Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cochabamba. Not a Cartoon.

I’ve been home from Bolivia for 50 days. 50 DAYS! Crazy how time flies by….and it’s about time I write a little trip recap.

(The title of the post comes from the woman who checked me in at the airport - she looked at my final destination and said, "Cochabamba?! That sounds like a cartoon!")

When Bex first said that she was going to Bolivia, I knew right away that I wanted to visit her. I told her as much, and we both started to get excited about the possibility of me actually visiting. There were moments during the year that I thought the trip wouldn't happen due to tight finances, my work schedule, etc, but I am THRILLED with how the Lord worked those things out. A few things motivated me to visit Bex:
  1. I MISS HER!
  2. I LOVE visiting places where people I know are living (or have lived). You get the best insider-tours, the best food, and the most “homey” visit. I loved that about my trip to Lithuania (and other places in the US), and I’m anxious to continue to travel to see friends in their new homes around the world.
  3. I firmly believe in supporting missionaries – financially, but also emotionally. Though I’ve never been a missionary, I can guarantee it has difficult moments. I grew up in a church and home that placed a high priority on supporting missionaries, and I continue to place a high priority on it. My sister wrote a letter (before a recent trip to Asia to see a friend) that sums up (better than I can) why she believes visiting missionaries is important: "We believe that the support of Christian workers serving abroad is a worthy and needful endeavor. We are pursuing this trip in response to John’s encouragement to Gaius to send the brothers (traveling Christian workers) in a manner worthy of God. Here is the full passage: "Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out of the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore, we (me) ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth." 3 John 1:5-8" I want to be a fellow worker for the truth with Bex through prayer, encouragement, and speaking the truth over her. I'm in a stage of life which allows me to encourage her in person. And I don't pretend to be the first person on Bex's list of "people to see from the states", but I think that any familiar face and touch of home would be an encouragement....I just didn't want to be too big of a burden!
Anyway, the details of the trip fell nicely into place for me to visit during a break from her teaching, and Bex is one TERRIFIC host - sending me many emails beforehand about what to expect for weather, what to pack, ideas of what we would be doing, etc. Needless to say, I WAS EXCITED!!

Highlights of my trip included:
  1. Being with Bex  – talking, laughing (mostly at my Spanglish), sharing struggles and encouragements, being goofy, catching up on the lives we've been living on different continents, and relaxing (she has a grueling schedule at school – in addition to learning and speaking a different language – it is EXHASUTING – and since I was visiting her during her spring break, I definitely anticipated wanting to have some dedicated rest time with her).
  2. Seeing Bex use her gifts – she has clearly been called to serve in Bolivia! The Lord has specific tasks that He prepared for her this year and it was a blessing to hear about it and see it first-hand. I was able to visit the school where she teaches and see her classes, as well as watch her pull off a talent show event for easily over 300 guests……it was awesome! Bex has been gifted to organize, draw people together, and direct. I was very, very blessed to see her in action and know that she is exactly where the Lord wants her to be. Seeing her in that environment made it easy for me to picture the busy schedule she's had over the last weeks with directing the school musical and putting on the prom.....like I said, she is using her gifts, and her gifts are needed!
  3. Seeing Bex in her new home – I loved doing the day-to-day things with Bex. Going grocery shopping, meeting her friends (she had Bolivian friends over for a game night – so much fun!....even though communicating with them was, um, interesting, since I don’t speak Spanish), and going to the market (where we kept running into people Bex knows – so awesome to see that this really is Bex’s new home and community!). Even boiling drinking water and cooking/baking without typical ingredients in the high altitude was great – I loved seeing how Bex has adjusted to her new living conditions and life in the Andes.
  4. Being touristy – We visited the Concha (South America’s largest open-air market), shopped for knick-knacks, sang karokee, had a picnic at a park, used lots of public transportation as well as walked for miles, ate traditional Bolivian food (saltenas), visited cute restaurants (Café Paris, the “horse” restaurant, etc), toured an active convent, and much more!
  5. Easter – I think Easter Sunday was my favorite day in Cochabamba. The city held a service at the soccer stadium with all of the evangelical churches. Even though I don’t know Spanish, the songs were familiar and I knew the words in English. At one point, they were singing a song in Quechuan (the language of an indigenous ethnic group in Bolivia), much of the crowd was singing along in Spanish, and I was singing in English! It felt like a little taste of Heaven to be praising the Father with many nations on the day when we remember Christ's sacrifice for us all. After church we went home to take a nap and then had a very yummy lunch and great conversation with Ami, Bex’s neighbor. Then we went to the Cristo de la Concordia (the largest statue of Jesus Christ in the world). There was some amazing people watching at the Cristo (….is what I imagine everyone who observed the three of us was thinking), but mostly I loved looking out over the city that I was beginning to love with a dear friend and her new friend. It was an excellent near-ending to my trip.
So, as you can see, it was quite the trip……and I haven’t even mentioned being stuck in Bolivia due to airline craziness!! Not the way I wanted to end my trip, but even a few days of unknown return itinerary couldn’t ruin the amazing time I had learning about Cochabamba and spending days with Bex. It felt like only a week had gone by since I had seen her last, even though it had been months and months. I’m thankful for our friendship – that we can pick up where we left off, that we can be honest with each other, and that we can encourage each other in our faith. What a blessing to have had the opportunity to fall in love with Cochabamba! Many thanks to Bex for hosting me!

4 comments:

Faith said...

Very cool and exciting . . . thanks for sharing. You do it so well.

Olivia said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bex said...

This post made me ACHE for Bolivia and your visit! I love that you wrote this all down and "preserved" it in the blogosphere. It made me smile and tear up in numerous places.
It's so great for me to have one person on earth who understands both of my worlds - in MN and in Coch. And I'm so glad it's you, HB!
Love you <3

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