Monday, June 25, 2007


Hopefully it might be a few days before I post anymore on my blog because HOPEFULLY we will sign a rental agreement on a house and then move tomorrow. YEA!!!! I am so excited. It's been a roller coaster ride. We found out today that the house doesn't have a phone line. YIKES!!! Thankfully, the good people at SIM (MAE) here figured out a new way so that we can have phone service in our home without having to pay the $1500 for a phone line. I won't bore you with the details but we thankful that the Lord and SIM are working it out for us. We will just have to pay for each individual call.

I started the above last night and am finishing it now. Joe has been gone all morning and afternoon to sign the contract. I ended up not going since our four oldest are gone to camp and that leaves us without babysitters. It's amazing how much I miss those guys and not just for all the work they do and how much help they are, but just because I like being with them. Anyway me and the six youngest are here trying to clean the apartment, wash all our laundry, and finish packing up the kitchen while trying to curb our excitement about finally getting a house!! Some of the Bible college students here are going to help us move our bags and furniture this afternoon. We have been storing the living room furniture we bought at the MAE office since it came in last week. We will also have to go by and pick up the 10 twin mattresses we bought for the kiddos as well as our mattress. The dining table and chairs are still not finished. We went last week to the factory to look at them. I use the term factory loosely. It's more like a large outdoor shed where many of the employees are not yet old enough for jr. high. I guess they don't have or don't abide by child labor laws here. They are making me a hutch and table and chairs out of beautiful pine. They called and asked us to come in and see the chairs because they realized they weren't making them like I had asked. When we got there, sure enough the chairs they were making were formal and I had chosen casual ones. They already had six of the twelve made. So now they have to start over. I was glad we went to look at them though because while we were there we discovered something else that needed to be altered. Many of the people of Bolivia are descendants of Incan Indians and are much shorter than we are so the table and chairs were too short. We had Seth and Jake with us that day so I had them sit in the chairs. Now you all know that Seth and Jake are tall even for North Americans so they looked a bit like they were sitting in Kindergarten chairs. :) So now the 'factory' is remaking the chairs to be more casual and taller. We will need to go to La Cancha tomorrow and buy a kitchen table and chairs to have somewhere to eat until the pine table is finished. We will also need to buy a stove, fridge, microwave, washer, and probably even a television and dvd players. After all we are spoiled North Americans. We have been watching movies for the last 6 weeks on Joe's laptop. Getting movies here is a hoot. There are no copyright laws in Bolivia and they don't recognize international copyright laws so we can buy illegal copies of movies here on dvd before you guys even have the movie in the theater in the states. For example, we already own Oceans 13, Shrek 3 (bought before it was in theatres in the US), Spiderman 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Meet the Robinsons, and lots more. Sometimes they are very good copies that are just like a dvd you would buy in the states. Often these are from Russia for some reason I don't yet know. However, sometimes the dvds are illegally made copies where someone took a video camera into a movie theater and filmed the movie. These are sometimes laughable as you might hear a baby crying or someone coughing and sometimes the camera even gets bumped and jars the whole picture. Here 's the best part buying dvds in Bolivia: They cost $1.24!!

I have a funny story to tell you about a mouse at our apartment, but it must stay tuned!!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

It's like we're living in a war zone....

...that's what Joe said as he just now walked into the house. As I type it sounds like 'bombs bursting in air' in the background. Now, before you get worried let me tell you the reason. It's not gun fire, it just sounds like it. It's fireworks going off like crazy all over the city. It's San Juan Night celebration in Cochabamba! The holiday is based on a mixing of Catholic and indigenous beliefs. The basic belief is that if you have a fire (or fireworks) tonight you will have light for the entire year. Boy, they must believe it! We had some clothes out on the line and we were told that if we don't bring them in they would be black from all the smoke pollution by tomorrow. In the morning our house will be full of smoke too even though we have all the windows and doors closed. Usually in Coch there are clear skies and you can see for miles. Tomorrow visibility will be down to 500 feet and they will likely declare a 'no-driving' day in order to help clear away some of the smoke/pollution. We are in a valley here and so the smoke will just sit until it can dissipate. Here's a picture of tonight: Imagine the Fourth of July in Washington DC and the kind of fireworks that would be in the sky. Now imagine that everyone in the city with 12 cents in their pocket can get those kind of fireworks. Now imagine that the people shooting them off are drunk. Now you no longer have to imagine because that's reality in Coch tonight. :) There are no laws about who can shoot off fireworks or what kind you can shoot or for how long. Who knows where the fireworks were made or how safe they are. The houses are made out of concrete and tile so no one is worried about anything burning down. It's not even 10:00 pm here yet (considered early) and the fireworks are going full blast...pardon the pun. There are bonfires all around the city as well. There is a short term missions team here that was supposed to fly out in the morning, but they had to leave tonight because the airport will be closed tomorrow due to lack of visibility. It should be a fun flight for them seeing all the action in the skies. I gave the girls a bath tonight but I think I might have to bathe them again before church tomorrow. Ben just walked in and told me that even here in the house it smells like we are by a bonfire roasting marshmallows. He's right. My eyes are burning.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Our First Birthday in Bolivia

Yesterday was Jake's 17th birthday. We celebrated by going out to eat a delicious steak lunch then last night we went bowling. Joe killed us all. I pretty much stunk other than one strike. After singing "Complianos Feliz" we tried out a Bolivian birthday tradition on him by mashing his face into his cake. The rest of the family decided they didn't want the 'nose piece'. Jake was thrilled with his gift: a cell phone and 80 bolivianos worth of credit on it. Until we get our carnets (think: legal alien resident cards), we have to have pre-paid cards with our cell phones. Minutes cost a bit more than in the States. One minute is about 1.2 bolivianos (about 15 cents). The other kids bought Jake speakers for his ipod from La Cancha. He loved those too since he is permanently attached to his ipod. Now maybe he can detach and plug it into an outlet other than his ears. Paul and Grandma sent Jake money and he's considering all kinds of options where he can spend it.
We believe we have a house (again). Maybe the third time is the charm. It's here central in the city in the Cala Cala district. We will be able to walk to language school, the Saturday market, the grocery store, movies, restaurants, and the bowling alley where maybe I can improve my game. We are excited about the prospect of all that walking (really). That's one of the things about we love about living here. Joe and I have both already lost 5-10 pounds even though we are thoroughly enjoying all the good food to be had in Coch.

Next week our 4 oldest boys are going to a Christian camp with the international church here in Coch. The camp is near Santa Cruz...a six hour bus ride away. While they are gone we hope to take the younger kiddos to a nearby park. The parks here are interesting. There are some that are open to the public, then there are nicer ones that you must pay to enter. However, even the nicer ones have playground equipment that hasn't been seen in the US since the rise of the tort lawyer...metal slides that are 12 feet tall, at a 70 degree angle and they end 2-3 feet off the ground. It's amazing the velocities that even small children can attain given those variables. They also have iron monkey bars over concrete and all kinds of jagged metal on various see-saws, swings and other equipment. Now maybe those tetanus shots are finally paying off. The kids are oblivious to all the hidden dangers and enjoy themselves just like we did on all the same equipment when we were kids. Now we know where it all went.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Disappointing Day

I don't want this to be one of those "Poor me I'm a missionary and my life is so hard" spots. Truly I feel honored to be a missionary and I have no idea what suffering is. There are people all over the world who go to bed hungry, don't have any food to feed their children and are literally tortured for no other reason than they identify themselves with our Lord. So, I will attempt to keep my whining to a minimum seeing as how I have a blessed life beyond belief. However today we did have a disappointing day. We went to meet with the owner of the apartment we hope(d) to rent. We thought we were going to sign the contract and begin moving in at least by early next week. Instead we met with the owner and a couple of 'homeowner association' leaders who had concerns about the size of our family, that our kids would be at home all day and not go out to school, that we would use too much water (which is a commodity in Coch), and that we might be too noisy. Amalia and Antonio who are both Bolivians that work at the SIM Bolivia office (here: Mission Andina Evangelica) went with us to help us out with the meeting. Amalia with translation and Antonio with advice and help with the contract. Amalia told the ladies what a good family we are and that our kids are well-behaved, that we run a well disciplined ship, and we are 'tranquil'. (Ok, so she doesn't know us too well yet.) After voicing their concerns and hearing our answers and Amalia's sales pitch, the two ladies relented and said they thought we would be okay. They said they could tell we were good people (read: have money). At this point we were hesitant though. We don't want to move in where we're not wanted and don't want to be blamed for anything that might go awry at the apartment building. We met with Amalia and Antonio privately and asked their advice. They both agreed that it wasn't a good way to start a relationship with the people in the apartment and they might just be complainers and find opportunities to complain about us even if we don't give them reason. We agreed and decided to tell them now we weren't sure we wanted to live there. After the two ladies left, the owner stayed to talk with us. She said she had no problem with us living there and that we would have no problem with her. She said she wouldn't rent the apartment to anyone else until we decided what we wanted to do.
So now I guess we're back to square one. Tomorrow we begin looking at houses again. We've been in the guesthouse for 4 weeks and 1 day today. We're really ready to find a place and settle in here in our new home. We know that God is in control and He will provide for our needs. We are not wavering at all in our belief that Coch is exactly where God wants us. He is the One who rewarded us with our children and He is the One who will provide for us all. We know in light of eternity this is nothing and it really is only a small setback. But as Joe said we can know we are right where we are supposed to be, that God will provide for us, that we will find a house and look back on this as a small 'blip' and yet today we still feel sad and disappointed.
On a happier note, we met a man who owns a store in La Cancha and it seems to us that God is at work in his life. He found out we were here as missionarios and wanted to know what we believed. He said that he did not consider himself a Christian, but that he did believe in God. We are praying for him. His name is Ismael. Please pray along with us. He agreed that we could come by and talk to him some more. He knows very little English, but is eager to learn and said he would help us with our Spanish. Pray that God will continue to work in his life and that his eyes would be open to the truth.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

My Love/Hate Relationship with Hot Water in the Shower

Here at the guest house our apartment has a Califone for heating water. The idea is that it heats the water as it comes through the pipe and so you never run out of hot water. This is not to be confused with a 'widow maker' which they have all over here and in Africa, too. A widow maker is a 220 volt wire that runs over your head in the shower and heats the water by some device hooked up to the shower head as the water comes through the nozzle. So, you are standing in water with a 220 volt wire over your head. Oh, yeah, I forgot the best turn it on, you have to reach up and flip the switch while you are standing in the water. Who thought of this bright idea? Many of the houses we looked at had widow-makers in the showers. I didn't relish the thought of that for our kiddos...or for any of us as far as that goes. The kids asked me if any ever gets shocked or dies. I know of a lot of people have them and don't know of anyone first hand that has died, but after all they are called widow-makers. So, now, back to our shower and the Califone. First of all I think it should be called a water warmer instead of a water heater. The water doesn't get hot even though the Califone is turned up full blast. Secondly, I don't know how, but it does manage to run out of hot water even though it is theoretically impossible. This is how my morning shower goes: I turn on all hot water (no cold) so that it will at least be warm and then I get in. If/when it starts running hot I am filled with excitement and dread. Excitement because real hot water is rare and dread because I know what's coming next. After it runs hot for 1-2 minutes it will run totally cold for 1-2 minutes before it settles back in at warm. So, you can see why I have a love/hate relationship with hot water in the shower. Here's hoping that the Califone in our new apartment will work better.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Few Things That Are Different Here

I thought share a few things that are different here in Cochabamba. Again, remember different isn't worse or better, just different. So here are a few of the differences that we are adjusting to:

1. Paying Bills: In Cochabamba a guy comes to your door and knocks and reads the meter (for electric or water) and then he prints it out on a hand held computer and gives you the bill. Then it is your responsibility to go downtown and wait in line (sometimes for hours and hours) and pay the bill in cash. No checks, no sending anything in the mail, no paying on-line, only in person and only in cash. Thankfully for a small fee SIM has someone who will wait in line for us and pay our bills. It's definitely worth it. We pay for everything in cash as a matter of fact. My dad and mom would do just fine here since that's the way they like to do business.

2. Milk: Milk comes in one liter sized plastic bags that you snip the corner and put down into these little plastic pitchers that are made just to hold the bags. Each bags costs about 3.5 Bolivianos (about 28 cents) so that makes a gallon around $1.35. We can also get chocolate milk in the bags, but it's closer to $2 a gallon. You can imagine what it's like carrying all those plastic bags home from the market. They are kinda 'wiggly' in the grocery store bags. Usually we walk to the market and take a taxi home since we have so much stuff to carry. The other day Joe and I decided since we weren't buying too much (eight plastic grocery bags) we'd walk the 10 or so blocks. The milk almost didn't make it. (Joe made me put back my 3 kilos of ice at the store so we wouldn't have to carry it.) Next time we'll only walk if we have less stuff or more people to carry it.

3. Propane: Just in the last year or so some houses have a natural gas line directly to them. Most houses though operate under the old system: propane cylinders like we use in the states for our BBQ grills. You just have to replace them often. One missionary told us this is why we have boys. :) Where do you get more cylinders? From the gas man who comes through the neighborhood on the back of an old pick up truck banging on an empty cylinder with a piece of metal and announcing his presence by the banging and a bull horn. If you need tanks you come out and exchange them with him. Kinda like the old ice cream truck coming through the neighborhood only for propane tanks. The guy selling oranges (narangas) comes by in the morning pushing a wheel barrow full of oranges and announcing his arrival with a bull horn too.

4. Trash pick up: There is no home trash pick up. When we fill up trash bags which is often since the size of our kitchen trash can is about 5 gallons we take them to green dumpsters which are spread throughout the neighborhoods. We always leave our plastic bottles beside the dumpster because many poor people scavenge through the trash for these bottles to recycle. We just make it easier for them.

5. Toilet paper and flushing: (I know this is getting a bit much...just trying to fill you in on some of the things that are different.) The toilet paper rolls here are not double rolls no matter what they say. Actually I suppose they are double rolls because a single roll will not even last until noon at our house. So, we are all the time buying toliet paper. Also here as in many countries all over the world you can not flush the toilet paper. We must put it in a trash can in the rest room that also must be emptied often, but for a different reason than it's size. :) We David first adopted David from Korea when we was 3 years old, we had to train him to throw the paper in the toilet because he always put it in the trash, now 7 years later we're having to train him back.

6. Mail: This is a city of 1,000,000 people and there is one post office and no one delivers mail to houses. This is because not too many people get mail here. Another time I will tell those of you who would like to send us mail/packages how to do it.

7. Water: Of course we can't drink the water or even use it to brush our teeth. We have a pitcher of filtered water in the bathroom to use for that. There are a few options here to get drinking water. One is a water service where they will deliver those big filtered water bottles to your house for your use. One problem is that people often run out and can't get anymore delivered until the delivery man gets around to it (manana). Another option is a filter system for your kitchen sink. This is the option we are going with in the apartment and we'll just keep the pitcher of water in the bathrooms. For water for other uses we can just use water out of the faucets. Of course that is if your house has water. Almost all houses have underground
tanks that hold water because even in the city on city water you can't get water everyday or at least not all day...for most houses in town water just comes through the pipes the mornings and in the evenings. The one house we liked that was up the mountain a ways was at the end of the water line and only got water on Fridays. So, the underground tank stores water. Of course there are times that you use up all the water in your tank (especially during the dry season when we don't get water through the line as often). During these times you can have a water truck deliver water to your tank from local reservoirs. Of course here you run into the same trouble as the bottles of filtered water being delivered whenever the delivery man gets around to it (manana).

8. Laundry: The wealthy people have washing machines; no one has dryers. We will have a washer. Then we just hang our clothes out on the line to dry. Most of the houses have a covered area for hanging out clothes during the rainy season. One of my first purchases here had to be an iron since the clothes come off the line stiff and wrinkled. :0 When we move into our new apartment we have to schedule time to hang our clothes out on the line on the rooftop. I wonder how that's going to work since we'll need a timeslot everyday with as much dirty laundry as we produce.

9. Transportation: We don't have licenses' here (I tell more about the process of getting a driver's license here another time.) so we mostly use public transportation and our feet. We ride on buses or taxi trufis for 1.5 bolivianos each (about 18 cents) to just about any where in the city. Sometimes we might have to change to a different one costing us a total of 36 cents. A taxi trufi is like a bus that runs a route, but it is only a car or microbus (think European minivan). You can flag down a bus or a taxi trufi anywhere along their line. You don't have to catch them up at a bus stop and they will let you off where ever you say. A regular taxi costs a bit more money. From the grocery store nearest our house it's about $1 for two people and lots of groceries. From the grocery store further away it cost us $2 for three people and lots and lots of groceries. Last Sunday we visited a Bolivian church about 5 miles from us. It cost us $4 round trip in two taxis to get our family to and from church. We were stacked up in the taxis. Of course they don't mind packing them in here. In fact if it's a station wagon taxi they can put two more in the back. They will also haul anything you want in a taxi. That's even the way to get our furniture or appliances a taxi. They will even haul live goats. Whatever you want. I don't think I ever seen that in the states.

10. Blockade/Strike Days: In order to protest not getting paid, better working conditions or to show opposition to the present government people organize blockade days. They block important roads and bridges with tree limbs, nails, burning tires, trash and debris. They also stand to throw rocks at cars that try to get through. Sometimes they even have fireworks and dynamite to add to the excitement. These days and where will be blockaded are put in the paper the day before. Then everyone knows just to stay home on those days. The kids at the missionary school here love these days because they don't have to go to school on them. They are built into the calendar like snow days. Our poor kids don't have such luck with homeschooling. We can continue as planned.

11. Animals: It's amusing to see all the different animals in a city of a million people. There are dogs EVERYWHERE on the street. Of course people have dogs for guard dogs too inside their walls, but the ones I'm talking about are just roaming the roads. One game people play is with kids is to count how many dogs you see before you get to your destination. Someone told us they got up to 100 before they stopped counting on about a 15 mile trip. If one of the dogs on the street is intimidating then you just bend over and act like you are picking up a rock. Most of the time they will run since they've had so many rocks thrown at them. The other day on the way to another missionary's house our driver had to stop and wait for a herd of cows to get out of the street...the MIDDLE of the street...not going any too fast. We've also seen other herds of cows, sheep, and goats down by the river in the middle of the city. I'm sure there are pigs and chickens around, but we haven't seen too many of these.

12. Walls: All of the houses are surrounded by walls that are up to 10 feet tall with spikes, broken glass or barbed wire on the top of them to discourage anyone from climbing over. Some houses even have electric wire. I wouldn't want to get popped by that. Remember we are on 220 unregulated volts here. Inside the walls are the yards and the houses so you can't see most of the houses from the street. Most house windows are covered with iron bars to prevent break-ins as well. Our apartment has walls surrounding part of it and iron bars for the other part of the wall. This is sufficient because the apartment employees a full time guard to let in only people who live there or are visiting someone who lives there.

Well these are just a few of the differences there are many more. We are thrilled to be here despite all the differences. Tonight while watching the fireworks from the futbol stadium just a couple of blocks away from the guesthouse where we're staying the 6 younger kids told us it was a good move to move here.

Monday, June 11, 2007

I'm Blogging!!

Hello everyone! I'm blogging believe it or not. I thought I'd give this a try but I'm the least cyber-saavy member of my family over double digit age. In fact the first time I typed this entry it was deleted when I tried to load it since my internet cord had come unplugged. I hope this time goes better. I thought I was doing well just to get this site up and running since all my instructions were in Spanish. I guess that google reads where the blog is established and sends the instructions in that country's language...which didn't help me alot. Oh well, on with the show....

The purpose of this blog is to keep in touch with friends and family and to give you all a glimpse of our lives as we serve our Lord here in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

We are so excited to be here after a year of preparation and prayer. We are anxious to get settled in and begin learning the language and culture so we can begin our ministry with the Bolivian people. Right now we're still living in the SIM guest house here in Coch. We've been here for 3 weeks, 4 days and counting. It's a nice place with great people but we're ready to move into a place of our own. We've been diligently following leads for housing options and finally found an apartment that we hope to be able to move into this week.

We looked at some interesting options for houses. A memorable one was the Catholic monastery guest house. It was complete with a church out back. I told Joe he could hold services there. The front house looked about like you might imagine with creaky floors and dirt floor kitchen cabinets. YUCK. I think the boys drew the line on that one when they saw the bathrooms. One had 3 shower stalls in a row (kinda like a locker room). The other bathroom had 3 stalls for toliets. Ben was with us when we looked at this house. He said "I don't think so." We looked at another house that is now being used as an office for some sort of SWAT police unit. Jake was with us when we looked at this one. He and Joe thought all the machine guns in the closet were cool, but that was about all.

Anyway through some interesting circumstances Jake ran into a family in the grocery store (more about the store later) who had just moved here from Texas less than a month before. She and her family have relocated to Coch because her 24 year old daughter started an orphanage here a couple of years ago. It just so happens that Jayme Metzgar connected me with the daughter, Jennifer Thompson, before we left Virginia. I exchanged a couple of emails with her. Anyway after learning Jake's name at the grocery store, Mrs. Thompson said "So you're one of the Holmans." Jake thought he had a moment of notoriety. :) She gave us a lead on the apartment below them and viola it looks like we will be neighbors. God certainly works in mysterious ways. Jake just thought he spotted a nice Texan lady to ask a question to in the grocery store and it ended up connecting us to the apartment we hope to get. Right now we are waiting for the owner to put in a phone line. It's very expensive ($1500) and can only be done by the owner, not a renter since you OWN the phone line.

Housing is a bit more expensive here than we budgeted. That's one reason why we liked the apartment. It was nicer than the houses we looked at for less money. It will be an adjustment for us moving from 3 acres in Loudoun County, then acres of Sandy Cove, to an apartment in the city, but we're ready to settle in here.

Once we get settled in our new house (apartment) we will begin language school. I believe it should be late July or early August. We have a Spiritual Life Conference here the first week of July (Sandy Cove Homeschool week) that all SIM missionaries must attend.

Now just a bit about the grocery store: Yes, there is a grocery store here although it's more expensive than the outdoor markets. It caters to the upper class and ex-pats. We like the outdoor markets, but also shop at the grocery store. It's funny because all the cheap, generic store-brands from the USA are expensive here. For instance, $1 for a box of Sure-Fine macaroni and cheese or $2.50 for IGA brand salad dressing. A candy bar like my Snickers or Peanut M & M's cost about .75 but are worth it. And Kim Strickland will be happy to know that once in a while we can get Dr. Pepper at the drive-through liquor and convenience store that we have to walk through since we don't have wheels. So, Kim, you can come for a visit after all. :>) All the missionaries here tell us if there is ever something you see at the store, buy it because it might not be there next time. They get in all different things from the US all the time. Like tonight we were there and Joe spotted Old El Paso Taco Seasoning packets. He thought it would be nice to have a taste of 'home' since you all know how much we love Mexican food. When the cashier rang them up they were $1.44 each!! We found that amusing since meat and fresh fruits and veggies are the opposite extreme. We buy hamburger meat for less than $1/pound. That means that the taco seasoning packet cost more than the meat it goes in!! I buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts for less than $1.50/pound and we can buy the very best steaks for $1.25/pound...less than the chicken! The steaks are wonderful, too. I can buy 2 kilos of tomatoes (2.2 pounds) at the outdoor market for .37 cents! Huge avocados cost $1.25 for 4 and I can buy a large pineapple for $1. So needless to say, we are eating much healthier.

We're also walking lots more since our feet and taxis are our only means of transportation right now. We are loosing some of the pounds we put on during our last few weeks and months in the States by all of you kind enough to take us out to eat. We cherish those times with you even if it will be work to take off the pounds!

If you'd like to subscribe to this blog send me an email and I'll put you on the list. Thanks for taking the time and interest to read. Please feel free to comment or ask questions. I love hearing from friends and family!!