Here are Jessalyn's thoughts and reflections on her time in Bolivia and Peru!
Some quality sister time was much needed after four months of separation! Jessalyn's trip was cut short due to a flight cancellation, but she was still able to come down for a week. We had so much fun relaxing, exploring, and experiencing new things together.
We had originally planned a trip to the city of La Paz and then on to the town of Copacabana to see Lake Titicaca, but because of the delay in Jessalyn’s trip we had to change our plans. We settled on a day trip to the city to sight see.
The city of La Paz has over 2 million people, plus the 0.6 million people living in El Alto (a town up in the mountains overlooking La Paz). La Paz is over 3500 meters above sea level, and El Alto is even taller at over 4000 meters. It also holds the record for having the highest commercial airport. You can definitely feel the extreme change of altitude when you start walking. We had to sit down every little bit because you get short of breath and develop a headache. Thankfully, neither one of us developed altitude sickness.
La Paz has three lines of cable cars (the green line, the red line, and the yellow line) connecting El Alto to the lower parts of La Paz. Many people think of the cable cars as a tourist attraction, but 1.2 million people living in La Paz and El Alto use the cable cars as a means of transportation across the mountainous terrain. Jessalyn and I were able to take a guided tour of all three lines. It was a really neat experience to be above all of the houses and to look out at the beautiful snow-capped Andes Mountains. While on our tour, we learned several neat facts about La Paz.
Bolivia has two capitals, La Paz and Sucre. Sucre is the official capital, but the government is housed and meets in La Paz. Apparently, there has been talk about choosing a new city in between La Paz and Sucre or making just one city the capital, but there is much disapproval from the people.
We were told by our tour guide that about 98% of people living in La Paz and El Alto are Catholic, but they are also very superstitious. Up in El Alto, there is a Catholic church on one side of the road, while witch offices line the other side of the road. Just to be on the safe side, many of the people will go to Mass and then cross the road to have a witch perform a ceremony for whatever the reason. The people also believe that when they get scared that their souls leave their bodies. If they don’t call their souls back, then it wanders and the person is susceptible to getting sick.
The superstitions continue as we wandered through the Witches’ Market in the center of town. We saw all sorts of things including Incan carvings, herbs, soap carvings, coca leaves, and dried baby llama fetuses. The llama fetuses are placed in the foundations of a new house to provide protection for the family.
In order to become a witch, you have to be struck by lightning and live to tell about it. A female witch can pass her abilities on to her oldest daughter, but a male witch must be struck with lightning. When a person wants to visit a witch, they don’t have a distinct person who they go see, but rather let their soul guide them to the right witch.
Even though we only had one day in La Paz, Jessalyn and I were both very glad we ventured out of Santa Cruz. The snow-capped mountains were a beautiful change in scenery and the culture of the city was very different from that of Santa Cruz. This is hopefully just the first adventure outside of Santa Cruz before I head home in June!
A trip to Santa Cruz wouldn't have been complete if we hadn't gone to the Plaza Principal to do some shopping and sight seeing. We had so much fun the first time that we had to go a second time before Jessalyn had to return home. The Christmas lights were still up too, which was an added bonus!
What would quality sister time be without some time spent in the kitchen?! After going to the fruit and vegetable market, we had a variety of resources to make some awesome food. We enjoyed making homemade tortillas and salsa to go along with our chicken fajitas one night.
Jess and I were also able to go to the mall with some friends from church. Once we arrived and walked up to the third floor where the food court and movie theater are located, the guys convinced us to go see a movie...in Spanish! We didn't understand all of the jokes, but we had a lot of fun!
Some of our other random adventures included walking on the overpass bridge to get to the Kilometer 6 fruit and vegetable market, eating (lots) of salteñas, and trudging through the mud to get home from school. (That's what happens when someone forgets her boots back home!) We also were able to get manicures and pedicures one afternoon, the best part being that it only cost $11!
I loved having my sister come down to visit and to share this experience with me! It was difficult to say goodbye, but it was a cool way to celebrate my halfway mark of my time here in Bolivia. I have been exposed to so many different things in the five months that I have lived in Santa Cruz, and I can't wait to see what awesome adventures lie ahead. Here's to the next five months!
Dad's Adventures in Bolivia
Dad and I have had a great time exploring Santa Cruz and celebrating Christmas together. I am so thankful that he was able to come down and share my Bolivian life with me.
My students loved playing basketball with my dad! On the last day of school before break, the whole class wanted to play basketball. So we split the class up into two teams, and we played for forty minutes! Dad and I had a lot of fun coaching the kids and playing with them. My students asked when dad was coming back so we could do it again!
Dad took a trip out to the campo area of this region, where there are lots of big ranches and farms. The Evangelical Christian University is developing one thousand acres into a cattle ranch for investment and educational purposes. Jim Herriman, the man heading it up, is a college acquaintance of my dad's. They are building fences and preparing to plant some fields in various types of grasses. Dad said he could spend a lot of time out there. Jim needs to build a headquarters building, a corral, literally kilometers of five-wire cattle fence, an irrigation system, plus get the pastures ready for planting. He is trying to have cattle on the ranch by next June.
Dad enjoyed sharing some of Bolivia's cultural foods! He had a cheese empanada, a salteña, and pacumuto. We had to make a stop at Papa John's so he would know it tastes the same as back home!
Dad and I were able to go see "Star Wars: El Despertar de la Fuerza" in theaters! Dad holds the record of seeing all seven Star Wars movies in theaters, and I have seen the last four now in theaters. The movie was in English, with Spanish subtitles. We loved it and it was great to keep the tradition going!
We ventured on over to the zoo so dad could see some of the animals from South America. We had a lot of fun in the bird aviary checking out the toucans and macaws. Kristin went with us and we had to check out the big slide!
After the zoo, we went to the Central Plaza to do some shopping and to see the Christmas lights. The Catholic Church was open so we climbed the bell tower. It was quite windy up at the top lookout, but the view was beautiful. When we got up to clock tower, we arrived just in time to hear the bells go off. It was very loud! Seeing the Christmas decorations and the lights was a perfect way to end the day!
I took dad to Guembe, which is a resort that has a butterfly garden and giant bird aviary. We saw some beautiful butterflies and more colorful birds. Dad said it felt like walking into the Jurassic Park pterodactyl aviary when we went into the bird enclosure. It was fun to take it all in again, but this time from dad's perspective. While he was checking out one of the little parrots, the parrot also got curious and would have flown right into dad if he wouldn't have ducked. We got a good laugh out of it!
Our final adventure took us up to the mountains in Samaipata. It was a perfect day to hike out to the waterfalls and to see El Fuerte, the Incan fort. I couldn't have asked for a better day with my dad!
I am so thankful for the time dad and I were able to spend together here in Bolivia! I loved being his tour guide and sharing this experience with him. This is definitely going to be a Christmas to remember!
Merry Christmas from Bolivia!
Merry Christmas from Bolivia from Dad and me! May you have a blessed day celebrating Christ's birth with your family and friends!
A traditional Bolivian Christmas is actually celebrated on December 24th. An immediate family celebrates together with a meal and then waits until midnight to open their gifts. They also wait to place baby Jesus in their nativity scenes at midnight. Afterwards, they finish their celebrating with fireworks that last throughout the night. On Christmas Day, Bolivians will then go and visit other family and friends.
Merry Christmas from the Fifth Grade!
Last Friday, our class celebrated Christmas together! After their weekly spelling and Bible test (yes...I still made my students take a test on the last day of school before break), the party began! Dad was with us for the first couple of hours, so the whole class went down to the basketball court and played for forty minutes. It was so much fun coaching with dad and playing with my students. Afterwards, we brought out all of the food and started watching the movie "Holes". (We read the novel together as a class.)
After the movie, we played some games in the classroom. First, we did a "White Elephant" exchange using chocolate bars. Each student who participated walked away with a chocolate bar. Then we did the cookie challenge, where each student had to get a cookie from their forehead down to their mouth without using their hands. Many of them had never played either of these games.
At the end of the day, I gave each of the students a gift. On the outside of each bag, I attached a homework pass. My students had never seen a homework pass before, and they were quite hesitant about it at first. (I think the word "homework" attached to their gift scared them a bit!) After I explained the concept, they were very excited about the possibility of getting out of an assignment. Each student also received new Crayola markers and crayons, pencils, a pink eraser, a glue stick, and candies. Several of my students are very good artists, so the coloring supplies went over very well. I received many hugs from my students afterwards! This will remain one of my most special Christmases for a long time!
Elementary Christmas Program
The chapel was packed with parents and family members as they all came out to support their students Thursday evening for the Learning Center's annual Christmas program. The students all worked hard preparing for their parts in the programs and did a wonderful job sharing about the true meaning of Christmas. I was one proud teacher as I stood on the side watching my fifth graders!
Thank you for all of your prayers for safe travels for my dad! He arrived late last night after a LONG day of traveling and even made it through customs without any troubles. A hug from dad never felt so good!
Today, he was able to go to school with me to meet all of my students! They were so excited to meet him. My students and I had impromptu geography lessons throughout the day as we tracked his flights together on Tuesday to see what country he was flying over.
Dad also was able to attend prayer meeting with me to meet all of the WGM missionaries. We had a Christmas gathering, complete with Christmas carols and reading of the Christmas story, and it was topped off with singing "Silent Night" with candles. It is getting a little closer to feeling more like Christmas. I had so much fun getting to share my Bolivian life with him today! Can't wait for more adventures!
Thursday evening, the elementary students have their Christmas Program. They have been practicing hard this week to put the finishing touches on the show. Pictures to come!
I have been attending church at "Iglesia Universitaria", which is the church at the Bolivian Evangelical University. The University was started by a missionary from WGM. Everything is in Spanish, including the songs, announcements, and sermon. There is even a dance team and a team of girls who dance with tambourines. It is quite the challenge to keep up with everything that is happening during the service, but it has allowed me to meet people my age, practice my Spanish, and experience more of the Bolivian culture. My favorite part of service is during the singing. Many of the songs that we sing are songs that would be recognized back home, the only difference is that we sing them in Spanish here. We have even sung "Creemos", which is the song "We Believe". I look forward to going to church each Sunday. The passion that the people display when they worship is contagious.
Every year, many of the churches here in Bolivia celebrate their founding anniversary. Last weekend was the anniversary weekend at Iglesia Universitaria. The church was decorated beautifully and all of the worship leaders were dressed in their finest. We had the privilege of having a pastor and his wife come from Colombia to share with the congregation.
The last couple of weeks have been busy in the fifth grade classroom! One of our science units was about life cycles, so we planted bean seeds so we could watch the bean seed life cycle. We planted the bean seeds in a cup with only moist cotton to get them started. In just a few days, almost all of our beans sprouted and a few really took off.
This past week, we wrapped up our science unit on cells. The students had to create a 3D model of either a plant or an animal cell. The students were really creative! There was a variety of materials used, including legos, playdough, styrofoam, candy, and cake! We had a "cell-ebration" where we invited the other elementary classes over to look at our cells. I was very impressed with their projects!
Happy Thanksgiving! Although Thanksgiving is not a national holiday in Bolivia, we were blessed with two days off from school to celebrate with our missionary families and friends. We all pitched in and created a wonderful Thanksgiving feast, complete with all of the traditional fixings. We were even able to watch some of the Detroit Lions game! After lunch, we gathered around the piano and sang some Thanksgiving and Christmas hymns, and we also prayed together before going our separate ways.
It was great to have an “American” Thanksgiving, but today, I am reminded of and so very thankful for the hope and reassurance I have because of my faith in Jesus Christ. I am also thankful for the opportunity to serve in Bolivia and to shine the love of Jesus in my classroom. Lastly, I am thankful for YOU, my prayer, support, and financial partners. Without you, I would not have been able to have the privilege of teaching and serving in Bolivia.
I pray you have had a wonderful day celebrating with your family and friends!