Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas and other randomness

Well, we’re back in La Paz again. This is our third time here since arriving, this time to participate in a concert for the Casa de Esperanza, the orphanage next door to our home, and also to buy some Christmas presents and food. Nick and I are doing six songs with some other adults for the concert. Then there is a cute group called the MK 7s, I think. There are 8 of them this year. They are some of the missionary kids from Caranavi. The three older Kraft kids are involved with that group. Then there is also a group of about five kids from the Casa de Esperanza. The point is to spread awareness about the Casa de Esperanza and also raise some money for them. All 60 of the kids at the one next to us (there is also a home for teenagers much closer to the town with 26 teens) could use some new clothes and some more meat in their diet. Comparing my life to theirs, I feel so blessed. I don’t have a lot of clothes here compared to what I am used to having, but I really have more than I need. I don’t have all the food I am used to, but we have more than we need and I think I am even gaining weight being here! I have a job that I enjoy and that more than covers my living expenses. The list goes on and on.

I am staying in La Paz with my usual family, Mauricio’s mom and sister. His other sister comes around a lot as well. I am also staying with my friend Keilan from the CEC (where we live). She is turning 22 today and is from a town between Caranavi and La Paz. She lives at the CEC and helps out with all of the goings on there. She is also singing with us in the concert. It is a blessing to be with them, as I don’t have my English crutch, the Krafts, and I have to try to speak independently or sometimes use charades and pointing.

Teaching is going well. I am enjoying it, and the kids are doing well. They have improved a lot, as I think usually happens as students figure out what the teacher wants. The one on one thing is good since I can let them go faster if they can or we can review things if they need to.

Our Christmas weather looks to be hot, humid, and rainy, at least if it follows the pattern of most days here. It rains mostly at night, though sometimes in the day as well. The rain in Caranavi is cool. The clouds come and surround us, sometimes we can hear the rain hitting the hill across from our house before it comes here, and it doesn’t usually rain for too long except sometimes it seems to rain all night long. The rain always brings cool clouds. It is rainy season from about mid December to mid February, I hear. That is also the summertime. I don’t know how much it cools down when it isn’t summer. I don’t really think it will be too much cooler.

Here in La Paz the weather is much more Christmas-like (of course, by my northern United States standards, which is probably nothing like in Bethlehem). It hailed yesterday and covered the ground with little ice balls that looked like snow. Even though it is summer here, it is still pretty crisp-my ideal winter weather (no, I am not sure I want to visit when it is actually winter here! I bet it’s freezing!)

We have a lot of banana trees on our property, and I am excited for them to start producing. When we were here the first time, our host always told us there were 8 kinds of bananas here in Caranavi. I regularly notice the red ones and the baby yellow ones in town, and I hope to eat more of those. I think I will be sick of bananas, though, since we will probably get a lot all at once. It will be nice to have them around at first, anyway! Mangos and mangas are in season now, and yes, they are different. Apparently mangas don’t have all the hair that mangos have, which make them impossible for me to enjoy. I do like mango juice, though. It is fairly easy to come across pineapples (we have four growing right outside our door!) and oranges as well, and though apples and grapes are around, they are much more expensive since they’re not native.

Speaking of food, I am doing really well with the foods here, though most of what I eat is made here at home and is a mix of American and Bolivian foods. We made 6 homemade pizzas the other night. That was a lot of fun and a very enjoyable dinner with our company. I have gotten sick, but only twice, and only one of those was definitely from food. I treated myself like a Bolivian and ate some stuff I guess I shouldn’t have. I can’t avoid everything!

We usually have all of our windows open (I have NEVER closed mine, but the Krafts have). That leads to a very loud house. In the morning there are bird parties outside my window and at night there are the sounds of summer bugs and crickets mixed with tropical bird sounds. One bird has a sound like a drop of water falling into a pool of water in a cave. I like that one the best.

We have a dog. Her name is Chachi, but we are halfheartedly trying to change it to Chacha because there is someone we know named Chachi and I guess it is a bad thing to have a dog with the same name. We also found a baby bird smaller than a chicken egg. It didn’t have feathers yet, just a tiny bit of hair-like stuff. We tried to take care of it, but it didn’t make it. We also have more bugs than I have ever seen in my life. Once I had a worm in my bed. I check every night now.

I do miss home. I miss my family right now. It is my first Christmas away from home. I’m sad that my parents got to go to Florida to visit my brother and sister-in-law without me, and I miss seeing my other brother and sister-in-law as well. I miss hearing from people regularly, being a part of my friends’ lives. It is fun to be a part of something new, as always, and I am enjoying my new friends. I can’t wait to be back in touch with people more regularly though! If you feel like sending a letter, I can give you my address on request!

I hope you have a great Christmas. Eat some chocolate chip cookies for me! But not too many, I don’t want to get sick ;-)

La Casa de Dios

There is a group up front playing music. Some are there every Sunday, and some change week by week. There is the lady who changes the transparencies so that we all know the words, even if we don’t all know Spanish yet. There is a large group of children on my left. They are from the Casa de Esperanza, and they fill an entire third of the church. I can hear their voices over all the others. Every Sunday I listen to the praises of orphans that God has placed in the hands of a Christian community. There is a small group of people who have the more traditional Bolivian look. They have been in church for hours, attending the Aymara service and staying through the Spanish service. There are young families. They fill in the front and back around those from the Aymara service. There is a short lady full of praises. She sometimes has a special message to share with the congregation, or sometimes takes out her special handkerchief and waves it while dancing or jumping along with the music. Four feet tall, long braids, red skirt, handkerchief flying, full of praises: beautiful. There are the green hills in the distance and the palm trees next door, both peeking in at us through the openings in the walls. God’s creation joins us in praising. This is God’s house. It is good to be at home with the Lord in his house.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Somewhere in the Middle

Somewhere between the hot and the cold
Somewhere between the new and the old
Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be
Somewhere in the middle, you’ll find me
Somewhere between the wrong and the right
Somewhere between the darkness and the light
Somewhere between who I was and who you’re making me
Somewhere in the middle, you’ll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control?
Fearless warriors in the picket fence
Reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences: the God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for his, or are we caught in the middle?

Somewhere between my heart and my hands
Somewhere between my faith and my plans
Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves
Somewhere between a whisper and a roar
Somewhere between the altar and the door
Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more
Somewhere in the middle you’ll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control?
Fearless warriors in the picket fence
Reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences: the God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for his, or are we caught in the middle?

Lord I feel you in this place and I know you’re by my side loving me even on these nights when I’m caught in the middle.

Somewhere in the Middle
Casting Crowns
The Altar and the Door

Thank you Casting Crowns. My sentiments exactly.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I'm in the plaza surrounded by people. I have been here before, surrounded by my Kindred teammates. Though the location is the same, so much has changed. I look around and after only one month here I know so many people, and I have so much more to learn. There are the singers from the church, who are going to sing here tonight. I recognize the pastors, and over there are some of our neighbors. There are the two visiting from Cochabomba and there is my dear friend from Coroico. There is the group that has been here all week from La Paz, and there is their teacher from Brazil. There's my favorite plaza baby (meaning I see her in the plaza all the time). She and her parents are from Argentina. And there are my friends that have been helping us out all week. They live in town, but have been staying with us. I feel so blessed. I am surrounded by friends and praise music. Awesome. And yes, I do know a lot of their names; I didn't include them on purpose.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Finding Neverland

Sometimes I forget where I am and what I am doing. It is starting to feel normal here, and I sometimes go through my days looking at the beautiful scenery without really appreciating it. It’s beautiful here. Breath-taking. How do I look without seeing? Sometimes I get so involved in the teaching or washing the dishes or watching a movie that I forget the blessing of being in Bolivia. I’m here. Finally. It has already been five weeks. It has only been five weeks. Today we went to the river for some baptisms and I got to see some parts of Caranavi that I have never seen. As I walked back toward the plaza, I found some orange juice made right there, fresh-squeezed. I bought some and kept walking, sipping my orange juice in a little bag. Then I found a big office/school supply store. As I looked around (that is my favourite kind of store), the owner asked me if I could help him read his error messages (in English) on his copier. Sure. I’ll read them, but I can’t even figure out copiers in the United States, so good luck sir.

We had an hour of praise songs and almost another hour of announcements and special presentations at church. I enjoy going to our church, and I love seeing the Casa de Esperanza kids (our neighbors) waving me over to sit with them. Sometimes it is hard not to be a distraction to them, though, as they want to look at the English in my Bible, my watch, my water bottle…hopefully someday we will treasure what we have in common more than those things that set me apart. I am preparing to sing in a concert in La Paz with a few of the Casa de Esperanza kids. I think there are five of them that are going. They sing for us in church quite often, and their voices are so beautiful. The two boys I have heard don’t have the high little boy sound I expect, they have low and seemingly hoarse voices. So beautiful. I will be singing a couple songs with a group of Casa supporters, people from the church. The kids have been working with Freddy, our friend from La Paz who has lived here for two years and has a wonderful gift for teaching music, as well as a unique talent for playing instruments. He is a great guitar player, he teaches voice, guitar, and bass, at least, and on Friday night I saw him with an accordion.

It is summer time here, and the school that the Kraft kids used to go to had its graduation on Friday night. It was cool to see the comparison. In many ways, the graduations are the same in the United States as here. It was great to see the friends I have made here and to meet some people who were so excited to support the graduates.

I live at a camp of sorts. It serves as a retreat center, a camp, a base for service projects, a discipleship training center, and a house of prayer. It is a great place to live. We have some kids here from La Paz this week. They attend the La Paz version of the school that had its graduation; they are sister schools. They are here for a week of service, togetherness, and time with God. They are wonderful students and are graduating in just a few days, but not before they have a retreat together at a hotel after this week of service. They have been great with the Casa de Esperanza kids, and offer a nice change of pace from the quiet CEC we usually live in. The students of the actual CEC will arrive in less than a month! (The CEC has a 10 week program during the summer months and another shorter course in the winter break of June and July) will I am excited to get to know the next students as well. Things are a bit different when other people live with us, and I must admit I think it brings a lot of fun adventure and great opportunity to get to know people and speak in Spanish with them.

We have many blessings, don’t we? Whether they be as simple as a piece of yummy, juicy fruit, or as complex as a family member, let’s appreciate. And remember: a washing machine is a beautiful gift. Wash your clothes once by hand, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. And don’t get me started on the joys of dryers. Especially during the rainy season! Another beautiful thing here: the fruit is really cheap, so it is often cheaper to make natural fruit juices than to buy a processed and bottled Tampico sorts of drinks, though I also appreciate Tampico. I also noticed in our kitchen last night Cola flavoured kool-aid. Hmmm, I can’t wait to try that one!