Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Sucre and the Friendly Zebras

Sucre is a town in Bolivia that was once its financial capital.  Despite its South American location, the Spanish influence is clear in its architecture an we spent a lovely morning touring the streets and getting to know this town a little better. Today, the power has moved from Sucre (which means sugar) to the capital city of La Paz which is a vast and sprawling metropolis.  But for me, Sucre has all the charm.

Exploring the market was fascinating; it was really bustling and spread across several floors.  Vendors are grouped together according to their wares, so we found all the butchers together, all the bread sellers together, all the stalls with grains and nuts together... It seemed endless and everyone was competing for the next sale or the best deal.

We explored the park which our guide told us was a popular date spot, with lots of couples meeting at one of the many benches.  The little avenues were lined with trees, unusual for some of the regions of Bolivia at higher altitude, and it did indeed have a very European feel.

So we had a lovely morning exploring this lovely little town.  However, one interesting feature we spotted wherever we went were the livelier than average zebra crossings...

Bolivia has something of a problem with road safety. Drivers are reckless, there's no two ways about it, and they tend to treat the rules of the road as casual suggestions.  One such studiously-ignored "casual suggestion" is the zebra crossing system.  These systems are controlled by lights, and when the lights are red, the cars stop, and the people go.  Except the cars don't stop, and as a pedestrian you take your life in your hands.

The Bolivian government came up with a uniquely lovely solution to this issue. Teens in Bolivia go to school for half of each day: some in the morning, the rest in the afternoon. They can use the other half way to earn some money and help support their families, but there aren't a lot of jobs going and life is difficult for many communities.  So the government employs the students to stand by the Zebra crossing, dressed as zebras, and manage the traffic.  When the lights are green for cars (and thus red for walkers), they cheerfully remind pedestrians to stay on the path.  When the lights change, they gambol out into the street, chastising any naughty vehicles trying to keep going and helping small children cross the road and appreciate the rules of the road.

What's lovely is that they do it with such enthusiasm and pizazz. They are always dancing and they frolic across the roads in gleeful style.  They seem to make everyone smile, and more than once, we children waving and laughing and talking to the zebras, who are a regular feature in two or three Bolivian cities now.  And the traffic has to listen.  You can't run down a loveable, cuddly zebra. And anyway, they are fearless, and not to be messed with.

Nailed it! We spent a happy afternoon in a coffee shop overlooking the town square watching the world go by, and chortling as they danced, managed the traffic, hugged small children, helped old ladies, and generally made the world a better place.

In fact, one of my favourite moments was seeing a little lad run beaming up the path shouting "Hola, cebra!" and leaping in for a cuddle.

Good job, guys!

Kisses xxx

P.S. One of my not-favourite memories was contracting food poisoning from a slice of cheesecake on that very afternoon, doing a large amount of vomiting and then having to catch a 12-hour overnight coach back to La Paz, get on a plane to Marid and another to London.  Safe to say, I just didn't eat anything for a while.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating about the 'zebras'! And lovely to see another part of the world. Hope you are over that nasty food poisoning :(.