Lights out!

Alcides, Aby, Noemi at Aby’s quinceañera

A quinceañera can be a major production. This year it was Aby’s turn, the daughter of Noemi and Alcides. We had swept and mopped, and later set up the tables and chairs.

Then came my favorite part of any special event: forcing my kids to shower and wear dress clothes.

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Singing, catching, praying

View of the church service at iglesia Esmirna.

It was hard to wake up Sunday after the late quinceañera. But church is important, and I want our kids to have a different experience of church than what they get back home.

Yoli’s old church, Esmirna, is right next door to her dad’s house. It’s a small neighborhood church full of people Yoli has known since she was young. Though I don’t really know any of them, I recognize many, and I know some names.

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Zegarra’s Factory

Also spotted on our walk home from the book fair: Zegarra’s Factory, a boxing gym that shares the name of Yoli’s family. We stopped for a few minutes to watch a couple guys sparring inside

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.

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Anita’s gourmet

Anita’s Gourmet

I didn’t realize my mom had opened up shop down here!

(A nice-looking bakery we passed on the way home from the Feria Internacional del Libro de Santa Cruz)

Sublime picnic

We had an all-day picnic today at Corina and Marco’s farm near Urubó. It’s in the same vicinity as the Biocentro Guembe that we visited two years ago, but much further out from civilization.

The farm was just beautiful with an amazing view. They have been working for two years to clear it of trees, etc. Now they have horses, cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, dogs, cats, a rhea (ostrich), and a monkey. They are growing potatoes, yucca, tomatoes, lemons, herbs, and probably other things I can’t remember. Not to mention the huge pavilion, an adobe oven, and a sand volleyball court.

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El Jordan’s workshop for boys

The boys all come to El Jordán after school to get help with their school work.
The boys all come to El Jordán after school to get help with their school work.

For many years we have supported El Jordán, which calls itself “a crossing ground for those who desire to change and find freedom from the daily struggles of life on the streets.”

These struggles include drug addiction, delinquency, abandonment, and abuse.

Initially the ministry reached out primarily to “street moms” and their children in Santa Cruz. These women could come to El Jordán, take classes in practical skills like baking or sewing, and get medical and dental care for themselves and their children.

In recent years Corina and Marco have added a center which focuses on boys from ages 12-16. Until this trip, Yoli and I had not been able to see this boys’ ministry. But Monday, Marco took us out there.

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Revisiting Cotoca, Paila, and old memories

After leaving the clinic with Roberto and Doris, we immediately caught a series of taxis to go to Cotoca.

This is my second time visiting Cotoca. We last visited in 2008. Doris took us to her favorite place to eat breakfast. Yoli and I had already eaten some bread at the ProSalud clinic, but we enjoyed a cafecito with an arepa. Yoli makes these at home now, and they are among my favorite Bolivian things.

We walked around the plaza for a long time talking. Roberto and I walked over to the church, which is now sporting new colors. In 2008, it was white and blue. Now it is white with tan and dark red. Roberto said this was to make the church conform more closely with other Chiquitano missions in the area. Makes sense to me, but I still think it looked nicer with blue.

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