For Thanksgiving, we decided with the missionaries to celebrate it together with a dinner (pot-luck style) the Monday after. On Thanksgiving Day, we enjoyed a simple meal together and being thankful for our many blessings. But, before we could celebrate with the missionaries, we found out that we needed to go to a Zone Conference in Potosí.
|The Rivas Family|
The Christmas season started out with Charlie giving the combined (all youth and adults) Sunday School lesson to introduce the church’s Light the World Campaign. I love to hear him teach. He showed some of the videos. I don’t know if anyone followed through with the campaign, but it made all the difference in the whole Christmas season for me. Here are some of the things we did to light the world here in Tupiza, Bolivia:
* We had all 4 Young Women and their 2 leaders over to teach them (at the request of their Young Women President) how to prepare a healthy dish. It was fun to have them here in our little kitchen. Everyone helped. I appreciated being able to share my testimony of how much the Lord cares about everything in our lives, even what we cook. He has helped me many, many times to know what and how to cook for my husband and me with food different than I am used to. After our meal of a vegetable, rice and chicken dish, fruit and Oreo cookies, they all insisted on cleaning up. They even swept the floors. What sweet Young Women.
* We watched the First Presidency Devotional together, in English on our computer, in our own home.
* We made three kinds of cookies and took them to our neighbors. We were able to meet the daughter of one of the sisters on our list. She is a member of the church but has not attended for quite some time. We had a good visit with her and her daughter and even had an extra plate for them.
|Origami Baby Jesus in an Aguayo.|
* I learned to make an origami baby Jesus. I had in mind to teach the Rivas twins. We bought some wrapping paper that looked like an aguayo (colorful blankets used to carry babies and everything else). If Jesus had been born in Bolivia, He would have been wrapped in an aguayo. I brought my papers to Noche de Hermanamiento. The Rivas twins were not there, but I taught 3 boys ages 10, 12 and 20.
* The next week for Noche de Hermanamiento I was able to teach 6 children ages 5-12, how to fold niño Jesús in aguayo.
* Sylvana is a 10 year old girl who is investigating the church. She comes to everything and is usually one of the first ones there. She taught Elder Morgan how to make Niño Jesús in Aguayo the following week at Noche de Hermanamiento. I gave her the rest of my papers that I brought with me. We had to buy more paper.
|Drying laundry on a sticker bush in Charaja.|
* We went to visit our friends in Charaja. The families were busy cooking in preparations for a graduation celebration with the community. We helped the boys take down their laundry as it was starting to rain. We waited for them in their home and visited with their 17-year old niece. She was a delight. I had my aguayo papers with me and Charlie suggested I teach her. She seemed to enjoy it and took the rest of my papers to make them for her family. I shared about our tradition of making each other gifts for Christmas and that these baby Jesus in aguayos would make a good gift.
* I got to teach the RS sisters in Rama Tupiza how to make chocolate no-bake cookies. After we made a batch (it makes a whole lot), they decided to make another and some of these were taken to sisters who were not there.
|Our Zone at the Christmas Concert|
* We enjoyed a Christmas Conference in Sucre with missionaries from the Sucre, Potosí and Tupiza Zones. It was a talent show with every zone performing 3 numbers, some crazy (complete with hats a Santa outfit and an elf outfit), some quite beautiful. President Montoya gave a wonderful lesson. We had some time before our dinner of mashed potatoes and gravy (with tender yummy beef), so we basically sat and watched the young, enthusiastically animated missionaries, talk, laugh and take lots of pictures. It’s like being with our kids when they were teenagers.
* We stayed at the Hotel Parador, a really, really nice hotel. Did I say really nice? It was. Beautifully decorated, very comfortable with a grand entry way, a sitting room, two windows with little balconies that looked out onto the street, a chaise lounge and a jacuzzi. The breakfast was lovely as well.
* We also stayed in Potosí the night before the conference in Sucre. We’ve found our bodies do better in the high altitude if we take things more slowly and get a good night’s rest. We found a new restaurant in Potosí, The Silver Fork (El Tenedor de Plata). It was very lovely and the food was very tasty. We also enjoyed watching the Christmas decorations get put up in the plaza just outside the restaurant.
|Selfie at the “Tenedor de Plata” Restaurant.|
|Inside view of the “Tenedor de Plata” Restaurant.|
|180 degree panorama from our hotel in Potosí.|
* We had some interesting experiences in our travels this trip. It seemed no one wanted to go when we were going. With the rapiditos, as soon as the minivan fills up with passengers, you can leave. After waiting what seemed like a very long time Charlie decided it was worth it to pay for the other seats so we could leave. It’s interesting to sit in the vehicle waiting and watch the workers nearly attack a person that gets out of a taxi, all of them trying to woo the person into taking their rapidito. They also say in a loud, sing-songy voice, “Tupiza! Tupiza! Tupiza!” Or whatever city they are going to.
* On the way home we visited with a very nice man, who knew quite a bit about the church. He gave us two pieces of fruit called acachairú. He said it is only found in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. It was pretty tasty. We looked it up online, and found that it is also known as the Bolivian Mangosteen.
* We had the Aleman family over for Family Home Evening and even acted out the nativity story while Charlie read it from Luke. It was fun.
* We searched all over for nativities to give to some families. We even had help from a couple in the branch who know people that sell things like that, but to no avail. Nivia, the wife, said they don’t usually sell those kinds of things until a few days before Christmas. We kept looking and found a cute little store with a lot of home-made crafty things. We enjoyed talking with the lady who makes them. She is from Spain and her husband is from Tupiza. They’ve been here about 5 years. She is familiar with the missionaries and has studied many different religions and likes to listen to their broadcasts on the radio. She happily took our card and a pamphlet on the Restauration. She loves the calm, peaceful atmosphere of Tupiza. She makes games and knicky-knacks for all occasions, even Nativities, one out of foam pages and another out of dowels and fabric. They were cute, so we bought them. I didn’t get a picture of them, but I did get a picture of the paper nativity that we also bought.
* Charlie continues to teach piano. He has a couple of students right now who seem more sincere and dedicated to practicing. He arranged some hymns that we sing often here that are not in the simplified hymnbook. He did a really good job. They sound good and they are easy to play. We had them copied and bound and gave copies to his students. We enjoy visiting the young man that makes the copies. He was baptized about 10 years ago and then married outside of the church and has not been back. He is a good, smiley man.
* Charlie is working with the leadership of Rama Tupiza, encouraging, teaching and lovingly supporting them. I am working with the Relief Society Presidency and together we are learning the new curriculum for the third hour. I get to lead the discussions for the first Sunday lessons in January and February.
|The Vargas family: Isela, Taylor, Francie, Gerson, and Annie|
We continue working with families in their homes to help prepare them for the temple. One family that we taught, the Vargas family, went to the temple this last week and were sealed with their three little children.
Christmas is a bit different here. Aside from being summer and not having snow, it is not as commercialized. There are a few decorations and a tree in the Central Plaza and some shops have decorations and even trees. Some families have Papa Noel come on Christmas Eve, but not everyone and he only brings things to the children. I don’t think neighbor gifts are exchanged. They do have neighborhood parties. My friend Merly, and her husband, were in charge of their neighborhood party for the last 2 years. They had food, a big tree, a gift for all the children, dancing and a “May Pole” type dance. Most neighborhoods have a plaza or gathering place.
On January 6th they celebrate the day the wise men came and brought gifts to Jesus. They get more into this holiday and everyone gets a gift. Some may set out shoes or stockings for the wise men to fill. Always lots of food and music.
I enjoyed listening to Christmas music on my phone all season long. Our favorite part of Christmas though, was seeing all of our children on Saturday night as they got together at Seth and Shalana’s. We use VSee to communicate and it is great for adding others, so we even got to see Holly and her family on the same screen at the same time. We love our family and are so grateful for the good people that they are and that they like to be together and look after each other while we are away.
|Our Christmas tree!|
|With notes of all the gifts we have received in the past year or so.|
Here are some additional notes and pictures garnered in the last month or so:
The lady we buy our fruits and vegetables from has her baby, Oscar, with her at the market every time we go there. Here’s a picture of Charlie with them a month or so ago, and her baby last week. He’s really growing up. He was born in April.
|Jeaneth at her stand in Mercado La Paz.|
We buy our Agua Pera, Agua Manzana and Agua Pomelo (pear, apple, and grapefruit juices – lightly sweetened, so they call them “aguas” or waters) across the street at a little store. We buy 6 2-liter bottles each time, and have gotten to know the owner pretty well. We took some Christmas cookies to them, and his son made these little clay figures as a thank-you. He also wants us to teach this son English. It will be interesting.
|Clay figures made by the son of our “Agua Pera” vendor.|
|Typical Christmas gifts/snacks/goodies in Tupiza.|
The above picture shows a display of typical cakes, breads, cookies, and snacks that serve as gifts in Tupiza between families, or for workers at their places of employment. For the most part, there is very little commercialization around Christmas here. We didn’t really see much by the way of presents for kids, people with arms stuffed with presents, etc. The commercial aspect is pretty low-key, it seems.
And lastly, just to give you a feel for Potosí, here is a picture of Molly walking up a little street between the Stake Center and our hotel. Yes, cars go zipping up this street all the time, so you have to be watchful and careful, and ready to step into a doorway (if you can find one) when they pass. Single file is obviously recommended.
|Molly on a Potosí street.|