbano, about 3 miles round trip. I checked it out on the map and with Roland to make sure it was safe, and ended up having a pretty good run after the grocery store. The main thing is to keep your eye on the sidewalk...lots of uneven sections, big curbs, etc., waiting to turn an ankle. That and the traffic...pedestrians definitely are NOT the priority at the intersections! The urban park is large, probably 6 city blocks, with basketball courts, an oval cement track, skateboard area and fountain.
My run to the Parque Urbano
For lunch, Roland, Melissa, Felix and I went to a nearby coffee shop, and I had a hamburger with a fried egg on top of it. Pretty tasty!
For the afternoon, I had been approached by three singers from the choir about having coffee together, then a voice class for the three of them. They took me from the hotel to the "Horno Caliente" ("Hot Oven") where we sampled numerous yummy pastries, empanadas and tamales.
The singers, all women, wished to practice their English, so our conversation was bi-lingual, since I tried always to answer in Spanish. I think we all learned a bit in the process!
One thing I noticed during our coffee shop time was that my ears are gaining some traction with the language. In fact, when I speak with some people, it's starting to feel kind of easy to understand them. Others, however, still can be a challenge. In general, Bolivian pronunciation of Spanish is pretty standard. However, some folks speak with a distinct accent that makes it a bit harder to follow. For them, final "s" consonants are not only omitted, but the vowel that precedes them is sort of nasalized (kind of like nasal "n" in French). Take the word for "more" which is "mas." Usually when pronounced we hear all three parts of the word: the "m" consonant, the pure vowel "a", and the "s." However, I often hear it like this (IPA rendering): [mã]. Perhaps it's an influence of the Portuguese language...Santa Cruz is only a few hundred miles from the Brazilian border, and that language includes a lot of nasalized vowels. Regardless, it's reassuring to know my ears have made the trip to Bolivia with me!
Finally, we took off for our evening choral rehearsal. There was a little confusion, since I was to have had a class before for choral conductors in the group, but the room was scheduled by someone else. We'll try to make that up later in the visit (the singers are truly eager to learn, and it feels like I'm going to be doing numerous masterclasses in voice and conducting while I'm here...fantastic!).
Our rehearsal started out a bit casually, as many folks were late. However, by the second hour, we had a good group of 45 or so, and really made some progress. Eventually, we even got to the end of the mass, so now we've covered everything and can begin to refine and polish. There's a variety of skill levels in the group, so naturally that's a challenge to everyone. But, since we still have a week of rehearsals before the performances, I bet we can help everyone learn and grow.