Wednesday, April 30, 2008

6 months in Bolivia

Time sure flies in the country where time is not all that important. I knew before I even got here that Latino time was very different from the time I was accustomed to. This was evident the first time I got to church very “late”( 30 minutes past the time I intended to be there), and found that most of the Bolivians where just arriving as well. Everything here takes time. It takes time to learn this language and learn it well. It takes time to develop friendships. It takes time to even go into La Cancha (the market) to get the few items that you needed. Taking public transportation takes time, its good and cheap, but at times seems to take forever and a day to get where you wanting to be (esp when it is hot and crowded in the Micro-the bus). I keep thinking that I have all the time in the world since I’m planning on being here long term. In some ways that is true. But I have realized that teammates come and go, friends come and go, life changes quickly. Bolivians are very much the kind of people that live for today, not for tomorrow. I am trying to learn how to live like that but it is very hard!

Bolivians work very hard, so hard that it puts me to shame. It never ceases to amaze me how many children are working. They work the markets, often offering use of a wheelbarrow for folks buying a lot of stuff. They are street performers in training and they juggle and do cartwheels. Or they are window washers and attack your car windows when you are stopped at a red light. They walk the streets with items to sell such as flowers, candy, ect. It was an awkward moment when the man I was meeting with at an outdoor café had to buy a rose from a small girl while explaining to her that I wasn’t his girlfriend and the rose was for his wife at home! Others offer to shine your shoes, even if you are not wearing shinable shoes, or sing you a “nice” song. Still others just ask you for money. It is upsetting to think about the parents of these young ones, how can they force them to do this work? And I believe the answer is poverty. After 6 months in Bolivia I still can’t understand poverty. Why does it exist? What can be done to eliminate it? How can we get parents to stop drinking and take care of their kids? I don’t have any solution. But this is a daily reality in my life.

Some fun things that I have learned in the last 6 months:
1. I have learned to appreciate taxi drivers that wait for me to enter into my home before driving off. This happens maybe 50% of the time.
2. I have also learned to appreciate taxi’s that flash their head lights at you, rather then honk, to see if you need a ride.
3. I have learned to look both ways before crossing a one way street (not kidding!). 4. I seem to need to re-learn daily that pedestrians have no rights!
5. I have learned that it is better to cross then street when cars are moving then when they are stopped.
6. I have learned that everything, literally everything, is cheaper if you buy it in La Cancha.
7. I have learned that La Cancha is a never ending madhouse.
8. I have come to appreciate my wonderful Bolivian friends that are bi-lingual and very patient with me as I stumble through nearly everything I say. They help me so much!
9. I have learned to laugh at myself, which is more important then I ever knew before.
10. I have learned the importance of the siesta! A 30 min power nap after lunch does my brain a world of good.
11. I have learned that Spanish is really hard but that English is even harder! I know I’m doing well though because I have learned how to be funny in Spanish!
12. I have learned that I have a knack for pronouncing difficult words in Quechua.
13. I have learned that a Coca-Cola does a better job of keeping me awake then a cup of coffee.

Things work related:
It is hard to do a lot of missionary work without being fluent in the language. It is hard, but not impossible. I am currently doing most of my missionary work on the weekends and focusing on Spanish during the week (except Viviana’s therapy).

Since I have a good deal of Spanish under my belt, we are currently trying to find my exact place on my team. I would appreciate your prayers concerning this.

I am currently helping out two other ministries on the weekends. I continue to volunteer at Babywashing and I continue to volunteer Sunday afternoons to help my church group in their ministry in Sacaba. See previous blog postings for more information on the ministry in Sacaba.

My weeks tend to go by in a whirl wind of activities. At the end of the day I often find myself forgetting what it was I did even that morning!

There is a lot of work to do that is for sure, but I never underestimate the importance of spending time with God and developing “outside of work” friendships. Worshipping in Spanish is still difficult at times and I miss singing in English. Unfortunately, I am still unable to understand the bulk of sermons. My Bolivian friends, like I said before, are absolutely wonderful. They have adopted me and loved me in a way that still amazes me. They help me to understand this culture more and give me the invaluable gift of conversational Spanish. They have also invited me to participate in their ministries as well. I love my new friends!

My health has been amazingly good, Praise God! I am sure to take vitamins everyday though at times I wonder if I need them. My host family is very careful to buy good food and clean everything well. I am also very particular about the restaurants I eat in. “Gingo friendly” has become a part of my vocabulary. I have come down with a few sinus infections and/or chest colds but, praise the Lord, nothing over the counter antibiotics (isn’t that cool?) couldn’t cure. I now weight 15 pounds more then I did when I left the states!

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