Cochabamba (or Cocha for short) has been great thus far. I’m going to detail some adventures later and try to give a little introduction to the city here.. It’s decent-sized city of almost 600,000 people, making it the fourth largest city in Bolivia. It sits in a valley of the same name and is the capital of the Cochabamba Department (a political division of Bolivia roughly analogous to a state). The word Cochabamba comes from Quechua and means something like “lake-plain” (Quechua: qhucha = lake, pampa = plain.) And there is a very polluted lake in the city which is completely overgrown with algae within the city limits.
Cocha sits a bit of 6,000 feet above sea level and is in the mountains and hills between the true Andes and Chaco plains of Paraguay and the Amazon. It’s winter here which luckily is also the dry season. Even though Cocha is the most temperate city in Bolivia (it’s nickname is the “city of eternal spring”), it still gets quite cold here at night and sometimes gets down into the 30s. During the day when the sun is out, it can easily get into the 70s and even the 80s. Basically, I never know what to wear.
I live in a nice house with four nice American girls. Some people are moving in this week, so my housemate situation will soon change. The house is in a nice neighborhood right next to the University of San Simón (a large public university and where the professors I work with teach.) A big plaza, Plaza Sucre, is right around the block and there’s always a ton of students in the neighborhood during the week. The location of my house is great. It’s about a 15 minute walk to the city center where there are a ton of restaurants and bars.
Cochabamba is the agricultural center of Bolivia and traditionally grew the majority of foodstuffs to sell to the big mining towns in the Andes. Consequently, it is the culinary capital of Bolivia and the Cochabambinos (Cochabamba natives) take a ton of pride in what they eat and drink.
There’s not much in the way of tourist attractions here which suits just fine. Most foreigners here stay for at least a month and Cocha is definitely off the gringo backpacker trail. It easy to break out and meet the locals, aided by a fun bar scene fueled by the students. Cocha is also a very cheap city. I rarely pay more than $3-4 for a meal out and a liter of Taquiña (the local beer, more to come on this front) costs about $1.75 at a bar.
All in all, Cocha is a very livable city. I can walk almost to everything I’d want to go to and cabs around town are super cheap ($.80) for places further away or it it’s cold out. I’m having a ball going out to the restaurants and bars and never feel like I need to pinch pennies. I get along with all my roommates quite well and enjoy my job and the people I work with (more to come on this, too). My Spanish has come back with a vengeance and can get along in Spanish in most parts of my life. I’m also excited to be learning legal Spanish vocabulary at work. Here’s some Cocha pics:
My humble abode
No introduction to Cochabamba is complete without a picture of El Cristo de la Concordia. This is the largest Christ statue in South America (bigger than Rio’s!) and sits above a large hill that rises over my neighborhood. If I get lost in the city, I just walk towards El Cristo.