Thursday was an interesting day. First, the weather has been unusually mild the whole time I’ve been here. There were a few hot days, but overall I have to say the weather has been great. Today was especially mild, and it sprinkled a few times.
Thursday morning, Yoli and I had breakfast together and then I dried off the clothes I hadn’t finished yesterday. After that we were ready for our main activity of the morning: going to the market.
The market was within the first circle (primer anillo). Before we got there, we stopped at a bank to exchange US dollars for bolivianos (Bs). We both traded in $20 (total $40) for about 300 Bs.
The market was very interesting to go through. Some parts of it reminded me of the market in Jerusalem, but I think it was more like the one in Tel Aviv, which was outdoor and had more food. This market had everything, and the food prices were pretty low. Blue seemed to be the color scheme for tarps and sellers’ clothes. Everywhere you went, there was somebody with something to show you. We pretty much limited ourselves to a list of things we needed that we made the night before. Most of it was food to restock the little guest kitchen next to my room at the seminary. We got broccoli, carrots, green beans, potatoes, two boxes of cereal, two packages of bon-bons, oil, dish detergent, Herbal Essence shampoo, a bunch of juice mix powder packets, and two soup packets.
The market was interesting because there were so many people. Of course, we took caution to protect ourselves from potential thieves, but we had no problems. This market didn’t smell like the one we walked past on Wednesday, which was really putrid. But I’m sure that certain parts of it would have flunked my mom’s sanitation inspection. Yoli took great delight in showing me the people who were selling chickens. The chickens were dead and cut open, and some of them still had eggs inside of them. We’ve both agreed that if mom comes here, the market will be off-limits to her. She’d probably lose her mind.
We stuffed all our groceries into my backpack, her purse, and two plastic bags. It wasn’t a problem carrying them around on the street, but it made getting in and out of the bus a real adventure.
After the market, we went to the supermarket to purchase a few other items we didn’t find like sandwich meat (fresh sliced), butter, and cinnamon powder. I did all the shopping in the supermarket while Yoli waited outside with our stuff from the market. I was able to speak with a few workers inside in Spanish as I got my items. The butcher and I were getting along well until he asked me something that I didn’t understand. After repeating it several times, he finally used his knife to indicate a spot on the chicken lunch meat roll. I finally understood he was asking how much I wanted him to cut off and slice.
We also went to a photo developing store to retrieve some photos Yoli had dropped off. After that we went to the post office to buy postcards for me. Not at the post office, mind you, but from one of the many street vendors selling postcards on the sidewalk up and down the street from the post office. I found some I liked and paid for them, and took great delight in catching the vendor’s not giving me enough change. Handling Bolivian money all day made me feel like I had accomplished something new.
While we were there within the first circle, we began hearing loud bangs. It wasn’t anything new at first, I’ve heard firecrackers go off in different parts of the city several times since I got here. But these kept going and going. Then we heard chants and realized there was some sort of protest march happening in the Plaza 24 de Septiembre. In my book on Bolivia, I had read that there were frequently protests in a similar plaza in the city La Paz, so this was like the book coming to life. It sounded like they were residents of a particular neighborhood in the city who were protesting appropriation of their land. But we couldn’t make it all out and we had to get back for lunch.
For lunch we had leftover soup and crackers. After that I had a short siesta then went to work for 4 hours. I made some good progress on the website, finishing a transcription of a brochure, fixing some code, and working with Yoli to determine how and where we would get all the content we needed from.
Yoli wrote some notes for me to give to two professors who could supply information we could use on the website. We dropped those notes off and then went back to the guest kitchen to make dinner.
Before dinner we stopped off at Arnold Wry’s house (which is within the seminary/GMU compound) to ask about breakfast. He had invited me to eat breakfast with he and his wife sometime. So I’ll be doing that tomorrow. He is a professor at the seminary, and his brother Glennie is as well. Glennie has additional administrative responsibilities there and is a big-time choleric. But he’s been nice to me, and I haven’t had any problems with him. I haven’t talked as much with Arnold, so breakfast will be a nice chance to learn more about him.
My plan for dinner was to make grilled chicken-and-cheese sandwiches with french fries and broccoli. Overall it worked out, but the sandiwches didn’t melt as much as I wanted. The stove didn’t let me turn the temp down far enough like our stove at home. But it still turned out nice. The homemade french fries were good, too. Yoli cut them to just the right size.
Looking back, something I noticed Thursday was that I saw more beggars Thursday than I think I have any other day. In particular there was a woman begging right next to me as I was paying for my postcards. I decided not to give anything to her because I wasn’t sure what was smart. In the U.S. when I was working in St. Louis City, my policy was generally to give when asked, since that’s what Jesus commanded us to do. But I don’t know if that’s the best thing in every situation. I asked Yoli what her advice was, and she said that she prefers to find the poor who are trying to sell something. Then you are rewarding them for trying to be more self-sufficient. I don’t know that there’s a one-size-fits-all answer to this particular problem, but one thing is clear from scripture: we should help those in need.