Sunday, June 28, 2015

First Week in Cochabamba

[June 21-27, 2015] Sunday to Saturday


Here's a picture of the Hospedaje from the south side, near the Temple President's home:

Our Apartment - third floor, slightly to the right of the middle

[We'll give you some interior pictures in the future. Our apartment  is really quite spacious, with a kitchen, dining area, living room, bedroom, and bathroom. Probably about 650 square feet.]

We're still on an adrenaline high, I think. After our long flight, and less sleep than we would like, we're due for a crash, but fortunately it didn't happen today...

We went with President and Sister Jensen to the Colón Ward. It's about a mile and a half from the Temple, and their meeting started at 10:00, so President Jensen figured it would give us a break to let us sleep in a bit.

The chapel was beautiful. Quite an upgrade from what we had met in forty years ago. The people, though, were as humble and loving as I remembered. Everyone would greet us warmly, and kiss Molly on the cheek. One thing I always remembered, though, was their politeness. Before walking away from you after a greeting, they would always say, "Con permiso" - the equivalent of "excuse me" in English. They still do that. Everyone was so gracious and kind.

For their Sacrament Meeting, they had a young sister speak, and then a young couple. They gave wonderful talks - very appropriate for their ward, and very uplifting. Mom understood nearly every word, and went over after the meeting to thank them. It was very sweet.

Their Sunday School meeting was amazing as well. Lots of participation, good comments, etc. This ward appears to be very strong.

After that, we came back to the Temple, and we crashed for the afternoon for a while. Afterwards, we Skyped with the kids. It was a bit crazy, but fun. We might want to do the whole group Skype a bit more selectively in the future. We talked to everyone but Holly and Becky. 

In the evening, we had a pot luck dinner with all the Temple Missionaries, President and Sister Jensen, and President and Sister Hansen - the proselyting Mission President. We had lots of good food and good visiting. It's clear that all these people are here to serve, and love doing it.

Here's a picture of the temple. You can probably tell, the weather is great. This is the middle of the winter, yet the temperature in the daytime is in the 70's. At night it get's down into the 40's.


Monday is Preparation Day, so we got an introduction to shopping for food today.

Some of the other missionaries here, the Parkers and the Runquists, walked with us down to a "supermarket" called IC Norte. I first attempted to get some cash from the ATM with my Wells Fargo Visa Debit card, but it was blocked. Brother Parker floated me a loan so we could survive until I got that figured out.

The exchange rate is about 6.9 Bolivianos ("B's") per US Dollar. So, after shopping for an hour or so, the bill was about 900 B's, or $130.00. You might think that is high for a weeks worth of groceries for two people, but it also included a lot of "nesting" things as well. Laundry detergent, dish soap, wash cloths, plastic bags, foil, etc. It turns out that food is probably a bit cheaper here, but not if you buy it all at IC Norte. We'll get to the fruits and vegetables later...

IC Norte had just about anything you could imagine at a North American supermarket, from bread, cereal, meat, sauces, paper products, shampoo (including Head and Shoulders), and so on. Many brands that are familiar to us were there, but were more expensive. According to the other missionaries, many of the South American brands are just as good in quality and taste, and much cheaper, so we're going to try them and see.

One of the very interesting brands is PIL. When I was here before, the only milk we dared drink was "Leche PIL", the PIL standing for "Productos Industriales de Leche", or Industrial Milk Products. It was very good, but as I understood it then, it was reconstituted powdered milk, and the powder had come from the United States.

Now, though, it appears to be real, fresh, pasturized milk (the milk is the blue bag above). I may be wrong - I'm going to look into it. It is very tasty, and the standard bag is close to 3% in feel, taste, etc. In addition to milk, they have very good yogurt (the bottles - you can drink it), butter, and fruit drinks. So, I don't think we'll lack for milk and milk products.

As for produce, there is one brand of lettuce that appears to be carefully grown, washed, etc. We're going to try that as well. Agua Pura is the brand, and it is sold prepackaged. As for fruits and vegetables, we'll cover that on Saturday's entry.

After gathering our stuff together, we caught a taxi back to the temple. It cost us 12 B's, or about $1.75. If I'm remembering right, any taxi in Salt Lake costs you $2.20 to open the door, and another $2-3 per mile after that. Since the weather here is so beautiful all the time, and things are pretty close, we don't anticipate needing to use the local taxis for the normal, day to day things.

In the evening, we had a Family Home Evening with the other English-speaking missionaries and President and Sister Jensen. We talked about about the efforts here around Family History work, and some of the tools that are available. It is so nice to have reasonably good internet functionality so we can access the Family Search and Family Tree sites.


This was our first day in the Temple. It is really pretty good sized considering that it is here in Bolivia - one of these "less than first world" countries (I really can't call it third-world. We really haven't figured out what we'll be going without, other than family. Communication, availability of food, shopping stuff, etc. It's pretty good. Road etiquette is another thing, though. Later on that.)

We were set apart as Temple Workers this morning, and then got a tour of the temple.

The Temple has two ordinance rooms, two small sealing rooms, and one large one. There are about 6-7 men workers on each shift (one morning shift from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm, and an afternoon shift from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm), and about 12 women workers (obreras). There are three ordinance sessions for each shift. Everything is beautiful, and clean. You'll see pictures over time of the outside, but the inside is even more beautiful and peaceful. It is a joy to be here.

During a temple shift, the workers are very creative in making sure all the various needs are filled, and there is very little time to take a break (make that absolutely no time.) Getting a drink of water often feels like you might be leaving something else undone. 

But the work is sweet, the people are amazingly committed, and it is so wonderful to meet and visit briefly with people who have come from far away to be here. More on that later.

Molly wants to add that she was both pleased and frightened with her mastery of Spanish as she had to communicate all afternoon in Spanish. She understands nearly everything, usually, but is still working hard to speak correctly. The beautiful people here are so understanding and forgiving that you can really butcher the language and they will not blink an eye, but understand and help regardless. The workers love to ask about our family, and love to help her learn how to communicate better.


La Cancha - cultural experience in spades!

President and Sister Jensen took us to La Cancha this morning. Since our missing suitcase hadn't arrived, we figured we'd better get a few things (like a white belt and a blowdryer), and since they needed some knitting needles, they figured they'd show us one of the sources for those kinds of things.

La Cancha covers an area of a number of city blocks. It is completely packed with small vendor sites - maybe 3-4 feet wide by 10 feet deep for the majority, somewhat larger in some cases. Each is filled to the brim with a single class of product - shirts, dresses, pants, leather products (thus, the belt), yarn and knitting supplies, electrical equipment, computer supplies, meat (don't even think about getting your meat here), cheese (same), etc. There are a few streets squeezing through, so you have to be very conscious of traffic so you don't get run over. It is absolutely packed with products, people, cars and buses, etc. There are many women in native dress (puffy skirt, bowler hats, multi-colored aprons, etc.) - just watch where you are going. We Googled it, and it says there are a few thousand vendors squeezed in here. 

If you are willing to stand the crush of people, the smells and noise, I'm told you can find anything you want here. From what we saw, I suspect they are right. Molly got her hairdryer, and I got a white belt to use in the Temple. As for the belt, it was a pre-punched length of leather, painted white, and the vendor attached my buckle of choice with rivets while we watched. It cost me 50 B's - about $7.00. Molly's hairdryer wasn't a great bargain - about the same price as the one missing in our luggage, but it was a Phillips - same brand you could buy in the States. 

We spent the afternoon in the Temple. Close to the end of our shift, one of the workers, Sister Valdizan, asked if we had heard anything about our missing suitcase. We hadn't. She indicated that her son worked for Delta Airlines, and she would have him check on it. 

About 10:30 or so, we heard a knock on our door. It was Sister Valdizán, and she said her son had located the suitcase. It had somehow been routed through Miami on American Airlines, and was, at that moment in Santa Cruz. Amazing! She said that we could call the airlines tomorrow to see when it could be sent to Cochabamba. There is still hope!


Since we are now seasoned veterans of shopping in Bolivia, we figured we'd go and fill in some of the gaps with food and supplies that we had missed on Monday all by ourselves.

We walked from the Temple down to the Avenida America to the location of the IC Norte, and decided we wanted to look for shoes (it would be nice for me to have some more comfortable walking shoes), and check out a pharmacy just in case we need something.

We walked down Avenida Pando, visited a Farmacia and asked about some medications that we might run out of down here eventually, and a shoe store further down the street. They didn't have anything in my size (that's a size 46 down here), but directed us to a store where they would carry the aircraft carrier size of shoes. It was fun to feel that we were free enough and could communicate well enough to do things on our own.

We then went back up to IC Norte, and bought some more groceries. While there, we met some students from BYU who had come to teach music here for a month. Lots of fun!

We did get a call from LAN (the airlines), asking us to identify the contents of our missing luggage. One call asked if it had blue and black bras. Nope. Try again. Later, we got a call, and they asked the combination to the lock. That was a good sign. Once I told them about the white jackets (quite distinctive), the white shoes and belts, they confirmed that they had our bag. We got the number, flight, and time that it would arrive in Cochabamba - 8:00 tonight. So we made arrangements with the Temple staff to take us to the airport on Friday to recover it. Things are looking up.

Another sweet shift in the Temple. Molly spent the whole time assisting a sister in the Baptistry who spoke no English, so that was interesting. She also was asked to speak to a group of young people who had come to do baptisms. It was sweet for her to share her testimony with them in Spanish. She feels truly one in spirit with these wonderful people.

Here's anther picture to break up the boredom:

Sister Lyon at the front door of the Cochabamba Bolivia Temple


Success! We were driven to the Jorge Wilsterman (born in Punata in 1910 and was the first Bolivian pilot, so his name lives forever on the airport sign) Airport by Hermano Hinojosa. He's part of the Temple Staff. He helps with both Security and Engineering. We had fun talking to him all the way to the airport. When we got there, he took charge, and eventually a worker let Hno. H. and me into the "missing luggage" room (Molly was left to fend for herself). 

There it was - blue suitcase with a distinctive purple tag. We dragged it over to Customs, opened it up, and after the Customs agent had satisfied himself that it only had clothes, shoes, and toiletries, had me sign the receipt so we could leave. Whew! Only 6 days late. It felt like Christmas. Given that we are on the 26th day of the month where the winter season officially starts, it would actually be more like Christmas one day late. Except for the weather, it doesn't feel anything like Christmas time, though...

Now Molly has two hairdryers. If both last for the whole 23 months, we'll leave one of them for the next missionaries whose luggage goes missing!


Is this getting boring, yet?

This morning, we went to the Feria with President Jensen and his wife. This is much more focused and restrained than La Cancha. Each Saturday morning, a number of vendors (predominantly fruit and vegetables) set up their stands on both branches of the Avenida Gualberto Villaroel, starting at the Avenida American going north. It's more like a farmer's market than anything else. We walked around, and President and Sister Jensen pointed out their favorite vendors. All the while the vendors are shouting, "Caserito, papaya, manzanas, naranjas!" to catch your attention.

We bought Molly a cute apron so she could look like a native in the kitchen, papaya, platanos, guineos (small, sweet bananas), manzanas, apio (celery), limones (really limes), zanahorias (carrots), tomates, green beans (don't know the Spanish version yet), and papas (potatoes). The fruits and vegetables were only $12.00, and the apron was less than $4.00. We felt like it was quite a successful experience.

The Temple shift was quite interesting. We had a couple of busloads of people here. One from Santa Cruz, and another from La Paz. In addition, we had some equipment failures in the Temple that added to the normal load of things to do. Despite it all, everything got done, and many sweet people were able to participate in the Temple ordinances. 

Once we got done, we changed our clothes and went out to eat at a "Mexican" restaurant with the other missionaries and Pdte. and Sister Jensen. The food was pretty good, and the company was even better. 

What a week! We are tired, but so happy to be here. All the people are so sweet and helpful and amazing.

One more picture to round out the week:

1 comment:

  1. Oh I love to hear all these little details--not boring in the least! Hooray for getting your suitcase back!!! And I so loved that pic of Mom in front of the Temple. We love you guys!