I apologize for the lack of communication… the last month has been a whirlwind of highs and lows, twists and turns, and just a good time in general.
On Christmas Eve everyone at the children’s home was running around cleaning, decorating, and cooking. I was mostly cooking the 60 pounds of meat we had. The kids were so excited. All of the Tias and other staff member’s families were coming at night for a fiesta. The kids prepared performances like skits or songs that were put together into a short program for all the guests. I got to Skype my family in the morning and introduce them to my new family at Talita Cumi. It was so fun, all the Tias and children were very kind to my family. They were especially fond of Jonathan… sorry Mom, Dad, Grammy, and Grandy.
I was also a tad stressed because some the Tias decided to tell me that there would be no rice at the party. No rice?! The news broke my heart as rice is the one thing I can eat a lot of and nobody seems to notice. Rice is also very Bolivian and I thought the fiesta guests would be disappointed as well. But it turned out they cooked the rice closer to the time of the fiesta to keep it hot and not sticky.
When all the non-rice food was cooked, I biked home and headed off to church for our Christmas Eve service. This was also the first day I got to play cello! It was a beautiful service; I got to be a part of a special song “Mary Did You Know” by Pentatonix with a much, much better vocalist than me… so fun. A beautiful service, that was announced to be one hour long, starting promptly at 7pm, but in traditional Bolivian style there were about twenty people who came late, as in arriving for the last fifteen minutes.
We cleaned up the church and rushed to Talita Cumi to begin the fiesta celebrations. I was relieved to see three large pans of rice on the table. After the program and the meal, fireworks began to fly, sizzle, and pop everywhere. The boys went crazy throwing fireworks at each other under vehicles. They put sparklers in dry piles of grass to try and start fires… so fun. But being full of food and out of energy they slowly drifted off to bed.
Christmas morning we all woke up. And a local mission team brought breakfast then played some games with everyone dressed up as clowns. It was a little strange but apparently very cultural.
After the games they presented each child with a gift, bikes, abnormally large dolls, and mp3s. For the rest of the day we just played with toys, listened to music, and ate more food.
The third step, the eating more food part, is the one I should have skipped because I woke up boxing Day morning with more pressure in my gut than a fire hydrant.
I had food poisoning.
Fortunately I was prepared, I had brought anti-coming-out-both-ends medicine with me from Canada, unfortunately I was house sitting for a family and didn’t bring my medicine to that house. It was the worst I have ever felt in years. All Boxing day I was… well…I won’t get into it. But I did not have a lot of energy for the next couple days. The Penner’s were very kind in caring for me during this time, with soups, meds, and ginger ale.
I spent New Year’s Eve fast asleep in recovery mode.
On New Year’s Day, I was invited to go to the pool with Talita Cumi. Two of the children’s homes in Santa Cruz use a local pool because they are closed to the public on New Year’s day. It was lots of fun swimming, laughing and choking because I was swimming and laughing. This is an annual tradition for the kids.
The next major event was with Talita Cumi also. It was just another day, I did what I do, and around three o’clock a Tia asked if I wanted to go hand out gifts with the kids. I said sure. So we loaded up in the mini-bus with food and gifts and started to drive. I had no idea what was really happening. About an hour out of the city we came upon this little village. We asked some of the locals where a poorer part of town was drove there and started to walk up and down the streets saying “All children met us at the park in 15 minutes for games!” When we finished our inviting, there were about thirty kids of all ages with their parents surrounding the mini-bus. A Tia lead some camp style games then talked about Jesus. We handed out candy and gifts to the swarm of little hands. It was the most “white”, if you will, I have felt in Bolivia so far. But was an amazing experience, sharing in the joy with the kids and their families. I apologize for the bad pictures and lack there of, I really felt like a tourist.
Speaking of tourist, I needed to go get my passport re-stamped in Santa Cruz. A few other people were in the same situation as I was so we went down to the government office, only to find out we couldn’t do it there. We had to leave the country in order to get a new stamp, the rule changed in December, which is par for the Bolivian course. Eventually I headed out to the border with the others. Traveling south to Argentina through the jungle, fields, and foothills was beautiful. Seven hours in a car with air conditioning was such a blessing. When we arrived in the border town we had slight difficulty finding the international border crossing. Because… the only road to the border was down this road…
It took about two hours to get the fines canceled on my card then get it re-stamped to go back into Bolivia. Then I went to the bus station and found the cheapest bus I could…which turned out to be the mothers with small, crying children bus as well. The seven hour drive to the border took close to eleven on the way back because the police at every stop would come on and check for something… not sure what, I just pretended I was asleep so I didn’t have to show them my bag. I arrived in Santa Cruz around 6 AM. I walked home, showered, crashed hard for just over an hour, and then went to go do my duties at Church. Fast trip to Argentina.
But while wide awake on the bus I was looking out the window at the foothills of the Andes. They were giants dressed in sequential shades of night blue. Familiar and unfamiliar stars showed their faces against the night sky. Also clouds, appeared frozen like ice sculptures, were almost a source of light themselves. It was peaceful and beautiful this sleeping-not sleeping ride home.
One of the excitements of Bolivia is the spontaneity of life. I went to a church meeting on a Friday morning expecting to just talk about bulletins and power point. I left with the opportunity to share/ preach the next Sunday at Trinity Church. This was a stretching experience but well worth doing. It’s easy for me to see how God has prepared me for the challenges and opportunities I have had here in Bolivia.
After speaking in church, Nick and I went on a hike in the rain forest. It had just rained a ton, but we still went. We packed food to cook at the top of a hill. We endured extremely hot heat (like 40 degrees Celsius), slippery clay, thorns, vines, and millions of ants but we got up there. Starting a fire you would think would be fairly easy, but it was not. I would light the match, blow on the wood and sweat dripping from my face would pour onto the rain soaked wood. Being the genius that I am… not… I decided to spray sunscreen on the fire and it worked okay until I went to blow on it again. The combination of smoke, hot and humid weather and sunscreen fumes almost caused me to black out. I was a little dizzy for sure. Smoke/fume inhalation and ant bitten, swollen hands and ankles aside, it was a grand adventure.
New things in my schedule are this, I facilitate a men’s Bible study on Fridays at the church. This is mostly in English but there is still quite a bit of Spanish used. Also I teach cello lessons twice weekly in Spanish, which makes it a healthy challenge for me. Both of these things I enjoy very much.
The lessons I have learned this past month can be summed up, in Jonathan Ardell style.“It’s a dangerous business, [Andrew], going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
― J.R.R Tolkien
Please pray for Talita Cumi as some of the older teens are leaving the home and beginning life outside the home. Pray for Trinity International Church as we seek a new pastor. And pray that I would l learn how to rest and trust in God’s promises more and more each day.
Thank you all for your Skype calls, Facebook messages, love, support, and prayers. I am grateful for you all.