So a busload of Mennonites walks into a Mexican restaurant and …

You know you’re in Bolivia when you’re walking by a Mexican restaurant in the heart of the city with loud pop-rock blaring and a ton of Mennonites in their traditional garb are getting off a bus to go eat inside. We saw that as we walked on our way to a nice restaurant called Los Lomitos. Yoli has told me before that Mennonites love Mexican food, and it’s true… almost every time we walk by a Mexican restaurant, there’s at least one inside.

For a norteamericano this is just one of many surprising realities of Bolivia that seem funny and captivating.

Earlier in the day we had invited Yoli’s family for a birthday celebration slash goodbye party. We invited everyone but expected some wouldn’t make it. But everyone did — with ALL their kids.

Yoli had tried to talk her sisters into making sandwiches or pizza, which would have been easier and less messy. But they wouldn’t have any of that … they wanted to eat beef ribs with rice and potatoes and salad.

They arrived over the course of an hour or so, and before we knew it, the whole place was packed. We had at least 20 family members. Plus another family that was staying in the home (7) and the housekeepers (3) made for a grand total of 30 people.

It was a Bolivian family affair at its boisterous best. There was loud conversation, kids running and screaming and playing and upsetting one another, food cooking, and people scooting to and fro with plates of food or piles of photos.

There wasn’t enough table space for everyone, so we had to eat in rounds. And since it was a birthday party, we had a nice loud rendition of “cumpleaños feliz.”

I got lots of stuff on tape, so hopefully we can make a nice video from it.

Thankfully there were no family feuds and everyone seemed to leave satisfied. And, in true Bolivian fashion, folks stuck around about twice as long as we expected them to. A planned two-hour event stretched past four hours.

There was only one casualty — a baby rattle belonging to one of the other families. I consider myself blessed. With all the kids running around, the damage could have been a LOT worse.

After saying goodbye to the family, I breathed a sigh of relief. For me, this marked the end of intense concentration on Spanish. My Spanish improves each time I come down, but I still have to work hard to understand, and it really is taxing. It felt good knowing I could relax and stick to mostly English for the rest of the trip. But at the same time, it’s sad that we won’t see any of the family until next year.

Yoli and I did a lot more walking, some of it errands. We went back to El Jordan and watched as construction continued. I am still amazed by the new building. It’s four stories tall and when it’s finished, a lot of cool stuff is going to happen there.

We finished the evening at the aforementioned Los Lomitos. We ate “milaneza de pechuga de totaqui,” essentially breaded croquets of a wild bird. It was pretty good. We also had an appetizer of chorizo (wonderful sausage) and had a nice amaretto ice cream covered in crushed almonds for dessert.

All that’s left is to take some showers tonight to cool down from the muggy heat, finish packing, and get some sleep. Tomorrow we’re flying all day to get back home.