BOLIVIA, SOUTH AMERICA
Spent part of the day packing for my trip tomorrow to Bolivia. I think I have everything. I am taking 1,400 strings. I started taking altitude sickness pills a week ago as we will be landing at 14,900 feet and going downhill from there to the hotel in La Paz. I will be gone 10 days and do not know if I will have email contact or not.
We left for Bolivia from Oklahoma City, OK on Thursday June 19th. Friday was a day to try to acclimate to the altitude. Friday and Saturday we did a little shopping, a little sightseeing and a lot of stopping to catch our breath. The airport is on the Alto Plano (High plains above La Paz) at 14,000 feet or so. La Paz is in a deep bowl that is at least 1,000 feet lower…as if 1,000 feet makes a difference.
The first Indian bishop of the Methodist Church died on Thursday night. They had the funeral on Friday so a number of us went to the service. There is a close and long standing connection with the Oklahoma Methodist church and Bolivia. The service was conducted by an American pastor and much like services here. We then went to the cemetery. It was a beautiful setting on an outcropping with mountains all around. Almost every grave had fresh flowers. I was told that this is very common and people do keep up things.
Sunday we took the bus up to El Alto to the church we were working with. El Alto is on the Alto Plano and where people from the country come to settle. It is very poor with few services. The church was held in the home of a widow who is letting the church use it. She lives in the back part of the compound.
As part of the service, we walked to the field where we were going to start the church. Everyone picked up a stone and the foundation was started with a hole and the stones placed in like the memorial the Israelites made at the Jordan River. It was quite moving. We walked back to the church for the rest of the service and lunch.
Lunch was prepared by a couple of women who cooked for us each weekday. Extra things were brought in by the congregation. Methodists do like the pot luck. We had potatoes that were smaller than eggs. Some were fresh white potatoes boiled, some were black. These were the freeze dried ones that they prepare for storage. We also had rice, beans and some chicken; and of course big bottles of orange pop and 10 plastic glasses. When someone finished with theirs, someone else got it. God protect us, please.
We recognized some of the potatoes as being like ones lying on the Church field drying out. They were hastily gathered up when the foundation was started. Seven of the team members worked on the foundation and five of us worked with the Bible School. After we finished with the Bible School, we went over and helped move rocks, tie up rebar, and whatever we could do.
After digging for 3/4 of the first day on the foundation, one of the men asked what it would cost to have a back hoe come in. They gasped and said that it would be over 700 B’s…about $100. He gave the money and they had the foundation dug by the next morning. It ended up being about $80 and allowed the team to finish so much more of the work.
Bible school started with about 20 on Monday and ended with about 45 on Friday. Everyone had a good time and they loved the string. We would start with some string things, put them away for later, and have lessons and crafts, then finish with some more strings that went along with the lessons.
Friday, our last day on the Alto Plano, we stopped at noon and ate lunch. Then the people wanted to have a “Thank You” ceremony for us. It was very special. They planned it and had songs…many local songs played on ancient instruments. They were in the traditional Bolivian dress. Pop with the “10” glasses passed around and then there were the “Thank You’s”. They gave a plaque and a couple of shawls, and dressed many of the team up in local dress for pictures.
Then the dancing began. Each grabbed one of us and started to dance. Dancing at 14,000 feet is quite a lot of work. I was exhausted after a very short time, but my partner would not quit. We then did a group circle dance and I was finally able to sneak back to a bench. What good hearted people.
Sarah Bodenstein, a pastor at Chapel Hill in OKC loved the strings and went on a tear to learn everything she could. She is going to offer a six week class at the church for some of the leaders to use in various ways. It was fun to teach her the heart figure and then watch her teach the heart to the youth pastor, Donny, and then see him teach his wife. It just gets passed along.
The next Saturday we went on a bus tour of some of the ruins at Tiwanaku and stopped at Moon Valley, a place with fantastic rock formations. We were near Lake Tittacaca but did not go the rest of the way to see it.
I made several contacts and they want me to come back for a month or two to go to a number of villages on the Alto Plano and also in the jungle region. I would be traveling by myself and need to perfect my Spanish. Maybe that will happen next year.
We stayed in a hotel in La Paz that was like an old Holiday Inn. Nice and clean but not fancy. Food in the restaurants was very good and safe. It was also very inexpensive; a steak dinner with all the trimmings for $6.00. It is a tough life I lead.
We returned on June 29th. Our plane from La Paz went to San Paulo and our seats and luggage were checked for drugs; then on to Miami. Our plane was late leaving Miami and we only had about 15 minutes to get from our gate in Dallas to another terminal. American Airlines had a gate agent there who took us down the outside steps to a bus that took us to the other gate and in the back way. We made it and caught our flight to OKC.
I got home to Lawton about 1:00am on the 30th and had to be back in Norman, OK later in the day for a booking.