la vida dulce de bolivia
Things are done a little differently here in Trinidad, Bolivia. Toilet paper doesn’t go in the toilet, soda is served in bags, and it’s not uncommon to see a stray horse, cow, or dog wandering through the street (or through your classroom). Also, there’s nothing quite like an electric shock in your cold shower to wake you up in the morning. For Team Bolivia—Emily, Angela, and Katlyn—all of this has become a normal part of everyday life. Okay, maybe not normal yet. We’ll get back to you in two months.
To give you a picture of where we are, Trinidad, Bolivia is where you might end up after 24 hours of flights, and a ten-hour bus ride into rural South America. We are here serving with Fundacion Totai, which is a Christian organization that focuses on health, community, kids, and faith. It’s essentially a combination of a hospital and a church, and we live within it. On an everyday level, we’ve been doing a lot of shadowing doctors, watching surgeries, helping with community classes of English and Bible study, playing football (soccer) and basketball with kids, leading Oansa (Awana), and doing all the odds-and-ends tasks Fundacion Totai needs to run. We’ve gotten really good at peeling oranges, folding gauze, and finding dead people in medical records.
On the second day here in Trinidad, we went out into the countryside to learn how to fish Bolivian style. It’s surprisingly simple—feel free to try it at home. All you need is a piece of string, a hook, and a chunk of raw meat. Together the three of us caught six fish with sharp teeth. Angela wants me to note that her fish was the biggest one. (Side note: the power has been flickering on & off for the past five minutes. You get used to it.) After fishing, we went to the house of a church member’s relatives’, which was our first eye-opening look into life here. Despite being in a shack of wood slats and a dirt floor, we were treated with the most radical generosity. We ate until we were full—rice, meat, yucca, fritos (delicious fried cheesy dough), and grapefruit juice straight from the source.
That kind of radical generosity has been a theme of our time here, and God’s already been teaching us through it. I (Emily) think I can speak for all of us when I say that we’ve been learning to appreciate what we have. Watching kids eagerly retrieve their soccer ball from the sewer water next to the field has made us realize how much we take for granted. People here seem to have a greater appreciation for the sweetness of life. Yes, this means they put five spoonfuls of sugar in their coffee—but it also means they slow down to notice what matters, and to laugh about what doesn’t.
On the way home from the countryside that day, we found ourselves laughing when our tire exploded. We ended up waiting two hours until we could wave someone down to help. But don’t worry—we had a herd of cows, mosquitoes, and a whole sky full of stars to accompany us. There’s no shortage of adventure here.
A few other highlights have been learning to make proper empanadas with Ana (a lady from church who embodies the word lovely), getting ice cream wearing shorts while everyone else in town is wearing down jackets because of the cold, and making fun of ourselves in Spanish. Don’t ever say you’re excited about having bread. We’ve learned this the hard way.
Speaking of the language barrier, we would love it if you could be praying for patience, and for connecting with locals. We’ve been realizing how exhausting it is to constantly be surrounded with Spanish. That being said, it’s been incredible to see how God transcends cultural and language barriers. Worshipping alongside believers here has shown us that whether we’re singing or praying in English or Spanish, we’re all praising the same God.
Until next time, we’re sending our love to everyone back home—we would kiss you on the cheek if you were here!
Emily, Angela, & Katlyn