Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mi Casa es Su Casa

My B-family keeps asking me if I`ll return to Bolivia in the future... I told them I would like to, but it depends on God, money, and a variety of other things. They often joke around about visiting the United States, in which I tell them ¨mi casa es su casa¨ (my house is your house). They think I am funny. :) We talk about things we´d eat if we were in the USA together... this might not be healthy for me, considering I`ve started to crave very specific food. Chicken fajitas. Pizza. Waffles. Peanut Butter. Hamburgers. BBQ Chicken. Dinner last night was a new creation. ¨papalisas.¨ -small, colorful potatoes. I saw them in the market when I was with Judi. I asked her what they were, and she told me I had to try them, and that we would eat them soon. So, last night I ate a huge plate of rice with these strange potato-type things. They tasted like dirt, and I still can´t figure out why I got a huge plate full, while my little sisters got a tiny plate-full. I saw Silvia sneak her last few bites on Shirley´s plate. Maybe they don´t like them either? It´s a personal insult when you don´t eat all the food on your plate or say that you don´t like something. It´s very difficult to be honest about the food when they ask me several times ¨it`s good, isn´t it?¨ ¨Do you like it?¨ I´ve been advised to talk about what I do like to eat...
¨I really like it when you make mashed potatoes¨
¨I prefer it when you leave the stringy stuff, skin, and fat off the meat and leave the bones out of my soup.¨
¨I would really like to eat chicken enchiladas with salsa, guacamole, and tortilla chips¨

Yesterday, there was a meeting at La Casa de Esperanza for all the women who prostitute in Calle Curasco, the Red Light District. I got to greet the women at the door, which meant kissing 130 prostitutes on the cheek. If I saw these women on the street during the day, I would never guess what they do at night. I ache for them. I ache for their lack of options. I ache for their lack of control. I ache for their oppression.

Many of the women who came through the door carried babies on their backs or walked hand-in-hand with their children. I helped in the guarderia with the kids, and I couldn´t help but think ¨I wonder if she knows what her mommy does. God, protect these children from this type of work. Protect their eyes, their view of women... their view of men.¨

They all gathered upstairs for the meeting, led by the president of the women. The president is a woman who is in charge of this ¨union¨ of night workers. I still don´t understand the purpose of the meeting, but she allowed us to communicate our services - lunch, free doctor`s consulatation, day care. This was a huge opportunity for us to present ourselves to the women who wouldn`t know about La Casa de Esperanza otherwise.

After the meeting, we served lunch to 100 of them, which is 70 more women than we usually serve. We´re curious what things will look like tomorrow at La Casa... will more women show up? Did we get through to them at the meeting? Will they let themselves be helped?

More about prostitution:
The main door, painted red, opens up to a bar area. Small rooms line the perimeter, with a woman standing at each opening. The lightbulbs are wrapped in pink toilet paper to provide a red glow. Porn plays on tvs, conveniently placed in individual rooms and in the bar area itself, further objectifying women and empowering men. Sometimes, there is a room with a normal light - the opening is covered by a sheet. This is the room where children do their homework while their moms work...
She is lined up with other women, and then chosen by a man based on how she will suit him for what he has paid. The door closes...I can`t write more because I´m nauseated by what happens next. These women make 20-30 Bolivianos /10 minutes with a man ($3). Some of the women negotiate their price, depending on what they owe the brothel owner so they don´t incur further debt. Most are required to ¨serve¨ 10 men each night before their shift is over. The faster they work, the sooner they can leave. If they don´t meet the nightly requirement, they must stay all night.
The streets and rooms reek of urine.
I don´t have enough words to describe any further. This information is from various articles that I´ve read and through conversations I´ve had with Heather and Cara about their experiences with visiting the brothels. Every Tuesday and Thursday night, the staff from WMF makes their rounds on the streets, offering hot chocolate to their friends who are working, introducing themselves to others.

Near the end of my time here, I´ll visit a brothel... after I form relationships with the women at La Casa.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Clean(er) Shoes

I got my shoes shined today. My tennis shoes. As usual, my trip down to La Paz involved being approached my a shoe shiner. He wore a black ski mask to protect his identity. I could only see his eyes and hands, but he must have been in his teens. At first, I refused. He persisted, insisting that my shoes were dirty (which was entirely true) so I gave in. He shined my dusty, grungy tennis shoes. He brought his face close to my feet, concentrating hard on the trouble areas. He only charged 1 B, but I gave him 2...about 20 cents. I found myself feeling embarassed that my shoes were so dirty, and that he still wanted to touch them.
Jesus must have been like a shoe-shiner. Persistent and insistent. Seeing the filth, grime, dust, embracing my uncomfort and excuses.

Real spaghetti with french bread, fresh greens, chocolate cake with ice cream and strawberry sauce. My stomach is so pleased with today`s lunch. We went down to the city and ate lunch at our friend Dani`s house. She wanted to thank us for our work at La Casa de Esperanza, and thank us she did!

Yesterday was a long day at Missionaries of Charity-the kids were ultra rambunctious. I became a human junglegym by standing tall with my arms out at my sides. The kids fought over who got to hang on me, and little girls squealed as they took hold of my pinky finger and spun around like ballerinas. One boy attached himself to my left foot so walking anywhere became extremely difficult. I exaggerated my movements and strained my muscles as I moved across the room. A little girl started playing with my hair which made me relax, until she yanked made a fist around it and I yelped. From now on, my hair is staying in a ponytail.
I am feeling JOY today.

I`m almost 100% healthy.
Shirley and Silvia have started a game where they race to greet me first when I get home.
I got to talk to my parents and sister Sunday night... on the phone. I got to hear their voice.
My toes have been warm at night.
I shaved my legs. :)
I still have some chocolate left from what mom sent me (a pretty big deal!)
I think I found a place to live when I return home.
I have so much peace about finding a job in the midst of so much uncertainty.
Sweet emails from good friends.

Working the Streets

She is lined up with other women, and then chosen by a man based on how she will suit him for what he has paid. She is led upstairs to one of many small rooms where... I can`t write more because I´m nauseated by what happens next.

I`m nauseated by what I`m learning about prostitution.20-30 Bolivianos per 10 minutes. These are the wages a woman makes for prostituting...


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Hellooooo SUN!

I was hesitant to say it at first, but I think rainy season is finally gone. We`ve had a week of sun which makes everything a little more bearable. Our attitudes, laundry, walking, sleeping, showering, etc.. The days are actually fairly warm, and the nights are cold and crisp. My Bmom has started to count my clothing layers and if I don`t pass, she insists I grab another from my room.

The special treatment was appreciated when I was sick and when I first came to this I have mixed feelings about it all. Sometimes I feel as though I´m viewed as incompetent because I´m not Bolivian. In many things, I am... yet it was unnecessary for Shirley to point out where the channel numbers appear on the TV screen when changing the channel. :) I am learning more about humility and allowing myself to be ¨helped¨ even when I don´t need the help. I have a new appreciation for people who adjust to new cultures. I assure you, it`s true when they say you don`t need to raise your voice when you want someone to understand your language... we´re not dumb, we´re not wrong... we are just different, and actually a lot more similar than you might think. This has been a HUGE learning experience, and these new revelations make me excited to return home so I can put into action and teach what I´ve learned here. The thought crossed my mind of finding a Hispanic community in Portland and volunteering somehow.

Each week, I get an allowance of 100Bs. This is equivalent to $8 US, which is approximately a week´s wages here in El Alto. I`ve felt God challenging me to live even MORE simply here - that $8 a week is still more than I really need. So, except for Saturdays (my activity day with my team), I´m no longer buying anything for myself - except for the lovely pink Toilet Paper. No more snacks, chocolate, icecream, coffee... dismissing my thought that another t-shirt might be nice...
My new budget:
10Bs - tithe
20Bs - transportation (usually 1B each way)
15Bs - internet
2Bs - TP
7.5Bs - postage to the US

The rest I`ll spend on other people - the little boys, the beggars in La Paz... I don´t know.
Simplicity is a challenge. Some days it´s easy and other days it`s more difficult. I really like to eat icecream, especially on these sunny days in La Paz. Chocolate is a comfort food. I´m tempted to experiment on some funky food that is being sold in the streets (except for the pig- bottoms I saw for sale in the market yesterday).

To understand the full and rich way of the simple life... this is my call.

A few other thoughts:
-I`m experiencing a lot of freedom and confidence in who God created me to be: without makeup, little-to-zero clothing options, 2-3 showers/week (they are hot now, by the way!). At first I wished I had brought more... makeup, clothes. Now, I`m fully embracing my hairy legs (I`ve only shaved once since I´ve been here. I hope that´s not too much information), and the simple look which is much less maintenence and time-consuming!

-I got a package from home yesterday... I`ve shared some kisses from Oregon (only the Hershey kind!) and am enjoying my jeans (thanks, mom!). So, it IS possible for me to receive packages here... it took 16 business days to arrive and the wait was absolutely worth it!

The Waiting Game

Things at La Casa de Esperanza are in the shape of a giant question mark. We´ve been renting the building for several years and have remodeled the inside to meet our exact needs. There is a small recreation room, a nursery, a kitchen and dining room, offices, a small doctor´s office... Our landlady is trying to sell the building out from under us, even though we told her we want to buy it. We`re offering 100,000 US dollars.

The Advocacy project I´m working on is a DVD to fundraise and create awareness of La Casa de Esperanza. At this point, we are in negotiations about the purchase of the building. This has really shocked the staff of La Casa. We are in a prime location - we can see the Red Light District from our window, one block away. This is an opportunity for us to trust God´s plans for the building. If we can`t buy it, we have to be out by June. We are trusting that God has plans for our ministry, with or without the building itself. It might mean more direct contact within the brothels themselves, which would be very stretching and different... please pray for us as we wait the final decision. Right now, she doesn´t even want to speak to us so we are communicating with her son. Maybe God will soften our landlady´s heart.

A Day of Jubilee

Yesterday, my ST offered a Day of Jubilee for the workers at La Casa. We offered manicures, foot massages, face masks, makeovers, and back rubs for them. One of our friends from the streets is 17. She prostitutes and lives at a brothel with her younger sister, and also knows how to give manicures. We were able to pay her for her work at the center and also hang out with her for the afternoon before she had to go to work on the streets. The staff is a compilation of paid workers and volunteers - most are Bolivian women. It was a joy to treat them to something special after a long day of work to serve lunch for the women who came off the streets for the afternoon. Some felt embarassed when we told them we wanted to touch their feet. All were good sports about spreading a green homemade avacado-honey-egg yolk mask on their face, complete with cucumber slices for their eyes. Their faces lit up as they talked about their smooth, soft skin. They moved from one station to the next. One women fell asleep while she was waiting for her face mask to dry. I`m glad they got to relax... I don´t think Bolivian women relax often enough, or even know how to relax. I often see them carrying huge propane tanks on their backs, pushing heavy carts with goods to sell in the market...babies on their backs and babies on their laps. Yesterday I even saw a woman carrying a sheep on her back. These women are strong, responsible, and under-appreciated.

The Day of Jubilee was inspired out of Irresistible Revolution in which Shane Claiborne writes about offering equality to people... even just for an afternoon. Hopefully I´ll be able to find out the shoesize of the two little boys who approached me in the Internet Cafe - their faces are imprinted on my mind. We want to buy them new shoes so their toes aren´t poking out of the seams, and their heels are protected from the nasty streets.

It´s what Jesus did. He threw parties for tax collectors, feasted with sinners, crossed cultural barriers to befriend people different than he.

More ideas to come, to be inspired by people I meet.

6am Fireworks, Festivals, my Family

I thought a showdown was happening outside my room this morning at 6am. I awoke to ¨pow! pow! pow!¨ Turns out it was just an early morning display of fireworks. There is always something exciting happening here - the Bolivian people will use any excuse to celebrate.

Yesterday, it was ¨Day of the Ocean¨ - Bolivia is landlocked, so I am still trying to figure out why they celebrate this day by parades and parties everywhere. Today, it is the Anniversary of the zone I live in which means a huge party will be taking place in the ¨park¨right outside my ¨house¨. I use quotation marks, because the ¨park¨ consists of small patches of grass lined with barbed wire to keep the dogs out and also concrete walkways. It is very small and I often see high school kids having DTRs on the benches. My ¨house¨ is concealed behind a big gate and adobe walls. The gate opens up into a ¨courtyard¨ (which is really a dirt patch where the dogs and cats do their business, and then a concrete walkway on either side which opens up to the different bedrooms).

I`ve been learning a lot more about my family, and find a piece of ¨home¨ in observing some of the dynamics between the family members. I think Felix enjoys being the only boy...he is actually quite gentlemanly toward me. He enjoys teasing me and his 5 other sisters, too. Silvia is the youngest...she definitely acts like it. Shirley is only 15 but could probably run the household. She is a good student and very responsible with things around the ¨house.¨ Judi (27) has become my buddy here... she offers me a break from hanging out with teenagers, accompanies me to the store, and links her arm around mine when we are walking together. She teaches little kids and also takes classes at the University. Ana-Luz (23) is studying to be a nurse and his only home on the weekends. Guadalupe (31) is a secretary at a dentist`s office in La Paz during the day and takes classes at night so I don´t see her much. Patricia (my Bmom) has been divorced for 13 years and works long days as a teacher and usually comes home either sick or in pain. She has a limp that bothers her more than she lets on and works hard to take care of her 7 kids (including me!)

I am always the first one to be served my meal. I`m always given the best silverware, big portions (much to my dismay), and special treatment. My Bmom often buys me crackers and apples to keep in my room, which I know is an added expense. Since I`ve been sick, they refuse to allow me to wash or dry the dishes. Their humility astounds me... I`m the one on a Servant Team, yet humility and service aren`t limited to titles.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

His voice

It´s day 5 and I´m still sick; I think I have the flu. My misery over the past several days has allowed me to cry out to God (literally) from my tossing and turning, moaning and groaning, coughing and crying.
It was a fairly sleepless night. I returned home early from Cara´s, feeling weak and frustrated by my sick body. I crawled into bed letting my tears fall, and allowed my voice to whisper the one name I knew I needed: ¨God!¨ In a brief reprieve from my coughing, I heard ¨My daughter, I have you here.¨
The only song I wanted to listen to on my iPod was by Late Tuesday: ¨103 and Other Things.¨ I turned it on, and it showed I had NO battery power left. I tried the song anyway, and ended up listening to it three times. These words spoke to me and challenged me:

My heart is empty it is broken
My mind is restless it is torn
And all the thoughts inside me run rampant
And my doubts are all the words I can afford
Within the caverns of my intellect
I am screaming for reprieve
From the rebellion that keeps me from surrender
From a future that you hold I can’t believe
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
Oh heart that is within me praise the power of His name
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
Oh heart that is within me praise His wisdom and His grace
When I know nothing more, tell my soul to praise the Lord
Amidst the pain of my diseases
Will I believe that you are good?
And just to those who have known such oppression
Is your love enough to melt away my fear?
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
Oh heart that is within me praise the power of His name
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
Oh heart that is within me praise His wisdom and His grace
When I know nothing more tell my soul to praise the Lord

I definitely was not excited about praising the Lord for my bed-ridden misery. I really did have to ask myself, ¨Do I believe You are good?¨

I chose to read another card from my HAC staff yesterday, in which I was reminded that in ALL things, God works for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28) Through calamity, sickness, and struggles, God does good things.

I think it`s harder here than I like to admit. Maybe it´s because I feel cushioned from the joy I receive from from my team, my B-family, and letters. Maybe it`s because I`m growing accostomed to life here. Maybe I just don´t want to admit it.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

To Match My Mood...

elizabeth 023
Originally uploaded by Elizabeth in Bolivia.
I`m feeling a little gray, today... the weather matches my mood. Yesterday, I left La Casa de Esperanza early because I wasn`t feeling well. I traveled home by myself (it`s empowering to flag down a bus and know my way around the city) and laid in bed for 6 hours. I hardly slept, and my mind drifted from various thoughts. Some happy, some confusing, some frustrated. Erica and Jenna trudged through the incredible hail and rain to deliver 3 hand-written letters to me. God`s timing is so impeccable.

It is quite an experience to be sick in Bolivia. My B-family was sooo concerned that I wasn`t feeling well. They respected my need to rest, and also brought me dinner-in-bed (a bowl of delicious chicken/potato soup) and several cups of tea. When I told them I wanted to walk to Cara`s house for movie night, they almost didn`t let me go. I`m pretty sure Patricia called the doctor to ask about my sore throat... I insisted that my jacket was dry to wear, but she didn`t believe me, so she gave me hers - giant, bulky, and tan... and incredibly warm. I zipped it up to my chin and then she proceeded to button the bottom two buttons. Then Shirley wrapped a scarf around my neck the `proper` way, because apparantly I still had too much of my throat exposed when I did it. Felix watched me put on my gloves, fleece hat, and boots to make sure I was completely covered. Then, when I was finally all bundled up, they sat me down to drink a mug of hot tea with lemon. Since my real family couldn`t be there to dote on me, I was thankful for the special treatment, even though I looked ridiculous. I was sweating by the time I walked one block to Cara`s house. (Quite possibly the only time I`ve ever sweat since being here.)

I spent the morning in La Paz taking Tango dance lessons, which cost less than a dollar for 2 hours. It was a wonderful experience, and now I`m craving a quiet evening to myself. I`m going to opt out of the Bible Study at my house and have some quiet time of my own... in English. Last week I was frustrated at my inability to participate fully beyond the singing of songs.

I tried the `wonderful` invention of Skype and got to talk to Chrislyn for 5 minutes, and then my microphone stopped working. I cried in the internet cafe, silently wiping my tears. I adjusted all the computer settings to allow me to talk some more, but to no avail. I`m craving a long conversation from home where I can hear familiar voices.

One month down... I`m used to returning home after being gone for a month, so it`s a strange feeling to not be packing my bags right now and anticipating some `welcome home hugs.` Three to go...

The same two little boys approached me in the Internet Cafe, tapping me on the shoulder saying ¨Seniora.¨ I felt completely helpless because I didn´t know what I could do for them at that point. I prayed I would see them when I finished my time on e-mail, so I could buy them something at the store. My eyes darted up and down the streets, but they were nowhere to be found. I wonder if I portrayed Jesus to them... ??? I didn´t do anything but smile and look confused. Last week at Bible study, we talked about the cost of obedience, and I wonder if I was obedient.

I think I`m feeling extra emotional because I´m sick and frustrated that my phone date with mom and dad didn´t include the phone because it stopped working.

Jesus, please encourage me tonight with some solid time with you... where I can cry and not feel like I have to wipe away my tears, where I can ask ¨why?¨ and be content without answers, where I can be silent and listen for your voice.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The wheels on the bus

A few things that have ¨struck¨ me this past week:
  • Jenna poked me on the shoulder and whispered ¨you`re sitting next to a parrot!¨ Sure enough, I turned my head and found myself face to face with a colorful bird pirched on the shoulder of the girl next to me. At least this time I wasn`t face to face with a chicken head in my fridge.
  • Yesterday, I saw 121 dogs in the street. I started counting the moment I left my house. That means I see about 800 dogs per week. I`m telling you, they are everywhere!
  • When I commented on having a cold toilet seat in one of my previous blogs, my friend Krystal said ¨you have a toilet seat?¨ I am one of the only ST members that has one. Lucky me!
  • Two little kids approached me on the street and asked for money. I asked them what they wanted and they pointed to a small grocery store (of sorts). I ended up buying them a box of cereal to share. I asked them there names and ages.... 6 and 7 years old. Wandering the street. I hope I see them again; I want to ask them their shoe size so I can buy them a new pair. Their shoes were worn out completely. Their clothes a mess.
  • 2 dogs have wandered into the Internet Cafe. They sniff around, hit some patrons with their tail, and then eventually leave.
  • I`ve seen a lot of bumper stickers that say ¨Jesus is Love¨ & ¨My Nissan is Fantastic.¨
  • Prostitution is absolutely horrific. We`re going through a unit on prostitution as part of our book study. I just read an article called ¨Because She Looks Like A Child¨ which addressed the issue of sex-trafficking. Many of the women we work with have been trafficked... from other countries, rural areas, etc.. The facts are disgusting and it makes me angry that the demand for prostitutes is so high. It has made me think about how we view prostitution in the United States. I fear it is a lot more prevalent than we realize. More on this later...
  • I recently spent 2 days in La Paz and the differences are incredible. The air is fresher from lower altitude and more trees. The people are dressed fancier. There are restaurants, icecream shops, well-maintained parks, fancy perfume shops. Here in El Alto, the dress is more casual (it`s a good thing since I only have a couple outfits), the dust irritates my contact lenses, I am one of the only gringos, it`s much colder, and people from La Paz smirk when I tell them I live here.
  • These people are not entirely poor... most have food, family, and shelter. Maybe we (USA) are just rich - buried in luxury, caught up by status, extra things, cars, and clothes.
  • I gave 3 haircuts yesterday to women at Missionaries of Charity. I was helping to serve breakfast, and one of the sisters approached me and asked ¨do any of you (the other gringos) know how to cut hair?¨ I immediately said YES and she said some of the women desperately need their hair cut and they haven`t been able to find anyone to come in and do it for them. This random skill of mind isn`t so random after all!

I hope to post more pictures soon... this computer is rejecting my camera, so I´ll try again in a few days. If there are specific things you would like to see pictures of, please let me know and I`ll do my best.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Wonderings and Weather

I wonder how many dogs I see roaming the streets each day.
I wonder how my clothes will every dry with all this rain.
I wonder what kind of resources my B-family really has.
I wonder what other mysterious things are in the soup I eat for lunch.
I wonder if I will become friends with the workers at this internet cafe.
I wonder how many total showers I´ll take here.
I wonder when/if I´ll be fluent in Spanish.
I wonder who else from home will get engaged or married while I´m here.
I wonder how long it will take for my package to reach me.
I wonder what my B-sister will eat once we run out of JIF Peanut Butter at my house.
I wonder if people here know I`m a Christian.
I wonder if they wonder what I`m doing in a city like El Alto.
I wonder what I´ll do when I return to the states.
I wonder where I´ll live.
I wonder how I´ll be a different person.

It`s both easy and difficult to imagine life after Bolivia. It`s easy to imagine my warm bed, conversations with family and friends, familiar food, grass to play in, and multiple showers. It`s difficult to imagine what will be different in my life as a result of my experiences here. I like that I feel so present here. Besides missing you, I`m not distracted by much. It`s a wondeful phenomenon. It`s hard to think about making plans when I`m so far away, and yet I know I need to be responsible.

I just finished ¨Gracias! A Latin American Journal¨by Henri Nouwen. Near the end of his musings as a priest in Bolivia and Peru, he wonders where he`ll end up when he returns to the states. He admitted his uncertainity about where God was calling him, and recognized it as an invitation to draw deeper into coversation and relationship with God. He knew that as a result of drawing nearer, answers would begin to form. I know this is the place for me to be seeking the Lord`s will for my life...
I wonder when I`ll know.

5 day weather forecast for El Alto:
Rain. Rain. Rain. Mostly cloudy with showers. Rain. I`m wishing I hadn`t done laundry yesterday because it`s just not going to get dry!
Low: 35 degrees. High: 55 degrees
I can see my breath inside my room...

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Day to Day

6:40am - My beeping watch alerts me it´s time to get up! I wish I could stay in bed longer, but quickly get dressed (I wear the exact same thing every M & W because I get kind of yucky at Missionaries of Charity.)
7:00am - Tea and bread for breakfast (although this morning I had an egg for breakfast for the first time since being here. It was fabulous.)
7:30am - Meet my team at the corner a few blocks down, and hop on a bus to the Mercaderia district - definitely the poorest part of El Alto that I´ve seen so far. Sometimes we have to wait 30 minutes in the rain to find a bus that still has seats available. We paved road turns into mud and pot holes, and we bounce our way along...
7:45am (depending on the bus availability) - we ask the bus driver to stop the bus, and we walk another 15 minutes to the Missionarities of Charity compound - wondering about the unfinished adobe walls we pass, counting the dogs in our path, and stepping over trash piles and mud puddles.
8:00am - 12:00pm - volunteer as needed. The past couple days I´ve spent all 4 hours in the day care center w/ 25 kids ages 5 and under. People who live in this part of El Alto can drop off their kids on their way to work. By the end of my time there, I am covered in spit, urine, mud, food.... and hugs. I am out of breath by picking kids up, offering piggyback rides, spoon-feeding, etc.. The altitude really makes this difficult! But then again, I think this work is difficult no matter where you live.
12:00pm - I unwrap tiny fingers from mine, coax little girls to stop pulling on my hair, and close the door behind me. I hike to the bus with my teammates, and ride back ¨home¨.
12:30pm - Lunch is waiting for me... often a bowl of soup followed by a heaping plate full of potatoes, meat, rice, and tomatoes.
1:30pm - book study at Cara´s with my team. Right now we´re studying a unit on prostitution.

3:30pm - I´m back home... I debate taking a shower. If it´s sunny, it´s a possibility, if it´s not, I hide in my room for some silence and maybe a much needed nap.
6:30pm - Dinner with my B-fam. Often cold cooked vegetables, a hunk of meat (hopefully chicken), more rice or potatoes, and homemade apple juice or occasionally Coke. Sometimes dinner is accompanied by The Simpsons and then a soap opera on TV, all dubbed in Spanish. I help wash and put away dishes, and then sit in the living room/family room/dining room/homework room and play cards, listen to music, attempt to converse as best as I can, and laugh a LOT.
8:30pm - I drink hot chocolate, say my good nights, and then brush my teeth (accompanied by Silvia or Shiley) and head to bed...
9:15pm - I put on my headphones to drown out the night sounds, read, and journal....... and then sleep!!!

7:45am - Wake up - same routine as Monday.
8:30am - Join the others (depending on which of my family members are still around when I get up) for tea and bread.
8:55am- walk to Cara´s, only 1 block away.
9:00am - 12:00pm - we work on the Advocacy Campaign together. I´ll be putting together a photo album of the last two years, with pictures from all the activities that the women have been a part of at La Casa de Esperanza. We´re also developing a DVD to send out to various sponsors to raise money for the purchase of the building.
12:30pm - Lunch with my B-family
1:30pm - Spanish lessons for 1 1/2 hours with a wonderful Bolivian Christian woman who is short, lively, and full of excitement about our time in Bolivia.
6:30pm - dinner, and an enjoyable evening with my B-fam. More laughter, cards, help with English homework, etc..
9:30pm - bedtime!

My day starts at 6:45am, same as Monday with a full morning at Missionaries of Charity. When I get back, I may or may not take a shower.... depending on the weather. : ) It´s just so cold, otherwise!!

I have the afternoon free.

7:30pm - Bible Study at Cara´s. More hot tea accompanied by a ´new fruit of the week.´ Cactus fruit, pomegranetes, yum!!! We´re studying each of the WMF celebrations by reading through Luke. It´s always thought-provoking, challenging, and refreshing.

8:30 - more tea and bread
9:30 - laundry (if it´s sunny) and shower (if I still haven´t had one all week)
Spanish homework and book-study reading...
1:30 - Spanish lessons

Later in the afternoon, I may visit the internet cafe and buy some chocolate for 12 cents since I rarely eat anything sweet here, especially because I prefer my tea without sugar!! My B-family must think I´m weird for that reason alone, although I´m sure there are others. For example, I don´t eat the skin of the chicken or gnaw on the bone of other meat... I also don´t enjoy eating chunos (they assure me they are just potatoes that have turned black by the sun.... but I promise you, they taste like feet rather than potatoes)

8:30 breakfast
10:30 - catch a minibus to La Casa de Esperanza. I can catch the bus anywhere - any corner, any sidewalk, even the middle of the street if I so desired.
11:00am - devotions with the Word Made Flesh staff and volunteers.
12:00pm - serve lunch to the women who visit La Casa... some are still in prositution and have finally accepted the invitation to lunch. Others are women who have since escaped prostitution and still come for lunch because they are our friends. I get to bring them their food and clear their plates - I like to think my previous job of waitressing prepared me for this. My team is impressed with the amount of plates and cups I can carry at one time.
3-ish.... home.
6:30 - dinner
7:30 - movie night at Cara´s. Every other Friday night is ¨depressing movie night¨ where we watch a movie filmed from each of the WMF fields. ¨Born into Brothels¨from India, ´´Underground Children¨from Romania.... these movies make me angry because of their harsh reality. Sad because of the desitution and depression. I cry... a lot - a way for me to grieve and to allow the Holy Spirit to move inside of me.
11:00 - back home, and to bed.

9:00 - one on one with Cara over breakfast.... she made omelets and I loved it!! We talk about life, our passions, our struggles, and our hopes. I feel safe in Cara´s apartment...

Today is either an ´´event/excursion´´ day or a free day with a movie night.

8:30 - breakfast
10:00am - church. Often a 3 hour service on a somewhat depressing topic (as best I can understand, anyway.) Last week we took communion and I don´t even know what I drank. It smelled nasty, and even the pastor made a face as he drank it from the pulpit. There are about 15 adults who attend, and at least twice as many children. It is colder inside the church than outside. I wear my thermals and heavy jacket...

Every other Sunday evening is ¨gringo¨dinner and game night with the ¨white¨part of Word Made Flesh. Really, this is just my Servant Team, Erika (who is interning) and Heather and Wes - the other full time staff members.

In my ¨free time¨ - I´m studying English, the Bible, catching up with friends and family via the internet cafe (it costs 50 cents/hour), missing my family in the states, writing letters, trying to stay warm under my covers, and wondering when I´ll take my next shower.

I´m happy to say I´ve received several letters (thanks mom, and Violet!) and have a letter to read every week, thanks to my HAC staff from the summer. Each letter I open gets taped to my wall above my bed. All of them are timely and appreciated.

I´ll send out another prayer letter within a couple days. I have lots of thoughts to organize, and more specific requests are forming as a result of my experiences here.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Music, Storms, and 1/2 Cup of Oil

I´m embarassed to admit that I watched a few Brittney Spears music videos with my younger sisters. They were excited to share them with me because they are English, and therefore I must like them. I sang along as best I could (to humor them, of course). When they finally tired of ''you drive me crazy'', we listened to some of their favorite tunes in Spanish. I was enjoying the music until they said they wanted to dance with me. I narrowly escaped the ''opportunity'' to make a fool out of myself because Silvia realized the movie ¨Matilda¨was on TV, and so we all quickly found our seats. I breathed a sigh of relief and enjoyed the dubbed version of Matilda.

My two younger sisters bring my such joy; they like it when I sing the ABC´s and often have me recite it. At Bible Study (the pastor my church here leads a Bible study for my B-family every Saturday evening and likes to practice his English with me) I was asked to sing a solo of ''Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord'' because they all know the song in Spanish. Little did I know at the time, but Felix recorded it on his dad´s cell phone... I was greeted at breakfast with the sound of my voice singing as Felix proudly replayed the song.

Thunder, lightening, and incredible hail. I watched the streets turn into rivers, and the sidewalks into layers of hailstones. I stood from the 3rd story window from La Casa de Esperanza as I took a break from some photoshop work on the computer. I was editing photos to use in an upcoming presentation to various churches and Bolivian organizations. La Casa is now an official organization in Bolivia, which is very exciting! The pictures had to be edited because they were pictures of prostitutes and their children. These women and children could very well be neighbors of the vistors attending the presentation, so it was up to me to protect their identity by drawing thick black lines across their eyes. I felt awful. These women are beautiful, and I had to hide their pretty faces and story-filled eyes.

I am so ready to be fluent. I want to approach these women at their tables as they eat lunch and learn their stories. I´m hesitant because it´s difficult for me to communicate. I want to hug them, cry with them, and encourage them. For now, my smile and small offerings to serve them their food have to suffice.

1/2 CUP of OIL:
I´m hearing all sorts of old wives tales from the people here. You should drink 1/2 cup of oil daily during your last week of pregnancy, to help the baby slip right out. When you are pregnant, you should also wear wool underwear to keep the baby warm. If you are sick, it´s because you´re either not eating enough, or you´re eating too much when it´s cold outside. The cold hurts your feet. This weird, strong, green herb I often eat at dinner is good for my stomach. My B-mom told me today at lunch that cactus fruit is good for my back.

Needless to say, I´m learning a lot.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Things that are cold in Bolivia

Wearing 5 layers of clothing, huddled under 4 blankets on my bed, I came up with things that are cold in Bolivia:
My hands
Doing laundry by hand with COLD water
Washing dishes by hand in COLD water
The toilet seat
My toes
My nose
Cooked vegetables (always served cold)
My toothpaste
Damp clothes (i´ve been trying to dry my socks for 4 days)
My bed before I climb in
Getting in the shower
Getting out of the shower

Today and yesterday have been the coldest days yet. Lots of rain, intense hail that drops off rooftops like snow drifts, cloudy skies. I´m missing walking around barefooted on carpeted floors, heaters, and long showers.

I´m thankful for hot tea, warm hugs, hot chocolate, my ugly waterproof boots which keep my cold toes dry, and the 3 alpaca wool blankets on my bed, even though they leave fuzzes on everything I own and dust bunnies under my bed.