Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Un Mes en Europa

Yikes.  It has been a month in this place.  Some days it feels like it's been forever.  Others it seems like I just got here and I'm still adjusting.  Yet my time here is almost a third of the way over!!  Even worse is that this is my first blog post since being in Spain..oops! Sorry to all of those I promised that I would be blogging often..so far I have not kept to my promise! (Now I will definitely be trying harder to stick to my promise!)  Once a couple weeks go by, so much happens that it's just so hard to know what to say! 

Well today I decided it is time to share some of my story since being Europe..what I've been up to, what I've been feeling, some of the things I've seeing and experiencing here in Spain!  I will try to recap the last month as best and efficiently as possible!

I have been living in Seville now for over a month.  It is my new home (and yes, it still feels new even though I've been here now for about 5-6 weeks.  This is crazy to me because I was in Bolivia for 7 weeks about and my time here feels like 1/10 of the time I had in Bolivia, yet Bolivia felt like it went so fast as well!  Time just really flies and it is hard to keep track of it.  I have been living with a lovely older lady who we call our "senora" here in Spain with my roommate Michelle.  I absolutely adore Rosa.  She is sweet, funny, and she is constantly doting on us and wanting us to feel completely at home in her tiny apartment.  And when I say tiny, I mean tiny.  I have never lived so "on top of" other people in my life.  It has taken some getting used to--living with a completely new roommate, in a tiny room with a bunk bed, and sharing one tiny bathroom among the three of us.  I will definitely be happy to have my own space again when I'm back in the States!  It has really been going well though, and I'm thankful for that.  Rosa is also an amazing cook, which is great!

The second weekend we were here, a large group of us went to the beach in Cadiz.  It was a couple hour bus ride, and it was well worth the trip!  I laid on the beach for 8 hours, got fried (& didn't even care!), and had a relaxing time.  It was great after our first full week of classes.  Classes have been going great.  I have class from 9:55 until 1:30 with one break in the middle.  I only have three classes daily, which is nice.  I made it through my first round of tests, which went well also!  School feels a little bit like I'm back in high school-- going to the same classes every day, etc.  But I generally enjoy my classes and my professors especially.

We have taken two school excursions as well since I've been here!  One of the first weeks we went to Cordoba!  We had a day trip where we were able to visit the Mezquita which we had been learning about in my art class.  We also were able to have free time and walk around the city and across a bridge that was built in the 1st century!  The history here is amazing, and I love it!  

This past weekend we had our only school excursion that was overnight.  We took a bus to Toledo, which was about 6 hours away.  We stopped on the way and saw the windmills from the famous Spanish literature piece "Don Quijote".  Some people were quite thrilled with the windmills!- me: "I've seen a few windmills in my day.." ha We stayed overnight in a hotel, which was amazing!  We were all thrilled to be sleeping in comfy hotel beds and to be able to take an actual shower with a showerhead attached to the wall! (Yep, our showerhead at our house is not attached to the wall)  Oh the little things.  In Toledo we walked around the tiny, winding streets and explored the many shops.  Toledo is known for all of the swords and weapons they make (Toledo was actually where all of the swords and things were made for Lord of the Rings!).  As a class we visited the large cathedral there and spent a lot of time admiring the architecture we have learned about in art class.  We also took in an amazing view of the city from a spot outside of the city.  

From Toledo, a group of me and 7 other friends traveled by train to Madrid.  We spent the weekend in Madrid at a hostel.  It was my first train and first hostel experience, and it was a blast!  We took in tons of amazing art at the Reina Sofia and El Prado art museums.  Paintings by Picasso, Dali, and El Greco we really enjoyed.  It was cool to see some famous works of art that for many years I've only heard about in school or in books actually in person!  We also visited the Palacio Real (a royal palace) where kings and queens of Spain have lived.  It was very ornately decorated, and I really enjoyed it!  We had a great time exploring the city.  When the rest of the group went to the soccer game, I was able to wander around the large Buen Retiro Park and some of the city near our hostel some more.

This past month has been crazy.  I have gone through a large range of emotions.  I have had really good weeks, and I have had some not so good weeks.  Overall, I'm having a great time, enjoying this city, and the experience.  But also overall things have been hard (harder than expected).  Some things haven't been so easy for me--finding my place, making new friends, etc. and that can make the experience difficult, confusing, and overwhelming.  I have had some definite days of homesickness in the past here.  That was very hard as I have never dealt with that before-- I was never homesick in Bolivia!  It made me miss Iowa (and even Bolivia a lot), and it has made the experience a difficult and overwhelming one in many ways.  But I'm trying to trust in my God who knows why I'm here and that I'm meant to be here, and I'm learning to take it day by day and find the good in each day.  I have been working to make the absolute best out of my experience.  Pray that I can continue to do just that each and every day!  More updates to come.. I promise. :)

Adios y vaya con Dios,

Monday, September 1, 2014

Los primeros dias en ESPANA!!!

Am I really in Spain??  Is Seville my home for the next 4 months?!  Is this for real???
Those are just a few of the questions I have been asking myself in the last few days.  I simply cannot believe I am here.   I don't know if that is a good thing or not yet! I am just waiting for the day when I am like--oh crap!! what did I get myself into?! I can't go home! I can't see my family!...-- but for now I am really enjoying & trying to take in all of the new sights, smells, and tastes of this beautiful city that I now am able to call home!  Seville is GORGEOUS.  That makes the transition all the more easier!  I really didn't want to leave home.  The night before leaving, I was a straight-up mess.  The last few weeks at home I wasn't excited AT ALL to come to this place.  I would've packed up in 2 hours and got on a plane and been fine going to Bolivia, that's for sure!! But another new place?  A place so far away from home where I know next to no one again and have to stay for 4 months?  No way.  Not excited at all.  But I did really quite well the day I had to leave!  I was very impressed with myself if you ask me. ;)  Barely any tears were shed the day of my departure! (which wasn't the case the night before! ha)

But I am here!  It is always quite the transition when you are in such a new place.  It's a completely different thing trying to get accustomed to a place where you know you are staying for quite a while & it needs to start feeling like home.  It takes time.  And I'm totally aware of that.  I've been telling myself to just continue to be patient & rest in the fact that this is where I need to be right now..

All of our flights and everything went so smoothly, which was seriously so nice.  I was absolutely exhausted upon our arrival, though.  We lost hours and I was completely lost as to what day it was when we arrived.  The jet lag really wasn't as bad as I expected, though!  I guess the daily, short siestas help with that. :) As soon as we got here, Leslie, the program director, and Jenna, the Student Ministries Coordinator, met us at the airport.  From there we got on a bus and drove through the city to our individual homes where our Senoras met us.  

Me and my roommate (Michelle) live with a sweet older lady named Rosa.  She is just the greatest.  I have so enjoyed living with her so far!  She is an amazing cook, which has been such a blessing!  She is retired, so she spends her day pretty much taking care of us!  Anything we need, she helps us with & she is always so willing and wanting to make us comfortable in her home.  We live in a tiny apartment  (I mean TINY).  Me and my roomie share a small room, and then all three of us share a bathroom.  There is a small living area where there is a couch, tv, and our dining room table & then there is a seriously tiny kitchen that can really only fit like one person at a time!  It is definitely hard to get used to being in such confined space!  We live on the second floor of an apartment building.  Unfortunately, our home is the farthest from the school, so it is a good half hour walk to school.  It has been in the 100 degree range all week-- it is HOT HOT HOT here.  I was not expecting that all!  There's no air conditioning, so we have fans on just to try to keep us cool!  I don't think I have ever sweated so much.  Hopefully it will cool down soon, so it's more comfortable & we are WANTING to be out and about doing things! 

The first few days we had a lot of orientation stuff--getting to know other students, the program, etc.  It has been good to get to know other students in the program and get to know the city.  We have spent quite a bit of time already just walking around, exploring, and getting to know the city.  I feel so lost here and can't wait til I know my way around and how to use public transportation--especially since live so far away from the school & the center of the action.  I thought Cochabamban transportation was tricky!--that seems like a breeze now!  It'll get easier I'm sure.  I'm already learning so much.  I have a bike pass, so I have spent some time getting to know the different bike stations where I can rent out a bike and ride around town a little easier.  There are just so many people out and about all the time, which I love, but it can make biking tricky sometimes too!  I will definitely be sharing more about this city and all the great things about it that I am learning to love! It is a completely new culture, and I love it!  This was kind of a random post, but I wanted everyone to know that I've made it safe and sound & am really doing well! :)

Adios y vaya con Dios, 
The Plaza de Espana-- one of the places we visited on our tour and photo scavenger hunt throughout the city!

A beautiful mural of a sleeping child in the Plaza de Armas-- another site we visited during the scavenger hunt.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Despues de una semana..

I have been home from Bolivia now for a little over a week.  It seems crazy and it has gone so fast, yet at the same time it seems like weeks since I've seen my beautiful Bolivian family.  I miss them.  A lot.  I miss Bolivia.  I miss Cochabamba.  I miss the kids at El Centro.  I miss my simple, beautiful South American life.  

I'm just now blogging since my departure and last week in Cochabamba.  Mostly because I'm finding this really hard.  Nothing has been easy about coming home-- saying good-bye, not knowing when or if I will return, & re-adjusting to American life.  I think for the most part, I've just tried not to think about it.  That really stinks.  But I've found it to be easiest when I just enjoy my time here and don't actually think about how much I miss Bolivia and the Quiroga family especially.

I know that not thinking about it is not the way to deal with my re-entry and culture shock of being back in the States.  I know that I need to face my time there and the after-effects and thoughts about it head on.  I really wish in some ways I had right away.  But I think I needed time too; a lot of things have been really hard since being back and I've wanted to ease myself in.

I've never experienced anything quite like this.  I have experienced going to other countries--especially Haiti-- and coming back and missing it and everything.  But nothing can compare to the large range of emotions--strong emotions-- I've felt since being back from Bolivia.  A large part of it is my lack of understanding of them-- I feel like I don't even know or understand my own feelings & emotions-- so how am I supposed to explain them to somebody else?  That's another large part of my pushing all of my feelings to the side...

I feel like a large part of me is just broken.  Or missing.  I loved what I felt in Bolivia.  I loved where my heart was.  I loved my experience.  But right now I find myself confused.  Asking questions.  And unsure why I'm here-- in Iowa.  If people ask me about my time, I usually just share that it was an incredible experience, I wouldn't trade it for anything, and I made some amazing friends.  But I don't even know how to go deeper-- how to share my heart-- how to explain what I'm feeling and what I felt in that place.  I really haven't shared with anyone how much my experience has impacted me.  Part of me feels bad about that.  I feel like I should be able to use this experience and share it with people, etc.. I know that I just need time, though.  It will take time to process my emotions, thoughts, feelings..and I need to do that.  I need to face those things and deal with them rather than push them aside.  Because that is where I will really be blessed and learn so much from my experience.  

I would love to talk about Bolivia.  Really.  With anyone.  I would love to share my stories, what I've learned, the things I saw, and the many ways I was blessed and am continuing to be blessed by my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve, learn, and grow in Cochabamba.  If you would like to talk about my time there, I would love to talk with you!  It may be hard to form the words to truly describe my experience, but I would love to try.  And with that being said, I will continue to process and learn from my time there.  My prayer is that I would continue to be able to do that and that it wouldn't be painful, hard, etc.  I miss Bolivia so much, but I know that only means that I had such an amazing, blessed experience there and can't wait to return!

My last days in Bolivia were so bittersweet.  I got the flu in the night and was sick for an entire day on my second to last day there.  I was upset that I couldn't enjoy one of my last days there.  My sweet mother took such great care of me and I was feeling very humbled!  We spent a lot of precious family time together in our last days.  My heart was just sick thinking about having to leave.  My last morning I was all packed up and anxious to leave.  Joana and Leah prepared Joana's famous chocolate cake.  We ate it before my departure together.  I was able to give everyone the gifts I had for them, and many of the family members were able to say a few words to me.  I will never forget those words Mama Toty shared with me and the tears we both cried around the kitchen table.  After that was the hard good-byes.  I had to hug Joana, Jorge, and Isaac and the other girls good-bye.  Many tears were shed!  After that David took me and Mama Toty to a taxi.  We took a long, mostly silent taxi ride to the airport.  Mama sat with me in the airport for a long time because we were there quite early.  She never wastes a moment to teach a lesson, tell a story, and we talked quite a bit before my departure.  Saying good-bye to her was just so hard.  Saying good-bye to everyone was so very hard.  I can't say I've felt a heartbreak quite like that before.

I flew that day to Santa Cruz, Bolivia.  Me and another girl who was serving in Cochabamba stayed in a hotel that night.  It was a lot of fun to be able to explore a bigger city and see a different Bolivian city!  We got some supper and found their Plaza Principal.  We woke up early the next morning and were in a taxi to the airport by 6:30.  We were able to see a beautiful sunrise on the way.  

Seeing my family was so bittersweet as well, though.  I was so thankful to be back in my mother's arms after a very long day of travel.  Seeing my nephews the next day and the rest of my family was just so great!  But I was exhausted--mentally, emotionally.  Like I said, none of it has been easy.  It was most definitely much harder to be back than to originally go!  That was probably the most surprising part of my entire experience!  But looking back, I can just think about how thankful and blessed I am.  Thankful that I was given the opportunity.  Thankful for the many people who blessed me by giving towards my trip and making it possible.  Thankful to have met a wonderful family in Bolivia who quickly became true second family.  Thankful for my friendships at El Centro.  Thankful for the many ways in which God touched my heart.  

So, thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Thank you for giving, praying, and blessing me on this journey!
I am one very blessed child of God.  

Adios y vaya con Dios,

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

La escuela Biblica de vacaciones y el comienzo del fin...

My final week here in Cochabamba has begun, and it is very bittersweet.  I am ready to see my family, but I will miss the people who have become my 2nd family here so very much.

Last week we had VBS.  We ended up not being able to have it on Thursday because of the protests and everything.  However, we didn't have to drop anything because we made it all fit into Friday's schedule miraculously!  Friday was another really great day at VBS.  I was able to share the gospel with Leah's help using the Gospel Soccer Ball.  It is basically another version of the wordless book, where colors represent the different parts of the Gospel story.  We thought with the World Cup going on and all the kiddos that really love soccer, it would really help them remember the important Gospel story!  I think it went really well, and the kids really showed that they knew God's story.  

At the end of our time that day at VBS, Joana led a time where the kids could say good-bye for us.  It was a really bittersweet but special time.  The kids got in a big circle around us volunteers.  They got in close so some of them could lay their hands on us.  And then Joana led them in an echo prayer where they prayed over us, thanked us for coming, and wished us well.  Then after the prayer some of the kids took the microphone and said a few words for us if they wished.  Some of them said they would miss, others that they wished we would be safe in our travels, and that God would care for us.  It was so very sweet of all them.  It was such a special time to say good-bye to those kiddos that have stolen my heart.

Saturday we had our last morning of experiments.  We did experiments with water with the 4th-6th graders.  It went well once again, and it has been such a blessing to be able to teach them and interact with the older students at the center.  Saturday afternoon we went to the Cancha and did some shopping with Toty and Joana.  We then went down to El Prado and ended up getting ice cream at our favorite place and watching the very ending of the World Cup game.  

Sunday I had my last day of church.  I have been so very blessed to be a part of this church family while here.  Everyone has been so welcoming.  I will really miss the intimate worship setting and seeing everyone each week.  Before preaching, David spoke some words to me and then prayed for me as it was my last week with them.  At the end of the service, everyone got in a circle around me and laid hands on me while Mama Toty prayed for me.  As my sweet Bolivian mother was praying and choking up, I couldn't help but really tear up.  It will be so hard to leave these people that I love and that love me so well!  Her prayer will always be very special to me, as she prayed for my time with them and for my future.  One of the hardest parts of Sunday is that I was expecting my dear friend Arminda to come to church.  She always asks me if I'll be there and this week was no exception.  I kept waiting and waiting, but she never showed up.  I was expecting to say good-bye to her that day.. I feel very sad that I never really got the chance to say good-bye, as that was my last chance.  It is really hard not feeling that finality.... I will miss her so.  She is a sweet, sweet girl who has loved on me so much this trip. 

Sunday was a day for fiestas!! We were invited to two parties that day, so we had quite the busy day.  First, we had one of the teachers at the center, Laura's, baby shower.  It was so fun that she invited us.  We went with Toty and Joana.  There was lots of good food and games.  We had picked out a gift for her from all of us volunteers the day before at the Cancha.  We could only stay for a short time, but it was so fun to be a part of a celebration like that here in Bolivia.  

Then we headed straight over to the Porter's house for Natasha's QUINCEANERA!!  I have always wanted to experience a quinceanera so I finally got to!  It wasn't quite the extravagant event that they sometimes can be, but it was such a special time and we were so glad we could help Natasha celebrate!  She is truly a special girl, with such a beautiful smile and her joy for the Lord radiates!  The quinceanera is really a time to celebrate a girl becoming a woman.  We ate some really good food (my first amazing burger in a long time! yum!) and laughed a lot playing games with everyone.  Everyone was asked to bring a few words to say to Natasha.  We spent time all sharing what she means to us and got to hear letters read to her that were sent from family all around the world.  It was so special, and I am so glad I could be a part of that special celebration.  

Yesterday, Monday, we ended up going to Parque Tunari.  It is a national park where you can hike.  We were expecting to find a lake or something, but we ended up not being able to make it far enough.  We had to turn around in order to make it down in time before sunset.  We started from the house walking at 10:15.  We didn't make it home til after 5:30.  Man, we were exhausted!! We walked pretty much the entire way.  Just up the mountain it was about 13 kilometers!  We figured we walked about 17 miles in total that day.  My legs are feeling it today!  The views were beautiful, though, and I was thankful I was smart and brought my nice camera this time!  

My days are coming to an end here.  I'm beginning to recognize that so many things are my "lasts".  I'm treasuring my last moments with the Quiroga family and the new friends I have made here.  I will miss this place so much, and will always treasure it.  I hope to be back!!

Prayer requests:
  • That I would be able to really cherish and take in these last days.  
  • For safety and good travels as I travel to Santa Cruz on Saturday and then have to spend the night in a hotel before flying out to the USA on Sunday morning.
  • That I would feel peace as I have to leave this place and am able to say good-byes and feel some sort of finality..
  • That God would not stop working in me, but that I would continue to learn and grow in these last moments and days, and also as I return home and have to adjust to home once again.
  • Pray for our work at the center this week.  The kids are still on vacation, so we are deep cleaning this week!  
Adios y vaya con Dios,
Mama Toty dominating one of the games at the baby shower!  You can tell she's had some experience ;)
The kiddos singing one day at VBS!
Me and Natasha at her quince!

At one of the highest points we made it to on our hike....overlooking the beautiful city of Cochabamba.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

"Porque para Dios no hay nada imposible"...Lucas 1:37

Trust in God... Nothing is impossible for God.  

That is the theme we have been focusing this week's VBS for the kiddos at the center on.  Luke 1:37 is the verse they have been memorizing.  It has been a great first two days of VBS.  Tuesday and Wednesday we shared the stories of God calling Abraham and Daniel and the Lion's Den.  The kids have really seemed to enjoy it so far!  The kids have learned a lot about what it means to truly trust God, follow Him even when you don't know where He may be leading you, and that His plan is the best plan for our lives.  

But I have also had to take that verse and those words to heart.  Yesterday we heard news that there was going to be protests and blockades today.  Those happen occasionally here.  Basically, the trufi drivers or bus drivers are protesting for something.  It often has to do with the transportation.  Well, that means there is no transportation today.  They usually last just 24 hours, unless they come to an agreement before then.  None of the trufis or buses are running on these days because they are on strike and/or because of the large amount of blockades set up around the city.  Taxis and personal cars are the only means of transportation, but that is if they can get around.  

Unfortunately, we knew what that meant for us.  We would not be able to get up to the center.  That means no construction in the morning.  And possibly no VBS in the afternoon.  Bummer.  That was hard news to hear.  After all our hard work to prepare a 4-day VBS, we would have to cut out one day if the protests continued through the afternoon... And that also means for me 1 less day with the kiddos.  As of now, we haven't heard any news of them coming to an agreement and it's close to noon here.  We usually leave around 1:30 for the center.  

Last night I had to come to terms with the fact that all I can do about it is pray.  And trust.  Just like the kids have been learning.. Anything is possible with God.  If I'm standing in front of them every day preaching that, I need to believe it myself, right?  I knew that all I could do is pray, wait, and pray some more.  And trust that God will work it out for the best.  If it isn't possible to have VBS this afternoon, we will just adjust.  We will rearrange the schedule for tomorrow and just make it work.  And it will all come together.  Because I trust that God will work it out for the best.  Not that this was an easy realization to come to at all.  It does really stink that we probably will be having one less day of VBS.  And I will probably only have one more day with all the kiddos at the center...and then a morning of experiments with the older students.  

VBS has been so fun so far, though.  It has definitely been stressful.  And it hasn't all been easy.  Arranging everything, preparing everything, and making it all come together was difficult and trying at times.  Before we began Tuesday, I didn't know how it was going to all go down.  And again, all I could do about it was pray and hope for the best!  God definitely blessed our plans, and it went really well!  We adjusted and learned from our first day (like all great teachers do!) and the second day went well, also!  We have a time of singing at the beginning.  After that we split the kids into age-level groups.  They go through centers of games, a drama story, and a craft.  They also get a snack in one of the centers.  I have been in the drama center, so I have been part of preparing and being a part of the story we share with them about the Bible each day.  It has been a lot of fun to see them learning and participating!  I can't wait to see how the next day(s) go!  I am confident that they will walk away learning a lot about trusting God.

Some prayer requests:

  • I have definitely had some of my hardest days while here in this past week.  I think the mix of starting to miss people at home more, the stress of preparing VBS, and the anxiety of looking forward to having to leave the people here have really taken a toll on me.. Prayers for strength, perseverance, and that I would really finish out my last week and a half strong!
  • It looks like I picked up pink eye somehow... I woke up this morning with a nasty, pink eye.  Not fun, so pray that it would go away soon!
  • Pray for the protests and blockades going on.  Pray that they would be peaceful.  Pray that they would be able to find an agreement...and God-willing before VBS so that we are able to have it this afternoon!
  • Pray that God would continue to work on my heart and teach me things and open my eyes.  I have really been trying to dig into His word and use these last two weeks fully, so that I am able to come away with a deeper relationship with Him and a better understanding of this world.  He has been doing some great things in me so far!
Trust in Him!  Anything is possible with God on your side!

Adios y vaya con Dios,

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mi horario, Experimentos y Pairumani...

What a week it has been!  I think every week just goes by faster and faster.  I can't believe that I only have 1 more Sunday left in this place!  First off, I wanted to share a little bit about our daily life here and my schedule.

Mondays we don't have classes at the center.  So, it's considered our day off.  2 of the other interns go to The Cancha with Joana.  That means that I really have all morning to relax, do devotions, catch up on anything that needs to be done or prepared for the center that week, do laundry, etc.  In the afternoons, all of us are around so generally we go do something or explore some part of the city if we have a chance.  

Tuesdays me and Leah take turns going with Kathryn generally to the Cancha to help her carry all of the things she needs to buy for her women's cooking classes.  It really can depend, though, on if she is feeling well.  We have gone with Gustavo instead or cancelled before as well.  Then we either eat with Kathryn at her house or head back to our house for lunch.  Classes start at the center at 2:30. We take turns heading there early, so we either leave the house at 1:30 or 2:00.  If we go early, we have to get glasses of water ready for the kids for those that want it when they come and clean the tables from the day before.  On Tuesdays, I'm in charge of preparing el refrigerio (the snack).  It usually consists of preparing a grain drink (api..purple corn drink! is one of the regulars and one of the kids' favorites) and opening up packages of some type of crackers/cookies/etc. for the kids.  One day this week I had to peel 80 oranges and 80 bananas for the kiddos!  Wow, my fingers hurt after that one for a few days!!  There are about 80 kids that attend the center each day from 1st-6th grade.  After preparing snack, we all help serve snack shortly after 4:00.  After snack, I help out in Creatividad (crafts) class.  When the kids are finished with their homework in their regular classrooms, they can get a pass to go to Creatividad.  I generally help prepare the different projects, or at least a couple of them a week.  The center time is finished at 5:30.  At that point, we clean up and head home and generally get home by 6:30.  Then we eat supper, get anything prepared for the coming days, hang out, watch movies, etc.!

Wednesdays we have construction in the morning.  So right after breakfast, we head to the center by trufi.  Sometimes Howard and/or Gustavo are there to help us, but other days it's just us girls getting dirty and getting down to work!  We work for a good 2 1/2 hours or so and then head home for lunch around 11:30.  We clean up, eat, and then have to head back to the center already.  Construction in the mornings & El Centro in the afternoon.  Wednesdays I don't prepare snack, but I help out in the 4th grade classroom.  The 4th graders are so full of energy and quite a fun bunch!  The room is generally crazy, but I do my best to help the kids out with their homework (which usually consists of a lot of math).  It took me a bit to figure out how to help them with their long division, because it is completely backwards from the way we do it!  Sometimes I just have to tell them, sorry I have no clue how to help you with this...and they just look at me like "what?! You don't know this?!"  It can be quite humbling. :)  After refrigerio, I help out with the washing of the dishes from the snack and then any time left over help out in Creatividad.

Thursdays are very similar to Wednesdays.  We do construction at the center in the morning.  Then we go to the center for classes in the afternoon.  On Thursdays I again prepare refrigerio and then help out in Creatividad.

Fridays we have the morning for Spanish lessons.  My lesson is at 11 AM with Toni.  I sometimes head down to Av. America early to get coffee or walk around or visit the supermarket, though.  I  just have to take the bus down to Toni's house, and it's super easy to get there by myself.  Toni has a gorgeous backyard and beautiful house.  Her lessons have been so wonderful for me.  I have learned SO much, and it has been a huge blessing for my time here!  She is a wonderful Christian woman, so nice to just have conversations with every week, and I can't begin to explain how much I have learned over those 1-hour private lessons!!  I can bring any questions I have to her, and she right away could pick up on my ability level and has tailored the sessions to what I really need to improve my Spanish.  I will miss having access to such amazing lessons!  She is a GREAT teacher.  After my lesson, I head back for lunch and then we head to the center for the afternoon!

Saturdays have been a little different the last couple of weeks because we have started experiments at the center.  We invited the 5th-6th graders to El Centro on Saturday mornings for a couple of hours to do fun science experiments and another learning opportunity for them.  I think the kids have really been enjoying it!  They say that they haven't really done anything like it before.  It has been fun to find experiments they will enjoy and have an opportunity to actually teach and interact more with the older students.  We did experiments all with eggs this past week.  We did the classic egg drop experiment and had them create something to protect an egg.  They thought it was so cool that they could drop them from the 2nd story of El Centro!  In the afternoons, we have time off to do whatever and explore again!

Sunday mornings we head to church.  After church, we all go out to lunch together.  We usually go to some type of food court where everyone can order what they want or a more authentic Bolivian restaurant.  Sunday afternoons we either rest or sometimes do some exploring as well.  

As you can see, our days are pretty packed!  It has been so fun, though!  This week on Saturday afternoon, we went straight from experiments on a little adventure!  We packed some bread, fruit, and snacks and left straight from the center.  We took a trufi to Plaza Norte and ended up just buying some food there and taking it to-go.  We got on a different trufi which took us to a Quillacollo, which is pretty much a suburb of Cochabamba.  We basically had to do a lot of asking around to figure out exactly what trufis to take and everything.  From there, we found a different trufi to take us to Pairumani, a national park with hiking trails.  We went hiking up the mountain.  We had no idea how long it would take us or what it was going to be like!  It wasn't as long as we thought it would be, but it was a good hike!  Especially doing something more strenuous like that, you can sure feel the altitude difference!  We came to this lookout area and some amazing views of a huge canyon!  It was breathtaking!  Then we finally kept going, had to go through a gate, and then got to a narrow path that took us right alongside the side of a mountain.  We walked a way and came to the waterfall!  The waterfall wasn't much because it's so dry right now.  There was barely even a river in the canyon even.  Then we could walk up some steps right next to the waterfall and see the river flowing over all of the rocks!  It was amazing to hear the flowing water and dip our feet in the water!  It was cold, but so refreshing after our hike!  We relaxed for a while, ate some of our snacks, and then headed back down!  We made it up and down in just a couple hours really!  It was such an amazing experience, and really reminded me how GREAT, how MARVELOUS, and how WONDERFUL our Maker is! His creation takes my breath away all the time here.

Prayer requests:

  • That I would take advantage of my last weeks here.
  • That our VBS would go great this week!  We have definitely been feeling the stress with all the things to get done before then!  Pray that we might teach just a few kids even who have never heard about Jesus and that we would make an impact on their lives.
  • Health:  I have been dealing with bad allergies this week (I think largely due to the pollution...Cochabamba was under a red alert for pollution/smog this week) and Joana has been very down with a bad cold this week! Pray that we all continue to stay as healthy as possible and get over anything we have soon.
  • Pray that God would really use me this week and that I would be open to Him and what He has to teach me and show me these last few weeks.  I want to keep the focus on Him and really soak in this opportunity while I can!
  • Continued safety!
Blessings from Cochabamba!  I am LOVING my South American life, though at times it can be difficult and trying.

Adios y vaya con Dios,
This girl is the sweetest... Arminda, I will miss sitting next to you at church, you braiding my hair whenever you can,
and seeing your joy-filled smile in the 4th-grade classroom!
Teaching experiments on Saturday morning

Sitting on the rocks in the river above the waterfall!

Me and my sweet, funny, & crazy buddy Gabriel

Loving the mountains at Pairumani!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

La Feria...y mucho mas!

I can now say that I've hit the halfway point.  My trip is halfway over.  My time with the kiddos is halfway spent.  My Cochabamba adventure is over halfway done...

Am I ready to be done?  Absolutely not.  Does the idea of leaving this place that I've fallen in love with in 2 and a half weeks scare me?  Absolutely.  I'm not ready.  Not in the least.  I feel like I'm finally getting to know the kiddos at El Centro really well and know where I belong and what my job is here...
And now I have to think about leaving.  I'm just not ready to think about that yet.  

The last week here has definitely been my favorite I think, or at least held a lot of the highlights of this trip.  But it was also the week where certain things popped up and I started to miss my family more, my friends, and my home.  It was hard to see all that was going on in NW Iowa and not be there to be help or at least to be a support...  This week it really started to sink in how much I love this place, adore the children, and am going to miss being a part of this culture and community.  

This week we were able to celebrate Emily's birthday!! It was such a fun day being able to do that with the Quiroga family.  Any time spent with them is really cherished, and I have absolutely LOVED getting to know them and be a part of their family!  This family is WONDERFUL.  We went out for supper for Emily's birthday (where we were all able to try anticucho... cow heart!!).  It was a fun time at an outdoor food court-type area.  After that, we returned home to the most delicious chocolate cake I think I have EVER eaten, prepared by the wonderful Joana!  We even celebrated with Barbie birthday hats to make the occasion extra-special, and all the boys even joined in on the fun! ;)  

Thursday was Corpus Christi here in Bolivia, a Catholic holiday that is celebrated.  On most holidays most people don't work, therefore schools were closed and we didn't have to work at El Centro.  We instead went and worked construction at the Center in the morning and then spent the afternoon relaxing and preparing for La Feria.  On Friday we had La Feria (the fair) for the kiddos at El Centro.  This was by far my favorite day at the center so far.  The fair is something they hold twice a year for the kiddos.  The kids receive fake money/tickets for a certain amount.  They earn their money throughout the year by attendance, good behavior, and hard work in their classes at the center.  It is such a neat idea, and I love that the kids have to earn what they want to spend at the fair.  The kids each received their money and a card around their neck that showed all the stations.  They had to go in order to each station and could proceed through the stations as many times as they wanted until all of their money was gone.  There were four stations--food, games, clothing, and toys.  The kids could spend their money on whatever they wanted in each station!  The kids were SO excited, and I absolutely loved seeing the joy on their faces as they could pick out what they wanted and just have a fun day off from homework!  I helped out in the toy station, so I was able to help a lot of kids find fun toys to take home with them.  We also helped out by going to the Cancha and buying a lot of the toys that week, so it was fun to see who all of the toys went home with.  One thing that really stuck with me was how selfless some of the kids were.  Many of the kids would come in the toy room the second time and instead of picking out a toy for themselves would pick out a toy for their younger sister or brother at home---so precious!!  La feria was a success, thanks to so many people who donated and helped out at it!  The kids clearly had a blast, and I loved being a part of it!  Before even beginning, Joana led the kids in a prayer to thank the One who made the entire thing possible--I love that they kept the entire thing in perspective and really put the focus on what God has done, what He is doing, and what He has provided. They said at one point throughout the year, they also hold a smaller Feria for the parents.  It really is a great idea to give the kids the opportunity to earn through positive behavior--and therefore be able to buy things with dignity and pride!

Friday was just such an awesome, packed day because at night we were able to join Kathryn, one of the missionaries here, and go downtown to see a local music festival.  There were bands playing in various locations, so we decided to check it out!  We went out and ate some pizza, ordered coffee at a coffee shop and listened to a band there, and then headed to Plaza Principal where some local indigenous bands were playing.  It was so cool!  We kind of described it as a "battle of the bands" because one band would be playing and then another band would just start forming and march on up to the "stage" and start playing over top of the sound of the first band!  It was really interesting to see the dress of the people and see their different instruments and hear the music.  Saturday we were able to go La Cancha with Mama Toty, Joana, & Isaac (we dragged the poor boy along..he's such a good sport!). We were able to do some shopping and finally get a few souvenirs!  We also did some good shopping Monday afternoon.  The things you can buy here are so cool, and I love just looking even in all the stores!

Sunday we went to church, which I absolutely love here.  Every week I am so blessed to be a part of this church community located at the center.  Gustavo preached this week.  I was reminded through his lesson how all we need is the Bread of Life.  We got to be little kids and play with balloons in the sermon, which signified how we are nothing without the life God can only breathe into us--then we are like a fully blown-up balloon that doesn't just fall to the ground.  God really is the Life that we need--ALL that we need.  I have recognized that over & over again during this experience.  Daily I ask him for what I need to get me through the day, to help me overcome a struggle--& He provides.  Every time.

Sunday afternoon we were invited to Shari & Juan Carlos's home to watch a movie.  We headed there after lunch.  After that, Jorge, Isaac, & Natasha went with us girls to the Plaza where they have the "Futbol Fest" set up.  It is a huge screen where they are always showing the World Cup games.  We were able to watch the USA vs. Portugal game out in the middle of the city under the stars with hundreds of other people!  It was one of the coolest things I have ever done!  It was packed so we had to stand the entire game, but it was worth it!  The atmosphere was crazy awesome!  The fact that USA was ahead and in the last thirty seconds lost the lead to end the game in a tie was disappointing, but we couldn't have asked for a better night.  

Yesterday, since it was Monday we again had the day off.  I enjoyed the day by drinking my morning coffee and reading on the roof, cooking lunch (goulash & jello!) for the family, and then we all went downtown to shop (& of course eat ice cream!).  At night we watched a movie with the entire family-- which is becoming an almost daily occurrence for us!  We love to all sit down and watch a World Cup game or a movie and eat popcorn.  It has been some great bonding time/relaxation time for us!

A few prayer requests for the week:
-I had a few misshaps/"injuries" this week-- Funny story, but I ripped my pants getting out of a trufi on a very sharp object sticking out of the seat.  However, I got a deep scratch on my backside at the same time.  I was thankful I am up to date on my tetanus shot, and it seems to be healing up nicely! ha.. I also got bit by something at the Cancha--we are thinking at least-- My foot just strangely started to swell up by my toe and throb and I was like missing some skin... It was so strange!  But that seems to slowly be healing up as well!  So I am thankful for some non-serious injuries, but pray we will continue to be healthy and injury-free. :)
-That I wouldn't think too much about the upcoming good-byes, but would live in the moment and use all of the time we have here to the fullest!  (We really only have this week left of a "normal" week at El Centro.)
-For VBS.. We are working on planning and preparing for VBS, which is already next week!  The kids are starting to get excited!  Pray that we would be able to share the Gospel with them and hopefully teach some of them who don't even go to church more about the God who loves them more than any of us do!  
-Continued safety

Thanks so much for all of your support, prayers, and love from all over to where I am in Cochabamba.  It means the world to me.

Adios y vaya con Dios,