Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Cheaper Way to Mail

Here's a comment left by a friend of mine in New Jersey.  It seems like she has found a more frugal way to ship things from the USA to Bolivia.  Leave it to resourceful homeschool moms to find a better way!  Thanks Sally for your help.
"You can order flat rate bubble wrap envelopes from the postal service. You cannot get these at the post office, only online. They are free and are shipped free. Do not ask me why you cannot get them at the post office! They can take up to 4 pounds of stuff and the rate from the USA to Bolivia is $13.95. This is the cheapest way that I have found to ship overseas. If you can fit it as they say you can ship it. I sell on Ebay and found this out through shipping so much. This is way cheaper than 4 pounds to Bolivia any other way." 

Monday, January 30, 2012

"Most Wanted" List

Since a few of you faithful readers have expressed an interest in sending us letters/cards/packages since my recent post and have asked for requests of what we would like the most I thought I'd write this post as a follow up.  Here is our list of "most wanted" items that will fit in one of those padded envelopes.  Some had asked if there was a size limit for the envelopes.  As far as I know there is not, there is only a limit as to the weight: 4.4 pounds.

  • Cheese packets from the boxes of mac and cheese.  (We can get the pasta here, no need to send that...just the cheese packets.)
  • Sugar free gum
  • Starbucks Via
  • Ink Cartridges:  HP 60, 92, 93 (might want to seal these in a couple of Ziplock bags just in case)
  • Fun pens (especially the glitter and gel kinds) and pencils (for school)
  • Cheap earrings/ necklaces/ accessories for girls (from Walmart, or Target or Claire's, etc.)
  • A few DVDs that we can't get here:  Little House on the Prairie TV series (any season except 2 and 4, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,  Andy Griffith TV series (any season except 7), Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, Sesame Street, the original Father of the Bride with Spencer Tracy, and its sequel Father's Little Dividend
  • Good playing cards
  • Sour Warheads, etc.
  • Comic books...Spiderman, X-Men, Superman, etc
  • Red Hots (cinnamon candies)
  • Twix
  • Reece's PB Cups
  • Hershey's Chocolate Bars
  • Washable markers
  • Chocolate chips
  • Small Lego sets
  • Pecans
  • Individual packets of sugar free decaf teas (that go in bottles of water) 
  • Craft kits/items for all ages
  • 16 gig or higher flash drives
  • 8 gig or higher SD cards
  • Beef jerky
  • I Tunes and Kindle gift cards so we can purchase books/movies/TV shows/music (actually you could just email us the number, no need to mail the card)
  • Small/inexpensive electronic gadgets
  • Parmesan cheese (you might have to get this in packets in order for it to fit in the envelope)
  • Men's black dress socks
  • Pepperoni (the kind that doesn't have to be refrigerated)
  • Trail mixes (personally, I love the Archer Farms Dark Chocolate Espresso (from Target), the rest of the family loves any kind)
I know I will think of plenty more things and so hopefully I will update this list as we go along.  The envelopes in which you pack in around 4 pounds should cost around $30 to mail.  It takes about 2 weeks (or more....up to several months at times).  

I haven't posted our birthdays here for security reasons, but if you'd like those just email or facebook me and I'll send them to you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

PS to My Last Post About Mailing Us Stuff

I forgot to tell you the cost of mailing us those padded envelopes that weigh around 4 pounds.  They are about $30 to mail from the US to Cochabamba.  I think we'll only have one person mailing us stuff from the UK and he's already an expert on the cost.  :)

Our Bolivian Address

A few years back I posted a blog about sending us letters/cards/packages.  Just in case any of you are interested in sending us anything, I thought I'd write again a little about that and give you our address.  First things first, here's our address:

Joe and Denise Holman
Cajon 6762 
Cochabamba, Bolivia

It's not expensive to send us cards and letters, but I think that most people don't think of it or understand how meaningful it is for us to get them in the mail.  I hope this doesn't sound like a pity party, because it's not meant to.  We got only one Christmas card from the USA for Christmas.  Our friend, Tim, in the UK sent us all Christmas presents and a Christmas card as well. Since we've been back, we have only received letters/packages from the usual suspects:

  • load and loads of packages from Tim in the UK, 
  • some packages of books (in English...YEA!) from our friends, Tim and Andrea Donnelly
  • birthday cards faithfully sent from the missionary and/or youth groups at Purcellville Baptist Church 
  • our one lone Christmas card from Trudy Wright that I carry in my Bible.  
A huge thank you to all of you who have taken the time, effort, and expense to send us cards or packages in the mail.  They mean more than you know or could understand.  When I spoke this past year to the missionary support group at Purcellville Baptist Church I tried to explain to them how much their birthday cards mean to us.  I couldn't do it without crying.  Whenever we come home with a card the kids know that it's a birthday card from PBC because that's all the mail we get and they are SOOOO excited to see/read/keep those cards.

Like I said, cards and letters are not expensive or hard to mail....just take them to your local post office and ask them how much it will cost (generally about $1).  As far as sending packages, there are a few things you should know before you decide to do it.  First of all let's get the ugly part out of the way:  It's expensive.....mind-blowing expensive.  Bolivia doesn't accept the 'flat rate boxes' that give you a better price for mailing packages internationally.  Since we obviously aren't here with the US government or the military we don't have an APO.  So, it is costly to mail us around $80 for a small to medium sized box.  If it is in a box and/or weighs more than 2 kilos (4.4 pounds) we have to pay taxes on the package on this end and that can be very pricey as well.  We know someone who had a package of chocolate chips mailed to them.  Between what the chocolate chips cost originally (around $10....a really big bag), the cost to mail them (around $40) and then the taxes on this end (highly accessed at almost $40), we all joked that they were a $100 bag of chocolate chips and we weren't far from wrong.  You see, the customs office can access the tax at whatever they want.  We have friends who recently received a package from the USA and they were asked to pay $200 in taxes on its contents of pepperoni, chocolate chips, baby clothes, Funyuns, Doritos, and other such items.  The other bad news about packages is that after you go to all the trouble to pick out the things you think we'd like and pay the large amount of money it takes to mail them, sometimes they just don't make it to us.  Sometimes they are stolen.  Sometimes they are lost.  Sometimes who knows?  

The absolute best way to get things to us is to simply get on an airplane and bring it down yourself.  :>) That way it gets here for sure and we don't have to pay taxes on it.  

So, you say, what about DHL or FedEx?  DHL is the only shipping company that ships to Bolivia.   Here's a little story of shipping something that way.  When we were packing up to move back to Bolivia Joe had a plastic tub (one of those 21 in. x 15 in. x 15 in. ones) full of 50 pounds worth ministry equipment that he wanted to ship back instead of taking up a whole suitcase with the stuff.  He called them to ask how much it would cost to ship it from DC to Cochabamba.  Dare to guess how much?  $800!!! Tim has shipped us those same tubs from the UK and I don't THINK he paid that much (or else he loves us more that we even realize).  Also, he's been thoughtful enough to ask us what taxes we had to pay on the tubs and he send us the money.  (Way to go Tim!)  Anyway, as you can see, you probably don't want to send anything this way....although it does get here for sure....even if we do have to get an importers license to get a package of tea, but that's another story (you can probably find it on Joe's blog from around early 2009).  See what I mean about bringing it down yourself on a plane:  You can bring yourself plus 100 pounds of stuff for a little less than $1000 generally.

Now before I have fully discouraged you from sending anything, let me give you the good news and the best news.  The good news is that the best way to mail us anything is in those big padded envelopes.  We have gotten almost every single one of those that has been mailed (and Tim has mailed close to 100 if not over 100).  Also, as long as they weigh less then 2 kilos (4.4 pounds) we don't have to pay any taxes on this end.  That's the good news, here's the best news.  The best news is that packages make a couple of missionaries and their kids ecstatically happy.  :)  In fact we had a family here visiting us when we received some packages from Tim.  They saw how happy we were to get a package.  So now, the Holsinger family has decided to start mailing us one of these a month in order to be a blessing to our family.  They just let us know this week that they have mailed their first one.  YEA!  We are all anxiously awaiting its arrival.  

So there's a quick....or not so quick...synopsis of send us mail.  In closing, here's are some pics of the us opening some of Tim's recent packages so you can see the joy they bring.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sunday Selections

For many years now I have a Sunday morning routine.  As I ready myself physically for worship, I also ready myself spiritually for worship.  Part of that preparation includes listening to worship music and worshiping God for who He is, asking Him to purify my heart and get me ready to hear what He wants to speak to me.  I usually listen to the same group of songs week after week for months and sometimes even years before trading them out for different songs.  I pick songs that have meaning for me and it seems that I never get tired of them.  The more I listen and worship along with the lyrics, the deeper the meaning of each of them gets for me.

I am thankful to God for the talent he has given songwriters, singers, and musicians.  Their giftedness helps draw me closer to my Lord.  Jake is an awesome songwriter.  It's a talent that is God given to him since he didn't get it from either his Dad or me.  Anyway, I thought I'd share the list of songs I'm listening to and worshiping with these days as I get ready for church on Sunday mornings.  So here they are along with links that contain the lyrics so you can listen to them if you want:  (As a quick disclaimer for all my grammar Nazis out there, I know that all the spelling and punctuation isn't correct on these videos, but just go with it.)

1.  Only Hope by Caedmon's Call

2.  Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone) by Chris Tomlin

3.  Love Song for a Savior (Jars of Clay)

4.  You Reign (Mercy Me)

5.  Your Grace is Enough (Chris Tomlin)

6.  Oh My God (Jars of Clay)

7.  God will Lift Up Your Head (Jars of Clay)

8.  Know You in the Now (Michael Card)

9.  Worlds Apart (Jars of Clay)

10.  Draw Me Nearer (Caedmon's Call)

There are so many good worship songs out there.  These are just some of the ones that are helping me worship God and prepare my heart for worship these days.  I challenge you to make your own playlist and listen to it for a few weeks and truly seek to hear from God while you are getting ready for church and see if it makes any difference in your experience at church.

I know it's not easy tuning out the rest of the world...including your family and all their Sunday morning order to prepare your heart to hear from God, but if we go to church expecting to hear from Him we are much more likely to do so.  Make the effort and see what happens.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

How's the Weather Down There?

I get lots of questions about the weather here in Cochabamba.  Since we don't have heating or air conditioning people think that we must get super hot and/or super cold.  We do have days that heating or air conditioning would be a nice luxury, but most days we get along just fine.  In fact after living in whatever the weather happens to or cold....and experiencing the reality of it, it's so different for us to go back to the States and adjust to 'artificial' temperatures/'climate control'.  We have no control over our climate.  We just roll with whatever the day brings.  If it is raining then I don't hang out the laundry, but just enjoy the cool day.  When it's sunny I try to get a lot of laundry done and appreciate the fact that it dries so quickly in the hot sun.  We pray for rains and storms on Thanksgiving and Christmas to make it seems a bit more like 'home' and make our snowmen decorations feel not so out of place.  I used to find it strange when I saw Africans wearing sweaters and even coats during their 'cool season' of 80 and 90 degree temperatures.  Now I understand.  Joe finds pleasure in laughing at me because I'm totally acclimated and get cold enough to wear a jacket or sweater every morning or evening...and even all day on cool days like those in the 70s.  :)  In fact I have on my sweatshirt right now and it's probably near 80 degrees out.  He only wears short sleeves all year round.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the weather in Cochabamba.  How could it be any better?  For at least 9 months a year it is sunny practically every single day.  Not a cloud in the sky.  During rainy season (December through February) we have wonderful rain storms and cooler weather anywhere from 1-5 days a week.  In between those rains we have hot, sunny days.  Right now in the Southern Hemisphere we are in the throes of summer.  Here in Cochabamba our high temps are in the upper 70s to lower 80s.  You there in North America are in the throes of winter and dealing with ice, snow, and cold weather.  Next summer when you have temps in the 90 and 100 degree range we will be in winter with temps in the upper 70s to lower 80s...only our nights will be cooler (in the 30s and 40s so I can snuggle down in our warm covers with my warm fuzzy socks).  Every day we get to experience mornings and evenings and warm sunny days.

Ahhhhh, Cochabamba, the City of Eternal Spring.  See why I love the weather here?  Come and visit and see for yourself.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Addendum to my last post.....

After all who can say this is not a wonderful idea of God's?  How much would our lives be missing without her!