The last two days we have spent almost entirely with family.
Yesterday we went to Yoli’s sister Noemi’s house in order to use her washing machine. We had accumulated a pretty huge load of dirty stuff.
Of course it was a chance for the girls to play with their cousins. More family members showed up over time and before we knew it, we were ordering fried chicken and having a big lunch.
We stayed at Noemi’s house because she was having a baby shower that night. As is typical in Bolivia, it started later than scheduled. There were baby shower games (who can pin all these clothes on the line fastest? who can guess how big Noemi’s belly is?), speeches, songs, and cake. My girls kept pestering me about the cake: “When do we get to eat? When do we get to eat?”
Unfortunately, the wind wasn’t strong yesterday, and our first load of laundry didn’t fully dry. We took home what we could, and Noemi offered to wash the rest of the dirty stuff and let it hang out overnight to dry.
This morning we planned to visit Yoli’s family’s church, Esmirna. It is literally right next door to her father’s house. However, they changed the service structure and times just a couple months before we arrived. And so Yoli thought it still began at 10 a.m., but in fact they now start at 8 a.m. So we got there for the tail end.
The pastor at this church always asks us to come up to the front at the end of the service whenever we come to Bolivia for a visit. He asked each of us to speak our names into the microphone (the girls liked that), then prayed over us. He offered to let us say a little something, but I wasn’t up for it, and Yoli wasn’t either.
We spent a little time with Don Hector drinking mate and watching his cable TV, and then it was time to go back to Noemi’s.
Originally she and her husband Alcides had invited us over for lunch. But then lunch morphed into a picnic at a nearby park.
Bolivian picnics are somewhat bigger in ambition than the typical American picnic. Our menu consisted of beef milanesa (thin fried beef), rice, potatoes, and salad (lettuce, tomatoes).
The problem with an event such as this is the logistics. Most of the food wasn’t ready in time… Then we had to get all the gear together (they packed a big tent, a scooter, pots, pans, etc)… Then we had to take turns being driven to the park in groups in Eliza’s car. All this to say that lunch wasn’t eaten until after 3 p.m.
The park was very nice, the food was good, and the children had fun running wild all over the park. The older ones found a hill with a concrete path and took turns riding their scooter and a plastic car thingy down it at high speeds, narrowly missing various pedestrians and trees. There were plenty of wipeouts (including a nice one by my niece Melany, which Alcides caught on video).
We took a nice group photo with almost all of the family members in it. Yoli’s sister Lucy now lives in a faraway town called San Ignacio, and was in Santa Cruz with her children for only this weekend. So it was good we were able to take that photo while she was with us.
We stayed in the park until around 6:15 p.m. or so, by which time I was quite restless and more than ready to go home. But we had to return to Noemi’s for our laundry. We spent more time visiting and playing. Alcides let me copy a bunch of photos and videos he and I had shot on his camera. And another logistical situation came up when Yoli’s sister offered us a ride home after she dropped her family off at her own house nearby. But — as you might have guessed — it took way longer than we thought.
We got back to El Jordán sometime after 8 p.m., and the girls complained of hunger. I chided them for not finishing their lunches at the picnic (they don’t always do so well with large amounts of potatoes and rice), but ended up going to the Hot Burger to buy a little pizza for them to share. Hot Burger was supercrowded and it took quite a while for my order to be ready.
Once again, a very long day followed by a long night of getting the girls ready for bed.
All in all, we come away from these two days with good memories, but also a strong desire to avoid more day-long activities for a while.
Here are some photos from today’s picnic, taken by Alcides with his video camera: