I’m catching up on Saturday Night Live episodes and finally sitting down to write this blog post summarizing our Bolivia trip. How first-world do I sound?! It has taken me the last week to even begin to process everything we saw and accomplished. A huge thank you to everyone who has helped us to think and talk through everything and to Steve & Mary Hawthorne, Jonny & Olga Anderson, and Graham & Debbie Frith for hosting us.
First, the positive things about our trip. The people of Bolivia are the most kind and gracious people I have met. As I was regaining confidence in my conversational Spanish, Bolivians were gentle with me and encouraged me to keep talking. I feel like my conversational abilities improved a ton and by the time we left, my knees didn’t shake every time someone asked me a question. Keith definitely grew as a clinical at CEMFY (the clinic) and got to do health screenings for Compassion International children. We made wonderful friends while in Potosi and I look forward to sharing their stories with you over the next few weeks.
Another great memory was getting to explore Bolivia. We got to experience Yawisla (a small town in the campo where Steve & Mary lived while their kids were growing up), visited the Salar de Uyuni (largest salt flat in the world), discovered the origin of American money at la Casa de la Moneda (the colonial-era mint), lived near Cerro Rico (the silver mine that funded the Spanish Inquisition), and explored the Sta. Teresa Convent and museum. There were certainly other fun little excursions, but those are the highlights.
We encountered many challenges during our four weeks as well. As you might imagine, life abroad with a 5-month-old was difficult. All three of us lived in the same room, so the only time I was not with Caleb was when I was sleeping. Also, Keith ended up working in the clinic a lot more than we had anticipated, so that meant a lot of time fending for myself in a city that was nearly impossible to navigate. For me, the altitude (14,000ft) was daunting. I could barely walk up stairs without having to take a break; the city of Potosi is on the side of a mountain, so we were constantly walking up hill. It was difficult to find food that our stomachs could handle, but liked having our own kitchen to cook for ourselves. Naturally, there were some cultural differences that we had to learn to navigate. For me, taking parenting advice from everyone on the street got old pretty quickly. When I got tired and didn’t feel well, I needed some time alone and didn’t realize that my need for space was misinterpreted as social anxiety and rudeness. Sometimes I made myself go out and sometimes I did what I knew Caleb and I needed most.
In the end, we are really glad we went. It has taken a week to recover physically and emotionally, but what we learned is totally worth it. Keith and I have always considered international, long-term missions work as something we might pursue in the future, so it was wonderful to have a real, on the field experience as a family (as opposed to a 1-2 week trip where we stayed at a hotel or with friends). We have no illusions about the challenges full-time missionaries face. Also, we came home thankful to have experienced the work that our missionary-friends are doing; there is a huge difference between receiving newsletters every month and actually being on the field! Lastly, I can say that I am so thankful and appreciative that we are moving East and closer to home.
As I mentioned above, I’ll be posting some stories of our friends over the next few weeks.
Oh, and one last thought: how unfair is it that both Keith and Caleb lost weight and are now desperately trying to gain it back, while I lost nothing and still need to shed the Caleb-pounds?!