Monday, January 28, 2008

You just don´t see that in the States *EDIT*

Recently I´ve found myself thinking ¨you just don´t see that in the states.¨ So I started to write down some of the more oddball type things I´ve been seeing. Some make you laugh, some make you say ¨aawwww¨, some will make you say ¨cool¨ and others will make you say ¨what?¨. So here they are:

1. Recently saw cars, not just double parked on the side of the road, but TRIPLE parked. And not a cop in sight to write up tickets. They don´t really do that here...

2. On the back window of a van trufi a window cling said ¨Soy de cristo¨ literally, I am of Christ. You don´t usually see bold statements of faith like that.

3. Grafiti on the wall of a home ¨It´ll be alright¨ spray painted in English.

4. Car trufi´s that have the steering column moved from the right side of the car to the left. All other dashboard things remain on the right side. Where the steering wheel used to be is a hole, normally with a stuffed animal stuffed into it. Cute but wierd at the same time :)

5. In a bus trufi (actually called a Micro if I want to be culturally correct) was a hand made sign from a child that said quite boldly ¨Feliz Día papí¨. In English, have a good day daddy.

6. In a bowling alley a sign says in English ¨Road Closed, you didn´t behave last night.¨ Which didn´t make one bit of sense to any of us that was reading it.

7. A lot of trufi´s have stickers on the walls with sayings. I can´t normally translate them but one of them said ¨ Don´t blame the driver if you left late.¨ And another ¨Its better to wait for a minute of your life then to lose your life in a minute.¨

8. A saw a HUGE chopped up cactus sitting on the curb in front of someones home. A cactus, like a tree, that is not wanted in ones yard gets the chainsaw apparently.

9. More english grafiti ¨I´m not home...¨ odd, very odd.

As I come across more I will add them to this blog. Hope they made you laugh.

I have also been hit with my first drive-by super soaking. I´m still dodging water balloons and usually take taxi´s at night. During the working week most college students are in class and the rest of the people at the streets are profesionals. The little kids don´t really have anyone to target. Which makes me think that most of the water balloon wars are instigated by 20 something year olds.

I have decided to attend the retreat with my friends church. I just cannot pass up the opportunity to make friends and spend time in worship. It will help my Spanish SO MUCH too. Carnival comes around every year. Maybe next year I´ll feel safer and more confident in my Spanish to attend it. Next weekend may be carnival but Bolivia has a huge celebration of some kind or other every month or two.

My weeks tend to be fairly predictable lately. I take Viviana for her therapy, I have language tutoring, I see my friends, I go to a youth service, I go to church, I study, ect. But I like predictability so thats ok. There hasn´t been strikes or blockades in over a month, Thank God.

I have my email newsletter coming out on Friday, till next time!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Can you run faster then a balloon?

This was the question posed to me by the leader of the Babywashing ministry. Even though he asked me in English I still had no idea what he was talking about! Finally he said ¨The water ballons... are you faster then them?¨ Now that made more sense! You see, Bolivia is coming up on their Carnival celebration which is the first weekend in February (its actually 4 days long). One of the biggest reminders that Carnival is almost here is the constant barrage of water balloons being thrown at you! Its all in good fun but sometimes these water balloons HURT! So far I have been safe from any direct hits (they apparently have pretty bad aim) but I have been told that sometimes they actually freeze the water ballons. So it hurts when you are hit and often leaves a bruise. Others have told me that the water balloon may contian more then just water, for example, ice, urine, and/or oil. I recieved my first (attempted)hit about a week ago with someone yelling in English ¨Its Carnival!¨

The main street I live off of (America Ave, go figure) is a war zone as the day goes on. You can see broken balloons everywhere. Students are still out of school and well, water balloons are cheap. I went down to the market with my sister only to find a HUGE water balloon fight in progress right in front of the store. We ran as fast as we could! I have never seen such a funny thing in all my life.

I have been trying to get an accurate history of Carnival which is hard to do. Originally, I´m told, it was an Inca tradition. It was the peoples way of telling the god´s that they had enough water, by throwing water around. Thus Carnival would signal the end of rainy season (summer to them). Other people say that its a Catholic holiday (nothing religious about it though). They said something about it being a certian number of days before Easter. Others say its the same as Marti Gras in the the States. Its a conflicting story because when the Spanish people came in with their Catholic religion they super-emposed the ¨church¨ holidays over the existing pagan holidays. So really, it just depends on who you ask.

Whatever the actual history is... its a big long party here in Bolivia. It includes a parade, fairs, dancers, music, ect, ect. And it lasts 4 days. It is also a high time for theft as there are so many people on the streets. These thieves are profesionals and you have to be very careful with your belongings. During this time transportation may not run normally and many non-fiesta related stores will be closed. Its a big long holiday!

There is a good chance that I will miss most of the festivities as a friend has invited me to go on a church retreat over that weekend. I hope to still be able to go to the parade but we will wait and see. The retreat would be good for me as I´ll be developing new friendships, using my spanish more, taking time to really focus on God and worship him with other believers. I have 2 weeks to make a final decision... party hard or spend time with God? Hmmmmm... this is really not a hard decision for me. But I do want to experience all the customs of this culture, Carnival is definetely one of them.

Until then, I will be dodging water balloons and working on my Spanish lessons!

By the way... if you are not registared with Blogger and want to leave me comments. You can just click at the end of an entry, enter a message into the box and then click on the annonymous option and that should work. Thanks all for your notes and encouragement and prayers!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Back to daily life

My extended holiday has finally come to an end. For about 3 weeks my life, my schedule, ect were completely abnormal. First it was all the Christmas festivities, the New Years, and then my trip to La Paz. Holidays in Bolivia are not just a one day ordeal... it sometimes takes days for the city to return to normal. One of the most relieving things about the last couple of weeks is that there has been no blockades or buisness closures. It was very kind of the protesters to take a break for the holidays!

So this week I got back to the grind of daily life. I have Spanish class for 2 hours a day, I try to give at least another 2 hours or so to studying time.

I have also been given my first ministry assignment. One of the little girls in the first orphange (Vivianna) is a special needs child. She was flown into Coch serveral months ago from a jungle village where she either fell or was pushed into a fire. Her entire back and most of her legs were terribly burned. Thank God, her face was completly untouched by the fire. She has come a very very long way in the last couple of months. It is now my responsibility to take her 4 days a week to the burn therapist for an hour of theapy. Hospitals in general make me a little queazy and it is hard to see the other children waiting for their theapy as some of them are even worse off then Vivianna. While Vivianna is having her theapy I use that time to study my spanish book. In time I hope to be able to have conversation with the other women waiting with their children.

An intresting aspect of the story is that Spanish is neither mine nor Vivianna´s first language! We are both in the same boat as we continue to learn Spanish. Vivianna´s first language is not Quechua as I had thought but is a totally different language from the jungle. There is something like 17 languagues spoken in Bolivia. So we have a fine time trying to talk to each other! But hugs, humming songs, smiles, and candy go a long way in communication. She has finally managed to remember my name!

I wish I could say that the bad stuff is over for her but its not. She will probably have a couple of more surgeries in the near future so she can have more movement with her arms. She also needs to see a doctor for some sores that are not healing by themselves. We are not certian of her exact age but I would say she is between 5 & 7 years old. She´s been through more in her young life then most adults in this world. Please keep Vivianna in your prayers. Thanks be to God, someone from the States has covered her medical expenses 100%. Please pray for her continued healing, language learning, and emotional health as well. I will try to put a picture of us in next months update email, she is a beauty!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Road trip at 14,000 ft above sea level

I returned last saturday from the highest road trip I´ve ever taken! One of my fellow missionaries here in Cochabamba, Amy, convinced me to go with her and spend a few days exploring La Paz. And what an experience that turned out to be! First a few facts about La Paz that make it different then Coch. La Paz is the largest city in Bolivia and also the capital. It sits at about 14,000 ft (Coch is at 8,000). It has the highest airport in the world and also one of the highest peeks in all of South America. La Paz is very much a cone shape with the richer folks living lower down where it is warmer and the poorer folks living up on the edges of the city. Also, La Paz is a Aymara city whereas Coch is a Quechua. Those are the names of the two largest indiginous groups in Bolivia. They are similar yet completely different. So on we go with the road trip.
This is the bus, called a Flota, that we rode for 8 hours to get to La Paz. It was 100 times more comfortable then the buses I take in Coch daily.

It was quite literally all uphill and we almost immedietly felt the affects of the higher altitude. We were however treated to some amazing views of the mountians. Pictures could never do it justice but we tired. By the way, combined, we took over 200 pictures in 2 1/2 days! I´ve picked out some of the best for you.

Our rest stop was my first real experience of the trip. This, believe it or not is a toliet. No I didn´t fall in!

We were more then happy to finally get to our hotel and have a good nights sleep. It was also very important at the rest stop to have some Coca Tea. Coca is the only reason the US cares anything about Bolivia. Coca is the main ingrediant in cocaine and they monitar how much coca is being grown. However, it is also a natural way of counteracting altitude sickness and has been used in the fashion for as long as people have been living in the highlands. They either put the leaves in hot water or chew the leaves themselves. We opted for the tea. I commented that someone could make a lot of money if they can figure out a way of putting the coca into a gum. They did it with nicotine so why not coca? Anyway, I drank A LOT of tea in La Paz. The altitude really does a number on your digestion, the tea helps with this, it also helps you breath easier. There is just less air up there. Most of Chicago land is somewhere around 700 ft above sea level. Just to put that into perspective for you. Here is some pictures of me enjoying my tea.

We had a grand old time acting like tourists! Here in Coch I try my hardest to NOT look like a tourist and I enjoy laughing at the tourists we do have. Anyway, we tourist shopped and took a lot of pictures. We didn´t really have a schedule so we did whatever we wanted to. We ate at different resturants every meal, walked probably 100 miles in 2 days (kidding, but we did walk a lot), saw a lot of the city, and created a lot of memories. My favorite place was the main plaza. And this picture says why.

La Paz is also the center for a lot of political turmoil. These policemen are quite literally keeping the peace.
alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5153875977720054786" />
We also visited Old La Paz which was nice since there was hardly anyone there. So of course we took some silly pictures. This is how La Paz used to look.

And this is La Paz today, this is the view from our hotel room window.

We had 2 days of cold and rain and 1 day of gorgous sunshine. Of course I got sunburned! But after the 70 or 80 degree average in Coch, the cold was quite a shock to my system. I bought a scarf and Amy bought a hat and scarves. And here we are!

I was ready to come home by the third day. I enjoyed my vacaction but I missed being in a familar place. So we got back on a bus and 8 hours later we arrived at home sweet home cochabamba. But not without another experience along the way. This was the bathroom at rest stop number 2.

So thats La Paz in a nutshell, there are a ton of stories to tell and more pictures but that is good enough for right now. Normal weekly blog coming soon... I promise!