Monday, December 31, 2007

Yester- year

It was quite overwhelming for me to look back on this year and see all the different things that I´ve done. How often does one´s beginning of the year look so drastically different then one´s end of the year anyway?

Lets call the first quarter of the year ¨College of Dupage¨ (COD). Looking back I am thinking that the spanish class I took was a big waste of time. But as it is, it occupied nearly 4 months of my year. I really enjoyed that class because it gave me a lot of time to talk and hang out with one of my high school friends whom I normally wouldn´t have been able to see much of. But that class itself was difficult for a lot of reasons. One, we were a class of about 24 students all at varying levels of spanish experience. Two, the class went according to a book. We had to complete a certian amount of chapters before the end of the semester whether we were really learning it or not. Some people blazed through the elementary stuff and some people, like me, really struggled to keep up with the pace. It ended up being a really stressful time and I really didn´t retain a lot of what I learned. Upon arrival in Bolivia I had to all but start from scratch.

The next quarter of the year I´ll call ¨insane¨ for that was exactly what my spring and summer months were in my life. Beginning in about May or so, my spanish class was ending (thank God)and I started to re-focus my time and energies on fundraising for Bolivia. It was also at this time that I recieved instructions from my missions agency about the pre-training for the field training that would begin on-campus in the fall. It ended up being a good 3 solid months of reading, test taking, and paper writing. Also, keep in mind at this point that I was still working at my job 40 hours a week. If you´ve never done fundraising for a long term trip you´ll never understand how much time it requires. So with those ´big 3´ my summer was nothing less then completly insane. It was filled with work, training, and fundraising and not nearly enough FUN. Fundraising included: 2 car washes, a week of VBS, several presentations at other churches, writing updates, printing ministry reports, sending support letters, doing follow-up on those letters, researching Bolivia, putting together powerpoints, and checking daily to see if anything I was doing was having an impact on my support levels. I was absolutly exhausted! In the midst of all of that I managed to spend a week volunteering at a camp in Illinois (which I really enjoyed) and a quick weekend get away to go camping with my family. By the end of the summer, it was amazing to me to see that all my hard work and prayers had payed off. Just before I left for fall training, I had 100% of my funding. Anytime I get discouraged all I need to do is think back to this summer and remember that I saw the power of God at work in me and in other people. They told me that fundraising would stretch my faith and indeed it did. There is nothing like asking God for something and then truly believing by faith that He would answer/provide and then rejoicing when He did. If you want your faith to grow you have to depend on God for your everything, I knew that on my own I could do nothing but fail. That is why, despite all the work I listed above, I give all the glory and honor to God who has called me to this work. Gloria a Dios.

The next quarter of my year would hold the most drastic changes of the year. At the end of Aug I quit my job and quickly found myself amoungst other people just like me as we gather together for 5 weeks of pre-field training. That is also the time that I began this blog site. I made many friends and was encouraged by them. Some where leaving for their mission field ASAP like I was, others had barely begun their fundrasing. I had learned some things the hard way and I was glad to be able to share with them my experiences. I also met some of my future teammates, 2 interns who are here with me now, and also a married couple that should be coming down in the early part of 2008. The last two weeks of my north american life were filled with meetings, goodbye parties, and last min details. There was so much encouragement and prayers that I was completley overwhelmed with the love my family and friends have for me.

The final quarter of my year found me on a plane headed for a new life in Bolivia. I´ve been here for about 2 months and indeed everything in my life has changed! But the daily details are pretty much recorded in this blog. In summary, I have been adopted by my Bolivian family, I have had more hours then I care to count of language tutoring, I´ve made new friends outside of my team, I´ve laughed, I´ve cried, I´ve gotten sick, I´ve been tired, I´ve been lost, I´ve been surprised, I´ve been loved, I´ve been stolen from, I´ve been well fed, I´ve gained weight, I´ve learned, I´ve missed my home, I´ve gone through culture shock and lived to tell about it, and I´ve never been more positive that this is where God wants me to be. Its not always easy, there is nothing glamorous about life in a third world country. Its hard for me to not be able to say all that I wish I could say in Spanish but its getting better everyday. Its hard for me cause I don´t always feel like I´m being a missionary here, but thats ok, you can´t be a good missionary if you can´t speak to the people in their own language. I do as much ministry as my language will permit and spend the rest of my time studying spanish, learning the city and culture, and de-stressing with friends.

Looking forward will be a whole other entry. But I was sitting and talking with one of my sisters the other night and we both were thinking the same thing. We feel very positive about the next years of our lives. More then likely its for different reasons but I myself can not wait to see what all is going to happen! Because I know that God is good, all the time. Even when times are hard, I have a Saviour who loves me and is never going to leave me. THAT is the hope that I have and that is the hope I wish to share with every man, woman, and child in Bolivia!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Part 2

OK! Finally I will finish this Christmas story! I don´t know how these last couple of days have gotten away from me. So... on with Christmas!

After having stayed up late with my family I took part of the morning to sleep in. My teams interns (3 of them), another longer-term missionary, and I had planned to have a Christmas brunch together. For all of us this was our first Christmas away from our families in the States. So they all went grocery shopping and bought all the items needed for a very north american breakfast. We all gathered in my friends tiny apartment and attempted to cook this meal together. As you can see in the picture below it was a tight fit when all 5 of us were trying to work in the kitchen! I was standing in the doorway when I took this picture!

When all was said and done, we had a great brunch together of French Toast, Fruit Salad, and fresh squeezed OJ. There were hash browns on the menu but they didn´t quite make it out of the frying pan! Then we all just rested for a while and enjoyed each others company while listening to Christmas music.

Christmas Day ended with a traditional US dinner at the home of my team leaders. there were 16 of us gathered together there for dinner and a gift exchange. There was sooooo much food! We all had a good time just talking with each other. We then had the traditional gift exchange game where you draw numbers and pick a gift or you can ´steal´ a gift that has already been opened. Always good for a laugh! By the time that party came to an end I was really tired and ready to head back to my own home. All in all, it was a wonderful first Christmas in Bolivia, the first of many to come.

In addition to these things, I also attended a Ladies Christmas Tea put on by the International church, I saw a play called ¨Haven of Hope Hotel¨ (the inn that had the manger, ect), and also 2 different Childrens programs. I sang Christmas songs in both English and Spanish and discovered that even Bolivia´s Concha (market) gets insanely busy the week before Christmas. It got to the point that I was having to take taxi´s around simply because I could NOT find a trufi with room for me on it (I generally try not to hang out the doorways!). There is still a ton of fruit cake hanging around (sounds pretty north american huh?) but everything else seems to have returned to normal. This is a picture of the play.

Bolivia does celebrate the New Year in the traditional way, with parties! I´m not sure at this point where I will be partying or with whom but I will be with friends or family. Next week begining Jan 2nd, I will be taking a short trip to La Paz, Bolivia with a friend of mine. La Paz is the biggest city in Bolivia and is at an altitude of nearly 14,000 ft. My friend and I will travel there by bus (about 8 hours) and stay 3 days and return on the 5th. Please pray for safety during this time.

Tune in soon for a year in review entry as well as thoughts, dreams, and wishes for the coming year. Happy New Years!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Part 1

Merry Christmas Everyone! My Christmas was so full its going to take a couple of blog entries to tell it all. I have some wonderful pictures to share with you all as well.

To start with this is a picture of my Bolivian family, ALL of them. And believe me, it was no easy task to get everyone in the house at the same time looking decent enough for a picture! But finally on Christmas Eve I managed to get everyone to co-operate. The last family photo I posted was missing Jaime and his son Marcello. Marcello is the middle child and is a doctor. He is currently in medical school in Argentina getting a speciality degree (for the back I believe). He just arrived back in Cochabamba the Sunday before Christmas. The family is very happy to have him home for a couple of weeks and I was glad to be able to get a complete family photo. He also came to my rescue with some antibiotics as I have been struggling for a while with a chest cold. He, like the rest of his family, have accepted me as one of their own. I thank God for them daily!

The traditions of Christmas in Bolivia vary by family, the same as in the states. My family orders all their food from a resturant. When I went with my family to pick it up my sister told me we were picking up DUCK! I told her, ´maybe you should have just told me it was chicken!´ This is a picture of my plate. It was actually very good! Dark meat. And no it did not taste like chicken! Well, maybe dark meat chicken, either way, it was moist and flavorful. Add this one to the list of Bolivian experiences :)

This is the family all sitting together enjoying our plate fulls of duck :)Oh, and this meal takes place at about 11pm. Most families however would have their meal at midnight.

This is also a tradition. Estella, Tina, and Natalia all worked together to make empenadas. I wanted to help but was afraid to as I was still sick at the time. These were made in preparation for the rest of the family gathering on Christmas day.

This is our tree, very similar to those found in the states. Side note, all the Christmas lights here ´sing´ but there are settings and you can turn the sound off. When I was helping to pick up the food for dinner I was singing in English along with the wordsless tune of the Christmas lights. My sister Natalia said to me that she´s never heard to words to the songs! That was a fun moment for me.

This is the manger scene in our home. At exactly midnight some candles are lit and baby Jesus is placed in the manger. That is followed by a time of silent prayer. Then came the opening of the presents. Very chaotic! Everyone was standing and handing out presents to everyone and then opening everything at once! I recieved s burned CD of a popular Bolivian band (excellent!), shower flipflops, a crystal angel pendent for a necklace and a bunch of candy. I enjoyed giving my small gifts to the family even more. Esp Marcello as I had only met him two days before. I gave both him and his parents framed copies of the family picture I had been in such a hurry to take. For my sister Patty I gave a framed picture of her two daughters. My sister Natalia recieved from me a rose candle holder. Estella and Jaime recieved a ¨Jesus bless this house´ plaque (in Español) and the family picture in a frame. Tina recieved from me a 2008 calander and some of her favorite chocolate. The little girls (technically my nieces) recieved candy and toy daiseys.

It was a night that I will never forget. I swear I fell asleep with a smile on my face. Its hard not to be happy when you realize you really do have TWO families! Its really hard to explain but its the most amazing feeling in the world.

Tomorrow look for part 2 as I tell the story of the rest of Christmas Day with friends. Stories and pictures galore :)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My mis-adventure

To make a long story short, I took a trufi going the wrong way. But the long story is so much more intresting! So here it is, in full:

Tuesday of this week I was in a semi-unfamiliar area of the north end of town because I was making a phone call home and the one store was said to have cheaper rates. What can I say? I´m cheap! Anyway, after making the call home I needed to get to one of the plazas to meet a friend for coffee (and girl talk!). If I had been going there from my house I would not have had a problem at all. But I was not close to home. So I had to try to take a trufi to the plaza that I was not familiar with. Luckily, most trufi´s have signs on their windows stating which locations they drive past like plaza colon, post office, ect (in spanish of course). Well, I was running late and I saw a trufi that said plaza colon so I flagged it down and was on my way. Well... I knew almost immeditaley that I was not going in the right direction. I have a good enough map in my head to know that I needed to go west and south, not east to get there. But a bus route is a bus route so I knew I would end up there eventually so a waited for a while. By the time I decided that this bus was never going to take me to the plaza I was way out in the middle of some highway that I had never seen. I was on my way out of the city! So I had to take my chances and I got off of the trufi. A white girl, out on the middle of a highway, at nearly 6 at night was not really a good thing. So I was praying hard and waiting for a taxi, any taxi, to stop and take me to the plaza. I felt like I was standing there forever. Every trufi was going to other places and some taxi´s were not pulling over. Finally one stopped! Praise the Lord! All I said was ¨Plaza Colon¨and we were off. This cabbie had his wife with him too so that made me feel safer too. I finally got to the plaza and it only cost me 10 Bolivianos (less then $2) for the cab. I met my friend (she hadn´t given up on me thankfully) and we were on our way.

Unfortunetly, that is not the end of the story! Since I arrived late at the plaza we ended up talking past the time it had gotten dark. It had also started raining. So we headed out together to get a taxi to our homes. Well... easier said then done! As soon as it starts raining everyone in Cochabamba tries to get into a taxi, trufi, car, ect. Anything with wheels! So we waited in the rain, checking every bus, every taxi for free space. Nada. Nothing at all. (I told my friend that I would take whatever came first, a taxi or trufi just to get out of the rain. The next trufi that came by literally had people hanging out the door it was so jam packed full of people). We finally went to the other side of the road, grabbed a taxi headed the other direction, made him make a U turn and we finally got home. Wet, cold, and tired but we made it home!

The next day I decided that maybe it would be better if I just stayed home! Which I did :) Today all of life has been back to normal, thats a relief! But looking at it in retrospect, the ordeal with the trufi going to wrong way was really a worse case scenario. And I lived to tell about it. Thats a really really nice thing about Coch, you can grab a cab, anytime, anywhere (except when its raining!) and tell them exactly where you need to go and it actually costs very little. But praise God, He was with me on that highway!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A giftcardless Christmas

I finally put my finger on it. That´s what is so different about Christmas in Cochabamba! These people wouldn´t know what a gift card was if it came up and hit them in the face. If anything they might try to use it to get money out of an ATM :) So that got me thinking that when the people who can actually afford to buy gifts for their friends and family actually buy them real gifts! A well thought out, meaningful gift. I always kind of thought that gift cards were the easy way out of gift giving. Not to stir up a great big debate about them or anything, I´m just saying that I like having to think about what I´m giving. Thinking about the persons likes and dislikes and not thinking ¨I have to spend at least $20 or I´ll look cheap¨. Around here, $20 could probably feed a family of 6 for a month. I spent about $1 on my nieces here and they are going to love their gifts.

Since I´m talking money... after the first of the year I will begin attending another church. I´ve been going to the International Church since I didn´t (and still don´t) know enough Spanish to understand a sermon. Plus I didn´t know where else to go. Churches down here are not on every corner and are not well advertised. But almost from the beginning I didn´t feel right at the English church. I´m in the middle of Bolivia and I´m sitting in a very western church service. That just seems wrong to me. I enjoy latino services, esp their worship time. The English church is a haven for North American missionaries to worship in their native tounge but also a ministry to the upper class of Bolivia. The upper working class either knows English or is trying to learn it. There are also headsets that translate for them. I didn´t come to Bolivia to hang out with the rich, more and more lately I have felt that it was not where God wanted me to be.

So I kept my eyes open and I stubbled upon a church sign after Babywashing a few saturdays back. All I could read of the sign was ¨Evangelical¨ and I always meant to go back and try to find out more about it. Today at a church event I was talking to another missionary and she mentioned a Bolivian church she used to go to. When I asked where it was she started drawing me a map. And guess what!? Its the same church I had seen a few weeks ago! And she offered to go with me when I wanted to go. I knew I had seen that sign for a reason and I can´t wait to go and see it soon. I will stay at the International church until Christmas but them I´m going over to the other one.

It seems to be hitting me a lot lately (due to a really good book I´m reading called The Irresistible Revolution) just how much the Bible talks about the poor. We all know that Jesus was born into poverty (in a manager for crying out loud). But I realized today while I was watching a skit that God chose to announce the birth of Jesus to the shepards (poor people) FIRST, not last. Jesus didn´t grow up the son of a King living in splendor, he grew up a son of a carpenter. And then he was a refugee and then homeless. He always went to the poor people, talked to them, listened to them, hugged their children, healed their sick. And the poor people listened to him and most of the rich people didn´t (but not all). I won´t quote the chapters and verses right now but just read the gospels and you will see too. If you can, give that book I mentioned a good reading. I don´t agree wholeheartedly with everything in it but I believe the Bible says what it says for a reason. Compared to 70% of Bolivians I am fithy rich. Compared to the middle class of North America my total monthly income (donations) wouldn´t pay thier mortgage and car payment much less anything else. Don´t let yourself not see the poor, I think thats all Jesus ever saw. Think about it. The love of Christ will change you!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Politics and junk

Some of you are going to see the title of this blog and decide to skip it. Thats ok. I´m actually kind of proud of myself that I can follow some of the political happenings and what they mean, what the people do in reaction, and the over-arching political mess that exists in this country. Its important that I understand it because I live it. There are strikes nearly every other week that make getting around town to run errands nearly impossible, there are rallies (like today) in the main plaza that although it was a peaceful gathering Americans (esp with white skin) were told to go nowhere near the plaza. So here is the breakdown as far as I can figure:

There are 12 departments in Bolivia. Each department has a govenor. 6 are for the President, 6 are against the President. This week the 6 that are against tried to get to the US UN meeting before the other six. Those who are for the president got there first. But they basically went to tell on each other! Anyway, the result was that the strike that was planned for today was cancelled and a simple rally that was held in the main plaza instead. This was a rally FOR the president. It was being said that 80,000 people where being bused in from the mountians and rainforest and I believe it. Folks that traveled more today then I did said the city was packed, every bus was full, ect. I watched the news tonight hoping to catch a shot of the crowd but no such luck. I did hear a report that said 3 people died in transit when the driver of their car fell asleep at the wheel. That made me very sad.

My upcoming trip to Chapare (rainforest) has also been cancelled do to unstable political conditions. The constitution is being voted on actually in the Chapare region. Blockades are almost a given. The church leaders do not want to get stuck out there with a busfull of teenagers. I don´t blame them. I went to a house sale today (we don´t have garages!) of some missionaries that are moving back to the states soon. Missionaries help each other out like that, sell stuff a decent price so they have more money to move home with and we get furniture and what not for less then we´d pay in The Concha. Anyway... they are moving home because their ministry is to literally bus people all over Bolivia, Bolivian believers, short-term teams, church groups, ect. All they charge is the cost of the deisel for the bus. Side note, Bolivia has had a huge shortage of deisel for a long time now. At times they are even short on gasoline. I´m not sure why. So not only do they have a diesel problem but they are running into blockade problems nearly every week. Sometimes strikes/blockades are country wide, others are for specific departments. Given these missionaries drive all over Bolivia they have decided to pack up and move home until the political situation calms down, or when Evo is no longer president.

Also a problematic thing has been that the dollar as been dropping. In other words, the exchange rate is not what it used to be. This is not just for Bolivia but for the whole world. European missionaries have had major problems with the exchange rate there for years. These last couple of weeks the rate has been 7.60 B´s to $1. This is down from what used to be about 8.2. My tutor has had to increase the cost of my classes to cover the difference. There is goodnews however, my team leader told me today that he saw on CNN that ´the dollar was strong´. There is a good posibility that our exchange rate will increase in the next couple of days. This is yet another thing that is outside of my understanding. What exactly makes the dollar strong or weak???

In other news, I have come down with a headcold of sorts. All this delisious food and it hurts to swallow it. Although tonights warm bananna bread tasted wonderful! I bought a ´chair hammock´ today as a real hammock is not possible for me in this house (long story). This is the next best thing and I got it at probably half the price of a new one at the house sale. I had a two hour ´review´ for Spanish class today and she tested me on chapters 1-5. All verbal. And I did good! Its a relief to know that I do remember this stuff and understand it! Thats it for now, hope I didn´t bore anyone.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Un día de descansar

A day of rest. And boy did I ever need it! This is probably the first Sunday since I´ve been here that all I´ve left the house to do is walk to church and back. I should probably back up... by like a week! The overview style seems to work pretty good for me.

Like walking through water. I´ve definetly have hit a new level in my spanish learning. And it feels a lot like trying to walk quickly through water. As hard as you try... you just end up moving in slow motion! The good news is that I am understanding the concepts behind some rather complicated things like direct and indirect objects. The bad news is that it take me for what feels like forever to come up with the correct response. It is literally exhausting. I thank God every day for having such a patient tutor. As of December 1st my host family has been instructed to speak to me only in Spanish unless we really can´t understand each other. This will force me to use the Spanish I do know and will be an added reason to learn this language quickly. I´ll admit that I´ve been lazy and enjoying talking with my sisters in English. Now is time for the hard stuff!

Mid-week update. Most of you should have recieved my mid-week update via email. I´ve not had internet in the house for a week and have been using internet cafés. My camera was stolen on Tuesday while I was riding a Trufi back from one of the orphanage homes. I have received word from my supporters and I will be able to buy a new one sometime this week. The protests did not last more than a day, thank God. They rarely do. The city has gone back to normal though there are always political tentions. More so in cities like La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Sucre though. Cochabamba is semi-neutral ground. Our President Evo Morales is much like the Venesuala president Chavez. He makes the news a lot more then Evo, but they are of the same mind. Please, if you remember to, pray for this country!

´Tis the season to go shopping. Fa la la la la, la la la la. This morning in church I sang my first Christmas songs of the season. I have also offically started my Christmas shopping for my host family and teammates. I have to limit my gifts to about $3 or so (less if I can get away with it) since I need to be careful with my money. I just located this week one of the very few Christian (non- Catholic) bookstores in the city. Everything in that store screams JESUS! Its awesome :) I bought my house parents a nice (but cheap) plaque there. I am on the hunt for something for my tutor/friend, one sister, and her two daughters. I am very much looking forward to experiencing the Christmas traditions in this house as well as having a traditional dinner with my team leaders and spending time with my friends from from the States. From what I´m told the Bolivian celebration begins on Christmas Eve. Everyone stays up till Midnight and has a HUGE meal. They then open presents and sleep in the next morning. We don´t have any decor up yet but I have been told a little bit about this homes traditions. But I will wait until they happen to tell them in full.

Nightmares. This is going to be a little hard to say. This week, for the second time since I´ve been in Bolivia, I have had a nightmare. This is not the kind that you wake up and then its gone and you can go back to sleep. This are the kind of nightmares that I believe fall under the catagory of spiritual attacks. Both times I had the same continuing dream all night, despite waking up repeatedly. I woke up not feeling rested at all. And worse the dreams stayed with me ALL DAY. The story line was different but the feeling was the same. My friends and I were being attacked by ´monsters´ of some kind that we could not fight. The latest dream from this week I can still remember vivid details and its been 48 hours. In that dream I did rebuke someone in the name of Jesus and he backed off. The monsters I never see, only what they do. Now that I´ve given you all the chills... I read my bible and prayed a lot before I went to sleep last night. I fell asleep with a song of praise in my head and slept soundly the entire night. I have continued to sing praises to God all day today. God is protecting me, even as I sleep.

Chapare. December 17th I am joining a short-term mission trip from the International Church here in Coch to the Chapare region (the rainforest). We will be gone for only 5 days to help with construction on our orphanage homes there. It is mostly a youth trip but I will be going as am extra leader and worker. I have not visited the area yet so I am looking forward to it and meeting the people in this place. We have 2 homes being build there right now so you know the need is great. They tell me that bananas are free because they grow wild there. They also tell me there are rather large bugs, mesquitos, and humidity and rain like you wouldn´t believe. Sound like fun to anyone else???

Tomorrow is the monthly meeting for my team and the Bolivian social workers. The rest of the week I´m not sure yet. But always, always tutoring and homework. That is basically my life for the next 6-12 months!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Don´t blink

The title of the popular country music song certainly rings true for me. Life passes too quickly, blink and you´ll miss it. I´ve been busy this week and haven´t even found the time to blog until now.

It is hard for me to believe that I have already been in Bolivia for 1 month! I have met so many people, seen so many things, and learned so much that I hardly know where to begin anymore. This last week seems to have just flown by. Last Saturday I attended my first Babywashing since I arrived (it had been cancelled the weeks before). I´ve now gone twice and each time is different. Different volunteers, different number of kids, ect. Its fun getting to know people as we chat while washing these little ones. My Bolivian sister Natalia has taken to calling it a ¨baby shower¨. The kids are so different from one another, some splish & splash in the water, others scream bloody murder, some actually help us wash them. Ever Saturday feels like a brand new experience. My schedule should nearly always allow for 2 hours or so for babywashing.

As much as possible I have been trying to run my errands by myself. Sometimes I am successful, sometimes I want to cry because I can´t communicate well in this language or I just can´t find the store that I am looking for. My pride has taken quite a hit this week. I have finally managed to: make photocopies, mail something to the states, drop off money for my one year visa, and buy a half a dozen donuts. That last one I just returned from. It took an hour round-trip on foot. Speaking of these donuts... they are the closest thing to Dunkin Donuts that they have in Cochabamba. and there is only ONE store. My sister here bought me one a few nights and I fell in love with it! Not bad for 50 cents US!

One night I attend a free piano and cello concert with my sister and was treated some amazing music. It was associated with the music college here. The woman was born in Cochabamba and the man was from the states. Both with musical resumes a mile long. I am so glad that I am friends with my sisters here, I am never lonely for friends. If I ever get to feeling lonely or bored, all I need to do is walk out of my bedroom and find my family. Problem solved.

Along with Thanksgiving this week I was also celebrating the birthdays of 2 of my friends. So I´ve been introduced to two more restaurants with good food. I don´t eat out a lot normally since I have 3 meals a day at home. But a birthday is a birthday and it calls for a change in schedule! And something else I have noticed... it is important for me to have a life here in Coch. It doesn´t mean I have to spend a lot of money, but it does mean that I have to spend time with friends outside of ministry and just build relationships with them. I miss all my family and friends at home dearly. The friendships I have here are just in the beginning stages and will take some time. But I´ve realized that it means I have to actively pursue them. Yeah, so I can have a somewhat normal life here with ministry and social life.

OK, Thanksgiving! I was so happy to answer my Bolivian families questions about this North American holiday. They wanted to know the history, the food, the traditions, ect. But mostly the food, I had a heck of a time trying to describe stuffing! So the day finally came we headed over to Earl and Rosie Adams house. We had an amazing meal of turkey, stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberry stuff, melt-in-your-mouth rolls, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and chocolate cake. I ate soooo much food! I still can´t believe I actually ate desert :)

Following dinner Earl read a passage from Psalms about praise and thanksgiving. Then came a time of just sweet fellowship as Earl (they call him Carlos) told about his church-planting ministry among the Quechua people, as my family recounted my many mis-adventures here in Bolivia, and the rest of the family talked a lot in Spanish so I didn´t always know what was being said. But talking about huge dragon flies and the spider in my bathroom that my sister kindly killed for me, I got the gist of those!

Here is a picture of my family, minus Jaime who didn´t come to dinner

And here we all are at the dinner table

One last thing! Rainy season is on full swing here in Coch. Coch doesn´t nearly have it has bad as some areas in Bolivia. This last week we had 2 solid days of the dreariest weather I´ve ever experienced in this city. Cold, about 40-50´s I think, which is a big big change from the strong strong sunshine and 80-90 degree days. I´ve also learn that my shower is solar heated. No sun, no heat. After 2 cold showers I started showing upstairs where they have electric heated showers. As long as it was sunny the day before I am A-OK though. The cold weather has also sent me on a shopping trip. I came down ill-prepared for rainy season and have been borrowing warmer clothes from my sisters. My family worries about me constantly, more so when its cold. I try to tell them I´m from Chicago and I´m USED to this kind of weather. But they worry anyway. So now I have proper clothing, its only took nearly 4 hours in La Concha!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Week in Review

So the week didn´t exactly go as planned. Things here rarely do. If you can´t be flexible, you´ll be miserable. So you just have to learn to roll with it. I still had a full week though!

Monday morning began with meetings with my team leader. It was good to just sit down with my ministry goals in front of me. Quite thankfully, we are on the same page and will be working towards those goals together. It will take time to learn all that I need to know. Unbelievably, Spanish is only a small part of it. But sometime in the near future I will be able to be a big help to my team. There are some ways that I can start to help immediately. For example: responding to email inquiry´s regarding the ministry to the orphans, the culture, money issues, fundraising helps, ect. We will have weekly communication meetings so we are always in touch.

Monday night was Natalia´s Ballet at the biggest theatre in town. It was so fun to see the family all dressed up for this important event. In most of the cultural dances there are 6 couples on stage so we can always pick out which one is Natalia. Mamá made all of Natalia´s dresses and that helped to pick her out to. We had a front row seat in the balcony. The dancing was amazing, I´ve never seen anything like it. I got a very short video clip with my camera and will try to post it to this entry from an Internet café later. It was such a wonderful night! The next day at lunch they told me that there was a young man that was watching ME the whole night and not the dancing! I was, of course, totally oblivious to it! Papá said he almost went to tell him to knock it off. That was hilarious to me!

Tuesday I went with my team leader to drop off the needed paperwork to get my one year visa in progress. That was the first step. Next comes a drug test, a criminal background check, and one more thing but I forgot what it was. Pretty normal stuff I guess. I meant to go to Villa Isreal orphanage that afternoon but was feeling ill after lunch and needed to stay in and rest instead.

Wednesday the country was on strike. Yes the whole country of Bolivia was on transportation strike. There were some blockades set up in Coch but nothing that you couldn´t get around. But all the trufies were not running, though I´m told some taxi´s and mini buses were. I still had tutoring that day as well as studying but I took the time to get the photo´s posted from the Internet café.

Thursday I went with my team leader to the Sedeges office (which is kind of like a DCFS branch office). 4 brothers from the Villa Isreal home had to meet with their mom for the first time in 4 months. The children were reported to Sedeges because the mother would leave the 4 boys to beg for food in the community while she took off for days at a time. She has another son that she has been taking ok care of, he´s now 2 years old. She is also 5 months pregnant. She is saying she will abandon the 2 year old when her child is born. This is the sad, sad reality in Bolivia. If she does abandon him, he will come to live in the orphanage with his brothers. It was a very emotional morning and I found myself fighting tears as the children cried and even when one of children led the group in prayer for his mother. Yes we certainly do tell the children about Jesus and teach them to pray!

Today, after my Spanish lesson I spent that afternoon with another missionary with International Teams checking out a new area of the city for me. Prado is where a lot of American tourists go and there are a lot of restaurants and such there with good safe food to eat. I hardly ever eat out as the house food is excellent but its nice to know I can go out somewhere good when I want to. And believe it or not, at the plaza (park) at the end of that road there was a huge craft fair. A lot of tourist type stuff that can be bought in Concha for a little cheaper, but it reminded me a lot of the community craft fairs back home. Then we went to her apt and drew some maps and talked about how to get different places ect. She has an open door policy, I can always go there to get away if I need to. She´s not on the orphanage team so I won´t see her unless I intentionally make time to see her.

And now I am exhausted from my long afternoon walk and looking forward to dinner with my family. Tomorrow afternoon is Babywashing, I just need to figure out which bus will take me there. Check back soon!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Photo Tour

Finally, here are pictures of my home.

This is the living room that is not used.

This is the dining room that is used for company.

This is where the family eats all their meals.

This is the sitting room, kinda of like a waiting room.

This is the backyard and back of the house.

And most importantly (not!) is the dogs of the house. This one is Tina´s dog Clara.

And this is Toffé (but say it in spanish!)
That just about covers it. My family pictures I put in the newsletter. I took pictures at the ballet but they didn´t come out. I will describe that another day. More later!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


It has come to my attention that I have been a little to general in my statements on this blog. I can only hope that this entry can clear up any confusion and apologize to those whom I have offended.

When I speak of my family here in Bolivia I really do intend to speak of them in the highest regard possible. In a very short period of time I have come to love each and every one of them dearly. And I want them, more then anything, to have hope for eternal life in heaven with Jesus that I do. Many of you know that I am a born-again Christian. I use the words ¨born again¨ because Jesus used it in John 3:3. In many ways, my Bolivian family has loved and accepted me better then some born-again Christians have. In this way, my Catholic family puts many born-again Christians to shame.

¨Christian¨is a very broad term and many many religions use it. Christian literally means ¨follower of Christ or little Christ.¨ Catholics to Evangelicals and everything in between claim this name. And that is OK but I wanted to clarify what I believe. And what I believe is very much different from Roman Catholicism which is why I differentiate between myself and my host family (and catholics in general).

I believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only way to have eternal life in heaven (John 14:6). I believe that all our good works on earth are ¨as filthy rags.¨(Isaiah 64:6.)Not to say that they are not important and there are rewards in heaven for how we lived on earth, but I believe the only way to get to heaven is through accepting Jesus´ sacrifice for my sins on the cross. I can never be good enough. Period. And that is what makes me a ¨born-again Christian.¨

I apologize for not clarifying before now, but I do not apologize for my faith. And I will never be ¨politically correct¨ in this life :)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

This and That

Crossing the Street. Crossing the street is like trying to enter the jump rope game ¨Double Dutch¨. You see many intersections here are what they call ´rotundas´´ meaning the traffic is circular with 4 streets going off in different directions. If you don´t time it just right, well, I think you get the picture! Also, important to note, pedestrians do not have ANY rights in Bolivia. Bolivians don´t walk across the street, they run! Oddly enough, the street I travel most frequently is called America Ave. I live ¨a Bolivian walk¨ away from my team leaders, about 20-25 mins. Yes I could take a bus or taxi for very very cheap but why waste money when I can enjoy a walk? It is good for my health and is helping to build my endurance and build up my muscles. Also helping me to work on my tan :)

´Tis the Season. Christmas season is in full swing back in the states. Everywhere you go you see Christmas. Bolivians do celebrate Christmas but you are hard pressed to find a store carrying anything for Christmas. Yesterday I was at La Concha (Quechua for The Market) with my Bolivian sister Natalia and I saw just 1 store with Christmas decor in it. They say no one decorates because they don´t have any money. Sometimes you just get used to seeing the poverty and you forget that these people literally live hand to mouth... everyday. It makes me sad to think about how much money we spend on such superficial things in the states. We do so because we have A LOT of money compared to the rest of the world. And its the American culture and that's fine. But it sure helps me to put all those things in perspective now that I see how a poor country does the holidays. Sorry, I hope I didn´t offend anyone with that.

Family Funnies. I was helping Natalia cut up some confetti for her upcoming ballet (cultural dance). Raffita said something, I have no idea what, to me in Spanish. She does that A LOT. So I said to Natalia (who speaks English)¨It will be a happy day for me when I can understand what she is saying to me.¨ Just a few mins later Raffita is whispering in Natalia´s ear and Natalia laughs and she tells me that Raffita says that she can never understand what I (Kim) am saying!

I impressed the whole family when I asked a question in perfect spanish. I said ¨¿Dónde están las niñas?¨ Where are the children in English. But it was the first grammatically correct thing I´ve said in a week of living here. I got very many ¨muy biens´in response, then they answered the questions :)

Stopping to smell the roses. If there is one thing I´ve been extremely surprise by is the flowers in this city! We have 3 rose bushes in our back yard and they are always in bloom (so it seems). Everyday I check to see what new ones have opened up. Everyday when I walk to where ever I´m going I am amazed at the many bold colors in the flowers, flowers that just grow wild. I like to pause a moment and just appreciate their beauty.

Opposites. Lunch and dinner are opposite here in everything but name. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and dinner is very small, more like a snack before bed. All the children come home from school in the middle of the day and have lunch with the family. Lunch in my house is @ 1 and dinner is served at 7:30.
You have to peel most fruits before you can eat it. Apples, peaches, pears, ect. Its just too hard to get them clean enough to eat the peel.
You can´t eat oranges at night, they will make you very very sick. Something about the altitude???
There are more... just can´t think of them right now!

The Five Day Forecast.
Monday will begin with a meeting at my Team Leaders house followed by Spanish class (everyday for 2 hours) and studying and attending Natalia´s ballet (I will take pictures if I can).
Tuesday will again be Spanish class and in the afternoon I hope to take a Trufie ride out to Villa Isreal to play with the orphans.
Wed- Fri is unscheduled at this point. I have a list of things to do that I need my team leaders assistance on. But at least 2 hours everyday is set apart for Spanish.

Prayer Requests.
1. I have been semi-sick this week. I hope I am just adjusting to the food because they don´t give me anything ¨iffy¨ for a gingo.
2. I´ve only cried through 1 spanish class so far! Pray that I would be able to control my frustrations better and be able to learn quickly (which they say I am anyway.)
3. Pray that I may be able to build up my relationships with my Bolivian family in such I way that I may be able to share with them the Love of Jesus Christ.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Photo Tour postponed

This is the view from the back balcony :)
Sorry folks, even the public computer is taking too long to post all my pictures. I will try again from another computer another day. Check back soon!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

My new home

This house in NICE! I have my own room, juest big enough for me. It came with a desk, a wardrobe, a nighstand with drawers and even MY OWN BATHROOM! Minus a shower curtian. Bolivians don´t use them, go figure. So the bathroom gets really wet but there is a sqweegy thing that you use on the floor when you are done. Its a good hot shower too. The family consists of Tina (my tutor), Jime is Tina´s brother, Astralla is Tina´s sister in law. Jime and Astralla´s two daughters Natalia is 23 and Patty is 29. Patty is divorced and has 2 daughters Raffia who is 4 and Belén is 7. Both insist on talking to me in spanish, they are sooo cute! Tina, Natalia, and Patty all speak a good deal of Engish and that is helping me out a lot right now. I use as much spanish as I know and they use both when talking to me too. mama and papa of the house don´t speak english at all but we are getting along just fine. They are the nicest, most welcoming family you´ll ever meet. I immediatley became daughter and sister and aunt to them, I nearly cried! They are not born-again Christians but Catholics. But I can see they are not just Catholic by culture. Patty told me, in english, that she knows that God is present in their house everyday. They know that I am a missionary and that I am here to serve Jesus in this country. Pray for them, they would make awesome Christians!

They are intent on fattening me up! Seriously, they feed me until I feel like I´m going to burst. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day (like the US dinner). Lunch starts with soup of some kind, the a main dish (pasta, chicken and rice, ect) and then dessert. And bread too. Breakfast is pretty basic, eggs, bread, tea or coffee, fruit. Pretty much whatever you want. Everyone leaves at different times so its no big deal. Dinner is very small and more like a snack then a meal. Yet I feel full all day long! Sickness comes and goes, nothing major but keep praying!

The house is very large. They have a ´nice´dining rooom and sitting area that they rarely use. Then the sitting area they do use, 4 bedrooms upstairs (awesome winding staircase), balcony, in ground pool (that they say has freezing water since they have no heater for it) and then 2 more bedroom type rooms not connect to the main house and a sewing and ironing room and the very top part is where they do the laundry. They have some beautiful rose bushes too.

I began my ´formal´ spanish lessons this week. But I feel like I´m in a constant spanish lesson!I am learning and that is what is important! Monday Natalia is in a ballet, not like the US though. They say its a cultural dance and the whole family (including me) is going to watch her perform. I can´t wait! I´ve also been invited with the family to have Thanksgiving dinner with some missionaries from another organization. It´s so cool to me that they immediatly include me in everything.

Ok, that was a pretty long description! Pictures will be coming soon, I promise!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I´m Here!

Wow, this has been a crazy week! And this is only the second time since I got here on Saturday that I´ve been able to get on the Internet. As most of you know, I did lose my luggage on the way down here but it came in on a plane the very next day, praise the Lord. I´ve been staying this week at the Hacienda or guest house with the teams interns. I just found out that my host family will be ready for me to move in on Monday. I can´t wait to meet them and see my new home! I have had a really good time with the interns this week (there are 3 of them). They have been teaching me some Spanish and teaching me how to get around town on the Trufies (Bolivian buses). I spend A LOT of time riding around in Trufies. They are either mini-buses (all very colorful) or vans. Always hot, always crowded, but always always cheap. And very dependable. The exchange rate on money is approximately 8 Bolivianos to the US $1. It costs 1 1/2 B´s to ride a Trufie. It is a hot bumpy ride but it beats trying to find my way around the streets on my own. I won´t have a vehicle for quite some time so this is the cheapest and most dependable way of getting around town.

I have been doing some clean-up work at orphanage #2 with the interns. A short term team was here last week and they were painting. Well, when you mix highschoolers with paint, what do you get? A mess! So we´ve been on our hands and knees cleaning up as much as we can so the floors look nice again. We´ve also been running some errands for the team leader as well. We´ve gone twice this week to work at the Center (the after school program) and have helped with lessons and crafts. In both the orphanage and the Center we just love to play with kids! Many of these kids come for abusive homes or just plain don´t get a lot of love and attention from their family. I am more then willing to shower them with love!

Next week will likely look very different. I will be moving into my semi-permanent home and will begin language tutoring. I have a list of things I need to get done in the coming weeks including getting my Bolivian ID card, applying for my year visa, setting up a PO box, and setting up my room in my new house. And I´m sure there is more to do then I even know at this point.

What I do know is that everyday is different from the one before. I don´t think there is such a thing as ´normal´ down here and thats ok. It just takes some getting used to. I am so far sickness free (though my allergies are having a hayday) and I have adjusted to the high altitude. It is rainy season so we get rain about every other day and it is making all the flowers bloom. They are beautiful! And making me sneeze :) I am on a public computer so I can´t post any pictures but look for a formal update in your email by the end of next week. There will be a good number of pictures there.

This weekend is Day of the Dead, it is a Catholic holiday that nearly all of Latin America observes. It is their was of honoring their dead ancestors. It should be a very cultural experience! There is so much more to say but my time is running out. I´ll be sure to update again sometimes next week!

Friday, October 26, 2007

I'm a leavin' on a jet plane

The time has finally come! My bags are packed (and nicely underweight), all of the goodbyes have been said, and prayers and words of encouragement have been given. Like never before in my life, I feel truly loved. I will miss all of these friends and family at home more then I can ever express. As soon as I am able I will update this blog with new information and answers to some of the questions you (and I) have about Bolivia. There of course will be pictures as well.

My flights are as follows: I leave from O'Hare @ 6:15pm and fly to Miami. I have less then an hour layover at Miami and then fly directly to La Paz, Bolivia. La Paz is just a stop over and then I land in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. In Santa Cruz I change airlines and then fly once more into Cochabamba, Bolivia, arriving at about 2pm on Saturday. I'm flying American Airlines all the way to Bolivia.

As always, thank you for your prayers during this time of transition. Please pray specifically for safety in travel, adjustment to culture and my new team. I'll update as soon as I can!

Friday, October 12, 2007

El Fin!

At times I wondered if it was ever going to end, but at last, training is finally finished. I am looking back on these last 5 weeks and I am absolutely amazed at how much I've learned, how much I've grown, and how many amazing people I have met. I have so many inside jokes from these training weeks and now I'm not with any of the people who understand them! That is so sad to me.

I am currently still at International Teams. Tomorrow is an event that they call The One Day Immersion. And its a time that people come in from all over the country to learn more about International Teams and where we serve and how we serve. There are about 70 people registered to be here tomorrow. I decided to stay (everyone else from training have already left) because I started out this whole process by attending a One Day Immersion. That was about a year and a half ago. I now I am in my last two week before I leave and I wanted to finish training where all of this started for me. It is always encouraging to be with others that are missions minded and actively pursuing missions. One Day is just the first step. Not all who come will end up serving with IT, and some, like me, will. I wanted to be here as an encouragement to them and to see the next wave of missionaries. Its an awesome sight for sure. I will be headed home after that and I'll be back at my home church for Sunday service.

As of today, I have 14 days left before I leave for Bolivia. Actually, exactly 2 weeks from now I will be on a plane :)

The last part of training was by far the hardest. And this last week the hardest of all. Don't get me wrong, its all very good information to have but I really struggled with the phonics end of it. And now it is over! Yay! These next two weeks are already quite full of various appointments, going away parties, and other last minute details. Guess what folks, its finally time to go!

Thursday, October 4, 2007


The official summary from the syllabus for the Second Language Acquisition course is as follows:

"The goal of this course is to equip each individual participant to maximize her/his language learning potential. The course focuses on how to make decisions and structure your learning in order to acquire your new language as effectively, as efficiently, and as enjoyably as possible. You will also begin to acquire key skills that are essential for successful language learning."

If that sounds like a mouth full trying taking the course! We are the most ridiculous sounding group of people you've ever heard. We sound like monkeys most of the time! But honestly, it is the only way to break down vowel sounds so we can hear the differences accurately. Consonants too! Ever hear of a phonic alphabet? Yep, I'm learning how to write phonically too (for example: writing a different symbol for the first 'p' in pepto then the second 'p' in the same word). So I am getting quite the education on not only understanding the mechanics behind the words I naturally say in English but preparing for new sounds that I'll be learning when I start taking Spanish in Bolivia.

And actually that has already begun. We have 2 language helpers that come in for an hour a day and we ask them a lot of questions regarding vocabulary and pronunciation and then "act out" the conversation as if it we were really having it in our future countries. We tape record those sessions and then study them during the evening. Homework is a daily event (and oftentimes so are headaches!) and mental exhaustion takes over if your not careful. I've found that a good brisk walk directly after class helps a lot.

So will this two week course help me when I get to Bolivia? Absolutely! Do I wish it was already done with? Absolutely! But as it is, we still have another 6 days of this class.

This weekend I am hoping to get my formal monthly update newsletter written and emailed out as not everyone will be reading updates via blog. It should have a new picture or two as well. So watch for it :)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Let the acquisition begin!

That's right folks, this week begins my final section of training. This next 2 week block will be focused 100% on language acquisition. Some of you may be wondering what that exactly means. I am wondering much the same thing! What I do know at this point is that we will be learning about HOW to learn a language and then I think we may begin learning the language we will be going into. Otherwise I really don't know!

We are the ever-shrinking training group! We started with 16 the first week, went down to 12 for these last 2 weeks, and now we have 7 :( We had to say good-bye to two couples that have been with us since the beginning. One is on their way to Ecuador and the others have begun a cross-country fundraising tour. We are however, still able to stay in contact with them via blogs, email update letters, and sites such as Face Book. Isn't technology wonderful!?!

4 weeks till I'm on a plane for Bolivia! Yay! Picture: the newest team members headed for Bolivia!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

By The Grace of God

That has been the phrase I feel I have been hearing over and over and over again while in training. In fact, it is such a true statement that I have found that I have been saying it more frequently as well. I see it as a very simple way of making sure that God gets the credit while you are speaking of your ministry, your personal life, or anything for that matter. In and of myself I can do nothing. But by the grace of God, I have been able to raise my full support, by the grace of God, I have sold my car, by the grace of God all of my unexpected needs have been met. To GOD be all the glory, honor, and praise.

Above is a picture of all of us here that are going into long-term missions. We have so much fun together when we share meals. Even the simplest of games end up being hysterical since as we have such a wide variety of personalities.

I have recovered nicely from my "information overload" from last week. This week has been special since we've been being taught by the man that founded the organization. IT was founded over 50 years ago. I feel very privileged to have heard him share about his experiences overseas, cherished his advice, and been blessed by his prayers. We have also been talking about our spiritual gifts and what exactly they are and how they are used in ministry. A team is made up of so many people with different gifts that it is important to know your gifting and your role. And we still have half a week to go yet! We are never bored I can assure you that!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pre-field training for Bolivia

I am on information overload. Big time. This week of classes have been really good, lots of information, guest speakers, ect. We had 3 classes just talking about spiritual warfare. what it is, how Satan attacks, how to fight, ect. it wasn't really "new" to me but I am so glad we had the class cause some people really haven't ever had any experience with it or even heard about it in their churches. Then I was able to apply it in a very practical way both yesterday and today. Yesterday we visited a Hindu Temple, I was feeling sick to my stomach even before we left IT so I asked everyone stop and pray. The Temple is a stronghold of Satan and I felt like we needed to be covered in prayer. I was, however, the only one feeling ill. I would have just said it was coincidence except that as soon as I prayed, my stomach felt much much better. Today we spent the entire day in Chicago on Devon st at South East Asian Friendship Center. We then went to a mosque for their 1pm service (their equivalent to our Sunday morning). Then we went back to the Friendship center and had someone who is an Apologetic (debater kind of a person) who came to Christ through the Quaran (since it led him to the bible) and now debates with Muslims. That guy is GOOD! He must have hundreds of verses memorized, from both books and can quote them, chapter and verse, at a moments notice. The local mosques will no longer debate with him publicly since he is very right and they are very wrong and they don't like to be embarrassed by him. Most of his debating is now done online.

Anyway, all that to say... I feel like I'm going through culture shock, American style. Hinduism and Islam have been right here on my doorstep my whole life and I've never once set foot in their buildings to learn more about them. I found myself actually crying at the mosque because of a whole lot of things. Again, I felt very very sick (Indian food at lunch didn't help matters) but I knew for a fact that it was demon enhanced considering where we were and the fact that once again I prayed and the pain/nausea disappeared. Like never before in my life I feel like my eyes have been opened to the darkness that exists in this world (esp in America). It occurred to me that you can't (generally) see the darkness if your closed up inside your own church all the time, when the mosque is on the very next corner. And as we've been told this week, this darkness is growing faster then the church is growing. I just... I'm having a hard time explaining it well. Just a lot of information, A LOT of information in one week. I'm just trying to digest it all and try to explain what that means to me, my worldview, my missions, ect.

I am not going to an area of the world where there is large following of either of the above mentioned religions. Bolivia is largely Roman Catholic and Indigenous religions. But no matter where you are, what your doing, knowing about these other religions will be useful.

I have 3 more weeks of training ahead of me though 2 of those weeks are focused only on language acquisition. Just 5 more weeks till Bolivia!