My, how big you’ve grown

It has been five years since we last brought our children to Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Everyone and everything has grown so much since then.

Our youngest son is going into third grade. He plays baseball and is really into ships during the colonial era. Our oldest daughter will soon be a teenager in years, though perhaps she reached that milestone emotionally some time ago.

Our two oldest remember their Bolivian family and bits and pieces from our previous trips. The two youngest, though, don’t really. Although they have each been here multiple times, they were very small.

So it was definitely time to return. Plus our niece Abi is going to have her quinceañera while we are here.

I came into this trip with some trepidation. Would the kids enjoy it? Would they connect with their family? Would it turn out to be one giant groan-fest? Life here is different, traveling is hard, and dealing with adolescence is bad enough back in the comfortable environs of home.

The trip

This year we are combining our trips to Bolivia and to Texas. We drove from St. Louis to Houston over the course of two days, going directly to the airport. We left our van in long term parking, and when we return from Bolivia we will drive to San Antonio.

The traveling went well. I had picked two restaurants to eat at during our first day, and both turned out to be closed. The perils of driving through small towns on a Sunday. Nevertheless our accommodations were nice and we even surprised the kids with a visit to the movie theater Sunday night.

We had no problems with our flights. We got through security quickly, stayed hydrated, and slept as well as one can sleep on a plane. I got the usual headache during the high-altitude layover in La Paz, but thankfully I broke my streak of consecutive flights getting sick after leaving Viru Viru.

Drinking mate with Don Hector, Doña Lucila, and Sara


Corina picked us up from the airport and brought us to El Jordán. She is allowing us to stay in an apartment here with three rooms, which is a big blessing. After getting out stuff put away, we grabbed a taxi and headed to Don Hector’s house. Along the way we passed many new condominiums and towers. Santa Cruz continues growing at an astonishing rate.

When we got to Don Hector’s house, we immediately noticed the new front entrance to his property. The last time we visited, they had built a new kitchen for Doña Lucila, replacing her old kiosko. Now there was a new roofed-in porch, with a concrete wall.

We rang the bell at the store, and then sprang out to surprise Don Hector. He hadn’t expected to see us until the next day.

Playing futbol with cousin Cuco and the neighbor Jose Miguel.

We spent some time visiting and letting him show us various improvements, such as a new roof, and a new-to-him car. The kids were fairly bored but they ended up playing with the son of the tenant family and later with their cousin Cuco. Ludi and Josie also made up a game in which they wore their jackets backwards and covered their faces with hoods to pretend to be ninjas. Sara bought fried chicken and we all ate together.

We returned to El Jordan for the evening and Yoli and I went to go get some shawarma from a place on Avenida Alemania. It was pretty tasty. Yoli’s sister Lucy came to visit us afterward, bringing Yessy and Yonatan. Yessy has been studying English at CBA, the same school that Yoli attended so many years before. The girls enjoyed talking with her because they could understand her and be understood. Yessy is nearly 20 years old now. I still remember her as a four year old, eating roasted peanuts from a skillet during my first trip to Bolivia.

Yonatan brought his guitar, and he and Yessy sang a couple songs for us, which was lovely. He kindly let Yoli borrow the guitar so she can practice while we are here.

Yonatan plays the guitar and Yessy tries on her new Darth Vader mask.

We brought Yessy a Darth Vader mask from the U.S. which she had asked for. Apparently the two of them took turns wearing it and gesturing on the bus ride home, probably turning heads along the way.

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