Friday, July 27, 2007

A Day at the Lake and Our Anniversary Date

Laughing by the Lake

Faith and David on the dock

Look at that view!

Skipping Rocks from the Dock

Joe in the kitchen eating Marilyn's delicious cake. We haven't yet acquired a taste for Bolivian cakes. They look beautiful, but as Joe says they taste like a wet sponge pulled out mop water.

The Gang in the Kichen

Cutie Petuties

They have two sets of triple bunks in one bedrooms of the cabin. They also have 2 lofts and 2 other bedrooms so that all 12 of us will have a bed when we go there sometime to spend the night.

Joe, Alan and Kirk
Don't let the picture fool you. Alan did all the grilling. :>)

Canoeing on the Lake

Having Fun

A picture to prove I was there, too.

Seth Relaxing

More Canoeing

Josh and David in the Canoe

David looks like he's having a good time.

Ben and Josh by the Lake


Everyone wants a turn.

Patience Peeking under the Porch Swing

Kirk, Jake, David, Josh, and Ben

Last Saturday was our anniversary. Joe and I have now been married for 23 years. I love him now more than ever. He is the absolute best person I know. He's the most godly man, best friend, caring husband and devoted father I've ever met. I'm so glad to be his wife. Okay, okay enough mushy stuff. Let me tell you a bit about our anniversary. On Saturday our family was invited to the SIM lake house that's a ways outside of the city. We thought this sounded like a fun diversion for our anniversary and so we decided to go. Since we don't have wheels yet (or driver's licenses for that matter) we haven't traveled outside of the city. We thought it would be a few months to a year before we would be able to venture out that far since we also are not yet even close to fluent in Spanish. (We think we're doing well when we get the taxi driver or the people at the market to understand us.) So, we were grateful to the Andrews family for their invitation and their willingness to chauffeur all 12 of the Holman clan out there. I didn't know how much I needed to be out of the city until we were on the way there. As we were driving up the twisting roads toward the lake I began to relax. I didn't realize I had been 'uptight' until I felt this feeling of relaxation coming over me. It was so good to be out of the hustle and bustle of the city. About an hour later we were at the cabin. Just the week before we had been talking about how much we loved the Riverside Baptist Church's campground up near Grand Lake, Colorado. We have such great memories of being there with friends. This lake cabin reminded us of the campground there in the Rockies. We had a wonderful day with Alan and Marilyn and their two sons Kirk and Seth. We just hung out and cooked out and got to know each other better. The kids had a great time canoeing on the lake and playing games. It was so tranquil and peaceful on the lake. So calming. Before we knew it the day was over and it was time to come home.

On the way home we saw a young man who was evidently hit by a bus. He was lying in the road with his head turned at a grotesque angle. A pedestrian being hit by a car or a bus isn't an uncommon occurrence here. There are crosses beside the roads here in town where pedestrians have been killed by cars or buses. It's also not unusual for the bus drivers to be drunk. There is no law against drunk driving in Bolivia and a recent study we heard about said that 80% of Bolivians have a problem with alcohol. We took the accident as an opportunity to warn our children about the dangers of crossing the streets here. Once we were back home in the city, we were grateful that the Andrews stayed at our house to visit for a while more. The older kids played some video games, the little ones ('honeys' as Paish calls them....I love that word...honeys...I'm going to start calling them this, too) ate PBJs and went to bed. The two couples sat and talked and prayed together. It was a special time for Joe and I. We thoroughly enjoyed our anniversary.

But we decided to go on a date to celebrate our anniversary just the two of us on another night. After all why not drag this out? We went to a nice restaurant here in town and talked about our last 23 years together. The high points, the low points and all kinds of things in-between. It was a great date. We didn't want it to end so we walked to the movie theater, but there was nothing we wanted to see. We were too dressed up to go bowling...the only other amusement in town. There are only two bowling alleys in Bolivia. The one here in Coch and one in La Paz. The one in La Paz still has the pins set up by hand!! The one here in Coch is much more 'modern' but the floors won't allow you to slide even with bowling shoes on and they are also warped, so you never know which way the ball might roll. It makes it more of an adventure and even levels the playing field a little which I like since I'm not a good bowler. I'm not a good bowler YET, anyway. We think that when we come back to the states, we might all be pretty good but will have some wacky form since we can't slide here. Next, we thought about going for coffee, but have gotten too old to drink non-decaf coffee that late at night and that's all that's available here. So we just went for a stroll. Evidently it was some sort of a holiday or at least a young person hang out night that we didn't know about. The street was filled with youth drinking and partying, so we just decided to go home. We grabbed a taxi instead of walking since we were a bit more dressed up and also we were slightly concerned about all the drunk youth. We thought we were safe once we were in the taxi. There's something I have to explain at this juncture. There are different types of taxis here in Coch. You might see just some car with a homemade sign stuck in their window saying "TAXI". Then there are other cars with the word "TAXI" actually painted on the side. These are a bit more official. Then there are 'radio taxis'. These are taxi companies that you can call and they will dispatch a taxi to pick you up. These taxis also pick up people on the street. They are a bit more expensive and are considered the safest form of public transportation. One more thing about taxis, whenever a taxi driver sees gringos walking, they honk to see if you want a ride. They think you MUST want a ride if you are a gringo. Everyday when Joe and I go out for a walk, we get lots of honks to see if we'd like a ride. We have a joke that we're going to make a sign that says, "No, we don't want a ride we're just gringos walking!" So anyway back to our anniversary date. We finally got in a radio taxi and thought we were safe. That is until we smelled the alcohol and noticed that the taxi driver was weaving more than the normal weave of muddled traffic. It was then that we realized that our driver was indeed drunk. YIKES. Joe said "It's only a few blocks and we aren't going any faster than 20 mph so we'll just stay in. If he has a wreck, we'll hop out and get another taxi." I agreed with this cavalier idea since I'm a laid back Pooh...a bear with very little brain I might add. We made it home safe and sound and lived to see another day. Of course we have told our children to NEVER do that. If they get in a taxi or a bus with a drunk/drinking driver they are to get out immediately and find another one. We recently attended a seminar about Bolivian culture. We learned that Bolivians aren't generally risk takers. At least not risks that they are not used to. They accept certain risks as normal. Like a few weeks back 4 people were killed in a bus accident where the driver was drunk. People got on the bus, smelled the alcohol, saw the driver's bottle, knew the driver was drunk and stayed on the bus anyway. It was an acceptable risk to them, because they were familiar with the scenario.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Our House and New Puppy

Here is the set of keys they gave us to our house when we moved in. No kidding. There are 18 different keys for different doors. No master keys here. It can prove to be a challenge. As you begin the tour of our house notice how many doors we have. Just on the main floor there are 6 doors leading outside! Then each balcony (3) has a different key, as does the kitchen, the pantry, the bedrooms, the hall closet that holds the hot water heater (really), the outiside depositos (storage rooms), etc., etc. Plus we have 2 keys for the locks of the gates. Of course when we first moved in and had been in the house less than 30 minutes, Patience decided to use the potty by herself (which she has never done before). She locked herself in the bathroom. Of course that room DOESN'T have a key!!! The door knobs here are quite high especially for a two year old. I had to go around to the side of the house and look through a window and talk her through how to turn the lock which she was able to accomplish after only about 15 very long minutes!! The window was barred and not even Josh could fit through. I don't know what we would've done if she didn't open it. It made for an interesting first few moments in our new house. Also on your 'tour' look at all the differing angles of our house. There is not one single rectangular room. They all have odd shapes....triangles, circles, sloping roofs, etc. I know that the builders must have been cursing the architect as they built this house.

For those of you who wanted to see, here's a picture of the tile in my bathroom. Isn't it lovely?

Here's a shot of our dining room looking down from upstairs.

The kiddos watching one of those $1.24 movies. I don't know if you can tell from the pic, but the coffee table is missing it's glass top. It didn't even last 12 hours before it broke. Of course it was one of our teens, not one of the littles that broke it. We've also broken plenty of glasses. Tile floors are very unforgiving.

Joe working on our newsletter at our table. Notice the Old Navy shorts? I picked them up at La Cancha for 10 bolivianos (about $1.24....the same as movies).

Benjamin on the balcony of his room that he shares with Caleb, David and Josh.

We have very little grass...this is the dirt of our front yard. Boy can the kids get dirty here. I no longer judge anyone with dirty kids as mine are dirty a good percentage of the time. A man is coming next month to plant some. He said it's too fria (cold) now.

Here is our front door. Around to the left is the 'maid's quarters'
which is Seth and Jake's bedroom. It's just barely big enough to
fit their bunk bed and Jake's keyboard in.

Jake and Caleb unlocking the gate to go out.

The upstairs 'hang out' area. Down below to the right is our dining room. Notice all the angles. The room at the back left of the pic is circular!

A shot of the living room from above and a bit of the dining room too. It's all one big open space. Notice more angles.

Joe working at the computer in my hallway office. This is directly opposite of the dining room. To his left is another of the doors leading outside.

Me with Starbucks our fierce guard dog. Since we have such good security guards on our street, and not a big yard, we decided to get a small dog. She won't scare off too many burglars, but we're all having fun with her.

Caleb, Ben, David and Josh's room

Our kitchen. I know the yellow is a bit 'much' but we actually painted it this color. You should have seen the bright royal blue it was before. It clashed with the green tile. Someone told me it looks like 'school bus' yellow, but I prefer to think of it as 'sunflower' yellow. Also notice the silver water filter to the left of the sink and the clear plastic container on the counter holding water. We can't drink the water without filtering it. We can't even brush our teeth with it. We keep a plastic container of 'good' water ('the water without bugs' as the kids call it) in each bathroom. Also notice we have no dishwasher. It's quite a chore to wash by hand in that tiny sink all the dishes we use each day. Notice back where the windows are, that's another round room.

Another shot of Joe at the table. Behind the table is another of the doors leading outside.

Faith, Hope, David and Josh in the living room. Notice the door behind them.

Hope with Starbucks

Jake, Caleb, and Ben doing schoolwork

Well I hope this gives you a glimpse of our house here in Cochabamba. We are thankful to have our house and to feel settled here in our new home. We are hoping to begin language school on August 9. We are waiting until after our orientation week which will be August 3-7.
Seth got his results back from the lab yesterday. He has a stomach infection and some amoeba in his system. He started on antibiotics and is beginning to feel better. I was really feeling ill last night. I had a fever, was very queasy and achy-sore like I had the flu. I feel some better today. Still queasy, but the fever and soreness are gone. I hope I don't need to go to the doc. Here everytime us new gringos need to see a doc, they want us to bring in a stool sample. YUCK! So you can pray that I don't have to go to the doc so he can determine which 'amoeba of the week' I have! I'm off now to drink some coca leaf tea. It's the same leaf that some distort to make cocaine. It eases upset stomachs. It's also good for altitude sickness.
Soon I hope to post some pics of around town. The archtecture in Coch is a cross between Spanish colonial and rubble. :>)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

La Cancha

Sorry it's been so long since I've written. I hope to not go that long without writing again. Thanks for hanging in there with me. Tonight I thought I'd elaborate on La Cancha. La Cancha is hard to explain if you haven't ever been there. I wish I had some pictures to show you, but it's likely that if you take a camera to La Cancha you won't come home with it. So, you'll have to rely on my insufficient description. La Cancha is the biggest outdoor market in all of South America or so I've been told. I believe it because it's HUGE...pretty much the size of Washington DC with even more crime believe it or not. Most people either love it or hate it. I love it. I love going there. I love shopping there. If it's available in Bolivia you can probably find it in La Cancha. Of course my favorite part is the used clothing section. By section I mean 5 square blocks. Big blocks at that. Imagine 5 streets, 5 blocks long full of nothing but thrift store rejects. It's paradise. No, really the stores/stalls are mostly well organized. Some are so specialized they carry only Abercrombie and Fitch or Hollister clothing. Others have only purses. Today I saw a Kenneth Cole leather purse for less than $2. I didn't buy it because I don't carry a purse here. If it doesn't fit in my jeans pocket I don't carry it. I have a whole system: lip balm and Purell in my back left, cell phone in my back right unless I'm in La Cancha where it's likely to get picked (Seth had his taken on Sunday), small bills and change in my front left, larger bills in my small 'watch' pocket (this is my new favorite pocket...I keep most of my money here in case I'm mugged or pick-pocketed no one will know it's there and I won't you are sworn to silence too), and my list of stuff I need to buy in my front right. But I digress, on to the tour of La Cancha....besides any possible type/brand of used clothing from Neiman Marcus to Wal-Mart you can also find all kinds of other 'used' items. Earlier this week when I was shopping with Seth we saw one of those plastic handles used to hold a half gallon carton of milk. My granny used to have one of these when I was growing up. I wonder who is going to buy this since milk here comes in those little one liter plastic bags I've told you about. No cartons. No half-gallons. Oh well, it brought back a bit of nostalgia for me. La Cancha is made up of several sections like districts in NYC. There's the:

  • used clothing section,

  • new clothing section where some of the aisles are so tight that you can hardly pass someone. There is stall after stall of the same merchandise yet they all seem to make a living selling.

  • shoe section,

  • computer section where we've bought 3 pair of computer speakers for $7 each,

  • appliance section where there is a 42 inch big screen TV for $2400 right across the street from a lady that sells goldfish in glass bowls for 12 cents each. When I say street I mean street. Busy, crowded streets where taxis with whole living room suites of furniture piled on top don't mind bumping into gringos if they forget they are in the street. And it is easy to forget you are in a street since there are new appliances piled up everywhere with barely room for a car to get through. The stores need a scratch and dent section for merchandise that has been scratched or dented by cars!

  • material section--a seamstress' dream where you can find materials as varied as lace to polar fleece,

  • Little Miami: which is the electronics section,

  • plastics section: We love this section. It's one of the few places in Coch we can find plastic stuff. As a general rule plastics are more expensive here than in the about $25 for a cheap plastic kitchen trash can,

  • furniture section where we've bought most of our furniture made by hand by Bolivians. The stores don't deliver so you have one or two choices if you don't have a car. You can pile it all on/in a taxi which the taxi drivers don't mind. They are happy to put a couch, loveseat, chair and ottoman on the top of their car or even a couple of goats....really! Your other option is to rent a transport truck that comes with a driver. They will deliver to anywhere in the city for less than $10. You can also pay a couple of guys $1.25 to load and unload it and for an extra 60 cents they'll even carry it upstairs. We have chosen this option several times now. In fact today we arranged the transport all by ourselves and even we're able to tell them how to get to our house....a small victory.

  • tool section,

  • meat section where you can a whole cow head, or just it's brain, tongue or heart, chicken intestines or feet, etc., etc. Bolivians don't waste any part of an animal. You can't even imagine the smell in this part!!

  • fruit section,

  • party section where you can buy bags of confetti bigger than my five year old and fireworks that make you hope no one is smoking nearby. I saw some with a diameter of 18 inches on the street within a couple of feet of passing cars. They also have pinantas and huge bags of candy and bags of hundreds of those cheap little Chuck E. Cheese-type toys,

  • office/school supplies where a package of constuction paper costs $18. Yes you read that right. They generally sell it by the sheet, but a whole package costs $18. A thin spiral that costs 25 cents at Wal-Mart costs about $2-$3 here which is less than the $4 ones at the gringo grocery store.

  • toy section,

  • bedding section,

  • housewares section,

  • electical and lighting section,

  • toliet section,

  • mattress section,

  • flower section where I can buy a couple of dozen roses for about $3,

  • and plenty of others that I can't think of right now and many more sections that I'm haven't even been to yet

Scattered in between all these are some Pil and Fino stores. Pil is the brand of milk here in Bolivia. They also make all kinds of dairy products. Fino is a brand of vegatable/cooking oil. You can buy it in a bottle like in the states OR you can bring your own bottle and they fill it from a pump on a 55 gallon drum full of oil. There are also scattered booths on the streets selling just pens and pencils, or just electical cords. There are also row after row of booths of pirated DVDs and music CDs of every kind and quality. We now only buy from the stalls that have a TV there so we can see if it really is in English and also see the quality. We've been burned a couple of times. I guess for about a buck, it's okay. We actually have 2 copies of Meet the Robinsons cartoon that are messed up at the same place. About 1/4 of the way through the sound track and the video get out of about 2 minutes. You hear what's going to happen two minutes before you see it. I guess the master pirate copy was messed up.

Remember when I say section I'm literally talking about city blocks and blocks crammed packed. Wednesday and Saturday are market day when people come down from La Paz and other various locations to sell blankets and all kinds of other wares. On these days La Cancha expands even more. We bought some thick wool blankets to keep the kiddos warm on these cold July nights. They cost us about $4 each.

I haven't even begun to do La Cancha justice. You must come and see it for yourself. Suffice it to say it's place you can buy a Van Halen t-shirt from their tour in the 80s, a 19-inch flat screen computer moniter, a llama fetus (that's from the witches part of La Canch that I forgot to mention)...really they use them for 'spells' and such, Barbie sheets, all 9 seasons of X-Files on DVD, llama skins, digital cameras, and everything in between. And I there's no way to describe the smells...mostly bad like urine and animal guts but some good too like the fresh fruits and flowers.

One of the things I'm grateful for in La Cancha is the pay toliets. I'm grateful because since you must pay to go, they are mostly clean. At the entrance to the restrooms there is a little lady sitting with a few sheets of toilet paper. When you give her 6-12 cents she'll give you the TP and let you enter. It beats going on the street like lots of people do.

I think I've seen just about everything there. Everything that is but chocolate chips and pets. They don't have chocolate chips in Bolivia. I think this should have been disclosed before I signed up to come here. :>) And pets you must buy at another market. Every Sunday beside the futbol stadium there is a pet-mart where you can find all kinds of animals. Last Sunday we bought a puppy. She's so cute and tiny!! Hopefully in a day or two I'll post some pics of her and of our house.

I am so grateful to be here and to be having such fun experiences as shopping at La Cancha.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Three O'Clock and All's Well-ll

Do you remember that line from the old Disney Robin Hood cartoon? "Three o'clock and all's well-ll". That's what our security guards do more or less...really more than less. There are 3 men who watch our street 24-7. It's a father and his two grown sons. So grown in fact that the first time I met one of them I told Joe I had met the dad and he said "No, that's one of the sons". They walk up and down our street in order to deter any crime. The security guards in Bolivia don't carry any weapons. Most just sit in or beside a blue box that looks like a metal port-a-potty. Some, like ours, are more active. They walk up and down the street and carry and blow a whistle. They blow the whistle if they see something amiss or someone doing something they aren't supposed to. That's all well and good. They also blow the whistle every once in a while in order to let the property owners know that they are on the job and not asleep. It's a good idea in theory. However our guards tend to be over zealous with the whistle-blowing. The first night we slept in the house we didn't get much rest, but now we're used to it. Like the other day Joe was telling someone how zealous they were and he said that they blow the whistle every hour. I disagreed and said it was more often. That night we paid closer attention. They blew the whistle at 11:00, 11: 04, 11:15, 11:35, 11:40, 11:47; 11:55 before we stopped counting. They do it in the daytime, too. The second day we were in our house they kept on blowing and we still weren't used to it yet. I told Joe to open the door and yell to them, "We trust you! You don't have to blow the whistle." Of course he didn't. Now we are used to the blowing and it doesn't bother us. We are grateful that they guard our neighborhood so well. They even helped us unload all our groceries from the taxi last week. They are extremely conscientious and also very friendly. Most guards we've seen might mumble a "Buenos dias" if we speak first. Our guards call to us from across the street anytime they see us. They like talking to the kiddos whenever out for a walk. When we went to the conference we were told that we shouldn't leave our house without a house-sitter. We tried to find someone to stay at our house, but most were taken already since all the missionaries needed someone to stay in their houses. We told our ministry coordinator how diligent our guards were and asked if it might be okay if we didn't have someone house-sitting. He talked with the guards and determined that it would be enough that they were watching so closely and knowing we were gone. Sure enough, when we returned the house and its contents were safe and sound. I guess we can put up with the whistle. :)

I also wanted to list a few things that I am grateful for living in Cochabamba. In no particular order they are:

  • Our Lord for calling us to this place and walking daily with us.

  • Our children for being so flexible and adjusting to all they've need to

  • Our big brother and sister here: Allen and Marilyn Andrews, fellow missionaries who have done so much above and beyond the call of duty to help us get settled in Coch.

  • The Bolivian people: The more we get to know them, the more our love for them grows.

  • Our new house and the feeling of normalcy after months of not having that stability.

  • The weather: They say it's the city of eternal spring. I think whoever they are, they are right.

  • The wonderful food: fresh fruits and veggies (loads of tomatoes, peas, potatoes, carrots, pineapple, apples, limes, tangerines, bananas, papaya, mangos, starfruit, chicamoya, almost any thing you can think of, tasty steak, chicken, yaqua (homemade hot sauce served with every meal), the older two guys have tried and loved cow heart, Seth even likes chicken heart shish-ka-bobs, the traditional dishes: silpanchos, pique macho, empanada, saltanas and the list goes on. Cochabamba is considered the bread-basket of Bolivia. The other day a Bolivian man told me that Cochabambinos don't eat to live, they live to eat.

  • The various bands that have asked Jake to join them. He so much enjoys playing the piano and the guitar with them.

  • The young people who have befriended our children.

  • The youth group that our kids go to at the international church

  • Amalia: a Bolivian young lady who works at the MAE office that has helped us in every imaginable way from interpreting to house-hunting to furniture shopping with us

  • The bathtub in my bathroom: I know many of you prayed that I would find a house with a nice tub. God answered abundantly above all we could ask or think. It's HUGE taking three empties of the hot water heater to fill it. :)

  • The tile around the tub that has pictures of antique French perfume bottles on it. Where they got this tile in Bolivia I have no idea. It's so lovely to look at while I soak.

  • A nice washing machine made in Korea that even heats the water. Two handymen that we hired to install breakers and such didn't believe us. They thought we were mistaken, that such a machine didn't exist. Everyone in Bolivia washes all clothes in cold water (even if it's the cold river). Well, almost everyone. Not me...once I get the breaker installed anyway. It will be nice to have hot water to wash very 'germy' items.

  • That at least SOME of the books we sent ahead last February arrived. Please pray for the other half or so to make it. We're all enjoying them. (See photo.) When I unpacked the books I felt like I was home.

  • The guards who watch our house so diligently (even if they do take that whistle-blowing a little too seriously).

  • All of our friends back in the states who have supported us, encouraged us, prayed for us, emailed us, and kept up with us though we now live many miles away.

  • Antonio, a Bolivian fellow who also works at the MAE office. He was with us the day I cried at the meeting with the HOA people from the apartment we had hoped to get. I think it really got to him. After that he took it upon himself to find us a house even though it has nothing to do with his job description. He looked at houses for hours for us and it was he and Amalia who found the house we are now living in.

  • My parents who even though I know they miss us and we miss them tremendously have done all they can to be supportive of our call to live so far away.

  • Of course I can't fail to mention my best friend and husband who has taken care of me every step of this journey.

Monday, July 9, 2007

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Here's a practical word of advice learned from my experience at conference.....If you must get up, get dressed and bundle up to hike to a COLD toilet in the middle of the campus to use the restroom during the night, don't drink 3 cups of coffee, 2 cups of tea, 1 liter of Coke, various juices and water during the daytime. It's a good thing they don't have ice here or I really would've been in trouble as those of you who know me know I can put away about 5-7 pounds of ice a day much to my dentist's chagrin.

Well the conference is over. We met lots of fascinating SIM missionaries this last week. We were so thankful to be here during the conference. We enjoyed meeting our fellow missionaries and seeing the ministries that they have all around Bolivia. We are blessed to have this wonderful group of people as our missionary family. Their love for our Lord and for the people of Bolivia was inspiring to us and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work alongside them.

We met a group of SIM missionaries from La Paz who are doing a church plant. It was especially exciting to talk to them since their intentions are to start a family-based church. They are working through the details of how it will all be fleshed out and their vision statement, etc. It was thrilling to see how God is leading them. Once we have a vehicle we'd love to make the trip up (WAY up...elevation approximately 14,000 feet) to visit.

There was a missions team that came from a church in Illinois to lead the children's program while the missionaries were meeting for the conference. The team was OUTSTANDING. We were very impressed with their organization, their generosity, and their outpouring of love. Many of the members of the team brought their entire family. There was also a grandfather who brought his grandson. They held a VBS type event for the kiddos (ages 0-18) for 5 days from 8:45 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.---quite a task. It was great. The kids had an awesome time and all the parents were impressed. They knew just what to do and what to bring to make us all happy. They brought candy bars, Goldfish crackers, and small boxes of American cereal for the kids along with lots of fun craft projects, frisbees, pocket knives, some really good books, games, balls, etc. all for the kids to keep. For the teens, they took them all out bowling one day and for ice cream another day...and they paid for everything. They also gave the teens some really good CDs of contemporary Christian music. And for the women they brought Bath and Body Works goodies and various cards, teas, stationary, books, etc. It seems that they knew just what we all wanted. :) We were all blessed by their thoughtfulness and the love they showed to us all. They maintained good attitudes throughout the week...all of them even the children on the team even though I'm sure it was a long week for them. They were encouraging and supportive. I never once heard anyone on the team complain.

Tomorrow I hope to write an article of some of my favorite things in Cochabamba and also a funny story about our security guards at our house. Now I'm going to bed.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

About Getting Packages....

Joe sent out our snail mail address in his last update and many people have asked about what sorts of things we would like to have mailed. Anything really. You all know us and know we're not picky about such things. It would just be great to have contact with you. But for those who won't take that for an answer, here is a list of some of the things we've thought of.....

  • Magazines and books for kids,teens and for adults, too----esp. the new Harry Potter book :)-also all the kiddos love the Dragons in our Midst books. We have numbers 1-4. They are available at the Christian book store on probably on Amazon as well. I'm pretty sure you can mail books for an international media mail rate. Just check with the post office.
  • StarBuck's coffee--regular and decaf (Here, they often drink instant coffee--yuck. Our new saying taught to us by other missionaries is "Nescafe: no es cafe". Translation: Nescafe is not coffee.)
  • Chocolate chips
  • Children's Benedryl dissolvable tablets
  • Construction paper
  • Notebook paper, spiral notebooks, or computer paper (these are available here but a 25 cent spiral notebook from Wal-mart costs $4 here)
  • Oatmeal cream pies
  • Peanut M&Ms
  • Gummy bears or worms
  • Baby bottles of nerds candy (My younger ones LOVE these. They are available at most Wal-mart checkouts.)
  • Warheads or some other such sour candy
  • An oven thermometer
  • Colored pencils
  • Homeschool materials
  • Wind up flashlights
  • Decaf flavored teas
  • Gum (preferably sugarless)
  • Silicone hot pad squares (several)
  • Silicone pancake turner (or two)
  • Crayons and coloring books
  • Foam building blocks
  • Polly Pockets for the girls (Theirs were inadvertently thrown away in some of our moving.)
  • Legos or actions figures for the boys
  • An ear and nose hair trimmer (yes, really, and no, not for me!)
  • Crushed ice (just kidding...just dreaming....actually at IKEA I found and bought a crank ice crusher. God was good to me by allowing me to find it or perhaps he was punishing Joe.)

I'm sure that many of you can come up with more creative things than these. Also, there are some things that we brought with us that we have plenty of now, but will run out of as time goes on. We'll update you on those as it happens.

For those of you who might not have it, our snail mail address is:

Joe and Denise Holman
Cajon 736
Cochabamba, Bolivia
South America

Remember that sending mail to us is not like sending it to military personnel or to government employees. They are much more likely to actually receive their packages and in much shorter time. So, keeping that in mind, it probably wouldn't be wise to send anything too expensive. Again, our fellow missionaries have said that anything less than 2 kilos (about 4.4 pounds) we don't have to pay customs duty on which is about 50% of the value of the item. Also they have told us that the easiest packages to get are ones in padded envelopes that weigh less than 2 kilos. However, having said that, please feel free to send anything you desire. When you are mailing, you must list the contents, but please don't place a value on it. Also, it's best if are able to write the descriptions in words that people that don't have English as their first language can understand. For example: instead of saying "books" you might say "reading materials". Instead of "towels" you might say "drying apparatus". This could give you vocabulary and creative writing practice as well as blessing us with mail. :) If you choose to mail a larger box that we must pay duty on, please open any new items and take tags off of them. This way they are considered 'used'. Please write 'used' on the description. So, then we only have to pay duty on 'garage sale' prices. For example: a new CD would cost maybe $15, but a used (opened) one would only be $1 or so. Therefore we would only pay 50 cents duty instead of $7.50. If you must place a value on your items please remember this and write extremely low values.

I'm sorry for the personal nature of this next paragraph. Please feel free to skip it.
One more helpful hint that was given to us is that if you send a package that the customs agents must go through try putting some tampons on the top of it. We've heard that then they don't examine it too closely. Most agents are men and they have respect for some things. If you do put tampons on top, please send Playtex brand.

I hope this helps and we'll let you know how it works out in reality not just theory once we've received some packages!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

More on the Conference and Widow Makers

Happy Independence Day my fellow Americans!!! It is strange to not be celebrating our country's independence today. To not be with friends and family eating hot dogs, watermelon and swimming not to mention shooting off fireworks and traipsing to Franklin Park to watch even more fireworks is more difficult than I thought it would be. I miss it. I miss the celebration. I miss people reflecting on how wonderful our nation is despite all it's shortcomings. I miss the honor we give to those who came before us to make our nation "One nation under God with liberty and justice for all". Here in jest the missionaries from Great Britain call today the Day of Great Rebellion from the Queen's Most Rebellious Colonies. They are wearing black. It's all in good fun as we jest back. Still I miss celebrating with you all.

Well I suppose I must update you on which mattress I chose. Actually, Joe and I shared the hard as a 2 by 4 one. Yes we shared a twin mattress. I haven't done that since our days back at the church camp in Grand Lake, Colorado (circa mid to late 1990s). At least we shared it for the first few hours. Then I decided that it would be better for both of us if I rolled off onto the one that felt like an air mattress that has sprung a leak. It's not an air mattress. It only felt like it because it was so soft. It's so soft in fact I was actually touching the floor through the mattress. It enveloped me and I went back to sleep. Yesterday one of the coordinators of the conference made an announcement that they had extra cardboard for anyone who wanted it. They had put cardboard on the tile floor beneath the mattresses to help keep the cold from seeping through. I told Joe I was going to ask for more cardboard just so I could double the thickness of my mattress. :) We went to bed last night by 10:30. It's the earliest I remember going to bed in YEARS. We decided it would be best so we could make up for all the sleep we weren't going to get. The small electric heaters help keep our room warm. We had to buy them for our house since the younger kiddos would wake up with hands and feet that were like little ice cubes. We got them just in time to bring them here and boy are we glad we did. Back when we lived in Colorado we bought an expensive THICK down comforter one Christmas as a 'splurge'. It has served us very well over the years and is still in great condition. I believe that it is the best possession that we brought with us.

It was our first full day of the conference. It was a great day. Here are a few of the highlights:

Hope threw up after being spun around one too many times on the swing. Actually the kiddos are having a wonderful time. There is a missions team here from Wheaton, IL running the children's program while the adults attend the conference. The missions team is a team of families which we think is really exciting. It's so neat to see families on mission trips together. We hope someday some of you will do the same and bring a team of families down here. Our kids are having all kinds of fun meeting other MKs and are thoroughly enjoying the team especially since they brought American snacks!! M & Ms, Snickers, Twinkies, and American cereal. I haven't seen a happier group of kiddos in a while. They said "We have snacks all the time!! We made a car and ate it!" What a hit! Even the teens are thrilled. One of our kids even won a pocket knife which he's already had to have taken away. As much as they are missing Sandy Cove, it's nice that they have this to enjoy.

It's been great for Joe and I as we are getting to know missionaries from around Bolivia. There have been lots of great moments, but by far the greatest one has been praying with them. SIM's motto is 'By Prayer' and it's a joy to see that they mean it.

Another highlight of the day was discovering the secret of a 'widow-maker' since this is the only kind of showers here at the school. (See earlier post to explain what this is.) If you remember a widow maker works by heating the water with 220 volts of electricity as it comes through the showerhead. This doesn't give too much time for it to heat the water, so the more water you have the colder the water is. If you want it to be hot (again I use this term very loosely) you must have it only trickle out of the shower head. The more pressure you have the colder it is. That's the secret. I tried it tonight and the theory proves true. I was able to take a shower without absolutely freezing even though the girls' locker room where I took the shower has windows that are permanently open to the 35ish degree weather outside. At our new house Seth and Jake have a widow maker in their bathroom and we thought it was broken. But now we know the truth.

As I said before, it's interesting meeting and hearing from SIM missionaries from all over Bolivia. Cochabamba and Santa Cruz are among the nicest cities in Bolivia as far as living conditions go. So we are truly spoiled compared to those who live and work out in the Alto Plano and in the campo. They think that the school where we are staying with it's mattresses on the floor, running cold water, widow makers and toliets that we must bundle up and walk to in the middle of the night is Club Med while we think we're 'roughing it'. Even many of the houses that we looked at in Coch when we were house hunting didn't have hot water. It makes us realize how truly spoiled we all are in the United States and even here in Coch compared to the rest of Bolivia.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Mouse Story at Last

Well yesterday we unpacked our final suitcases into our new house here in Coch. Today we sent the boys out to the deposito (storage building) to bring in the suitcases so we can pack them again. We're off to the Annual Bolivian Spiritual Life Conference out at the Carachipampa Christian School. It's only about 20 minutes from our house, but we are required to stay at the school for the duration of the conference, so we packed up yet again. We will be staying through Sunday. We were able to get all of mine and Joe's stuff in a suitcase along with all the four girls' things. The six boys shared another suitcase. But we had to have 3 or 4 more suitcases to hold our 12 sets of sheets, 12 blankets (it's cold here at night), towels, 14 pillows (yes, I need two and so does Joe) and 2 small electric heaters. So, it feels like we're moving all over again. :)

Now on to the mouse story that so many of you have been waiting for. I hope it meets your expectations. A couple of days after we landed here in Bolivia we heard a mouse stirring around in our apartment. I've already let the cat out of the bag here and told you it was a mouse but actually it sounded like a rat. Literally. We thought it was a LARGE rat. It sounded like someone was doing work with a chainsaw in our kitchen. I said perhaps it was even a raccoon if such a thing lives here. We first heard it at night in the kitchen area. Then the next morning we awoke to find that the door that connects our kitchen with the next apartment was eaten away at the bottom. We weren't sure if the varmint was trying to get in or out. We cleaned up all the wooden shavings that looked like a beaver had been for a visit and tried to forget about it. We asked the guest house hostess if she had any mouse traps, she kinda looked at us funny like no one ever asked for one before. For the next couple of nights we heard the same beaver. It sounded as if he were building a serious dam in our kitchen and every morning we would clean up the shavings in the floor. The door was getting shorter by the day. I figured it must be a tall creature to reach the bottom of the door as it shrunk. A couple of nights later Joe decided this was it. He was going to hunt it down and kill the beast. It didn't seem to be in its usual spot in the kitchen and we were trying to track it down by the gnawing sounds rattling our house. It proved to have cricket ancestry as whenever we would get close, the noise would stop and he would wait for us to move on before he started again. Finally we went to bed. We heard it chomping away again and Joe got up to check it out one last time. He came back to the room with a concerned look on his face that I usually only see when someone needs to go to the ER to get stitches. He said, and I quote, "We have a problem." I knew it was a problem since the statement was accompanied by the look. I tried to prepare myself for the worst. Yet I still wasn't prepared for what he said next. "The rat (at the time we thought it was a rat) is not in the kitchen. It is in the girls' room and it is gnawing to get OUT." YIKES! That night the older boys were out and so we had also let Josh and David sleep in the room with the girls. They were sleeping on the FLOOR as were Joy and Patience. Joe looked around for a weapon. It just so happened that the only weapon besides a knife he could find was his shoe. He quickly disregarded the idea of the knife. Too messy and too difficult. He grabbed the shoe and jerked open the kids' room door. Of course the rat was too shrewd to fall for the ole 'I'm gonna smack you with the shoe trick' and quickly hid before the door was even fully opened. Joe carried sleeping David, Josh, Joy and Patience to our room and began the search. He went through everything their room...their closet, their dirty clothes, everything. He didn't find the varmint. So then my faithful, loving, night-watchman husband sat out on a stake out. He sat on a chair outside of the girls' room with the shoe cocked for an hour and a half just waiting for the beast to show it's ugly face. Mind you, the stake out didn't start until after 1:00 a.m. What a guy! He truly is our protector. Well after about 90 minutes of waiting the tiny, little creature poked his head out and quickly scurried down the hall. He was too fast and Joe missed with the shoe. We only believed that something so tiny could cause such a racket and make such a mess because we have children. The mouse continued to plague us for the rest of our six weeks in the guest house with lots of noise and even more mess. No matter how hard we tried, we never could get the Carl Lewis-like creature. But God indeed has a sense of humor because on the day we were moving into our new house, Joe opened the apartment door and the mouse ran outside.

As a post log to this story: Joe woke up with a pulled back the morning after picking up 4 sleeping children from the floor and carrying them to our room . Thankfully here in Bolivia he could get muscle relaxers over the counter from our neighborhood pharmacy! He's much better now and much more relaxed. :)

We'll I'm off to bed. We're sleeping on mattresses on the floor in a classroom of the school. Actually we have 2 classrooms for our family. Joe and I and the girls are in the 4th grade classroom and all 6 boys are in the 3rd grade classroom. Joe has just informed me that one of our twin mattresses on the floor feels like a bean bag chair and the other is as hard as a two by four. He's letting me choose which I would hate the least. Oh, what joy, now let me see....