Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mt. Tunari

As the song says ¨Well, I climbed a mountian and I turned around¨ the song was remade by the Dixie Chicks, made originally by Fleetwood Mac (thanks Amy). Anyway, it was in my head as I climbed yesterday.

Yesterday I rode in a bus for 2 hours and reached Mt. Tunari with my some of my team and 18 of the 27 short terms we have with us at the moment. Mt. Tunari is the highest peak in Central Bolivia and is visible from Cochabamba. We took the bus as far as the road would let us, which was 14,500 ft above sea level. After that, those of us that wanted to, began the hike up to the summit. Keep in mind folks, at least you chicago folks. Ya´ll live at less then 1000 ft! Coch is at 8000 ft. The higher you go, the less air you have. So when we STARTED to hike from 14,500 breathing only got harder the higher we went. Here are some pictures of the bus trip up:

I was worried about the hike but wanted to give it a try anyway. My knee hasn´t been bothering me all that much lately so I said what the heck. Its now or never and up I went. This is the lake we started the hike from:

The first section wasn´t too bad, like walking sideways on the side of a mountian, not going uphill yet. The next part was the steepest incline I think I´ve ever tried to climb. Unfortunatly, I didn´t get a picture of it first. I was much to focused on breathing! Halfway up I was really struggling to breath and wondering if I´d even make it to the summit of this small hill. I did make it, thank God, but I knew I was done for this hike. By the time I got to the small platoe (sp?) I was wheezing and coughing a lot. I looked at the next incline and said ¨nope, not going to happen¨ so I parked myself on one of the many rocks and rested. We think I was probably at around 15,100 ft. This is the view from where I sat. This is the next incline I didn´t hike:

And these are the other directions:

I sat here for over an hour just being in awe of God´s creation around me. I spent a lot of time in prayer and just listening for God´s voice as I seek his direction in my life. I didn´t have any visions, or hear any voices (other then my friends when they screamed when they reached the summit), but I did enjoy the solitude and time of reflection (¨and I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills¨ another part of the aformentioned song). There wasn´t any snow but there was a good chill in the air and I was glad for my layers, hat, and scarf.

Finally I grew bored and started to hike back down the mountian by myself. Probably not the smartest thing in the world but hey, I´m super woman right? There were a few slips and slides but nothing broken or twisted and I didn´t get lost. I was happy to be back in the warmth of the bus and to talk with those who opted not to climb. Many of the short terms were struggling with severe reactions to the altitude (fevers, headaches, stomache aches, ect). I seemed to be ok, but then I´m used to the altitude of Coch.

Now for some funny stuff. This is not like a north american national park. If you had to pee, you went and found a rock and peed behind it. Now that was fun :)

To the local wildlife, it was US that didn´t belong, we were on their turf. This is the best picture of the trip for me. This is me and Al (Alpaca, like a llama but smaller and softer):

And these are the oh so famous Bolivian llamas:

Local houses, can you pick out the house from the landscape?

We finally headed for home, all 25 of us, exhausted, sore, and not feeling well. Even I had a headache. But we ran into a bit of a roadblock:

And that was my Tunari adventure. Maybe someday I´ll make it to the summit, Lord willing. For now, I am happy to have seen the beauty I have seen. And I am thankful for God´s hand of protection on me while I climbed back down that mountian.

Coming soon: my 6 month recap.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A much needed update

I just realized that I tell a lot of stories. Intresting enough as they are, I thought maybe some people might be intrested in knowing my progress in my adjustment.

And honestly, it depends on the day! Somedays I am confident and other days I want to hide out in my house all day. Spanish is still a daily struggle. Granted, I´m now in the second part of my text book, which means I actually know a heck of a whole lot but I still have sooo far to go. I struggle a lot with understanding what other people are saying. This is a common problem for everyone, even spanish speakers since everyone speaks in a slightly different way depending on where they come from. Other latin american countries speak very very fast, other parts of Bolivia pronounce words differently as well. It takes a lot of concentration and often I have to ask them to repeat or slow down what they said before I can understand what they are trying to say. When someone is talking directly to me its easier for me to understand then if they are talking to someone in a group. Or for example, I can´t understand my Pastor as he is 1) from Columbia (speaks very fast)and 2) he is not speaking directly to me. I try really hard to listen to my bolivian friends as they are talking to each other, trying to pick up on what they are saying. Sometimes I catch bits and pieces, other times I understand nothing at all. But the only way to learn is to just keep on listening to them speak and to use what I know as much as I can. I sound like a fool and make a lot of mistakes but its all part of the process. Someday, years from now, I will look back on this time and just laugh and laugh!

I am feeling very confident about knowing my way around the city. Or at least the parts I travel most frequently. With my move to a new house last week I´ve had to familiarize myself with new bus routes, ect. I am still working on being able to know my way around La Concha. Even Bolivians don´t know their way around La Concha! So I´ve not got my hopes up too high but I would like to have just a basic outline in my head of which sections are which direction. Some say that La Concha in Coch is the largest open air market in latin america. I can´t say for sure thats true but La Concha is HUGE and complicated and smelly and crowded. But its the cheapest place to buy anything in this city!

Praise the Lord, stomach sickness as been far from me! I have an occasional stomach ache from eating too much sweets :) but nothing more then that. I have gained probably 10 pounds since I arrived here. Some of it thankfully is leg muscle as I basically walk everywhere. I can blame the rest on eating bread and tea for 2 meals a day and eating a huge lunch of soup, meat, potatoes and/or rice and then of course taking a siesta after that. Overall, this is a good thing for me!

I´ve been able to read some books that have ben written by people who came to live in Bolivia for a time. Both of them I highly recommend. One is called ¨When invisible children sing¨ and its about street children in La Paz, Bolivia. And the other I´m currently reading and its called ¨¡Gracias!¨ and has a load of wisdom in it, I am browing it but hope to own it myself very soon.

I continue to have very limited involvement with my team as Spanish is still my priority. I still take Viviana for therapy 3 days a week and pitch in to help my team as often as I can. My friends from training arrived last week and will also be staying here long term.

And for those who may be wondering, I do not have a Bolivian boyfriend! I do however have some really good friends that I enjoy spending time with. Many of whom speak English which is hurting my spanish but helping me to build relationships better. As my learning allows, I hope to speak with my new friends more and more in Spanish.

And that should do it folks!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Cochabamba is a great big city. Because its so big there are named sections of the city. For instance, I live in an area called Cala-Cala. The Cristo is situatated on a small mountian on the far east side of the city. However, there is still more of Cochabamba even behind the Cristo, this area is known as Sacaba. And it is also known to be amoung the poorest areas of the city.

2 weeks ago a Bolivian friend had invited me to what is called Hora Feliz or in english, Happy Hour. Its a ministry that several of my friends from my church have every Sunday. I was unable to go the first week but decided this last Sunday would be a good time to check out this happy hour thing. All I was really told was that it was a childrens ministry and it would be a good opportunity for me to practice my spanish. I show up at the meeting place and start asking questions like ¨where are we going¨ ¨what are we going to do¨ ect. And the answer was Sacaba and we sing songs, teach Bible stories, and give out milk and bread.

I was not prepared for what I saw and experienced that day. I live in the north part of town, which is really not the poverty part of town. What I saw in Sacaba was children covered in dirt and wearing ill fitting clothes. Houses that can´t even be called houses. More like shacks with bricks holding the tin roof down. Our meeting place was a covered patio without walls or chairs. In the beginning, all of the children were together and we sang some songs that I didn´t know. But these children knew these songs well and I was impressed that so many of them actually sang. Then they were split up by age groups for the Bible lesson. I stayed with my friends that had the 2-5 year olds. Always a challenge since they have about a 2 min attention span. I spent some time chasing after run away kids and trying to get them to listen to the teacher. While the other groups were still going we played some games with the little ones to keep them from interfering with the other groups. After a little while, it was finally time to give out the food and head home. I was relieved only because it was freezing cold (probably 40-50 degrees with no wind protection and only a light jacket). We had to hunt down some christians they knew in the area and gave them the left over food and we left for home.

There were two little girls, not more then 3 or 4 years, with shawls on their backs carrying baby dolls in immitation of how the grown women carry their children and things. They were too cute for words. I also left there with a terrible terrible headcold which I still have 3 days later!

As I was talking to my friend about the experience later I was reminded that however little impact we think we are having, we may be the only Jesus these kids ever meet. We will never know the lasting impact we are having on these little lives. Its something we would all do well to remember. I would like to be a part of this ministry on Sundays (outside of my orphanage work and spanish studies) but I will be more of an observer and helper until my language improves to the point of being able to teach. In the next few weeks, if I am able to go out with them, I would like to see the older childrens classes and I think there is also a class for teenagers/women as well. If I can I will take some pictures for this blog but if its a sensative thing there then you will just have to make do with my descriptions.

Prayer request. Ever since last week when I carried Viviana uphill I have been having some problems with my right knee. Its kind of been an on going problem but this last week I´ve had more pain then usual. Its not so bad that I need to see a doctor or need medication but please pray for healing and that it might not get worse. Roads around here are rocky and uneven at best and I believe my knee is on the verge of dislocating or something similar to that. Thank you!